Kramer urges Councils to make use of enhanced powers to check taxi drivers’ backgrounds

The Standard reports that Transport Minister Susan Kramer has written to Councils across England to urge them to take advantage of enhanced powers to check on the backgrounds of taxi drivers. 

Transport minister Baroness Kramer is writing to Transport for London and town halls across the country urging them to make “full use” of new powers to probe the background of individuals applying for taxi licences.

“People need to feel safe when using a taxi or private hire vehicle,” she told The Standard. “We have made it easier for local authorities to carry out checks on people who want to drive taxis or private hire vehicles.

“These checks should ensure that violent and sexual criminals aren’t allowed behind the wheel of a taxi.”

Ministers have sought to strengthen the system by encouraging town halls to require enhanced, rather than standard, checks on all mini cab and taxi drivers.

Standard checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service cover spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.

Enhanced scrutiny includes any additional information held by the police that is considered relevant.

As much as I want to be sure that those taking home vulnerable, possibly drunk people, have had rigorous background checks, I find myself slightly troubled by the phrase “any additional information held by the Police that is considered relevant.” I do hope that that does not include hunches and at least has some basis in fact.

It also occurs to me that anything that applies to taxi drivers should also apply to driving instructors. The one mention I will probably ever get in the House of Commons came in 2009 as MPs debated Willie Rennie’s Bill (later passed) which provided for driving instructors to be suspended from their register if they were convicted of serious sexual assault. Willie thanked me and other members of his staff as having done “some of they initial spadework” in uncovering the loophole in the law. The reason this came about was because one of his constituents, Lesley Anne Steele, who bravely waived her right to anonymity to help make the case for the law to be changed. She had told us how she had been sexually assaulted by her driving instructor. After he had been convicted, she was horrified to see him out the next day teaching someone else to drive.

There is just as good reason to ensure that driving instructors are subjected to just as rigorous checks.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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