Taxi and Private Hire - 'Future Proof

Meeting: 
MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Reference: 
2015/0917
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

There are currently 68 Metropolitan Police Cab Enforcement Officers. As highlighted in the London Assembly Transport Committee's report 'Future Proof' - this number has stagnated since 2008, despite the number of Private Hire drivers increasing by 10,000 vehicles over this period. What commitment will you make to increase the number Enforcement Officers in the capital?

Answer

Answer for Taxi and Private Hire - 'Future Proof

Answer for Taxi and Private Hire - 'Future Proof

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you.  The question Val has asked is about the MPS cab enforcement officers.  The particular statistic you have highlighted is that the number of those officers has stabilised - or ‘stagnated’, as you put it - since 2008, despite the number of private hire vehicles increasing by 10,000 over the period.  You are asking what we are going to do to increase the number of enforcement officers.

 

The first point to make is that in 2008 when I came in, after long discussions with the taxi trade, we doubled the number of enforcement officers.

 

What we are now doing is increasing also the number and those 68 officers are directly funded by TfL.  There are 61 in the MPS and seven in the City of London Police.  They work side-by-side with TfL’s taxi and private hire compliance officers and we are increasing their numbers this April from 41 to 48, a 17% increase.  That group can also draw on the support of about 400 officers all told for major operations of one kind or another.  The Cab Enforcement Unit has access to a pool of 290 specially trained female officers who will work on covert anti-touting operations.  If you take all this together, we believe that that is a good number.  I am always reluctant to draw comparisons with other world cities because they are very difficult to make, but I am told that in New York they have a total of only 189 officers available for similar work.

 

You will be aware that simultaneously we are funding and creating the MPS Road and Transport Police Command (RTPC), which we announced the other day up in Islington.  With 2,300 uniformed officers, it is the UK’s largest police command.  We think that the RTPC will give us the ability to have significantly greater cab enforcement activity.

 

I am conscious that there will be many members of the audience who think that we should be doing more and who think that there are still touts who are not being dealt with and there are still private hire vehicles flouting the law.  I am afraid to say that there is truth in some of those assertions.

 

I am particularly concerned about what is happening with touting and with violations by minicabs in the West End, at Heathrow and at Paddington, for instance, where I am told that we are perhaps being unfair in the way that we are dealing with black cabs and dealing with minicabs.  If that is the case, then we need to grip that and be fair on both types.  I certainly think that it is time that we looked at that.

 

Pursuant to what I was saying earlier on, I do not think we can have a situation in which minicab drivers, who one way or another are regulated by this city, should be able to drive around and take fares without being able to speak English properly and without knowing the basics of the geography of London.  Therefore, I have asked TfL to bring forward regulations to require a certain basic knowledge of English for all minicab drivers ‑‑

 

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry, my question was about touting, Chairman.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ and some sort of basic test of the geography of London.

 

Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Assembly Member Shawcross?

 

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Thank you, Chairman.  Mr Mayor, yes, on this question there will be comments from other political parties.

 

I want to make it clear to you that it is not just - although it is a hugely important industry - the cab drivers and the taxi drivers sitting here in the public gallery who think that touting has become totally endemic in this city.  Actually, the Assembly believes that touting is massively under-enforced in this city.  There has been a growth of something like 50,000 additional private hire drivers in the last ten years.  We have 100,000 drivers and yet only 68 dedicated enforcement officers.  Despite the figures you gave us, Mr Mayor, the Committee was told that only 14 TfL compliance officers are on duty at night when touting is at its most dangerous.  I looked at arrest rates for touting.  They have fallen by 37% since 2010, Mr Mayor.  We have a massive problem.  There are two cab-related sexual assaults a week, which I am sure you want to completely wipe out, and touting is all part and parcel of that risk.

 

We have taxi drivers who are paying a Knowledge qualification fee of £1,136.  They have seen an 8.3% rise.  We have taxi drivers and private-hire drivers paying enormous amounts of money for their regulation for their licence.  Yet we seem to see none of this money going into protecting not just the livelihoods of decent, law-abiding taxi and private hire drivers in London, but also actually our safety as the passengers of London.  As it stands at the moment, touts are getting away with it the whole time and one does not have to be a taxi driver to be able to tell you where it is going on.  You can go to almost any Tube station in London and see somebody touting at almost any time of day or night.

 

Mr Mayor, a plea from the Transport Committee is that you really put some welly now into enforcement because this problem has grown worse on your watch.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, certainly.  Very sincerely, we will redouble our efforts and indeed multiply many times our efforts to tackle touting.  The point that you are making is a valid and a powerful one.  We have made 1,000 arrests for touting just in the last year.  The overwhelming majority of them have resulted in successful prosecutions.  We have won 96% of the cases we prosecuted.  However, I am going to put my hands up here, Val, and say that we need to be doing more.

 

We have to accept also that the London black cab trade is a great part of the London transport economy and does a vital job, but it is threatened now by disruptive technology in the form of apps, which ‑‑

 

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry, this is not my time, Chairman.