Will Labour use Bill to embarrass?

first_imgI’ve not yet commented on Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to not renew Uber’s private hire licence. I’m not an Uber user as I’m old fashioned enough to rather like the London black cab. I also don’t know if the concerns that TfL had over the Uber operation were well founded, or whether there was a degree of political motivation behind the decision.Now, Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge and a former shadow Labour transport spokesman, has introduced a Private Members Bill to bring in stronger controls over the licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles. The snappily titled Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 2 February.Will the Bill, to bring in stronger controls on private hire, get through?Private Members Bills never make much progress and rarely get Royal Assent unless they have government backing.I very much doubt that this Bill will see the light of day and pass into law, even if it may have a fair bit of political support in the House. The text of the Bill isn’t actually yet available so it’s a bit difficult to comment on its quality and whether it’s sensible. Private Members Bills are often not printed until close to Second Reading. But it serves to remind us that it’s not just the buses that Labour wants to see greater regulatory control over.However, if the Bill has the strong support of Labour MPs and the Labour leadership, it’s not impossible that it might pass its Second Reading.Labour has withdrawn the traditional ‘pairing’ system whereby each MP has a ‘pair’ in the opposition party so that if an MP is away his or her ‘pair’ won’t vote when divisions are called. Now this arrangement has been withdrawn, the government is exposed to potential ambushes with Labour whips suddenly and unexpectedly calling for a vote on something, in the hope that insufficient numbers of Conservative MPs will be around to ensure the government has a majority when the vote takes place.This means that Conservative MPs need to be on the parliamentary estate much more than would normally be the case, but to my knowledge Labour has not yet used this tactic in order to try and embarrass the government. Whether it would do so on a relatively minor Private Members Bill is doubtful.It’s a tactic to be used sparingly and should generally be reserved for more high-profile issues where maximum embarrassment can be achieved. But who knows? In these febrile and volatile political times anything is possible, and a Bill to impose greater controls on taxis and private hire vehicles might just be a subject that encourages the Labour Whips to catch the government unawares.last_img

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