Plans to prevent taxis from refusing disabled passengers clear Commons

The Bill proposes to address inconsistencies in the Equality Act to ensure all disabled people are afforded protection from discrimination.

Martina Bet
Friday 18 March 2022 13:16 GMT
A Bill which would prevent taxi drivers from refusing disabled passengers has cleared the Commons (PA)
A Bill which would prevent taxi drivers from refusing disabled passengers has cleared the Commons (PA) (PA Archive)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

A Bill which would prevent taxi drivers from refusing disabled passengers has cleared the Commons.

The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill proposes to address inconsistencies in the Equality Act to ensure all disabled people are afforded protection from discrimination.

Former Attorney General Jeremy Wright (PA)
Former Attorney General Jeremy Wright (PA) (PA Archive)

Opening the third reading debate, Conservative former attorney general Jeremy Wright highlighted the loophole in the current legislation.

He claimed that as it stands, only wheelchair and assistance dog users have specific rights and protections under the Equality Act in relation to taxis and private vehicles.

The MP for Kenilworth and Southam said: “The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles sections of the Equality Act do not work well enough for all of the 13.7 million disabled people in Great Britain.

“The fundamental intention of this Bill is to ensure that the protections envisaged by the Equality Act of 2010 work effectively and comprehensively when a disabled person uses a taxi or a private hire vehicle, so that any disabled person has reasonable rights and protections to book, to access and travel in a taxi or private hire vehicle at no additional charge.”

The former minister added: “As it stands, only wheelchair and assistance dog users have specific rights and protections under the Equality Act in relation to taxis and private vehicles.

“The existing Equality Act Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle measures do not, for example, provide clearly expressed rights for a wheelchair user intending to transfer from their wheelchair into the passenger seat of a non-designated taxi or private hire vehicle.

“They do not provide a visually-impaired person with a right to guaranteed assistance to find and locate a booked private hire vehicle and the current measures failed to sufficiently protect disabled people who do not use wheelchairs or assistance dogs from discriminatory treatment at all.”

The Bill, given an unopposed third reading in the Commons, would also include fines to punish drivers who disobeyed the measures, similar to those in existing law.

Mr Wright told MPs the measures would “create new duties for private hire vehicle operators at section 167a of the Equality Act by creating offences for refusing or failing to accept a booking from a disabled person”.

However, he stressed that “where a driver has a genuine reason why they could not fulfil the duties specified in this Bill, then the defences provided would be adequate to avoid them being penalised unfairly”.

Shadow transport minister Gill Furniss confirmed Labour’s support for the Bill, saying: “The barriers that disabled people continue to face in transport are downright scandalous.”

She added: “Labour would implement much-needed reforms to taxi and private hire services.

“This includes a review of licensing authorities’ jurisdictions, setting national minimum standards for safety and accessibility, and updating regulations to keep pace with technological change.”

Too often I have had a taxi turn up to pick me up as a mother with a pram and two children, and they have seen that I’m a mum with two children, and I have seen taxis turn and run, and refuse to take me as a mother

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns welcomed the proposals but suggested further changes to the Equality Act, as she told MPs how taxis have in the past refused to take her because she is a mother with children.

She said: “Too often we have pockets of our society where there is not true equality, where there is not true access, and this Bill will fundamentally change that.

“While some people may think this is just a small change, for my disabled constituents and beyond, this will make an enormous, life-changing difference.”

She added: “Too often I have had a taxi turn up to pick me up as a mother with a pram and two children, and they have seen that I’m a mum with two children – and I’d like to think it’s because of the children, not because they’ve seen my face – but I have seen taxis turn and run, and refuse to take me as a mother.”

She said it was a “small minority” of taxi drivers but added: “The fact that they are happy to turn around and leave a mother in the rain with two small children under three, I mean it’s happened at least four or five times in my lifetime and my children are only three now. So, this is something that perhaps we could look at for future revisions to the Equality Act.”

Transport minister Wendy Morton (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)
Transport minister Wendy Morton (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA) (PA Media)

Transport minister Wendy Morton said: “The Government fully supports this Bill today, not only would it level the playing field for the services which drivers provide to disabled people, but it will also be a direct contribution to delivering a fully inclusive transport network.

“I recognise that the Bill will not overcome all the barriers that disabled passengers face when using taxis and private hire vehicles,” she said.

She added: “The Government will continue to encourage local authorities to require drivers to complete disability awareness training, and we’ve committed, as soon a legislative time allows, to require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to complete disability awareness training through new national minimum standards.”

The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill will now undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in