Wales politics

Plans for law to overhaul Welsh taxis parked

Taxis queuing in rank

A law to overhaul the way taxis are run in Wales has been put on hold.

It is currently difficult for councils to take action against drivers with licences elsewhere for driving poorly maintained vehicles or for their behaviour.

But plans to legislate for information about problem drivers to be shared, and for an all-Wales licensing system, are now delayed until 2021 at least.

Welsh ministers said a considerable amount of work is still required.

The Welsh Government is also considering whether to allow Westminster to legislate for the issue, extending plans in England for national minimum standards, national enforcement and some out-of-area restrictions to Wales.

Short-term measures are being drawn up, Wales' Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates told AMs, but it is not yet clear what they are.

The Welsh Government wanted to allow councils to be able to deal with drivers from any area.

Costs and standards drivers face can vary from council to council, and the rise of ride-hailing apps has led to drivers shopping around different authorities.

Ministers proposed a nationwide database that could allow councils to share information on drivers that have had licences suspended or revoked - currently if that happens it is difficult for the other 21 authorities to find out.

But a proposal for an all-Wales joint transport authority (JTA) to tackle the problems, as they saw it, of 21 separate licence areas, proved controversial in a consultation on the ideas.

While there was support for national standards for vehicles and other measures, most of the 422 respondents were opposed to a single organisation taking over from council licensing functions.

"Most responses from local authorities disagreed with this proposal," said the Welsh Government's summary of the consultation

"They commented that further clarification is required on how the JTA would work and felt that insufficient research had been undertaken.

"Many also commented that such a proposal would mean the potential loss of local knowledge."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The proposals were drawn up in response to changes in the industry following the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber

In a statement to AMs Mr Skates said "it has become very clear that there is a considerable amount of work still required before we can bring forward legislation that addresses the improvements needed".

He said views on the future of the industry are not consistent across the industry, and said ministers will work to bring forward a separate bill on taxis early in the next term.

"In the meantime I have asked officials to develop a package of short-term measures, using existing legislative powers, to begin to address some of the concerns local authorities, drivers, unions and others have raised.

"A plan, for future delivery of new measures will be developed by late autumn".

The GMB union, which represents private hire drivers, had called for more measures to restrict out-of-area drivers.

Branch secretary Paul O'Hara, who is a private hire driver in Cardiff, said the delay smacked of "incompetence".

"Personally, I feel they have passed the buck onto... Westminster in the hope that they come up with new legislation that the Welsh Government can piggy bank off," he added.

Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed said it was a "missed opportunity".

"I know people in the industry will be very disappointed about this. They are crying out for reform and standardisation," she said.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We are bringing forward a bill early in the next assembly term to address the outdated taxi and private hire legislation."

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