Speech on the Second Reading of the Deregulation Bill (taxis and private hire vehicles) – 7 July 2014

My Lords, I want to address the provisions relating to taxis and private hire vehicles. We choose to use taxi operators that we trust. If I ask my children to use a taxi at an odd time, I tell them which taxi rank to use, because that is the one that I have confidence in and which I trust. The proposal to allow taxis to subcontract to other operators will mean that it will not be possible for anybody to have their choice. We are going to take the choice away from people about which operator they want to use. We change operators from time to time when we are not satisfied with a particular company, but if this Bill is approved, we will have no control over who will come. It may well be a company that you have left because you were not satisfied with it. If you ring company A, company B may turn up, and you may not necessarily want to use it. Therefore, we need to think again about this particular aspect of the Bill allowing subcontracting to other firms.

Regarding the provision allowing a driver without a PHV licence to drive a licensed PHV when it is not being used for private hire, I know many people in the taxi trade. Many of my family are in the trade and I know that by allowing taxis to be used by others, some of them may benefit. In some cases, spouses may want to use the car when it is not being used for taxiing purposes, but they cannot at the moment because the law does not allow them to do so. In that case, it would be helpful to allow other family members to use those vehicles for other purposes—for family purposes—when they are off duty.

However, I have been strongly lobbied by many companies and unions, particularly Unite, GMB and RMT, which have put some valid points forward. There is a higher risk that those cars could be used as taxis by rogue drivers. They could be made available to those who are not necessarily taxi drivers and have not taken their tests. By allowing this to happen, we could compromise public safety. However, it may well help if we allowed named drivers to use those vehicles instead of any driver. In that case, at least we would know that the people who use those vehicles will be known to family members. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to this and perhaps have named drivers, instead of any person, driving those vehicles when they are not being used for taxiing purposes.

From Hansard

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