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Update on the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (Wales) Bill Published Date: 03/10/2023

The Welsh Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, gave the following update on the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (Wales) Bill:

To meet the urgent challenge of climate change, we need to make sustainable forms of transport a more attractive choice for people. So we need to join up bus, rail and active travel to make them the easy choice to get around, and a key connector for people to those services are taxis. Private hire vehicles and taxis are often neglected when we think about our public transport system, but they play an important role in joining the system up. Cabs provide connections for the first and last mile of journeys, and give passengers the flexibility that buses and trains can lack in getting people to where they need to go. And as commercial bus routes have been pared back, taxis are a lifeline in many communities, to connect people on a day-to-day basis. It's also important to recognise that they are disproportionately important to people with mobility difficulties.192

In March, we published our White Paper on reforming the licensing regime for taxis and private hire vehicles. We received almost 150 responses from drivers, operators and passengers, and I’m grateful to everyone who responded. On 26 September, we published a summary of responses, and I’d like to set out the next steps to deliver our programme for government commitment to modernise the sector.193

Our reform programme is about improving the passenger experience, and providing a stable operating environment to make sure taxis are available for people right across Wales when they need them. Wherever in Wales any one of us steps up to a taxi rank, or uses an app to order a private hire vehicle, we should be able to expect a safe and consistent service. Respondents to our consultation expressed broad support for our proposal to introduce national minimum standards for drivers, vehicles and operators. Many throughout the UK are supportive of national consistency, and there have been calls for other governments to follow our lead.194

One of the chief complaints from drivers, especially in south-east and north-east Wales, is the issue of drivers from areas with less onerous standards of training and testing unfairly competing with them for passengers. This so-called cross-bordering doesn’t give passengers a consistent level of safety and customer service, and is bad for drivers and operators too.195

Many respondents also felt that discretion for local authorities to set additional local standards should be kept to a minimum. We will continue to work with stakeholders to finalise the national standards. As a result, whenever you use a taxi or a private hire vehicle in Wales, you will be assured that the driver, vehicle and operator have been subject to the same requirements, safety checks and training.196

Respondents had mixed views about the implications national standards would have for taxis and private hire vehicles licensed in England and working in Wales. We will not stop legitimate journeys that cross the border between Wales and England. We will seek to introduce safeguards to ensure that drivers do not obtain a licence in England to avoid Wales's national standards. And we will continue to monitor the situation and engage stakeholders on both sides of the border as we develop our proposals.197

Respondents asked us to be mindful that raising standards will bring some additional costs to the sector. Drivers and operators are not immune from the cost-of-living crisis and the severe economic headwinds facing all sectors. We are not proposing a gold standard but a balanced approach that will raise the bar on best practice and level the playing field for drivers and operators—and I apologise for the mixed metaphor.198

The current variation in standards across Wales means that costs will differ from one local authority to another. What is clear, though, is that the areas where costs will be highest will be those where the benefits will be most felt. These are the areas where the service has been working to lower standards until now.199

Respondents wanted clear and simple processes for enforcement of standards. And respondents were generally in favour of enabling local authorities to take enforcement action against vehicles and drivers operating out of area. This was particularly true where there is an immediate risk to public safety.200

To further improve safety, we are working with the Centre for Digital Public Services to explore options for better information sharing between local authorities and with passengers. We have also listened to drivers' concerns about their safety, and will review requirements such as the wearing of badges and CCTV.201

The phenomenon of so-called multi-apping has now become a feature of the taxi market. Drivers may make themselves available for hire on several taxi-booking phone apps at once and then cancel a trip if a better offer comes along. As well as an irritation, this also poses a risk to passenger safety. There were mixed views about the causes of cancellations and no consensus on the actions that would be effective to prevent them. So, we will continue to keep this matter under review as we develop our proposals, and I would welcome the views of Members. 202

Respondents from the trade were concerned about the costs and practicalities of transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles. We remain fully committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and decarbonising cars will be an important part of that. But I recognise that there are challenges, including the cost of buying an electric vehicle, anxiety about vehicle range and the availability of charging infrastructure. Dirprwy Lywydd, Wales cannot move faster than the rest of the UK on these issues, but we expect the taxi and private hire vehicle trade to transition to electric vehicles in line with the rest of the car market.  203

So, taken together, I think this is a sensible package of measures that will improve the taxi industry for passengers and drivers, and we will continue to engage with the trade and passengers to ensure our legislation works for the whole of Wales.

The statement was proceeded by a debate in the Welsh Parliament.