Via a relative in London comes some news that in itself is not earth shattering and won’t reach any dead tree press. It’s only a minor change in regulations related to who can drive a taxi† in London. But it highlights the thought processes of the faceless bureaucrats such as John Mason who have taken up jobs under Labours term of office. They usually do not understand the situation on the ground, but believe that imposing new rules, regulations, and laws will solve the problem they perceive to exist.
Currently to be a considered as a private hire driver in London you “must be UK or EU citizens, or have the right to stay and work in the UK. You must have a licence before you can drive a taxi“. The minor change will be to make the residency condition three years in the UK rather than none.
As I say, in itself it doesn’t sound too much of an issue.
But then there comes a whole raft of issues from that simple change. One is the EU’s right to work which allows EU residents to work anywhere in the EU. This is the law that allows foreign doctors to work in the UK. Now the right doesn’t mean an automatic right, just that so long as they meet the requirements of the job there should be no ban because they are not local. So the requirement for a doctor could be to understand English to a certain degree if that was part of the job requirements. It’s only because managers and administrators are scared of being called racist due to laws introduced by evil people like Harriet Harman and her cohorts that there are no such requirements. Though it’s currently being changed because of issues like that of the German doctor Daniel Ubani who unlawfully killed a patient because he couldn’t understand enough English to do his job.
Anyway, enough digression, back to the subject at hand. Taxis and the change in residency prerequisite.
So a minor change. But then why would such a minor change be required? What is going on that means that a driver has to be resident for three years. Are there huge numbers of these drivers committing crimes? Are loads of passengers getting robbed and killed? Are taxi drivers disproportionately represented in speeding and other traffic offences?
None of the above.
In fact it’s not because private hire drivers are doing anything bad. It’s because TfL doesn’t trust them to say that they aren’t bad even when backed up by official documentation. What do I mean by that? Well anyone who is anyone has a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check now a days. You don’t have a proper job unless you have a CRB. TfL use them to check that potential taxi drivers aren’t serial killers.
But then you would ask why the extra requirement if the CRB is supposed to be the bees knees and tells the employer (or licensing authority) if the applicant was even thought of as a paedophile by a neighbour especially now that CRBs can include heresay and rumour.
Well I’m not sure if it’s the real reason as I’ve only heard this second-hand, but it seems it’s because no other country has the same level of security as the UK. And by security I mean that CRB check. The one that assumes every person in the UK is a criminal unless proven otherwise.
Normally when you apply for a Private Hire Licence in London you have to pay over £500 for various slips of paper including a CRB check and then wait for around 4 months (sometimes more) before you get the slip of plastic like the one shown. Once you have this magic piece of plastic you can work as a cab driver or as a driver for Wimbledon tennis players. Like the CRB check though, it doesn’t say what the holder of the card will do in the future.
If you are not a UK resident, you have to produce a Certificate of Good Conduct (CoGC) from your government to prove you don’t have criminal record. Now in the rest of the world and in the EU too, this CoGC is equivalent to the CRB check though without the huge database and bureaucracy that is the UK’s hall mark of gold plating every piece of officialdom.
Now because the UK bureaucrats have become so deluded that they believe their own hype, they believe that the CRB check is the best in the world and no other state certified piece of paper can match it. The fact that Vanessa George was fully CRB checked and still was not caught by it is not widely publicised. So they will no longer trust CoGCs and will force potential taxi drivers to be resident in the UK for three years so that they build up enough of a record to make the UK CRB check valid before they can be a taxi driver.
In the risk averse society that we have become, bureaucrats believe that it is their role to bring risk down to zero. Not as low as possible – zero, zilch, nada, null, nothing. Of the tens of millions of taxi journeys carried out in London over the last decade the number of journeys that lead to a major crime that was the fault of a licensed driver could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The ones that were the fault of an unlicensed driver are quite a bit more. But licensing doesn’t catch those. Laws do not catch those who ignore it.
I am led to believe that there were around 111 crimes committed by unlicensed cab drivers last year. Licensing has definitely failed hasn’t it if it didn’t stop the drivers committing those crimes. Those who are for licensing will argue that it stopped all the tens of thousands of drives from committing crimes. Well no it doesn’t. It means that the majority of people are good, not that licensing has physically stopped criminals from becoming drivers.
The law of unintended consequences appears here as well. There are around 200 private hire operators in London who employ EU nationals as their drivers and they are already having problems finding good drivers. This is before the regulation comes into effect. When you take into account that even after interviewing an applicant, the company has to wait four months and invest £500 for what could be a negative result before they can employ the driver, it’s a big risk to take. So the result? A lack of taxi drivers, a lack of taxis and more potential for unlicensed drivers to take the risk of a criminal record because of the increased profit from the increased demand for taxi services.
Bear in mind that the Olympics is on next year so demand for taxis, both black and private hire, will sky rocket. The private hire companies will have no way to meet the demand due to the interference of the authorities. I predict that there will be a huge increase in the number of crimes by unlicensed drivers during the Olympics. The authorities will see this as a failure of the licensing rather than the result of the onerous licensing. Watch out for more regulations on private hire drivers in 2013.
† It’s worth noting that when I use the term taxi I don’t mean black cabs. They have different regulations to private hire cars. The term taxi in the article is a generic one.