Plans to cut red tape for taxi and private hire drivers have been slammed by Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales.
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner, has joined forces with a cross-party group of PCCs to highlight the risks associated with the new Deregulation Bill – which they believe could put people in danger of being raped and sexually assaulted.
Currently only licensed private hire drivers can drive a marked private hire vehicle, and all drivers are regularly re-licensed.
But under the new Bill the Government want to see that changed, and allow anyone to drive a private hire vehicle for their own use when the registered driver is not using the vehicle.
And the group of Commissioners – led by Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd - is lobbying Ken Clarke to get that measure removed from the Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.
Mr Grunshaw said: "Residents need to be able to have confidence that when they get into a marked private hire vehicle the driver is licensed and is who they say they are.
"These new measures put everyone at risk, and with the thriving night-time economy we have in Lancashire – and the number of university students in Lancaster, Preston and Ormskirk – it is not a risk we want to take.
"I know the Government does not intend to put people in danger through this Bill, but I hope they take notice of the genuine concerns Commissioners have and seriously re-considers introducing these measures."
The Government has said it wants to change taxi regulations to free many families from the need to run a second car, and save them money. But the concerns raised by PCCs have been backed by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault.
Proposals had already been drafted to streamline taxi and private hire legislation after the Government asked the Law Commission to draw up a draft Taxi Bill, but it has now chosen not to introduce that Bill and instead rely on the reform measures detailed in the Deregulation Bill.
Along with Clive Grunshaw and Tony Lloyd, the other Commissioners backing the campaign are:
- Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire (Conservative)
- Vera Baird, Northumbria (Labour)
- Kevin Hurley, Surrey (Independent)
- Alan Charles, Derbyshire (Labour)
- Martyn Underhill, Dorset (Independent)
- Martin Surl, Gloucestershire (Independent)
- Richard Rhodes, Cumbria (Conservative)
- Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)
- Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire (Labour)
- Ron Hogg, Durham (Labour)
- Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset (Independent)
- Anthony Stansfield, Thames Valley (Conservative)
- Winston Roddick, North Wales (Independent)
- Stephen Bett, Norfolk (Independent)
- Barry Coppinger, Cleveland (Labour)
- Simon Hayes, Hampshire (Independent)