I will come on to that point, because one of the headlines in the report is that we need consistent national standards; the question is the extent to which they can be tailored or lifted to suit appropriate local circumstances. First, however, let me say something about accessibility issues. Our London taxis have a fantastic record: all 21,000 are wheelchair-accessible, but the story is not the same across the country. I am told that in metropolitan areas outside London, 83% of taxis are wheelchair-accessible, but in some rural areas the figure falls as low as 15%. One of the challenges that we face is making our taxi and private hire fleet more accessible to people throughout the country.
There is a lot of variation in the approach to disability awareness training, which only 41% of local authorities require for taxi drivers and only 38% require for private hire vehicle drivers. Over the past few years, the percentage of local authorities that require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to complete training on the subject of child sexual abuse or exploitation has risen to 70%, partly in response to some very sad incidents in some parts of the country. However, that leaves nearly 100 licensing authorities that still do not require drivers to undertake such training.
I became interested in the subject when I had the privilege of serving as a shadow Transport Minister for a couple of years. When I later had the opportunity to introduce a private Member’s Bill, I chose to try to do something about safety issues, on which there is cross-party consensus. Since I introduced my Bill—the Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill—some 18 months ago, I have had the opportunity to discuss the issue with enforcement officers and officials from Knowsley to London and with taxi and private hire firms from Brighton to Manchester.