When we switch our light on at the beginning of our shift we are immediately making ourselves available for hire. In other words we are Plying for Hire.
When we respond to a street hail it is because we are immediately available and exhibiting ourselves as such. In other words we are Plying for Hire.
When we are hired from a standing Taxi Rank (perhaps at a Station or Theatre) it is because we are exhibiting our availability for immediate hire. In other words we are Plying for Hire.
Only by completing the Knowledge of London do you earn the right to ‘Ply for Hire’. The Knowledge and Plying for Hire are intrinsically linked.
It is an offence under Hackney Carriage Law to ‘Ply for Hire’. However there is no definition as to what constitutes the practice of ‘Plying for Hire’, apart from that which has been determined in case by case examples (Case Law).
Only Taxis can and are allowed to ‘Ply for Hire’ and we have a whole body of Case Law that backs this up.
And the reason we can be hailed on the street or at a Taxi Rank is because we are considered as safe, as we have been vetted, and crucially because we have the Knowledge of London.
So why do we need a statutory definition?
When RMT campaign for a statutory definition we are basically asking for the findings of case law to be reflected onto the statute books.
We are asking that only Taxis can ‘Ply for Hire’ and no one else.
We are asking that only by completing ‘The Knowledge’ should you have the right to ‘Ply for Hire’
We are asking that the showing of exhibition on a screen, and waiting in anticipation of receiving a fare in this way be defined as Plying for Hire.
We are asking for a definition of Pre-Booking. As things stand at the moment you can pretty much define Pre-Booking in any way that you want. TFL have done just that by interpreting the instant hire of a Private Hire vehicle, via an app, as Pre-Booked. This cannot be acceptable and needs to be addressed.
If this was all defined in Law then TFL would have to write policy that follows the Law because the Law would force them to do that.
And if this was all defined in Law then the distinction between Taxis and Private Hire would be clear and the Two Tier system would be able to work in the way that it was always intended to.
Proper definitions in Law would make for simple concise enforcement and a proper distinction between both tiers.
Realistically, as things stand at the moment in British Politics, we are unlikely to see any new Statutory Law pass through Parliament pertaining to the Taxi and Private Hire trades. However the Law Commissions report into Taxi and Private Hire, published in 2014, may be seen by Government as a quick fix to the problems and disputes that have arisen in the Taxi Trade in recent years.
Unfortunately the Law Commission has recommended that the offences relating to Plying for Hire be abolished and that this should be replaced with a new scheme of offences resting on the principal prohibition of carrying passengers for hire without a licence. They would put this alongside a new offence making it unlawful for anyone other than a local Taxi Driver to start a journey starting ‘There and Then’.
This would immediately abolish not only the offence of Plying for Hire but also all of the Case Law surrounding it that has built up over many years.
The Law Commission does however recommend a statutory definition of Pre-Booking in order to create a clear distinction between the work of a Taxi in its licensing area and the work of a Private Hire Vehicle.
RMT do not support the notion that offences relating to Plying for Hire be abolished. We believe that a statutory definition (which includes Pre-Booking) will provide the clearest differential between Taxis and Private Hire.
If we fail to get Plying for Hire defined it will not just be a failure for RMT, it will be a failure of the entire Taxi Trade.