Latest News- The Institute of Licensing Consultation

The Institute of Licensing propose the widespread adoption of standards for Taxi and Private Hire licence applications. You have until Wednesday 28th February 2018 to respond to the Institute of Licensing’s consultation on standards. Find out more here

Report: Steering towards safer taxi and private hire licensing

This report sets out Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s 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 (PHV) drivers across England and Wales. We are concerned that inconsistencies in information sharing and licensing policy and practice have resulted in passengers’ safety being compromised and at worst, their becoming victims of crime.  

Recommendations

National minimum standards for licensing taxis and PHVs

Suzy Lamplugh Trust does not believe that current licensing requirements for taxis and PHVs are sufficient to protect the personal safety of passengers. The current and only safety requirement for individual licensing authorities to decide if drivers are of a ‘fit and proper character’ is wholly inadequate and has resulted in discrepancies between the standards that licensing authorities set. We are therefore calling for 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.  Driver and vehicle standards should be set in secondary legislation by the Secretary of State and subject to a statutory consultation requirement, as recommended by the Law Commission in its 2014 report (recommendations 33 & 34). Licensing authorities should retain the power to set local taxi and PHV standards over and above the national minimum standards

Mandatory access for licensing authorities to driver criminal history

Holding a licence to drive any taxi or PHV vehicle must require compulsory enhanced DBS checks for all drivers; this is not currently a mandatory requirement for taxi/PHV drivers who are not contracted to drive ‘vulnerable adults’ or children.

National minimum standards should require licensing authorities to carry out DBS checks on all licence holders at least every nine months when the DBS is fully updated by the police on all incidents relating to an individual.

We are also concerned that licensing authorities may not be obtaining relevant and timely information about drivers’ criminal activity from the police directly due to the constraints of the Quality Assurance Framework and the Common Law Police Disclosure Provisions. We therefore propose a review of the Quality Assurance Framework and CLPD Provisions to reflect the need to disclose more crimes and behaviours carried out by taxi and PHV drivers than is currently permitted.

Clear policy outlining which crimes and behaviours result in licence revocation and refusal

As part of national minimum standards, Suzy Lamplugh Trust strongly recommends the development of a policy that clearly specifies which crimes and behaviours result in revocation of driver licences, and is not restricted to convictions but carefully considers the nature of each alleged crime and incident and the potential risk to passengers.

Inclusion of taxi and PHV drivers as a regulated activity

This would enable the offences under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, relating to a barred individual working or seeking to work in regulated activity, to apply.

National database of licence holders

A national database of taxi and PHV driver licence revocations and refusals, as is currently being developed by the Institute of Licensing, the Local Government Association and the National Anti-Fraud Network, would minimise the risk of an unsuitable driver being given a licence in one authority having had a licence revoked elsewhere. We welcome the introduction of this and believe it should mandatory for licensing authorities to consult this in all licensing decisions.

National enforcement

Licensing authorities should be given powers to enforce national standards for all licence holders operating in their authority, and not be restricted to those licensed by their own authority.

No deregulation of licensing

Suzy Lamplugh Trust is also concerned about the proposed deregulation of licensing requirements for PHV drivers as set out in the 2016 Tourism Action Plan. This would effectively allow individuals to have access to members of the public including vulnerable adults and children in a private vehicle, without any prior safety checks. There should therefore be no de-regulation of existing laws that protect personal safety within taxi and PHV licensing.

Prohibition of taxis or PHVs for use by non-taxi/PHV licensed drivers

The prohibition of PHVs and taxis for personal use by non-PHV or taxi-licensed drivers must be introduced in London. This is to prevent drivers who do not hold a PHV or taxi licence, and who therefore have not been subject to safety checks, from picking up passengers who may assume they do hold a PHV or taxi licence as they are driving a licensed vehicle. While we are aware that PHVs should always be pre-booked, research carried out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in September 2017 showed that one in five people (21%) think that minicabs can be hailed on the street, and a quarter of people (26%) believe minicabs can take passengers who approach them while parked. In addition, our research showed that over half (57%) have taken a taxi or minicab without asking to see the driver’s ID badge first.

Clear signage of vehicles and drivers

National minimum standards should also strengthen requirements to ensure that the public are able to distinguish easily between taxis and PHVs, and licensed and unlicensed vehicles. Similarly, drivers must be required to have a clearly visible badge or arm-band detailing their ID and driver licence type and number.

All taxis and PHVs should be required to provide information to passengers including driver photo ID and the vehicle licence number, in advance of a journey. This would enable all passengers to share information with others in advance of their journey. For those who cannot transmit the relevant information via digital means, or for passengers who cannot receive it in this format, this information must be available through other means available to the passenger before they get into the vehicle.

All taxis and PHVs must be required to install continuous video and audio recording CCTV and tracking devices to discourage behaviour that would compromise driver or passenger safety and provide evidence in the event of a dispute.

Driver training

Suzy Lamplugh Trust believes that a single legislative framework would also strengthen regulations on driver training in relation to personal safety, including questions relating to passenger safety, safeguarding and appropriate driver behaviour to be included in the licensing tests for all new drivers and all licence renewals. This should include clear branding of ridesharing journeys to avoid confusion with private journeys. Such training should have consistent accreditation to avoid inconsistencies and ensure an adequate standard across all locations.

Read our report here