Commissioner takes concerns to Parliament

Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner is joining forces with Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd in raising concerns about proposed legislation which they fear could make it easier for bogus taxi drivers to prey on vulnerable people.

The proposed Deregulation Bill – aims to free private hire and taxis from red tape. However, the legislation includes several measures on the private hire trade which the Commissioner has described as giving grave cause for concern.

Vera Baird has concerns about the measures which include: allowing people who do not hold a private hire vehicle driver’s licence to drive a licensed private hire vehicle when it is not being used as such; standardising drivers’ licences at three years, and five years for operators; and allowing private hire vehicles to subcontract each other across licensing boundaries.

Mrs Baird has raised her concerns with all the MPs in the Northumbria region. In a letter, Vera Baird QC, says clauses in the Deregulation Bill currently making its way through Parliament will make it easier for bogus drivers to prey on vulnerable people, and make it harder for the authorities to ensure vehicles are being operated properly. The letter also mentions the potential impact on community safety and has asked for MPs support to help persuade the government to remove these clauses.

Vera Baird said: “The proposed measures could have the unintended consequences of making vehicles less safe and make it harder for the authorities to ensure vehicles are being operated properly.

“The possibility that unlicensed individuals could operate taxis is a cause for significant concern.

“Effective stewardship will require local authorities and individuals to sign up to the Disclosure and Barring Service update service, which will allow authorities to receive information about convictions during a licence term . The system needs to be robust enough to handle the extra work – we’ve seen the difficulties that the passport agency is currently having, I fear the government will not have the necessary resources in place to deal with the increased workload. This needs addressing.”

The Government also needs to address “out of area taxis” coming in to an area – it is only right that taxis licensed in an area serve that area.

“The Government needs to have an honest and open debate on these matters and proper scrutiny needs to happens. Parliament needs to get this bill right first time.

“I call upon David Cameron to work with the Law Commission who have undertaken a lengthy review of the current legislation and has already drafted a Taxi Bill which would introduce a national system of proper regulation that would begin to address the issue of inconsistency between authorities. The Law Commission’s more comprehensive measures would be subject to significantly more scrutiny and consultation than the rushed measures in the Deregulation Bill.

“The priority has to be to make sure that taxis and private hire vehicles are a safe and secure way of getting home after a night out. Measures in the Deregulation Bill endanger this. Local residents should always be safe in the taxi they book and I know taxi drivers would welcome the additional security that changes to this bill would bring for them”

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