It is fine to look at licensing minicabs, but at the end of the day they cannot ply for hire. One of the great problems, certainly in central London late at night, is people wanting to put their hand out and get a cab. There are no cabs there, and the touts are filling a gap - that is part of the problem. I do not think that it is true to say that the police do not try to crack down on it. The former police chief in Westminster, Bob Currie, told me once that they had had a crackdown on illegal touts over two or three months in the Soho area. Then, a few days later, he was on a night out with his wife, and hey presto, who should approach him but a tout asking if he wanted a cab home?
They come back all the time: there is a demand for them because the black cabs are not filling that gap in central London at night. One of the things that needs to be looked at is the premium that black cabs can charge to take people after, say, midnight. At the moment, most of them tell me that an extra 60p or whatever it is on the tab is not enough to make them want to work during the early hours of the morning. Perhaps an extra £2, which would only be 50p for four people sharing a cab on a safe journey home, might make it more economically attractive to them.