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Wes Taxi CavYou don’t need me to tell you that the threat to the taxi cab trade is real. But too many MPs, particularly some at the top of our Government, don’t seem to realise that the iconic black cab will be driven off the streets unless politicians take action.

That’s why on 22nd March I presented a 10 minute rule bill to the House of Commons. The Bill sought to put these issues on the political agenda by putting fair competition and passenger safety at the heart of the taxi and private hire vehicle industry in London and across the country. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive a second reading as Parliament has run out of time this session. Despite this, I will continue to put pressure on the Government and the next Mayor to act.

The debate about the future of London’s taxi industry has been unfairly characterised as a debate between those who support competition and innovation on the one hand and those who want to cling to the past on the other.

But the cabbies I represent are not afraid of change and innovation, they are not afraid of new technology and they are not afraid of competition. The development of apps like Gett and Hailo prove this. But, as I told MPs, cabbies are finding it increasingly hard to compete in a changing marketplace with both hands tied behind their backs.

My constituency, Ilford North, was once known as “Green Badge valley”, and it is still not unusual to see taxis parked on the driveways of Gants Hill, Clayhall, Barkingside and Woodford. I also represent hundreds of minicab drivers and drivers who work for new market entrants such as Uber. I’m in favour of competition and choice as much as anyone else, but I also recognise that the explosion in the number of private hire vehicles and cheap and quick apps like Uber present real challenges that pose a risk to passengers as well as the traditional black cab industry.

There’s also an issue of basic fairness. Is it really fair to expect cabbies to compete on fixed fares while apps such as Uber are able to drive their prices down, as profit-shifting allows them to avoid paying their fair share of taxes here in the UK? I’ve seen too many examples of people hanging up their green badges and leaving the trade because they can’t make ends meet. This is bad for competition, bad for passengers, and bad for London.

I believe we need action in three key areas:

Firstly, to increase the training requirements for PHV vehicle drivers, to help groups who often have problems with PHV drivers such as the disabled and make sure they understand plying for hire and touting regulations.

Secondly, we should switch to an operators insurance model so passengers know they are safe and TFL can check insurance easier.

Finally we should make sure that fair and proper taxes are paid in the UK by multinational companies.

I’m disappointed the bill will not go forward, but the campaign does not stop there – I’ll be seeking a meeting with the next Mayor of London on this issue after the election on 5th May and will apply pressure to ministers in Parliament. More information can be found on the LCDC website by clicking here

It’s high time the government listened and helped the black cab trade

You don’t need me to tell you that the threat to the taxi cab trade is real. But too many MPs, particularly some at the top of our Government, don’t...

Wes spoke in the first day of the debate on the Chancellor's chamber and criticised the Budget for its misguided policies and failure to meet the government’s own targets.

“This is a budget that seeks to hide the Chancellor’s failures,” said Wes. “Six years into his term, growth is being revised down, national debt continues to rise and he has failed to meet his targets for deficit reduction once again.

“It has been suggested that this budget is for the next generation, but this is from a Chancellor who chose to treble university tuition fees, abolish the education maintenance allowance, cut student grants, impose tuition fees for student nurses and midwives, and to scrap the NHS bursary for trainee staff.”

Wes also noted that “It is scandalous that the biggest savings in this budget are those that hit disabled people, yet it is almost precisely the same amount that the Chancellor is giving away in cuts to capital gains tax for the very wealthy. He should go back and reconsider these damaging cuts that will see £4.4 billion taken away from disabled people by 2020.”

The Government will end up borrowing £38.4 billion more than planned four months ago during the course of this parliament, due to a weakening economy, and it now looks increasingly unlikely the Chancellor will ever eliminate the deficit.

Alongside this household disposable income, GDP growth and annual earnings have all been revised down for every single year, and the cuts announced will disproportional affect women, with 81% of cuts falling on their pockets.

This budget has clearly shown the Chancellor’s many failures and broken promises, “So keen is he to avoid any focus on his record as Chancellor over the past six years we have been reduced to talking about fizzy drinks,” said Wes in the chamber, “and, like the worst soft drinks, the Chancellor's budget is full of fizz and leaves a bad aftertaste.”

Wes slams Osborne's budget failure

Wes spoke in the first day of the debate on the Chancellor's chamber and criticised the Budget for its misguided policies and failure to meet the government’s own targets.

Wes submitted his first ten minute rule bill on Tuesday the 22nd March. The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle [PHV] Operators (Regulation) Bill seeks to put fair competition and passenger safety at the heart of the taxi and private hire vehicle industry in London and across the country.

Speaking in the chamber, Wes said “The advent of new technology in the industry is revolutionising the way people navigate our great capital city; indeed, it is revolutionising transport in cities across the United Kingdom and the world.

“However, as we have seen on the streets of London, it also brings significant challenges. The Bill seeks to address some of those challenges, which have been neglected for far too long.”

An LBC investigation by Theo Usherwood has exposed the ease with which individuals can access a private hire licence without adequate insurance and The Guardian was able to demonstrate how easy it was for an Uber driver to pick up a customer, having provided fake insurance paperwork via the company’s operating system.

Some PHV drivers are also illegally plying for hire and touting, increasing the risk of passengers getting into cars driven by unlicensed and unknown drivers, with considerable risk to their safety. There’s also evidence that LGBT individuals, those with disabilities and those with guide dogs have been refused PHV.

The Bill proposes action in three areas to combat this. The first, ensuring that in order to obtain a PHV licence all drivers should complete an enhanced DVLA assessment, undertake a plying for hire and touting assessment, and be properly trained under the Equality Act 2010.

The second action is around insurance. The current system requires “hire and reward” insurance for all drivers where the responsibility for insurance rests with individual drivers. There is a higher cost for this insurance, which means that many PHV drivers can be tempted to opt for cheaper insurance if it’s accepted by a licensed operator. To resolve this issue, a system of operators’ insurance, that places the responsibility on operators as a prerequisite for obtaining their licence, should replace it.

Finally, the Bill makes provision for the tax liabilities of taxi and private hire vehicle companies. Companies should not be making huge profits by not paying their fair share of tax.

This Bill would also introduce a requirement for the Chancellor, or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to make an annual statement to this House on the progress of the OECD’s base erosion and profit-shifting project and the action that Her Majesty’s Government are taking to ensure that there is proper scrutiny in this area. These changes collectively would go some way towards levelling the playing field.

Concluding his speech Wes said, “They [cab drivers] are also small businessmen and women providing a world-famous service and struggling to make their families a good living. We owe them a chance to compete fairly, and we owe it to our great capital city to ensure that the iconic black taxi industry and the great iconic black taxi itself are not consigned to London’s history books. For these reasons, and so many more, I commend this Bill to the House.”

The bill is to be read a Second time on Friday 22 April. Watch Wes’ full speech here.

Wes in drive to improve taxi regulation

Wes submitted his first ten minute rule bill on Tuesday the 22nd March. The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle [PHV] Operators (Regulation) Bill seeks to put fair competition and passenger safety at the...

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