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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 2:02 pm 
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Changes to taxi laws could see increase in assaults - MP

Northfield Labour member Richard Burden led calls for a rethink after the Government set out proposals to axe a number regulations governing taxis.

A Birmingham MP has said changes to the law governing private hire taxi cabs will put passengers at risk and could lead to an increase in assaults.

Northfield Labour member Richard Burden led calls for a rethink after the Government set out proposals to axe a number regulations governing taxis.

He accused ministers of drawing up “a set of piecemeal proposals so poorly thought through they threaten public safety and are set to increase bureaucracy and litigation for the trade.”

The changes apply to private hire vehicles, also known as minicabs, which must be booked in advance. They include allowing taxi firms to contract out bookings – so customers phoning one firm for a cab might find a car from a different firm turns up outside their door.

A ban preventing taxi owners from allowing other people to drive their vehicle will also be lifted.

It means family members and others who do not hold a private hire vehicle licence could potentially drive cabs when they are not being used as a private hire vehicle.

New rules will mean councils review licences every three years for taxi and private hire vehicle driver licences and five years for private vehicle operator licences – while they are currently free to renew licenses annually if they wish.

Labour MPs say the changes will put the public at risk by making it harder for councils to ensure people with criminal convictions are stripped of their licenses.

Allowing firms to sub-contract will mean that customers can no longer be sure of receiving a taxi service from drivers they know and trust, Labour said.

And allowing people without licenses to drive vehicles marked as taxis could lead to an increase in assaults on people who hail cabs in the street, even though minicab drivers are not supposed to stop for people who attempt to flag them down.

Mr Burden (Lab Northfield), a Labour Shadow Transport Minister, said the changes would undermine the industry’s own efforts to alert people to the dangers of unlicensed and unauthorised taxis.

“Changing who is eligible to drive a private hire vehicle risks increasing the number of unlicensed drivers pretending to be legitimate,” he warned.

He added: “Changing licensing terms will make it even harder to monitor and take action against non-compliant drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles.

“The vast majority of drivers are excellent, but we know that things sometimes go wrong.”

Customers who book a cab should know which business would be sending their vehicle, he said.

The Government’s proposals “will increase uncertainty and the potential danger to passengers,” Mr Burden said.

He was backed by Coventry MP Jim [edited by admin] (Lab Coventry South), who warned: “The new clauses affect health and safety in a number of ways. Women are being attacked in unlicensed taxis, for example.”

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: “We want to work with private hire operators to help businesses to flourish and grow; we want to make life easier for passengers; and we certainly want to ensure that safety is at the forefront of all that is being done.”

The changes were designed to help the industry while protecting passengers, he said.

“Allowing private hire operators to subcontract to operators licensed in a different district is a simple change.

“It will have a huge impact on the ability of operators to meet passenger needs and to grow their businesses, and it should help to make the passenger’s experience much more convenient.”

source: ... xi-7066220

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