Transport Select Committee heading in the right direction but much more needs to be done for the benefit of the trade

LAWYER to the trade Peter Eatherall has given a cautious welcome to the Transport Select Committee report on the taxi industry as being a step in the right direction.

Eatherall, who worked for over 20 years in the trade before switching to being a specialist solicitor for the taxi sector says the report is: “A collection of short steps on the road to much needed reform, but it is not the giant strides I would have like to have seen.”

“The committee has fully realised that the current laws are antiquated and unworkable. Its aim to see an overhaul of a hotchpotch of outdated legislation within this Parliament (by 2013-14) rather than delay reform by referring to the Law Commission should be supported wholeheartedly by the industry.”

“The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and the Local Government Act 1976 must go. It is ludicrous that we have a law enacted at a time when carriage and horses was the norm when we now have the Internet and Sat Nav.”

Eatherall believes strongly that: “It is an ideal opportunity to pave the way for a long overdue national cab act.”

“The benefit of implementing national standards for vehicles and drivers in relation to public safety will rejuvenate the industry, especially as the committee has recognised that paying attention to consumer’s needs, especially the disabled, will bring more trust and a better image.”

“It can only help the trade gain more business at a time when the public’s finances are generally fragile.”

Eatherall does offer some disappointment: “The proposals simply do not go far enough. The committee has missed an opportunity to propose a national licence.”

“A national licence would potentially resolve damaging issues concerning lax enforcement (in some areas) and cross border hiring complaints. It would offer standard costs rather than a lottery on the charges levied and central licensing officers.”

Eatherall asks: “It has worked efficiently for other professional motorists such as HGV drivers, why shouldn’t it work as well for the taxi trade?”

Eatherall slams the decision not to look at a national licence: “Taxi firms and professionals should expect to have a uniformity of approach and application of the law. It should not be a lottery, depending on the enforcement procedures of the particular local authority taxi drivers find themselves in. Yet the committee is advocating building on an already unsatisfactory system. Why have local authorities control larger areas when many struggle with their current responsibilities?”

Eatherall concludes: “This is a massive opportunity for the trade to reinvent itself, offer higher standards and build a much better image with the public. While there is an understandable case of moving in small steps, there is also one for taking full advantage of this long overdue opportunity.”

Peter Eatherall first worked in the taxi trade in the late 1960s running his own firm for a time. Peter switched careers to law in the late 1980s, and now has over 20 years experience offering legal advice to the trade.

Today Peter is the motoring and taxi law partner at Howards Solicitors, a specialist practice based in Manchester that he co-founded. He also works on a wide range of criminal cases and has earned the privilege of advocacy rights in both the Magistrates’ and Crown court.