PM says he will pass new law letting councils close roads for motor races
Move paves the way for London Formula 1 circuit past Buckingham Palace
Cameron hails announcement as ‘great news for British motor sport’
London Grand Prix long-held ambition of F1 supremo Bernie Eccleston
The prospect of a Monaco-style F1 Grand Prix on the streets of London has moved a step closer after the coalition announced new powers for Town Halls to stage motor races.
Councils will be able to sign off major motor races on public roads for the first time, instead of needing to get specific approval from Parliament.
Unveiling the move as he opened Williams’ new F1 engineering facility in Oxfordshire, David Cameron said it would mean ‘more races, more events, more money coming into our country’.
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The London Grand Prix route is likely to come past Parliament before turning left down the Embankment on the north side of the river
Planning ahead: A detailed 3.2 mile Formula 1 circuit is believed to have drawn up by Bernie Eccleston
He added: ‘We’re going to change the rules so that local councils are able to make the decision so you don’t have to have a private member’s Bill through Parliament, which we think will be great news for British motor sport.’
‘More races, more events, more money coming into our country and more success for this extraordinary industry.’
The Prime Minister said F1 was ‘an amazing success story, eight of the 11 teams based here in the United Kingdom, 41,000 people working in the industry in the Oxford area alone, working for about 4,300 companies’.
‘It really is something we should celebrate. It seems to me it’s an industry that is in good heart and good spirit with incredible investment, permanent improvement, taking place.’
The idea of a Monaco-style Grand Prix on the streets of London has been mooted for some time – with F1 team sponsor Santander even producing a video of what it might look like. Boris Johnson has signalled he is ready to support a project.
The Government’s announcement follows a consultation earlier this year, and the change is expected to be added to the Deregulation Bill in the autumn. It could be in force before the general election next year.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said local authorities would be obliged to consult local people and ensure all necessary safety precautions were in place.
While it will significantly open up the opportunities for hill climbs, motorbike races, and rallies across rural Britain, the biggest impact could be in paving the way for a Formula One race which passes Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
TEASER. The London Grand Prix by Santander
Billionaire race boss Bernie Ecclestone believes a London Grand Prix could become the most iconic race in the motorsport calendar – supplanting Monaco as the jewel in the F1 crown
Lewis Hamilton last week won the the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, but in future he could have the chance to win twice on home soil
The race is a long-held ambition of Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old motorsport supremo, and Jenson Button, the driver.
Mr Ecclestone has even previously said he would be prepared to foot the bill race, given it could even overtake Monte Carlo as the jewel in Formula One’s crown.
Button, who fronted a major campaign for the race with his then team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 2012, said earlier this year: ‘The thought of a race through the capital’s streets was only a dream when they initiated the project, but changes to the law bring the idea a step closer to reality.’
The measure also clears the way for the hosting of Formula E, the all-electric car championship, in Britain, with a race planned for next summer in Battersea Park.
I am also opposed to the Bill because of its reforms relating to taxis and public hire vehicles which, as has been said today, will put the travelling public at risk. There will be no effective control over who will be plying that trade. Last year there were 200 incidents of attacks on people travelling in private hire cars in London, where this type of legislation already applies.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham, Conservative)
Is it correct that a person who runs a licensed taxi company, for example, is responsible for everyone who drives for that company? If so, that person has the responsibility to ensure that his or her drivers act properly and are properly checked.
Tom Brake (The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons; Carshalton and Wallington, Liberal Democrat)
Certainly, that is my understanding. The operator is licensed as such and needs to check all the drivers who are used by that firm.
Graham Jones (Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons); Hyndburn, Labour)
The Minister says that an individual who is unable to order a private hire vehicle from their favourite firm is in the same position if the company locates a private hire vehicle from another local authority. On many levels, that is wrong. When that individual flicks through the “Yellow Pages”, as the Minister describes it, they can choose to look for a company in their area.
This proposal will allow the company to take charge, and that taxi could come from another area with different standards.
The choice is therefore removed from the fare-paying customer.
Does the Minister accept that the customer is in control when they look through the “Yellow Pages”, but not when the job is passed from one operator to another who locates a taxi from outside the area?
Tom Brake (The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons; Carshalton and Wallington, Liberal Democrat)
Yes, when people use “Yellow Pages”, they may well be in control of their choice of private hire firm, but I thought the point that the hon. Gentleman and other hon Members were making was that there was a risk in a job being passed on by a local reliable firm to another operator.
I would suggest that the risk of simply going to the phone book is much greater than using a local reliable firm whose reputation relies on delivering a good service, whether it does so directly or by subcontracting to another firm in an area where it cannot operate. With our system, security is enhanced, rather than damaged in the way he suggests.
The hon. Member for Easington referred to the need for a comprehensive, nationwide review and reform of private hire. He is probably well versed in private hire and taxi matters. He will understand how difficult it is to get a comprehensive, nationwide review of services.
I suspect that there have been attempts under our Government and under Labour Governments to get that comprehensive review under way. It is not straightforward, and it is not something that happens overnight. We have an opportunity in the Bill to introduce some small measures, supported by the Law Commission. We have chosen, rightly, to proceed with them now, and that is the right action for the Government to take.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service. There is an automatic update system. It is an optional service for local authorities, which can judge whether to use it. Crucially, three-yearly licence renewal is seen as best practice. That applies in London and half of all authorities outside London.
Can all the MPs who have wet ink on their fingers as the deregulation bill passed yesterday – PLEASE STAND UP & BE COUNTED!
285 CONS & LIBDEMS ACCEPTING IT’S PERFECTLY OKAY FOR ANYONE TO DRIVE A MINICAB WITHOUT A LICENCE! WHAT PLANET DO U PARASITES LIVE ON?
214 SEX ATTACKS 2013, 54 RESULTING IN TRIALS – ALL BECAUSE PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES IN LONDON THAT WERE BORROWED BY ANYONE WERE NOT STOPPED!
News release: Embargoed until 00:01 hours on Friday 23 May 2014
Reforming the regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles
Taxis and private hire services, which include minicabs, are an essential link in the transport network of England and Wales, with passengers spending in excess of £2.5 billion a year on fares.
But the law that governs how the taxi and private hire trades operate is old, inconsistent and struggling to deal with internet-driven changes in passenger behaviour.
In a report published today, the Law Commission is recommending reforms that would update the law and make it clearer for those working in the taxi and private hire trades and their passengers.
The Commission’s report recognises the value to passenger choice of the two-tier system of private hire vehicles – which must be pre-booked, and taxis – which can use ranks or ply for immediate hire. It makes recommendations to retain and reinforce the distinction.
Passenger safety is at the forefront of the Commission’s reforms. It is recommending that standards be set nationally for public safety, accessibility and environmental impact. For the first time, passengers of taxis and private hire vehicles could confidently expect consistent levels of safety and quality wherever they travel. Under the reforms:
all private hire vehicles, including stretch limos and other “novelty” vehicles, would be subject to the same standards, wherever they operate
taxis would be subject to a comparable set of standards, which could be added to locally, allowing licensing authorities to choose to set higher standards where they want to, and
local licensing authorities would have the power to inspect and, if necessary suspend, any vehicles working within their areas, wherever they are licensed.
These reforms would not impact on the famous black cabs in London, where standards of safety and accessibility are already high. But pedicabs in the capital will fall within taxi licensing for the first time, allowing Transport for London to set appropriate standards. Cars used for weddings and funerals, however, will continue to be exempt from regulation.
Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, the Commission is recommending a national requirement for taxi and private hire drivers to take disability awareness training. And local licensing authorities would be able to impose a duty on taxis to stop when they are hailed, bringing to an end the unacceptable practice of drivers passing by disabled people.
There would be stiffer penalties, too, for touting (actively soliciting customers), which poses a significant safety risk. Under the Commission’s reforms, licensing authorities would be given the power to impound any vehicles used in connection with touting.
Passengers are increasingly turning to the internet to book their taxi and private hire services. In a move to help the private hire trade respond, the Law Commission is recommending that operators should no longer be barred from accepting bookings or using drivers and vehicles from outside their licensing areas.
Licensing authorities should be able to continue to limit taxi numbers, provided they conduct a regular review of the service being provided. Restrictions on the numbers of taxis in some areas have led to inflated “plate values”.
To protect the investment of existing drivers, the Commission recommends that the trade in licences should be allowed to continue. But, in areas where quantity restrictions are introduced for the first time, licenses should not be tradable
Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, says:
“The taxi and private hire trades are of enormous value to England and Wales. They provide a living for thousands of operators and drivers, and many more thousands of people depend on them to go about their daily lives.
“The reforms we are recommending will clarify the legal distinction between taxis and private hire services, and retain the valuable qualities of both. They will equip operators, drivers and their vehicles to meet the demands of a modern passenger-service trade, while making passenger safety and accessibility paramount.”
Black and White Cabs and Yellow Cabs agreed that their firms had worked for years to build checks and balances to assure the safety of drivers and customers. Both were sceptical that Uber could deliver the same level of protection.
“The problem the community will have is Uber doesn’t want to take responsibility for the service delivery and who delivers it,” Yellow Cab’s general manager Bill Parker said.
“Taxi operators are competing on an uneven playing field.”
The passengers Queenland taxi drivers avoid
Department of Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson said that based on the limited information available, he had directed his department to contact the company and investigate whether it complied with the public passenger transport legislation.
Uber, however, is confident that its own vetting processes are sufficient to put to rest any public fears.
“Every ride-sharing partner must meet our rigorous safety standards, including driver history checks, criminal background checks, requisite insurance and vehicle inspections,” Uber Brisbane manager Mike Abbott said.
“Uber’s technology also includes a feedback system which adds a layer of accountability, requiring drivers and passengers to rate each other after every trip.”
Despite it being offered for free, it’s still rare to find many people in Brisbane who’ve heard of the start-up. Steve Jensen is one customer taking advantage of the deal.
The Bank of Queensland employee has been using the app about once a day since they started operating in the city.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is being urged to let minicabs use bus lanes in a bid to avoid gridlocked roads during this week’s Tube strikes.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are set to walk out for three days from 9pm tomorrow in a long-running dispute over ticket office closures.
A two-day strike last week caused huge disruption, with roads clogged as people switched to other forms of transport.
Minicab app, Kabbee, which is home to 10,000 minicabs from 70 fleets across London, has asked Mr Johnson: “Why not let minicabs use bus lanes during strikes?”
The firm raised the issue after its hundreds of thousands of users were hit with the longer journey times caused by the industrial action.
We understand the need for industrial strike action in certain situations, but it’s then up to Transport for London to help passengers get from A to B easily. Opening up the bus lanes to licensed minicabs during strikes would be a simple solution.
– JUSTIN PETERS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF KABBEE
Talks between the RMT and London Underground at the conciliation service Acas aimed at resolving the ticket office row broke down on Friday.
No further meetings are planned, so commuters face three days of travel misery after the Bank Holiday.