A group of over two dozen cross-party MPs have requested the government to introduce new rules on controlling the licensing of drivers for Uber and other minicab services with new national standards.
Labour’s Jess Philips and Wes Streeting, and Caroline Lucas, a Green Party leader, are among the 25 MPs to sign a letter addressed to Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, asking for a new definition for cross-border hiring, along with taxi companies MyTaxi and Gett, the LTDA taxi union and the company that is making London’s newest electric black cabs.
Currently, drivers can obtain a licence in one area and work in another, something that they said is putting passengers at risk. Data from the Transport for London (TfL) identified 177 drivers that are licensed in London registered to postcodes in Sheffield earlier in 2017, while drivers in Southend who had their licence revoked were discovered to be using ones that were gained from TfL.
Now the MPs who are part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on taxis, wants the introduction of national standards for drivers which would bring an end to the practice.
Streeting stated: “The current system where a driver can lose a licence in one part of the country and simply get one by tapping up another council is playing fast and loose with passenger safety.
“The safety of passengers should be the cornerstone of licensing. That’s why we’re calling for a statutory definition on cross-border hiring which will effectively stamp out this dangerous practice, alongside national minimum standards so when a passenger gets into a vehicle- wherever they are – they know they are safe.”
The request comes as Uber battles for permission to continue operations in London. TfL said that it would not renew its licence because of safety concerns. The appeal of Uber against the decision is scheduled to be heard in 2018 while it continues discussions with the regulator.
Previously, Uber has said that it would welcome a national register as an initial step in “a more joined-up approach” and it has introduced new processes for keeping tabs on decisions regarding local licencing.
Andy Batty, the MyTaxi general manager, stated: “An increase in app-based taxi and PHV services coupled with out of date legislation has contributed to a rise in cross-border hiring.
“MyTaxi is calling on the government to legislate for a legal definition of cross-border hiring, which will give both passengers and regulators certainty of the standards of drivers in their area.”
The government has said that it is considering new rules.
“I think the system is being gamed,” stated John Hayes, the transport minister, over the summer, also saying that it “can’t be right” that local rules can be weakened by more permissive neighbouring regimes.
“I want greater consistency in the way licenses are issued,” said Hayes.