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David Cameron Government Accused of Uber London Cover-up

David Cameron and George Osborne got aides to lobby Boris Johnson against tighter private hire regulation.

It’s emerged that Cameron’s office failed to give details under Freedom of Information laws last year, reports the Daily Mail…

Cameron aide’s Uber ‘cover up':

Calls are now being made for an inquiry over the alleged cover-up and the government’s link to Uber

Opposition politicians have pointed out that Rachel Whetstone, a senior vice-president at Uber, is a personal friend of Cameron and Osborne…

David Cameron’s chum-ocracy and its links with Uber bosses | Daily Mail Online

Labour MP Wes Streeting has called upon Theresa May to launch an inquiry into the issue, saying:

“It is pretty clear that, in contrast to the openness and transparency of Transport for London, that Downing Street under David Cameron tried to cover up its cosy relationship with Uber,”

“Under David Cameron, Downing Street was clearly acting as the lobbying arm for Uber which is extraordinary.”

Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said:

“This blatant cover-up by 10 Downing Street must now lead to a formal inquiry.”

From the above it is clear why the then Tory led Coalition government launched the Law Commission review of taxis and private hire, the total relaxation of private hire regulations. So adament were they for change that they even responded to their own review, no doubt to make sure that the Law Commission got the message.

Government Response to Law Commission Review

Fortunately, and because of Unite’s campaign against the review, it hasn’t seen the light of day.

Having failed to get their way via the Law Commision, Cameron & co pushed on with their agenda via their Deregulation Bill. Again Unite mounted a campaign against the relaxation of private hire regulations. Although Union managed to win against one of the measures, two others got through with the help of the Liberal Democrats.

The UK’s taxi and private hire trades are now living with the consequences. London licensed Uber drivers free to operate all over the country. With local councils and regulators struggling to keep control, in what has become a subcontracting, cross border nightmare!

In 2015 Transport for London issued a consultation regarding the licensing of private hire in the Capital. Again the Cameron led government got busy in its opposition to regulation of Uber. Sending out the then Secretary of State for Business to make clear the Tory party’s agenda regarding Uber.

Business secretary Sajid Javid sides with Uber in Transport for London crackdown

The then Mayor of London Boris Johnson showed London where his allegiance lay, by dragging his feet on increased regulation. Leaving it to new Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan to push on with new requirements through his Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan. Sadiq is also pushing the Government for new laws regulating private hire. Saying that all private hire booking should either, start or finish in the area that they’re licensed for.

Unite Leading the Fightback Against Deregulation

Many organisations and authorities have only now woken up to the fact that cross-border hiring is a growing problem. With Uber and other operators hiding behind  the Deregulation Act as a cover for the use of out of area licensed private hire drivers and vehicles, it is time that the government faced up to the chaos it has created through its inability to listen to the growing call for action.

Unite has been leading the fight against cross-border hiring for many years. In July 2011, Parliament’s Transport Select Committee took evidence from Unite when we argued for controls on cross-border hiring. The committee concluded:

We recommend that it should be permissible for taxi and PHV licences to include a condition that the vehicle must principally be operated in the licensing district. A similar provision should also be permitted in relation to driver licences. This would enable licensing authorities to take action against drivers or operators who principally operate out-of-town. In addition, new legislation should permit local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices to out-of-town drivers where there is evidence, for example, that they have worked, or sought to work, for a specified period of time in that district. Local authorities should also be enabled to prosecute operators in other districts which are routinely sending cars to work in their area.

As can be seen not a lot has changed since then except that due to the government’s inaction the problem has magnified many times. One of the other recommendations of the Select Committee was that the Government should have an immediate root and branch reform of taxi and private hire legislation to deal with the growing cross-border hiring problem. Instead the government brought in the Law Commission (which Unite defeated) and then the Deregulation Act in 2015, to muddy the waters even further. The upshot is that we are left with the illegal, dangerous and abusive practises that are taking place on the streets every day up and down the country.

  • We urgently need a thorough review and change in the law. As the Select Committee said in 2011 this should be kept simple and kept local.
  • Unite has always been clear. The way to end cross-border hiring is for all private hire bookings to begin or end in the vehicles licensing area. This is simple to check and would stop the blatant abuses taking place at the moment, such as a London licensed vehicle doing all of its work in Brighton with a London licensed Brighton driver.
  • The  Deregulation Act should be scrapped immediately. This gives operators another way to undertake cross-border bookings.
  • A cap on private hire numbers.
  • One standard of driver, vehicle and operator. The worst hit areas with cross-border hiring are those with the highest standards. London is tackling its problems by the Mayor raising standards in English, driving test, topographical testing and disability training. But more needs to be done to ensure that every licensing authority has robust minimum standards.
  • Increased enforcement powers for licensing& enforcement officers to be able to inspect out of town vehicles
  • A standardised DBS to stop drivers and operators moving around licensing authorities

These are just some of the measures that Unite Cab Section will be pushing forward. We will build alliances and use Unite’s unique strength in Parliament, local government and with leading stakeholders to leave no stone unturned in our fight to stop the scourge of cross-border hiring. Only Unite has the capacity to force this government into action, so the join us in the fight to save our taxi trade. As the Select Committee said: Keep it Simple Keep it Local.

Posted by Peter Rose @peterjrose1

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