It is of paramount importance that disabled people are able to travel safely, confidently and independently.
I welcome that there are already strict laws in place against discrimination towards those who rely on guide dogs. Indeed, it is unlawful for taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers to refuse to carry passengers accompanied by guide dogs, and drivers convicted of illegally refusing carriage already face fines of up to £1,000 in addition to costs. They may also have their licence suspended or revoked by the respective local licensing authority.
I do recognise, however, that we must go further. Disabled people make twice as many journeys by taxi and private hire vehicle as non-disabled people, and it is essential that local licensing authorities and operators work to ensure maximum accessibility for those with disabilities, including those with guide dogs.
I am pleased that the Government’s response to the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and PHV licensing committed to introduce legislation when time allows to make it mandatory for drivers to complete disability awareness training as part of national minimum standards. I will continue to engage with ministerial colleagues to make them aware of the strength of feeling on the matter in advance of new legislation.
Ministers have also now published new, more robust Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards, which local authorities will be expected to implement. The new standards are intended to improve consistency within the licensing system, reducing the risk of harm posed to vulnerable passengers and children.