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The Law

Which laws govern taxis?

The Hackney Carriage Act 1831 was the first major legislation governing taxis and has been renewed and extended since – below are some other Acts of Parliament that apply to the trade:

  • London Hackney Carriage Act 1843
  • Town Police Clauses Act 1847
  • Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869
  • London Cab Act 1896, 1968
  • London Cab and Stage Carriage Act 1907
  • London Cab Order 1934, 1973
  • Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976
  • Transport Act 1980
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

What exactly is a taxi tout?
A tout is someone who acts “in a public place to solicit persons to hire vehicles to carry them as passengers”. Typically they operate in mainline railway stations, airports or other busy public places, and offer a cheaper than standard fare – although invariably the fare finally paid is many times the standard rate. Also touting may invalidate any insurance they may have – and as the touts and drivers are acting illegally it is unlikely they will have specialist hire-and-reward insurance cover. Touting was made a criminal offence in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

The Institute of Licensing is conducting a substantial nationwide consultation (the first of its kind) to ask how the existing laws for taxis, which date back as far as 1847, work for different users including drivers, operators, customers and regulators.

The consultation aims to establish if there is a need for reform of the legislation outside London, to make it fit for purpose for the 21st century.

There are many reasons for embarking on this exercise, principally:

  • existing laws date back as far as 1847
  • lack of understanding makes it easier for rogue operators putting public safety at risk
  • different interpretations lead to varying requirements across the country

It is essential that the survey is completed by everyone and anyone who uses operates or regulates licensed vehicles including:

  • the public – anyone who ever uses licensed vehicles for any purpose
  • vulnerable/special needs and other representative groups such as disability awareness groups, ethnic minority groups, pub watches, community safety networks
  • education authorities
  • health authorities
  • operators – including vehicle owners, licensed operators and drivers
  • trade representatives – including local and national taxi associations
  • regulators – including licensing officers, police, traffic officers, VOSA
  • community groups including neighbourhood watches, community safety networks, parish and ward councillors, citizens advice bureaus

Amongst other questions, the survey seeks to establish the level of understanding within respondents in relation to the differences between hackney carriage and private hire operations.

The consultation seeks views on whether reform of the law could benefit the provision of taxi services through:

  • eliminating inconsistencies between licensing authorities in the application of outdated legislation
  • removing outdated practices and controls which stifle economic development and competition
  • enhancing public protection and safety by virtue of a simplified system of regulation
  • promoting the environmental impact of sustainable transport
  • recognising and embedding licensed vehicles as part of the national public transport infrastructure
  • reducing the administrative burden on licence holders and licensing authorities
  • providing a better structured and more understandable framework

This is the first consultation of this type to include the public as users in addition to the hackney carriage and private hire trade and the regulators.

It is now just over a year since the law changed to remove the contract exemption that exempted school contracts and other types of “private hire” work from licensing.  All provision of a vehicle with a driver now requires licensing with the only exemption being funeral and wedding cars.  This means that school contracts, garage/travel agent/pub courtesy buses etc now need licensing.

The Government have now launched a consultation on the effects of this change:

Bilking/Runners

Theft Act 1978 Section 3. Making off without payment.— a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any goods supplied or service done is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due shall be guilty of an offence.

Touting/Pirating

When using a Private Hire Vehicle you must make sure that you pre-book this journey, if you get into a vehicle that isn’t pre-booked you are uninsured this means that if you have an accident and suffer any injuries/death you or your dependents will not receive a penny, this does not apply to Hackney Carriage Vehicles (Black Cabs) they are aloud to do so.