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All taxi and private hire drivers could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks under new government proposals.
The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on new licensing guidelines to better protect vulnerable passengers.
Last year a government report found that current laws regulating drivers were not “fit for the modern world”.
The consultation will also consider whether cabs and private hire vehicles should be fitted with CCTV.
Any video recording systems would be encrypted so that footage could only be accessed if a crime was reported.
The government also said it would introduce national minimum standards for drivers.
This would include establishing a national licensing database and potentially restricting drivers from operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.
Under the current system, someone who is denied a taxi licence by a local authority in England and Wales can travel to another area where the licensing authority may be more lenient.
Other proposed safety measures include a recommendation that councils ensure every driver undergoes background checks and enhanced criminal record checks.
The consultation will run until 22 April.
Taxis minister Nusrat Ghani said: “While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.
“These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.”
Last year it emerged that taxi licences were being issued behind closed doors to drivers convicted of offences including child sex crimes and reckless driving.
At the moment a licensing authority, such as a council, has to decide if someone is “fit and proper” before granting a taxi or private hire licence.
Although some guidance has been published, there are no legal rules on how to determine whether someone is “fit and proper person”.
The DfT said new guidelines will be consistent across the country.