A Private Members Bill to overhaul taxi and private hire vehicles to aid safety, has passed its second reading.
The Bill is one step closer to becoming law – building on the work of local campaigners and MPs in Swindon.
The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (safeguarding and road safety) Bill has been put forward by Darlington MP Peter Gibson, after he was one of 20 MPs drawn in a ballot to introduce a piece of legislation to be considered by Parliament.
If successful, the Bill would set a requirement for all taxi and private hire vehicles licensing authorities to share information on recent adverse licensing histories, and for this to be taken in into consideration to mitigate the risk that unsuitable people are granted licenses.
Licensing authorities will be expected to contribute to a central database when the authority has suspended, revoked, refused to grant, or refused to renew a taxi or PHV driver’s licence because of certain safeguarding or road safety concerns. Licensing authorities will also be required to use information held on the database when considering whether to issue or renew licenses.
The news has been welcomed by North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, who has been working with local residents Elaine Pickford and Liam O’Callaghan, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Robert Buckland MP, to introduce national minimum standards for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing.
It follows a number of high-profile cases involving taxi drivers, including: ‘black cab rapist’ John Worboys; a number of taxi drivers across the country involved in grooming gangs and child exploitation; and Swindon taxi driver Christopher Halliwell – who was responsible for the murder of Elaine’s daughter and Liam’s sister Sian O’Callaghan, as well as the murder of Becky Godden.
Justin Tomlinson MP said: “This is a really positive step forward in strengthening public safety. While the vast majority of taxi drivers are decent and law abiding, it is important that the minority who aren’t are identified and prevented from doing harm. The Bill is testament to the work of campaigners like Elaine and Liam, who have helped secure a vital change to the law.”
Justin first became involved in the campaign when Elaine first approached him – initially to discuss her work supporting families connected to victims of homicide, and then the campaign with the Suzy Lamplugh.
Both Justin and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland have supported their work, and have met with Elaine, Liam and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust multiple times. In 2018 Justin hosted an event in Parliament with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to highlight the issue of taxi driver licensing, and advocate for a change in the law.
Elaine Pickford & Liam O’Callaghan said: "This legislation is a cause we are all very proud of as it will help safeguard society, protect good honest taxi drivers and improve the confidence of individuals who use taxi services on a regular basis across the whole of the UK.
"The work of all involved, with special thanks to Saskia (SLT) & Katie (JT's Office Manager), Justin Tomlinson, Robert Buckland, Peter Gibson and their respective teams, the tiresome campaigning of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the full support of all MP's is a testament to Sian and a lasting tribute.
"Sian, although no longer with us, will now extend her presence by helping to protect others."