Taxi and Private Hire Services

Status: This project is complete.  The final report and draft Bill were published on 23 May 2014.  We have presented our recommendations to Government and await its response

The project reviewed the legal framework relating to taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) across England and Wales with a view to making it simpler and more modern.

Taxis and PHVs are an important part of local transport. They operate in highly regulated markets where safety and quality control are paramount. Licensing covers key areas such as the fitness of drivers, accessibility requirements, taxi fare regulation and restrictions on the number of taxi licenses issued.

The project

Work on this project started in the summer of 2011, as part of the Law Commission’s Eleventh Programme of law reform. The project had originally been proposed by the Department for Transport, which has policy responsibility in this area.

We published a consultation paper with our provisional proposals for reform on 10 May 2012.  We invited responses to our proposals between May and October. We were also assisted by some very helpful discussions with experts in the field, including an advisory group and an expert legal panel on “plying for hire” (the term “plying for hire” is one of the core legal concepts used to describe the work undertaken by taxis under current law). In the spring of 2013 we published the responses we received and an interim statement in setting out our key policy conclusions in advance of the final report. We published a final report with our recommendations and draft Bill on 23 May 2014.

We received over 3000 responses to our consultation, the highest ever number of responses to a Law Commission consultation. We are very grateful for the time and effort that stakeholders have put in to respond to our consultation. The responses are accessible on this project page.  We divided the responses into separate bundles, each with an index.  We also produced a general index covering all responses.

Our recommendations

We published a report explaining and setting out our recommendations on 23 May 2014, together with a draft Bill. Under current law, separate statutes regulate taxi and private hire vehicles respectively and different legislation applies in London and Plymouth. Our final report and draft Bill set out a new single legal framework for the regulation of taxi and private hire services across England and Wales, including London and Plymouth.

We recommend retaining the current two-tier system, distinguishing between taxis and private hire vehicles. Only taxis should be allowed to be hailed or pick up passengers from ranks.

The new regime would see the introduction of national standards for all taxis and private hire vehicles, set by the Secretary of State, with the power for local licensing authorities to set additional standards for taxi services only. Local authorities would, however, remain responsible for issuing licences and enforcement in relation to both taxis and private hire vehicles.

Our recommendations make it easier for providers of private hire services to work cross-border, and give licensing officers new enforcement powers to deal with vehicles and drivers licensed in different areas. We also recommend tougher penalties on touting (actively soliciting customers), including impounding.

During consultation many stakeholders complained about vehicles operating at the fringes of licensing, or outside licensing altogether. Pedicabs and novelty vehicles, including stretch limousines, are examples that we recommend bringing clearly within the scope of taxi and private hire regulation, such that they may be controlled as necessary. Following consultation, we were persuaded to retain the exemption that applies to wedding and funeral cars as part of primary legislation.

The responses to our consultation were overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining quantity controls in respect of taxis and we were persuaded by the arguments made to us. Our final report recommends that licensing authorities should retain the right to limit the number of taxis working in their licensing area.

One of our key recommendations is the introduction of mandatory disability awareness training for all taxi and private hire drivers. Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, we recommend that licensing authorities should have the power to introduce a duty on taxis to stop when hailed, to help address the problem of certain drivers passing by disabled people.  We also recommend that licensing authorities should be required to review accessibility needs in their area every three years, and take accessibility issues into account when installing taxi ranks.  Further, in order to help address the lack of accessible vehicles, we recommend that the Secretary of State should have the power to require large operators (or dispatchers, as they would referred under our reforms) to meet certain quotas of accessible vehicles which must be available to them.

In this video, Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC, sets out our recommendations for reform.

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