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Sue Mountstevens supports concerns over 'private hire' regulation reforms

Sue on Portishead Highstreet

Sue Mountstevens

Fears that plans to cut red tape for taxi and private hire drivers could affect community safety have been supported by Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens.

Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have joined forces to lobby Ken Clarke MP to get the measures removed from the Deregulation Bill, which is currently going through parliament.

A cross-party group of commissioners, led by Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, believe an unintended consequence of these measures will be to increase the risk of incidents of bogus drivers preying on vulnerable people. While also making it harder for the authorities to ensure vehicles are being operated properly.

The clauses in the Bill which give cause for concern for Commissioners across the country are:

  • Clause 9: Allows for people who do not hold a private hire vehicle driver’s licence to drive a licensed private hire vehicle when the vehicle is not being used as such.
  • Clause 10: Government wants to standardise driver licenses at 3 years and 5 years for an operator’s licence.
  • Clause 11: Allows for private hire vehicles to subcontract to each other across licensing boundaries.

Sue Mountstevens said: “Cutting red tape for small businesses and self-employed people is vital for our economy and reform of the taxi and private hire regulation is long-overdue. However it cannot come at the expense of public safety.

“An unintended consequence of these clauses could create a system whereby there is no guarantee that the person behind the wheel of a vehicle is a licensed private hire driver. While fortunately rare, there have been terrible cases across the country of people being raped, sexually assaulted and even murdered by bogus private hire drivers. I am concerned along with other Commissioners that there is a risk that these incidents could increase in the future if the Bill is passed.”

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.

But under the Deregulation Bill, these limited safeguards are to be swept away, opening up the prospect of a private hire free-for-all, with no guarantees that the driver of a vehicle are who they say they are.

The PCCs who have so far joined the campaign are:

  • Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester (Labour)
  • Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset (Independent)
  • Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire (Conservative)
  • Vera Baird, Northumbria (Labour)
  • Kevin Hurley, Surrey (Independent)
  • Alan Charles, Derbyshire (Labour)
  • Martyn Underhill, Dorset (Independent)
  • Martin Surl, Gloucestershire (Independent)
  • Richard Rhodes,Cumbria (Conservative)
  • Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)
  • Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire (Labour)
  • Ron Hogg, Durham (Labour)
  • Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset (Independent)
  •  Anthony Stansfield, Thames Valley (Conservative)
  • Winston Roddick, North Wales (Independent)
  • Stephen Bett, Norfolk (Independent)
  • Barry Coppinger, Cleveland (Labour)
  • Simon Hayes, Hampshire (Independent)
  • John Dwyer, Cheshire (Conservative)
  • Katy Bourne, Sussex (Conservative)
Posted on Monday 23rd June 2014
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