Weaker taxi laws supported by House of Lords

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The House of Lords have supported a government bill to loosen the rules of taxi regulations - despite the risk to passenger safety, says the leader of Milton Keynes Council.

Yesterday, peers pushed through changes to have fewer checks on cabbies and private hire drivers, which means licence holders who currently get checked yearly could be reviewed every three years.

In August it emerged that Milton Keynes Council had given a private hire driver’s licence to a convicted rapist who had four separate convictions for serious sexual offences.

The man has since handed in his licence and the council has tightened up its rules, while an internal investigation is being carried out.

Baroness Thornton told the House of Lords the reason that issue had been brought to their attention after “serious errors” were made by a sub-committee of councillors on licensing in Milton Keynes.

She said: “This led to an inexcusable decision to allow a convicted sex offender to operate a private hire vehicle.

“This illustrates the importance of getting the balance of this regulation right.”

In a joint letter to Baroness Thornton, Council Leader Peter Marland and parliamentary candidate for MK South Andrew Pakes said the deregulation threatened to put “passengers at risk”.

They made reference to MK Council’s “inexplicable error” to grant a license to a sex offender in the city, saying: “The case proves we need better regulation to protect the public, and law-abiding taxi drivers, rather than a rushed and ill-judged approach to weaken the rules on taxi and private hire vehicles.”

But Iain Stewart MP for MK South said the city’s taxi scandal was because of “human error” and no amount of regulations could have stopped it.

He said: “In Milton Keynes it was not down to the regulations - it was because of an inexplicable decision made by councillors given the evidence put in front of them.

“It was a human error and no amount of regulations could have stopped it.

“We have looked carefully at this and I am reassured we have a robust sytem in place.

“I do keep a very close eye on these thing and if I feel any further changes need to be made I will certainly be lobbying for that.”

The Deregulation Bill and taxi amendments were voted on by MPs on June 23.