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MIKE GALVIN: THE NEED FOR STATUTORY


The Taxi and Private Hire industry is facing more upheaval when parliamentary time becomes available to legislate for national standards.


IF NATIONAL STANDARDS ARE THE ANSWER... What was the question?


Humans have an endearing feature whereby a simple slogan is grasped and adopted as a great idea with little or no real consideration of what the implications actually are. The Gov- ernment has committed that it ‘will take forward legislation when time allows to enable these’ [minimum national stan- dards]. So great, here we go then ‘National Standards’ or is it ‘Minimum National Standards’ or as oxymorons go this is a great one ‘high minimum national standards’. Heaven knows what we are getting, what the implications actually are and whether they are a good idea or not. The bandwagon is rolling and national standards, minimum, high or low will pro- vide a new utopia for the industry won’t it………..er haven’t we been here before?


CALL ME OLD FASHIONED – BUT WHAT PROBLEM ARE WE SOLVING?


It is probably a personal view but when does piecemeal legislation actually work? A quick tweak here, a little change there, an extra clause stuck on the end of some entirely different legislation has time and time again left industries fuming, helpful politicians with egg covered faces and policymakers trying to present to regulators a bodge up as a logical and sensible piece of ground breaking legislation on which to build and develop regulation and actually enforce it.


Dare I mention the Deregulation Act? I believe that change had a lot to commend it but I am probably a lone voice and since the implications, unforeseen consequences and practice have come into view it has not only divided the industry but left it clamouring for another knee jerk solution - ABBA.


How many bites at this apple do we want before we give it the level of scrutiny it rightfully deserves? Parliament is not going to set aside an annual allocation of parliamentary time for ‘the taxi and PH allocation rules bill’ debate and discuss it every year until the industry decides that they like a particular version. No instead we will find the door shut firmly in our faces every time we ask for another change and heaven forbid a complete overall of the legislation that governs us.


So why, as an industry, do we accept and even support at times this sloppy and poor approach to legislation? In fact, why is legislation seen as the natural answer whereas maybe within the current legislation and with some hard miles with regulators a better or even workable outcome could be achieved – why, because there is no glamour in meeting the 300 or whatever licensing authorities, berating the LGA and generally trying to work with councils and others when a few


38


high level and highly publicised meetings with Minister X and Lord Y is an option and a photo opportunity.


SO WHY IS THIS SITUATION ACCEPTED?


Why are we not engaged in important decisions that will impact every business in the industry? Why do trade associations think that a survey constitutes consultation and scrutiny, provides not only the answer but somehow legitimises the process and ultimately the policy? Would you make other decisions in this way?


The car showroom sends you a survey – do you want a new car Y/N? You tick yes. They take your car away and give you a new one – a Robin Reliant….happy?, a Bentley which you can’t afford….happy? A two seater, an MPV or a pink pick-up truck…OK I’ll stop there but you get the concept. I think the causes and reasons are relatively straightforward – the industry is lethargic, often inept, not prepared to invest and prone to leave it to someone else. That ‘someone else’ doesn’t have the time, maybe the competence, the budgets or the energy to do what should be done and that is to critically examine what problem we are trying to solve, what the options are and what the implications and likely, and even unlikely consequences of each are. The outcome is sadly inevitable.


WE EITHER ENGAGE OR WE TAKE THE CONSEQUENCES


The democratic process takes time, energy, often money, requires competence and lots of shoe leather and persuasion and engagement. New legislation can fundamentally change the rules of the game. The, if we are honest, forlorn search for the mythical level playing field in an uneven world and the constant ranting about potential judicial reviews and other nonsense to overturn every ‘mistake’ made, every stupid idea, many of which the industry championed or passively or even unknowingly acquiesced to neither enhances our industry to policy makers nor does it make for a framework that is better suited to prevailing conditions. Short circuiting the process, a quick read at best, a survey, and the acquiescence or even support and then years of moaning, ranting and impotent threats is not a public policy strategy – no sir! Neither is the victim’s lament of ‘it seemed a good idea at the time’ or it would have been alright if they had applied the lazy catchall of ‘common sense’!


SO WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH ME?


Oh, nothing much, just your business, your income, your exit or whether you have anything to pass onto your kids so not important really (sic). Folks, let’s wake up here. National Standards flow smoothly off the tongue but like any concept, like any bright idea and like any unifying policy (let’s get Brexit done and drain the swamp spring to mind) the devil is in the detail. Will national standards, high, low or whatever be good for the industry?


FEBRUARY 2021


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