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By Mike Hedges

The Law Commission’s terms of reference are “to review the law relating to the regulation of taxis and private hire, with a view to its modernisation and simplification, having due regard to the potential advantages of deregulation.

This simple remit has governed the whole approach of the Law Commission in the production of its proposals for the consultation paper that it has just released. At the moment London is largely immune from anything that happens outside of its boundaries due to the fact that London has its own laws regulating taxis and private hire. So whilst the rest of the country has been locked in court battles regarding cross-border hiring, the licensing of vehicles by Berwick council, the issue of the 2 or 3 licenses required by operators of taxis and private hire, the vehicles and safety standards that should be set by councils, delimitation and re-limitation, and many of the endless cases that referred to the courts every year, London has not really been affected. We have our problems, like everywhere else, with enforcement, but not with the endless legal battles brought about by unscrupulous operators continually challenging the law.

Well that’s about to change. The Law Commission has said that it is going to end London’s separation from the rest of the country and tear up all of the laws relating to London and the rest of the country, and replace it with just one single law which will be applied nationally in England and Wales, including London. Page 161, 14.4 of the consultation says, “We acknowledge that there are strong arguments for keeping London outside of these proposals for reform…(but) we take the view that our proposals are sufficiently flexible to accommodate the differences present in London”. London will no longer be kept in its own bubble.

· The Law Commission will open up London to cross-border hiring; any licensed vehicle will be able to work in London no matter where it is licensed.

· National private hire licensing will be introduced with low standards and any licensed ph vehicle able to work in London, no matter where it is licensed.

· There is no plan of how enforcement will work, as the licensing authority will receive the money. If no one licenses in London, and they all choose to license elsewhere where will the enforcement money come from? It is likely that private hire drivers, vehicles and operators will licence in the cheapest place possible but enjoy the benefits of working anywhere

· The PCO will no longer have the power to set conditions for private hire. So taxis will be able to have an age limit, but private hire will not. Any condition can be put on a taxi, but no extra conditions beyond a minimum standard can be set for private hire

· Peak time taxi licenses will be encouraged by the Law Commission.

· Minicabs will be given the right to call themselves taxis

These are just a few of the proposals amongst many that will destroy the taxi trade. All is not lost. Unite is calling a lobby of parliament on Tuesday 10th July at 2pm to make the government and the Law Commission aware that they cannot play with our lives like this.

All drivers, including London drivers, should join the Unite Lobby of Parliament to save our trade and ensure we have a future.

Click here to read the latest issue of Cab Trade News and find out more on more on the Law Commissions proposals

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