Hartlepool MP backs calls to investigate taxi licence loopholes

Taxi rank, Station Approach, Hartlepool.
Taxi rank, Station Approach, Hartlepool.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has welcomed a decision by Hartlepool licensing chiefs to look at taxi laws to help keep convicted drivers off the roads.

The Mail reported last week how councillors hope to address loopholes which currently allow drivers convicted of crimes and have had their licences revoked to continue working by getting one from a neighbouring licensing authority or to drive larger minibuses instead.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Concerns were raised on the issue at the last meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee.

Councillor Rob Cook, who represents De Bruce ward, quoted a recent article by the Local Government Association (LGA) which stated it will continue to campaign for more rigorous laws after an attempt to change the law in Parliament failed.

Despite the failure, a database of drivers who have been banned, refused or had a licence suspended is due to come into effect.

But a failed Private Members’ Bill would have boosted enforcement powers of local authorities.

Now, town MP Mike Hill has given his backing to councillors looking to address the issue.

He said: “The council are absolutely right to expose this loophole and seek to tighten up on local taxi licensing regulations.

“Long established local taxi companies in Hartlepool have worked hard to maintain good reputations and always aim to recruit the right people, but you can never be sure and especially in light of the John Worboys case it’s wise to be vigilant.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there should be a red flag system introduced via a national database to alert potential employers and licensing authorities that an applicant has a conviction or ban.

“That way we are not only protecting the public, but also legitimate licenced taxi companies themselves.

“The fact also that a loophole in the law allows for drivers with convictions to drive minibuses as public hire vehicles needs to be addressed and I will be doing my very best to support any measures to rectify this.”