The proposals mean licensing authorities must conduct checks on applicants to ensure they are in the UK lawfully, and that they have permission to work before granting a licence.
Under the plans, driver and operator licences can’t be issued for a period any longer than the length of a person’s permission to live and work in the UK. Immigration offences and penalties will also be grounds for a licensing authority to revoke a licence.
It will also be an offence for someone disqualified from continuing to hold a driver or operator licence for immigration reasons not to return their licence to the licensing authority.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
We have already made it harder for people to live and work in the UK illegally through the Immigration Act 2014 — and this Immigration Bill goes even further.
Taxi and private hire drivers are usually self-employed and therefore not subject to existing right to work checks conducted by employers. This leaves scope for exploitation by illegal workers.
Through the Immigration Bill we want to ensure drivers and operators are in the UK legally – and have the right to work.
Licensing authorities already conduct checks to determine whether someone is ‘fit and proper’ to hold a driver or operator licence. However, they have discretion over the type of checks made and although many conduct immigration checks, these are not mandatory.
The changes are in line with other measures in the Bill covering the licensing regime for premises involved in the sale of alcohol and late night refreshments.
The bill, which was published on 17 September, includes a range of new powers to deter people from trying to find work here illegally and deal more effectively with rogue businesses who offer them employment. These include:
- a new offence of illegal working, which will make clear that we can seize and confiscate an illegal worker’s earnings
- the introduction of powers to close a business which continues to flout the law
- a change in the law on deliberately employing illegal workers to enable more prosecutions of rogue businesses
The amendments regarding taxi and private hire drivers were laid on Thursday 5 November and will now be considered during the bill’s progress through Parliament.