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PostPosted: Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:31 am 
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Taxi passengers at risk from a dangerous bonfire of regulations, says Easington MP


TAXI passengers will be put at risk from a dangerous bonfire of regulations sneaked out by the Government, a North-East MP warned today.

Labour MP Grahame Morris staged a Commons debate to raise the alarm about sudden moves to cut so-called “red tape” on private hire firms.

The Easington MP said the “ill-thought through legislation” would allow people to pose as licensed drivers, putting women in danger in particular.

And they would make it harder for local councils to crack down on rogue firms, by scrapping annual checks.

Mr Morris told ministers: “The proposals will endanger the safety of the travelling public. The safety of the travelling public must be our prime concern.

“Annual licensing of drivers and operators is the only realistic way to keep track of their behaviour and take remedial or preventative, action when required.”

Mr Morris also criticised the Government for rushing through the changes by suddenly adding them to a Bill before Parliament, late one Friday afternoon.

Warning a long-running review by the Law Commission was being over-ridden, he added: “This is a mad ideological rush deregulate. Stakeholders have been ignored.”

The changes, to the Deregulation Bill, would:

• Allow non-licence holders, perhaps a family member, to drive a private hire vehicle when they are “off duty”.
• Introduce three-year licences for taxis and private hire drivers – and five years for operators – scrapping annual checks in many areas.
•Allow minicab operators to ‘subcontract’ bookings to other operators in a different district, without the passenger’s knowledge.

Mr Morris added: “Surely, if a member of the public calls a specific operator because they feel that operator is both reliable and safe to travel with then they should get who they ask for?”

Some of the measures were already in place in London – where 214 women were sexually assaulted last year after getting into illegal minicabs and 54 raped.

But Stephen Hammond, the transport minister, welcomed “pragmatic changes” that would save £9m and a “great deal of administrative hassle”.

He described the current law as “archaic and complex”, criticising some unnamed town halls for imposing annual checks on drivers and operators.

Mr Hammond said: “The care we are taking to introduce these amendments will make life easier for these small businesses and remove restrictions that are completely unnecessary.”

On the current ban on firms subcontracting bookings, he said: “Often, they have to tell passengers that they can’t take their booking.”

And Guy Opperman, the Conservative MP for Hexham, said liberalising measures would create jobs, arguing family members would also be able to “avoid running a second car”.

The Deregulation Bill will return to the Commons in the next few weeks - whereas fresh legislation may not have passed before next year’s general election.

source: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/1 ... ington_MP/

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