Eddie Townson, chairman of the Private Hire Board, takes a look at PHV trade issues
Judicial Review: The Private Hire Board (PHB) welcomes the judgement against Transport for London’s (TfL) regulation requiring that private hire vehicles have continuous insurance. This has burdened drivers and operators with unnecessary costs. If only TfL had stuck to the agreed position, legal action would not have been taken.
The English test requirement is also under appeal and we hope to see a favourable outcome.
Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (formerly Criminal Record Checks) on office staff: While the mayor, TfL and their legal teams examine the judgements in the latest judicial review, we return to another aspect from the botched Private Hire Regulations Review – the proposal for all customer-facing office staff to have a Criminal Record Check from the Disclosure and Barring Service (referred to hereafter as DBS Check).
TfL said it intended to liaise with the Home Office prior to commencement. Yet what resulted was the inept implementation of a proposal that has been confusing and raises more questions.
TfL’s consultants stated the following in their impact assessment: “It is assumed that disclosure of a conviction of sufficient seriousness would require the cessation of employment or prevention of taking up employment with another PHV firm. Implementation of this proposal is key.”
On the surface, this seems pretty clear and unambiguous. However, as TfL has not issued guidance as to what offences would prevent operators from employing certain individuals, how are private hire firms supposed to make informed decisions concerning the employment suitability of staff?
And it gets even more complicated. In order to complete a DBS check, the job applicant is required to apply to the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) Scotland for a basic disclosure. And ONLY the job seeker can make the application
Moreover, as office staff are not currently licensed by TfL they cannot be forced to share the results with them or the operator. All they need to produce is evidence that a basic disclosure has been completed. But, even if an applicant is prepared to give a full copy of the disclosure to the potential employer, as TfL has not published a list of misdemeanours that would potentially preclude the applicant from employment in the position, the cab firm has no way of knowing whether the applicant is permissible. Convoluted, isn’t it?
Notwithstanding this palaver, the PHB is incredulous that the private hire industry has a regulator which is making demands on operators to invade their staff’s privacy when the consultation provided no evidence that it is necessary. Even the licensing authority’s own impact assessment considered such checks of ‘minor benefit’.
Further to this, it also begs the question, as to what degree TfL has engaged with the Home Office? After all, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee and the Government have suggested banning questions about criminal convictions on application forms.
Considering that TfL officials get paid to be aware of Government policies and opinion, they don’t appear to be doing so. If they did, then surely they would have read the Government’s response to the Law Commission study before embarking on the regulations review, which stated: “The overall outcome of the review should make the legislative framework for taxis and PHVs less burdensome than at present.”
The Government also advised that regulators should: “Think carefully about the reasons and justification for regulation and ensure that no new regulations are proposed, except where the evidence and cost benefit analysis strongly supports it.”
Human-beings are anatomically proportioned with two ears and one mouth. Perhaps it is time TfL started to utilise those attributes in numerical hierarchy to present genuinely beneficial and necessary licensing reform, rather than wasting taxpayer’s money on ill-conceived regulations that threaten the livelihoods of decent, hard-working people.
To coin an old carpentry phrase; “measure twice and cut once.”