Let me start by explaining just how this meeting came about. It was in response to the article in the Daily Telegraph where the Business Secretary had made several statements regarding disruptive technology and how he was prepared to “face down” London taxi drivers.
I wrote him a letter explaining that I believed his comments were “ill-informed and ill-advised” and that I would welcome the chance to bring him up to speed with just how advanced the licensed taxi trade has become.
I received a reply with a few dates and then contacted the three main app providers, Hailo, GETT and Cab;app and asked them if they would be happy to attend, which they were. I also invited London Taxi Company along to explain both the huge investment they had made into the UK, and also their amazing electric technology which they will be developing in the new factory in Coventry.
The meeting was at 5.30pm in the House of Commons, and we were ushered into the corridor outside his office to wait.
After waiting 5 minutes, his door opened and we were invited to take our seats. The Business Secretary thanked us for attending. He asked me to kick off the meeting, which I did.
I firstly explained to him that I felt his remarks in the paper were ill-informed and that there were many positives in the taxi trade that he maybe was not aware of, hence the apps and LTC attending. I told him that I had undertaken the knowledge 28 years ago with no help other than my parents and that becoming a taxi driver, especially from a working class background living on a housing Estate, was a major step up to better ones self and we, (Knowledge boys & cabbies) were prime examples of Conservative values, working hard to give us and our families a better life and not relying on the State for handouts or charity!
And now we felt betrayed by this Conservative Government who has become embroiled with supporting UBER.
I told him that we in the taxi trade have always faced competition, but what we could not face is unfair competition. I told him that Margaret Thatcher once said we should have competition, but all the competition must obey the law, which I said UBER were not, and were interpreting the 1998 PH Act to suit themselves and we also have a Regulator, who has been colluding with them in doing so.
I also told him that David Cameron had called Boris and asked him to “Leave Uber alone, and was a big fan” and then asked Sajid why the Chancellor of the Exchequer had called the Mayor and other senior staff at City Hall asking them “what the hell they were doing” with the upcoming PH Regs” and that George Osborne had also refused to help the Mayor in capping PH numbers, what the hell is George Osborne doing getting involved in London minicab numbers?
I said, this information was extremely disturbing and worrying to the trade.
Then Peter Johannsson spoke of the massive investment GEELY was making in the UK with the new £300m factory creating 2k jobs (all paying taxes in the UK) and GEELY were basing themselves in the UK purely because the London taxi is seen throughout the World as the World’s best, both in the iconic shape of the vehicle, and also the quality of the drivers who have been voted the best in the World, year after year. It was important to GEELY as they have aspirations to sell the iconic London taxi around the World and it is paramount that the London taxi trade continued to flourish.
The Business Secretary then stated to us that he in some way understood our predicament and that maybe it would be worthwhile if we (taxi trade) looked at the rules that ascertain to us and how we have to operate and see if they can be changed to help us. He said that maybe it could be worth looking at our regulations and see if they good be changed for us?
Andrew Pinnington from Hailo said that he welcomed Competition and the fact that there were three taxi app providers in the room was testament to that fact, but it had to be a fair competition.
The Business Secretary told us that he has used licenced taxis in the past and continues to do so, saying that he enjoyed the space in the back of the taxi, the driver knew where he was going and also he enjoys the conversation he has with the drivers. (He joked that this was before they recognised him!).
As the bells of Big Ben struck six, there was a k
nock on the door with the next meetings occupants already waiting outside, but as the meeting drew to an end, Derek Stewart CEO at cab;app made a very pertinent speech, he said that he ( like Sajid) had worked in the banking / financial sector when the banks went into major difficulties, and this was due to the lack of regulation in the banking sector that allowed this to happen and members of the public suffered. He drew comparisons with that instance and what could happen to public safety without meaningful and enforced regulation in the taxi and PH market here in London.
We held a quick meeting outside and all agreed that it had been a worthwhile effort and it was important that all the aspects of the taxi trade had a voice and was heard.
The Business secretary has asked me to keep in touch with developments and he will be receiving the Badge every month: I hope this meeting was the first of many and look forward in forging ahead in the New Year.
Grant Davis – Chairman