All taxi and minicab drivers could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks under Government plans to protect vulnerable passengers.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation on new licensing guidelines for councils.
The proposed measures include recommending that every local authority ensures drivers have an enhanced criminal record and background check before they can operate.
We have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people Nusrat Ghani
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.”
The consultation will run until April 22.
The Government has also pledged to introduce national minimum standards for drivers, establish a national licensing database and look at restricting drivers operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.
DfT officials are also considering whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV, with an encrypted system meaning footage could only be accessed if a crime is reported.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, who has raised concerns over loopholes in licensing after evidence emerged of taxis being used to transport children for sexual exploitation in the South Yorkshire town, welcomed the introduction of national standards.
“I hope that the Government will look at the example of Rotherham in drawing up new minimum standards,” said Ms Champion.
“Catastrophic mistakes were made in Rotherham, but the council has learned from them and licensing conditions are now amongst the most stringent in the country. This should be taken as a baseline.
“If national standards aren’t robust, we risk a race to the bottom.”
In June last year a judge granted minicab app Uber a short-term operating licence in London after its permit was initially not renewed over safety concerns.
John Worboys became known as the “black cab rapist” after attacking women in his hackney carriage.
He was jailed indefinitely in 2009 after being convicted of 19 offences relating to 12 victims.