North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson has welcomed news that the Government will bring forward legislation to introduce national minimum standards for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing.
In January last year Justin joined forces with the personal safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, to organise and host a Parliamentary event to launch the charity’s report on safety in taxis and generate cross-party support for national minimum standards for taxis and PHVs.
Justin became involved with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust after getting to know Swindon resident Elaine Pickford, whose daughter Sian was murdered by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell. Elaine first approached Justin to discuss her voluntary work supporting families connected to victims of homicide, and then her work with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Since then, Justin has supported Elaine’s tireless campaigning and provided a useful link between herself and Parliament.
In advance of the event, Justin held a series of meetings with the Elaine & the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, as well as highlighting the importance of the issue with Ministers from the Home Office & Department for Transport.
The event was supported by Members of Parliament from across the parties in the House of Commons, who had the opportunity to discuss the need for reform as well as the personal experiences of Elaine, experts from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and Sammie Woodhouse, who was a victim of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal.
The report released by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust at the event last year highlighted a number of concerns relating to taxi and PHV licensing, including:
-Taxi and private hire vehicle licenses being granted to drivers with criminal convictions that include violent offences
-Licensing authorities failing keeping an accessible record of taxi and private hire drivers’ criminal convictions
-No national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing, and drivers operating outside the area in which their license was issued – which may have lower licensing standards than the area in which they are operating.
The measures announced by the Government today will address these concerns by bringing forward legislation to enable enforcement and compliance checks to be conducted by any licensing officer against any vehicle regardless of where they have been licensed; and introduce a national licensing database to assist the sharing of relevant information between licensing authorities.
In addition to this the Government has also launched a consultation on proposed statutory guidance for taxi and PHV licensing authorities. The new guidance proposes a range of tough new rules for licensing authorities, such as enhanced criminal record checks for drivers and CCTV in cabs.
Justin said: “The vast majority of taxi drivers are law abiding citizens who provide a vital community service – however, there are occasions where the driver has abused the trust of a passenger. This new legislation will help improve the safety of people using taxis, and it is fantastic the Government has listened to people like Elaine and responded to our campaign.”