Association of Trafford Taxi Drivers, Law Commission

Taxi and Private Hire Services

Publication date: 23 May 2014

This project reviewed the legal framework relating to taxis and private hire vehicles across England and Wales with a view to making it simpler and more modern.  Work started in the summer of 2011, as part of the Law Commission’s Eleventh Programme of law reform.

We published a consultation paper with our provisional proposals for reform on 10 May 2012.  We received over 3000 responses to our consultation, the highest ever number of responses to a Law Commission consultation. We are very grateful for the time and effort that stakeholders put in to respond. The responses are accessible on this project page.

We published a report explaining and setting out our recommendations on 23 May 2014, together with a draft Bill.  A summary of our recommendations follows:

  • We recommend retaining the current two-tier system, distinguishing between taxis and private hire vehicles. Only taxis should be allowed to be hailed or pick up passengers from ranks.
  • The new regime would see the introduction of national standards for all taxis and private hire vehicles, set by the Secretary of State, with the power for local licensing authorities to set additional standards for taxi services only.  Local authorities would, however, remain responsible for issuing licences and enforcement in relation to both taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • Our recommendations make it easier for providers of private hire services to work cross-border, and give licensing officers new enforcement powers to deal with vehicles and drivers licensed in different areas.
  • We also recommend tougher penalties on touting (actively soliciting customers), including impounding.
  • During consultation many stakeholders complained about vehicles operating at the fringes of licensing, or outside licensing altogether.  Following consultation, we were persuaded to retain the exemption that applies to wedding and funeral cars as part of primary legislation.
  • Licensing authorities should retain the right to limit the number of taxis working in their licensing area.
  • One of our key recommendations is the introduction of mandatory disability awareness training for all taxi and private hire drivers.

Reference number: LC347

[these are external links, I wouldn't access them from a mobile phone]

This report completes our Taxi and Private Hire Services project.

Recommendations

1. We recommend retaining the two-tier system. Regulation should continue to distinguish between taxis, which can be hailed or use ranks, and private hire vehicles, which can only be pre booked.

2. We recommend that the offences relating to plying for hire should be abolished. We propose replacing the concept of plying for hire with a new scheme of offences, resting on the principal prohibition of carrying passengers for hire without a licence, alongside a new offence making it unlawful for anyone other than a local taxi driver to accept a journey starting “there and then”.

3. We recommend a statutory definition of pre-booking in order to create a clear distinction between the work of a taxi in its licensing area and the work of a private hire vehicle.

4. We recommend that the term “hackney carriage” should be replaced in legislation with the word “taxi”. The term “private hire vehicle” should remain unchanged.

5. We recommend that only the providers of licensed taxi services should be allowed to describe themselves using the term “taxi” on vehicles or in advertising materials.

6. Operators across England and Wales (dispatchers under our Bill) should be under a duty to provide a price or an estimate of the fare on request, as is already the case in London.

7. We recommend that taxis picking up passengers outside their licensing area should be subject to a pre-booking requirement, which would be statutorily defined for the first time. This would require provision of an estimate of the price for the journey in advance, if requested, and record-keeping obligations. These requirements could be further refined through national standards as set by the Secretary of State.

8. We do not recommend the introduction of record-keeping requirements in respect of taxis except where they are picking up passengers outside their licensing area.

9. We recommend that local authority stopping officers should have a new enforcement power to require licensed vehicles to move on where the officer considers that:

(a) there is a reasonable likelihood that the public may believe the vehicle is available for immediate hire;

(b) the vehicle is causing an obstruction to traffic flow; or

(c) the driver is attempting to take work away from ranked taxis.

10. We recommend introducing a new offence which makes it unlawful for anyone other than a locally licensed taxi driver to accept a booking for a journey starting there and then.

11. We recommend that compellability should be retained in its current form. It should be open to licensing authorities to express compellability as a time or distance from the point of hire, or as extending to the boundaries of a licensing zone. 

Licensing authorities should also be able to extend the compellable distance up to seven miles beyond the boundary of the licensing area, or twenty miles in the case of Transport for London.

12. Licensing authorities should have the power to make a determination that in their areas, taxis should be under a duty to stop when hailed. In such areas, it would be an offence for a taxi driver in a vehicle displaying a “for hire” sign to fail to stop in response to a hail, without reasonable excuse.

13. Licensing authorities should be under a duty to consult on the need to alter rank provision and to consider whether new ranks should be appointed, or current ones moved or removed, on a periodic basis not exceeding every three years.

14. We recommend that those acting in the course of a business who pass taxi or private hire bookings to providers who they know or suspect to be unlicensed should be guilty of an offence.

15. We do not propose to require intermediaries working solely with licensed taxis (which we refer to as “radio circuits”) to be licensed.

16. We recommend that licensed operators (in future to be referred to in legislation as “dispatchers”) should be retained as a necessary element of the regulation of private hire services.

17. We recommend that operator licensing should only cover dispatch functions, and no longer apply to the invitation or acceptance of bookings as such. However, if it is shown that an individual or company accepted a hire vehicle booking, a presumption should arise that that person also “dispatched” the

driver. This ensures the continued accountability of those who, in the course of business, accept hire vehicle bookings from the public.

18. It should be an offence, in the course of business, to dispatch an unlicensed vehicle or driver. It would also be an offence for a person to dispatch a private hire vehicle and driver unless that person holds a dispatcher’s licence. It would be a defence if the driver and vehicle were reasonably believed to hold appropriate taxi licences.

19. Persons accepting a hire vehicle booking in the course of business should be under a duty to provide information to the hirer in respect of any person to whom they passed the booking.

20. We recommend that our proposed reforms should extend to all of England and Wales, including London and Plymouth.

21. Taxi and private hire licensing should cover vehicles regardless of their form or construction, including non-motorised vehicles.

22. We recommend that taxi and private hire licensing requirements should only cover services provided for commercial gain.

23. We recommend that taxi and private hire licensing should not cover the carriage of a passenger as an ancillary or incidental part of another service.

24. We recommend that, for the purposes of taxi, private hire and public service vehicle legislation, all passenger seats and spaces capable of carrying a standing passenger should be included when assessing vehicle carrying capacity.

25. We recommend that consideration be given to revising the criteria for licensing a vehicle as a “small public service vehicle”, making them more clearly centred on local bus services.

26. We recommend extending the reach of taxi and private hire licensing to larger vehicles in two circumstances:

(a) on a mandatory basis, in respect of stretch limousines and novelty vehicles; and

(b) on an optional basis, where providers want to use larger vehicles in a taxi or private hire business.

27. We recommend that the Secretary of State should have the power to exempt certain categories of vehicle or services used to carry passengers for hire from the requirement to hold a taxi or private hire licence. Licensing authorities would, however, retain the power to impose licensing requirements on vehicles used as taxis within their local licensing area.

28. We recommend that wedding and funeral cars should continue to be exempt from taxi and private hire licensing while the vehicle is being used in connection with a wedding or a funeral.

29. Non-professional use of licensed taxi and private hire vehicles, including by non-professional drivers, should be permitted, subject to a rebuttable presumption that such vehicles are being used professionally when they are carrying passengers.

30. We recommend the introduction of national standards for taxi and private hire services.

31. National standards should promote enforcement, protection of the environment and accessibility, in addition to safety.

32. National standards for taxi services should be comparable but not necessarily identical to national standards for private hire services.

33. We recommend that driver and vehicle standards should be set in secondary legislation by the Secretary of State.

34. The standard setting power of the Secretary of State should be subject to a statutory consultation requirement.

35. We recommend that the ability to apply for a vehicle licence should no longer be restricted to vehicle owners.

36. Applicants for vehicle licences should not be subject to a fit and proper person test.

37. We recommend that licensing authorities should not have a general power to impose individual conditions on the holders of taxi or private hire licences.

38. We recommend that the Secretary of State should exercise the standard setting power to provide that a conviction for specified offences is a breach of a licensing condition, or incompatible with eligibility to hold a licence.

39. The Secretary of State should have the power to designate specific licence conditions, breach of which will amount to a criminal offence.

40. Private hire services should only be subject to national standards. Licensing authorities should no longer have the power to impose local conditions.

41. We recommend that dispatchers should continue to be subject to fit and proper person requirements as part of national standards.

42. We recommend that dispatchers should be subject to a statutory duty to maintain records in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

43. Signage requirements for private hire vehicles should form part of the national standards determined by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State should impose requirements that aim to ensure that the public are able to distinguish easily between taxis and private hire vehicles.

44. We recommend that operator/dispatchers should no longer be restricted to working only with drivers and vehicles whose licences are issued by the same licensing authority as the dispatcher.

45. Dispatchers should have the ability to sub-contract bookings to any dispatcher in England and Wales.

46. We recommend that licensing authorities should retain the power to set local taxi standards over and above national standards.

47. Licensing authorities should be required to consult on additional licensing conditions for taxi drivers and vehicles.

48. Licensing authorities should retain the ability to regulate taxi fares, in respect of any journey within the compellable distance.

49. A taxi driver should be allowed to charge more than the metered fare for journeys starting inside the licensing area and ending beyond the compellable distance only if this is agreed in advance. In the case of pre-booked journeys starting outside the compellable distance the price or an estimate should be given on request and, if so, recorded.

50. We recommend that licensing authorities should retain the power to regulate fares charged for pre-booked taxi journeys. However, there should be no power to regulate third party booking fees, provided these are agreed in advance.

51. The principle of cost recovery should continue to apply in respect of taxi and private hire licensing fees.

52. Licensing authorities should be able to collect and use licensing fees from taxi and private hire licensing only for the following purposes:

(1) administration of the licensing system (including but not limited to processing applications for granting or renewing licences and carrying out inspections and tests);

(2) statutorily required reviews of fare levels, rank provision, accessibility and existing quantity restrictions at least every three years;

(3) enforcement of the licensing system including but not limited to the control and supervision of taxi and private hire services (whether licensed or unlicensed) and activities associated with suspending or revoking licences; and

(4) providing taxi ranks.

53. We recommend that the Secretary of State should set a private hire licensing fee which could not be varied locally. Taxi licensing fees should continue to be set locally, but at a level no lower than the national private hire fee.

54. We recommend that the Secretary of State should have the power to set up a system of pooling private hire licence fees nationally, for the purposes of redistributing these to reflect enforcement needs, in accordance with such a scheme as may be prescribed.

55. Licensing authorities should have the power to combine their taxi and private hire licensing areas.

56 .We recommend that licensing authorities should be under a duty to publish their driver, vehicle and operator licensing data in such form as the Secretary of State may require.

57. Licensing authorities should have a more flexible power to introduce and remove taxi licensing zones. This power would permit removal or introduction of zones within a licensing district. The power should be subject to consultation and a statutory public interest test.

58. We recommend that licensing authorities should continue to have the power to limit the number of taxi vehicles licensed in their area.

59. The power of licensing authorities to impose quantity restrictions should be subject to a statutory public interest test. Further, the Secretary of State should have regulation-making powers prescribing how the statutory test should be applied.

60. Decisions to restrict taxi numbers should be reviewed at least every three years and be subject to local consultation in accordance with such procedures as may be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

61. In licensing areas where quantity restrictions already exist at the time of the introduction of our reforms, but not in other areas, vehicle licence holders should continue to be able to transfer their taxi licences at a premium.

62. We recommend that taxi and private hire drivers be required to undergo disability awareness training of a standard set by the Secretary of State.

63. We recommend that the Secretary of State require information on how to complain about taxi and private hire vehicle services to be displayed in taxi and private hire vehicles.

64. We recommend that local licensing authorities should display complaint information in offices, libraries and on websites.

65.We recommend that licensing authorities conduct an accessibility review at three year intervals.

66. We recommend that the Secretary of State require holders of taxi and private hire driver licences and dispatcher licences to comply with the Equality Act 2010 as a condition of the licence.

67. We recommend that licensing authorities should reconsider rank design to ensure compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

68. We recommend that licensing conditions should provide that information about the licensing authority and local operators should be provided in alternative formats, as well as information about the types of vehicle available in their area.

69. We recommend that the Secretary of State should have the power to impose accessibility requirements on large operator/dispatchers. In particular, the power should permit the setting of quotas of accessible vehicles which must be available to such dispatchers.

70. We recommend that licensing officers who have been suitably trained and accredited should be given the power to stop licensed taxi and private hire vehicles in a public place for the purpose of checking compliance with licensing requirements.

71. The offence of touting should be retained. It should continue to be an offence of broad application which extends to all persons, whether licensed or unlicensed.

72. We recommend that there should be a new defence to touting, where the solicitation is in respect of a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle, if the soliciting occurs in a place which has been designated by that licensing authority for that purpose, and that conditions as may be specified by the licensing authority have been complied with.

73.We recommend that the Sentencing Council consider amending the Magistrate’s Court Sentencing Guidelines in respect of taxi touting to take into account the vulnerability of the persons solicited as a relevant factor in sentencing.

74. We recommend that licensing authorities should have the power to impound vehicles used in connection with touting.

75. Fixed penalties should be among the sanctions available in respect of minor criminal offences under taxi and private hire legislation.

76.We recommend extending the power to suspend licences immediately on grounds of public safety to all licence types, in line with the current position in London.

77. Licensing officers should be able to take non-criminal enforcement action against vehicles, drivers and operators, licensed outside their licensing area.

78. We recommend that powers to revoke a licence should be available only to the licensing authority which issued that licence. However, enforcement officers in another area should have the power to:

(a) suspend a licence when they consider this to be necessary in the interests of public safety; and

(b) make recommendations to the home licensing authority as to appropriate sanctions, to which the home authority must have regard.

79.The right to appeal against refusals to grant or renew taxi and private hire licences or to suspend or revoke them should be limited to the applicant or licence holder.

80.We recommend that the first stage in the appeal process in respect of refusals, suspensions or revocations of licences should be the right to require licensing authorities to reconsider the original decision. Appellants should have the right to bypass this stage and proceed direct to the magistrates’ court.

81.We recommend that all taxi and private hire licensing appeals should be heard in the magistrates’ court.

82. We recommend the retention of an onward right of appeal to the Crown Court.

83. We recommend that applicants for a vehicle licence for an opt-in vehicle should have a right of appeal to the Upper Tribunal if their application is refused on the basis of an objection by the Senior Traffic Commissioner.

84. We recommend that a County Court judicial review procedure along the lines provided under the Housing Act 1996 should be available to challenge taxi conditions set by licensing authorities.

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Comments,

NATIONAL TAXI ASSOCIATION

They have a say at  http://www.national-taxi-association.co.uk/?p=7480 but I cannot copy it here


Law Commission publishes recommendations for outdated legislation

After a number of year’s of consultation with the Private Hire and Taxi industry, the Law Commission has finally revealed its recommendations to reform outdated legislation.

In a report published today, the Law Commission recognises the value to passenger choice of the two-tier system of private hire vehicles – which must be pre-booked, and taxis – which can use ranks or ply for immediate hire. It makes recommendations to retain and reinforce the distinction.

Passenger safety is at the forefront of the Commission’s reforms. It is recommending that standards be set nationally for public safety, accessibility and environmental impact. For the first time, passengers of taxis and private hire vehicles could confidently expect consistent levels of safety and quality wherever they travel. Under the reforms all private hire vehicles, including stretch limos and other “novelty” vehicles, would be subject to the same standards, wherever they operate. Taxis would be subject to a comparable set of standards, which could be added to locally, allowing licensing authorities to choose to set higher standards where they want to, a local licensing authorities would have the power to inspect and, if necessary suspend, any vehicles working within their areas, wherever they are licensed.

Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, the Commission is recommending a national requirement for taxi and private hire drivers to take disability awareness training. And local licensing authorities would be able to impose a duty on taxis to stop when they are hailed, bringing to an end the unacceptable practice of drivers passing by disabled people.

There would be stiffer penalties, too, for touting, which poses a significant safety risk. Under the Commission’s reforms, licensing authorities would be given the power to impound any vehicles used in connection with touting.

Passengers are increasingly turning to the internet to book their taxi and private hire services. In a move to help the private hire trade respond, the Law Commission is recommending that operators should no longer be barred from accepting bookings or using drivers and vehicles from outside their licensing areas.

Licensing authorities should be able to continue to limit taxi numbers, provided they conduct a regular review of the service being provided. Restrictions on the numbers of taxis in some areas have led to inflated “plate values”. To protect the investment of existing drivers, the Commission recommends that the trade in licences should be allowed to continue. But, in areas where quantity restrictions are introduced for the first time, licenses should not be tradeable.

Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, commented; “The taxi and private hire trades are of enormous value to England and Wales. They provide a living for thousands of operators and drivers, and many more thousands of people depend on them to go about their daily lives.

He added; “The reforms we are recommending will clarify the legal distinction between taxis and private hire services, and retain the valuable qualities of both. They will equip operators, drivers and their vehicles to meet the demands of a modern passenger-service trade, while making passenger safety and accessibility paramount.”