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CIVIC GOVERNMENT (SCOTLAND ACT 1982) LICENSING OF TAXI AND PRIVATE HIRE CAR BOOKING OFFICES
This letter invites your comments on the merits of introducing regulations which would give powers to local authorities to license taxi and private hire car booking offices and the nature of the provisions that could be included in any regulations.
It would be helpful if respondees could clearly indicate in their response which questions or parts of the enclosed consultation paper you are responding to as this will assist our analysis of the responses received.
Please submit your comments on the consultation paper to:-
Scottish Executive Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department
Transport Division 2:4
or by e-mail to Michael.Bratcher@scotland.gsi.gov.uk to whom any queries on this consultation should be addressed.
Comments should be returned by 23 September 2005
This consultation, and all other Scottish Executive consultation exercises, can be viewed online on the consultation web pages of the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations. You can telephone Freephone 0800 77 1234 to find out where your nearest public internet access point is.
The Scottish Executive now has an email alert system for consultations (SEconsult: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/seconsult.aspx). This system allows stakeholders, individuals and organisations to register and receive a weekly e-mail containing details of all new consultations (including web links). SEconsult complements, but in no way replaces SE distribution lists, and is designed to allow stakeholders to keep up to date with all SE consultation activity, and therefore be alerted at the earliest opportunity to those of most interest. We would encourage you to register.
Handling your response
We need to know how you wish your response to be handled and, in particular, whether you are happy for your response to be made public. Please, therefore, complete and return the Respondent Information Form attached to this letter (Annex A) which should be returned along with your response to the consultation paper. This will ensure that we treat your response appropriately. If you ask for your response not to be published we will regard it as confidential, and will treat it accordingly.
All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Executive are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under the Act for information relating to responses made to this consultation exercise.
Next steps in the process
Where respondents have given permission for their response to be made public, these will be made available to the public in the Scottish Executive Library by 21 October 2005. We will check all responses where agreement to publish has been given for any potentially defamatory material before logging them in the library. You can make arrangements to view responses by contacting the SE Library on 0131 244 4565. Responses can be copied and sent to you, but a charge may be made for this service.
D R Williamson
CONSULTATION PAPER ON LICENSING OF TAXI/PRIVATE HIRE CAR BOOKING OFFICES
1. The Executive has over the years received representations from COSLA, individual local authorities, the trade and the Police that local authorities should be empowered to license taxi and private hire booking offices (radio rooms). The rationale for doing so is on the grounds that licensing would help to preserve public order and safety as well as preventing crime. While licensing authorities currently have a discretionary power to license taxi and private hire cars and their drivers, there is at present no role for local authorities or the police in controlling the operation of booking offices. This paper seeks views on both the merits of the Executive introducing regulations under section 44 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to allow local authorities to license booking offices and, the nature and scope of the provisions that could be included in any regulations.
2. The Executive recognises the concerns that have been expressed over the lack of regulation for taxi and private hire car booking offices. It accepts that there is some evidence which suggests that vehicles and drivers operating from such establishments are operating illegally and that such establishments are being used for illegal activities. Clearly, this is to the detriment of the travelling public. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that if it is in the public interest to licence the vehicles and drivers affiliated to such businesses, it could also be argued that the business accepting such bookings should also be licensed.
3. At present there is no role for local authorities or the police in controlling the operation of booking offices. A licensing scheme would allow both powers of inspection and enforcement to ensure that such establishments were operating within the law and that the licence holder was a fit and proper person to operate such a business. At present anyone who wishes to set up such a business has simply to obtain the necessary radio licence from the Office of Communications (Ofcom). There is no fit and proper person check and, unless the applicant has previously transgressed the conditions of a previous licence, it is likely that the application will be successful.
Q1 Do you agree that it is in the public interest for local authorities to be allowed to license taxi and private hire car booking offices? If not, please provide reasons.
Scope of Licensing Regime
4. Regulations could enable a licensing authority to require a "booking office licence" by anyone who acts as a booking agent and who provides a facility to enable contractual arrangements to be made between licensed taxi and private hire drivers and the public. However, there is an argument that such blanket coverage would place an unnecessary burden on small businesses, for example the one-vehicle business could end up requiring 3 separate licences i.e. booking office, vehicle and driver licence. Consideration is therefore being given to perhaps setting a numerical threshold for the number of vehicles operating from the booking office before any licensing requirement would apply. Alternatively it may be more appropriate to exempt places of residence which are used for such purposes or, as with other licensing activities contained at Part II of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, allowing individual licensing authorities to determine the precise licensing requirements for its area. There is also the question as to whether the licence should state the premises at which bookings can be taken and restrict the activity to such a place. While it is accepted that this may discourage illegal activities it is recognised this would be difficult to enforce and would, in effect, prevent a licence holder from diverting calls to home or a mobile if premises were closed.
Q2 Should any regulations (a) apply to all booking offices; (b) specify exemptions; or (c) leave exemptions to individual licensing authorities to determine?
Q3 If you support (b) what are your views on:
- setting numerical thresholds; or
- exempting places of residence; or
- other method (please specify)
Q4 What are your views as to the merits of a licence restricting the premises from where bookings can be accepted?
Booking Office Employees
5. In addition to the proposal to allow local authorities to license the booking agent, consideration also needs to be given as to whether any such requirement should be extended to employees. Employees who undertake some of the licensed activities within the 1982 Act, such as street traders and window cleaners, do require a licence. It could be argued that as employees are dealing with the public, and are responsible for ensuring that any booking is carried out by licensed vehicles and drivers, they too should be licensed. However, employees of other licensed activities such as markets, late night catering establishments and liquor premises do not require a licence. While the arguments are finely balanced, the Executive considers that overall there is not a compelling case for licensing all booking office employees. The possibility that the booking agent could lose the licence, and the ability to trade, is considered to be a sufficient incentive for him/her to ensure employees comply with the requirements of any regulations that are introduced.
Q5 Should any proposed licensing requirement be extended to incorporate employees?
What justification is there for introducing/not introducing such provisions?
6. In the event that Regulations are introduced Ministers would, under the provisions of section 44 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, have the option of making the licensing of booking offices mandatory or optional. As the licensing of taxis and private hire cars and their drivers are optional (albeit that all licensing authorities do so) it might be argued that the licensing of booking offices should also be optional. This is particularly the case if some local authorities do not have any booking offices or if they consider there is not a need to license them.
Q6 Do you agree that the introduction of any licensing requirement for booking offices should be left to the discretion of individual licensing authorities? If not, please state why you consider that such licensing should be mandatory throughout Scotland.
7. In addition to any conditions that a licensing authority may wish to attach to any licence under its discretionary powers, the Executive believes that consideration needs to be given to including some mandatory conditions in any regulations which are introduced. There is a precedent for this at section 20(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 for taxis and private hire cars and their drivers - Licensing and Regulation of Taxis and Private Hire Cars and their Drivers (Prohibited and Required Conditions) (Scotland) Regulations 1986 refer. Section 40(3) of the 1982 Act also requires licensing authorities to attach certain conditions in relation to market operator licences. It is anticipated that these would place requirements on the licensee to keep a record of every booking taken, the registration number of the vehicle used to fulfil the booking and the name of the driver who undertook the hire. There may also be merit in including in any mandatory conditions a requirement for the holder of the licence to take all reasonable steps to ensure that both the vehicle and the driver is licensed.
Q7 Do you agree that mandatory conditions along the lines of those outlined above should be included in any regulations introduced? If you consider that mandatory conditions are unnecessary please give reasons.
Q8 If you agree that there should be certain mandatory conditions are there any other conditions that you would wish to see made mandatory?
8. The Executive is aware that there is a body of opinion that believes there should be a mandatory condition requiring the holder of any booking office licence, in fulfilling any hire obligations, to be restricted to using vehicles and drivers licensed by the same authority as the booking office. While it is accepted that such a condition would assist enforcement by avoiding the need for information to be passed to neighbouring licensing authorities, and perhaps reducing the risk of illegal operations, the Executive considers this would be an unfair restriction of trade. This would particularly be the case for those booking offices that operate in more than one local authority area. For example, a booking office in Edinburgh would be unable to engage a vehicle/driver licensed in West Lothian to pick up passengers at Edinburgh Airport, despite the fact that it may be the quickest and most cost-effective method of doing so. Such a restriction would also be to the detriment of the travelling public.
9. Booking offices can currently contract any booking to any vehicle/driver no matter from what authority these are licensed. The Executive believes such arrangements should continue. However, in recognition of the concerns in relation to this matter, the Executive considers that any mandatory conditions contained in the proposed regulations (such as those outlined above) should apply to the booking office with regard to all vehicles/drivers attached to it, irrespective of which authority issued such licences. The onus would therefore fall to the booking office operator to ensure compliance with the mandatory conditions in respect of all vehicles/drivers affiliated to it. A breach of the mandatory condition would be a criminal offence and the booking office licence could also be suspended or revoked.
Q9 Do you agree that any licensing scheme for booking offices should continue to allow such businesses to use vehicles/drivers from any licensing authority?
Q10 If you disagree please give reasons, including whether you consider there would still be merit in introducing licensing provisions without the restriction outlined above being placed on booking offices.
10. The provisions contained at section 12 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 require licensing authorities to charge such fees for the licensing of taxi and private hire vehicles and their drivers to meet their expenses. While the same principle applies to the fees for the various other licensing activities contained in the 1982 Act, under Schedule 1 paragraph 15 these can be apportioned between them in any manner that the licensing authority considers appropriate as long as their total licensing costs are met. This split is on the basis that by their nature there are additional expenses for a licensing authority in relation to the licensing of taxis and private hire cars and their drivers and it would not be appropriate to expect the various other activities to subsidise these. In the event that licensing provisions for booking offices are introduced, Ministers would have the option of either requiring such costs to be met separately, as with taxis and private hire cars and their drivers, or to include them as part of the general pool for other activities.
Q11 Views are sought on whether there is justification for separate provisions to be introduced for licensing authorities to recover the costs relating to the licensing of booking offices, or, whether these should be incorporated within the general pool.
Regulatory Impact Assessment ( RIA)
11. If the Executive are to introduce legislative provision for the licensing of taxi and private hire car booking offices it will be necessary to carry out a regulatory assessment with a view to ensuring that the right balance is achieved between securing the benefits of regulation and minimising the regulatory burden on both licensing authorities and the trade.
Q12 Consultees are invited to give their views on the implications of the introduction of regulations in particular identifying any potential benefits and also cost implications having regard in particular to costs for administering the scheme, compliance and enforcement of regulations.
What happens next?
12. Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us reach a decision on the merits of introducing regulations providing for the licensing of taxi and private hire car booking offices and the scope of any regulations. A summary or analysis of responses received on the consultation document will be posted on the Scottish Executive consultation web pages by 16 December 2005.
Comments on Consultation
13. If you have any comments about the way that this consultation exercise has been conducted, please send them to:-David Williamson
ETLLD: Transport 2:4
Or by E-Mail to: Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org
LIST OF CONSULTEES
All Scottish MEPS
Clerk to Local Government and Transport Committee
Chief Executives of Local Authorities
Local Authority Licensing Contacts
Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ( ACPOS)
All Police Forces in Scotland
Scottish Police Federation
Accounts Commission for Scotland
Association of Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers ( ATCO)
Commission for Racial Equality
Department for Transport
Disability Rights Commission
Equal Opportunities Commission
Federation of Small Businesses
Glasgow Bar Association
Legal Deposit Libraries
Lord Advocate's Department
National Assembly for Wales
Scottish Association of Public Transport
Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Scottish Consumer Council
Scottish Council for Development & Industry
Scottish Courts' Administration
Scottish Law Commission
Scottish Taxi Federation
Scottish Traffic Commissioner
The Commission for Local Administration in Scotland
The Confederation of British Industry
Transport and General Workers Union
Women's National Commission
Aberdeen Taxi Federation
Aberdeen Taxi Trade Representatives
Airport Taxi Drivers Association (Edinburgh)
Dumbarton Area Taxi Trade Association
Dundee Taxi Owners Association
East Kilbride Taxi Owners Association
Edinburgh Private Hire Association
Edinburgh Taxi Operators Association
Greater Glasgow Private Hire Association
Handicabs (Lothian) Ltd
Highland Drivers Association
Inverness Taxi Owners and Drivers Association
Lothian Coach and Taxi Association
National Private Hire Association
National Taxi Association
Neilston Radio Cabs
Paisley Taxi Owners Association
West Lothian Taxi & Private Hire Owners Association
SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE CONSULTATION POLICY
Consultation is an essential and important aspect of Scottish Executive working methods. Given the wide-ranging areas of work of the Scottish Executive, there are many varied types of consultation. In general, Scottish Executive consultation exercises aim to provide opportunities for all those who wish to express their opinions on a proposed area of work to do so in ways which will inform and enhance that work.
While details of particular circumstances described in a response to a consultation exercise may usefully inform the policy process, consultation exercises cannot address individual concerns and comments. These should be directed to the relevant public body. Consultation exercises may involve seeking views in a number of different ways, such as public meetings, focus groups or questionnaire exercises.
Typically, Scottish Executive consultations involve a written paper inviting answers to specific questions or more general views about the material presented. Written papers are distributed to organisations and individuals with an interest in the area of consultation, and they are also placed on the Scottish Executive web site enabling a wider audience to access the paper and submit their responses. Copies of all the responses received to consultation exercises (except those where the individual or organisation requested confidentiality) are placed in the Scottish Executive library at Saughton House, Edinburgh (K Spur, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD, telephone 0131 244 4552).
The views and suggestions detailed in consultation responses are analysed and used as part of the decision making process. Depending on the nature of the consultation exercise the responses received may:
- Indicate the need for policy development or review;
- inform the development of a particular policy;
- help decisions to be made between alternative policy proposals;
- be used to finalise legislation before it is implemented.