The current legislative framework for private hire licensing
The is no statutory power anywhere in England or Wales that allows a licensing authority the ability to lawfully refuse a private hire licence on the grounds of overprovision. The consequence is that provided a private hire applicant meets the statutory and/or local eligibility criteria, licensing authorities are legally obliged to issue a licence.
In Scotland however, the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 does allow Scottish licensing authorities to refuse “to grant private hire car licences on grounds of overprovision” – subject to due process being followed.
For taxis, there have been powers available to licensing authorities to cap the number of licences for many decades.
The problem, according to Sadiq Khan at least, is that a “huge increase” in mini cabs in the city is causing increased congestion, pollution and leaving many drivers struggling to earn a living.
It is the case that in London, and elsewhere in England, there has been a substantial increase in the number of private hire vehicle licences. According to the 2017 DfT taxi/PH statistics, in 2017, 73% of all licensed vehicles in England were private hire vehicles.
The number of licensed vehicles increased by 16% from 2015. This was driven by the 23.6% increase in licensed private hire vehicles between 2015 and 2017. Licensed private hire vehicles in London increased by 39% to 87,400.
Conversely, there were 75,500 licensed taxis in 2017, a 0.7% decrease from 2015. There was a 5.3% decrease in London and a 1.3% increase in England outside London.
London accounted for the majority of the increase in the number of driver licences, with a 36.8% increase of 38,300 driver licences to 142,200 since 2015. PHV-only driver licences increased by 49.6%.
The substantial increase in private hire licences has been put down to the increasing popularity of ride hailing services. Apart from Uber, this week the Indian ride hailing firm Ola launched in Wales but saying “…it was working with local authorities to expand across the UK by the end of 2018.”
Will there be a legislative solution?
At the moment the Government has given no indication of its intention of introducing new legislation to empower licensing authorities to cap the number of private hire licences.
A spokesperson from the Department for Transport said that the department last year “…commissioned a “task and finish group” – comprising MPs, DfT officials, Transport for London, unions and members of the trade – to look into taxi and private hire licensing.”
The DfT said the group had now submitted a report and it was considering their recommendations.
The task and finish group report has not been published but issues around cross-border hiring and private hire licensing were topics raised for discussion and consideration. It is worth noting that the Law Commission’s recommendations to Government in taxi/PH law reform did not include a recommendation to introduce powers to cap private hire licences.
TfL and other licensing authorities have been urging Government for wider ranging powers but the Government has been reluctant to pursue legislation. There will certainly not be any progress on this until at least after Brexit has run its course but when it is progressed it will be part of a wider programme of legislative reform which could take years to progress.
If your licence has been revoked, refused or suspended, Taxi Defence Barristers can offer expert legal advice, case management and representation. Call us today for a free case assessment on 020 7060 1775 or visit out website www.taxidefencebarristers.co.uk.