According to Councillor Hannah O’Neill of Milton Keynes Council and Andrew Parkes, a Labour Parliamentary candidate for Milton Keynes South, the proposed changes to taxi and private hire regulations in the region could place locals at risk.
The Government’s Deregulation Bill, which is to be voted on by MPs on June 23, will allow people without a minicab license to drive it when it is ‘off duty’. The Bill will also end annual driver’s license checks and enable minicab drivers to subcontract bookings to firms in other regions.
Even local taxi drivers have backed protests against the Bill while industry bodies, unions and campaigners from different organisations have also joined the fight. These groups believe local councils will not have the power to enforce the Bill’s changes in a safe manner.
Fears Of Increased Crime
According to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a group that campaigns for better personal safety, allowing anyone to operate a private hire vehicle or taxi means sex offenders will have a better opportunity to prey on vulnerable women than ever before. The Local Government Association weighed in by saying these Government proposals need to be withdrawn immediately for the sake of passenger safety.
The Labour party has already vowed to vote against the Deregulation Bill and Parkes said that currently, minicab drivers in Milton Keynes have undergone medical and criminal background checks with the local council. He pointed out that if the Bill goes through, these checks will be a thing of the past and any member of the public will be allowed to drive an off-duty minicab.
Parkes also said he knows lots of people within Milton Keynes who rely on minicabs and taxis to get home safely. Many of these individuals are women and the elderly but if the Bill is passed, it is likely that there will be an increase in rogue drivers operating on the roads. He concluded by saying the Government needed to abandon their plans and ensure passenger safety is their first concern.
The Labour Shadow Roads Minister, Richard Burden, said that the Government’s proposals are poorly planned and believes bad consultation is one of the reasons. He also stated that public safety is being put at risk because people will not know if the driver of the minicab is actually licensed. There is a chance the cab will be driven by an ex-convict and it is even possible for those convicted of sex crimes to get behind the wheel and pretend to be a minicab driver.
Burden concluded by saying that unions, councils, safety charities and the private hire & taxi trade are all against the Deregulation Bill. He is angry that ‘out of touch’ Ministers are refusing to listen and insist on placing people at risk. In a few days time, we will know if the Bill is passed or if common sense prevails and it is quashed.