Thank you to those who contacted me recently about the accessibility of taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV).
The Equality Act 2010 made it a criminal offence to refuse carriage to an assistance dog at no extra cost, unless drivers have a medical exemption. Guide Dogs has highlighted that 49% of guide dog owners have experienced a refusal in the last year. These statistics should concern us all, and I am aware that refusals can have a devastating impact on the confidence and independence of disabled people. It is clear there is still more to be done to end this shameful discrimination.
A Law Commission report, published in 2014, recommended the wholesale reform of taxi and PHV legislation. It included a number of suggestions designed to improve the accessibility of services, and called for all prospective drivers to undergo disability awareness training. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to respond to the report and said it is still considering its recommendations.
The Government recently consulted on its Draft Transport Accessibility Plan, which examined the refusal of assistance dogs. It sought to identify key actions local and central government could take to improve compliance with the Equality Act 2010. The Government is currently considering the responses, which will be used to inform the updated Best Practice Guidance for taxis and PHV licensing authorities. I can assure you I will follow developments on this closely.
As you are aware, the Government also formed a working party group to consider taxi licensing, which is expected to provide its findings in early 2018. The Government has said it expects the guidance will include recommendations for local authorities to use their existing powers to require prospective drivers to complete the training. Unfortunately, the Government has said it has no plans to bring forward legislation to make the training mandatory.
I believe we must ensure our transport system is accessible for everyone, which is why the Labour manifesto at the 2017 General Election pledged to reform the legislation governing taxis and PHVs. Unfortunately we did not win the election. I believe must have national standards to ensure safety and accessibility standards do not vary across localities.