Police commissioners fear relaxing taxi rules could put passengers in danger

Northumbria Police commissioner Vera Baird
Northumbria Police commissioner Vera Baird
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POLICE chiefs have warned vulnerable passengers could be at risk if new taxi laws go through.

Northumbria Police commissioner Vera Baird and Durham’s Ron Hogg fear clauses in the Deregulation Bill could make it easier for bogus drivers to prey on vulnerable people, and make it harder for the authorities to ensure vehicles are being operated properly.

Their concerns are backed by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault.

Now a cross-party group of commissioners have joined forces to lobby Ken Clarke to get the measures removed from the Deregulation Bill, which will be voted on today.

Vera Baird said: “People should always be safe in the taxi they book and measures in the Deregulation Bill could endanger this. Cutting red tape is to be encouraged across all business, but not at the cost of risks to public safety.”

Currently, only licensed private hire drivers can get behind the wheel of a marked private hire vehicle; drivers have to be regularly relicensed and there are restrictions on vehicles operating across local authority boundaries.

The Bill would allow taxi vehicles to be driven by people who are not licensed taxi drivers, when not in use as a taxi, and would allow firms to sub-contract taxi services across local authority boundaries where there are differing levels of stringency in licensing.