It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend Daniel Zeichner on securing the debate, and on his consistent work over the past three years in keeping these issues on the agenda, not least through his private Member’s Bill. I hope that as a result of this debate and the excellent report we are here to consider, many of the commendable measures he suggested through his Bill will finally find their way on to the statute book.
I rise to speak today as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on taxis. This is a particularly important issue for my constituency; well over 1,000 of my constituents are either licensed London taxi drivers or private hire drivers. During its short lifespan, the all-party parliamentary group has sought to make the case for urgent and far-reaching reform of the taxi and private hire licensing architecture. As we have seen this afternoon, we have a growing and strong cross-party membership.
There are three points I want to make to the Minister. I congratulate him on his promotion in the reshuffle, and I commend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Ms Ghani for her diligent attention to these issues and for her engagement with the all-party parliamentary group.
Firstly, there is strong cross-party consensus on the need for urgent change; that is an important point to make, particularly given the current arithmetic of Parliament. I hope that Ministers will be reassured that if they bring forward legislation at the first opportunity, as I hope they will, they will find strong cross-party support for the proposals that we are discussing today.
Secondly, passenger safety and accessibility must be at the heart of the system. We have seen in two reports—the report published by the all-party parliamentary group on taxis and the excellent report we are discussing today—that clearly the current system has fallen well short of our expectations, and of the bar that we should rightly set to keep our constituents safe.
Third, we urgently need to address the working conditions of many people, particularly those working in the private hire industry. It should not be left to unions such as the GMB to drag big multinational corporations through the courts to ensure that workplace rights and protections, which have been fought for and won by working people over the best part of a century, are respected.
I thank Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq for an absolutely outstanding report. I also pay tribute to Mr Hayes, who was an excellent Minister. We would not have the report were it not for his efforts. We welcomed his engagement as a Minister with the all-party group and we are delighted he is able to join us this afternoon to add his considerable voice and weight to the debate. To his enormous credit, Mohammed Abdel-Haq has engaged widely with others in producing the report. The quality and quantity of that engagement is reflected in the report’s strength. There will obviously be differences and competing interests, but he has succeeded in listening to everyone, engaging with them properly, and coming up with a comprehensive and coherent set of reforms that will address the widespread concerns of many different parts of the taxi and private hire industry.