- Streeting wants firms to be responsible for insuring drivers
- Black cabs have suffered from technology-enabled competition
Proposed legislation to protect London’s black cabs from Internet-based challengers such as Uber Technologies Inc. was introduced to the U.K. parliament on Tuesday.
Wes Streeting, a member of the opposition Labour Party, introduced a “Ten Minute Rule Bill” that would require additional training for all taxi drivers and make operators rather than drivers responsible for insuring vehicles. While such bills have little chance of becoming law, they can push governments to act.
“The cabbies I represent aren’t afraid of change and innovation, they aren’t afraid of new technology, and they aren’t afraid of competition either,” Streeting, who represents an east London district, told the House of Commons. “But they are finding it increasingly hard to compete in a changing market place with both hands tied behind their back.”
London’s black cab drivers have to spend years learning their way around the city before sitting a series of tests known as “The Knowledge” on hundreds of basic routes and tens of thousands of streets and landmarks. After they pass, they’re allowed to drive the iconic taxis, pick up customers who flag them down in the street, and charge regulated fares.
New competitors such as Uber, using drivers equipped with satellite navigation, have eroded these advantages and black cab drivers are unable to compete on price because Transport For London continues to increase the fares they have to charge, Streeting said.
There are also risks to passengers because drivers can sign up for the Uber service without adequate insurance, Streeting said, citing investigations by LBC radio and the Guardian newspaper.