The announcement on 21st July by the Department of Transport that it had issued the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards was bittersweet for us at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, who have campaigned tirelessly over many years for improved safety standards in licensing. Anyone following our advocacy efforts on this will know that Diana Lamplugh highlighted the need for licensing of private hire vehicles back in the 1980's, culminating in part with the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act passed in 1998.

Since then we have continued to raise concerns about safety standards, and in 2018 we released research setting out our concerns about the process and criteria local authorities use, and the information available to them, to determine whether individuals should be licensed as taxi and private hire vehicle drivers across England and Wales. Our research (Steering towards Safety) highlighted that taxi and private hire vehicle drivers licensed at the time, had successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having committed crimes in the previous 6 years (since 2012). Licence holders' convictions in this time included battery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and speeding. Some licensed taxi and private hire vehicle drivers at the time of research had multiple convictions. One currently licensed driver had over 36 separate convictions dating from 1973 to 2017, with offences including actual bodily harm, taking a vehicle without the owner's consent, and threatening behaviour.

As members of the Ministerial Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing, we were able to include our key concerns and recommendations which were presented in the Group's final report to the government in September 2018. In February 2019 the Department for Transport issued its formal response to the report of the Task and Finish Group and announced that 'The government has set out its plans to introduce legislation and bring forward the urgent reforms necessary.' (See our Press Release). Unfortunately, we were disappointed and concerned to learn in a statement to the Transport Select Committee[i] on 16th October 2019 by Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, that the Government no longer plans to legislate, despite clear recommendations to do so by the Ministerial Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing in its report. 

The issuing of Statutory Taxi and PHV Standards therefore falls short of the recommendations made by the Task and Finish Group appointed to propose the required steps to ensure adequate safety standards in taxi and private hire vehicle licensing. Our research shows that while there are guidelines currently in place to help licensing authorities determine whether drivers pose a risk to passengers and therefore should not be granted a licence, these are often not upheld, are interpreted differently and are not legally enforceable. 

The Department of Transport states in its guidance the importance of considering the standards and recommends that licensing authorities should publish their consideration of the measures and the policies and plans that stem from them. However, it remains the case that without legislation enforcing such steps, they can effectively be ignored as they continue to be by many licensing authorities today.

The continuing failure of the government to take this issue seriously is an ongoing concern. The Chairman of the Task and Finish Group in his foreword to the report states that the onus is on the government to, 'begin to craft the legislation that it will, in some instances, require', and that 'undue delay would risk public safety.'

We would therefore urge the government to look again at the recommendations of the Task Group report which reflect a wide consensus across the sector. The steps outlined would ensure a single consolidated legislative framework throughout England and Wales outlining clear and specific minimum standards for licensing taxi and PHV drivers to ensure consistency across all licensing authorities. Anything falling short of this perpetuates the current inconsistency and inadequacy by licensing authorities to follow guidelines which are not enforceable in law and which continue to put passengers at risk.


Suky Bhaker, CEO