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[Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport) 3:47 pm, 13th November 2018

My hon. Friend tempts me to comment on the contents of announcements that will be forthcoming relatively soon. I do not think I should do that, for reasons that the House will understand, but his point is well made. Certainly many of us have been beneficiaries of increased technology in our lives as well as in our travel.

Ministers in the Department very much regret that the private Member’s Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Cambridge appears unlikely to be successful. We all know, and he has reminded us today, of his considerable efforts to increase safety and of the support that he received from officials in the Department to introduce that Bill, which the Government were pleased to be able to support.

I shall make some general remarks and then pick up the questions and specific matters that have been touched on. In recent years, the taxi and private hire industry has experienced rapid growth and significant change brought about by innovation and the application of new technologies, which my hon. Friend Jack Lopresti has just mentioned. Those changes contributed to the announcement of the formation of the task and finish group. Hon. Members will recall that that announcement was made at a Westminster Hall debate last July by the former Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings.

The goal of the group was to consider issues raised about taxi and private hire vehicle licensing and their potential remedies. The group first met in September of last year, with an intention to submit a report later that year. The work that it did revealed a degree of agreement—a high degree of agreement, in many ways—but also very strongly held and disparate views on solutions. It is important to put that on the record, but I am sure that it will come as no surprise to anyone who has engaged with taxi and private hire vehicle regulation over the years.

The report was delayed, but that enabled the already well informed group to consider the numerous submissions from organisations across the country and a wide range of stakeholders. They included those working in the trade, regulators, the police, disability organisations and trade unions, to name just a few. The longer timeframe gave the group the opportunity to question many of those organisations to learn more about their concerns and the specific matters relating to them.

As I trust colleagues will understand and as I have said already, I cannot advise them of the Government’s response at this stage, but I can reassure them that the work being done in the Department is near completion and that a Government response, setting out how we intend to reform the regulation of the sector, will be issued very shortly.