Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Minimum wage threat to Uber: Taxi firm faces tougher licensing regime to ensure drivers receive a decent living

06 July 2017
Daily Mail

Uber and other private hire companies could be forced to sign up to tough new licences to ensure they pay staff the minimum wage, a minister suggested yesterday.

Transport minister John Hayes was responding to a call from a senior MP that councils should be able to minimum standards before granting firms taxi licences.

Labour's Frank Field said companies such as Uber flout the existing lax rules to get around paying drivers a decent living.

His calls in a Westminster debate were met with a positive response from Mr Hayes, who pledged to review the guidance issued to councils.

The minister said he would establish a working party under an independent chair within the Department for Transport to inquire into the pay and working conditions at Uber.

Mr Field, the former chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: 'Uber and similar companies are registering we know in London, in Leeds, in Liverpool and in Glasgow, and getting licences, as they have to, from the transport executive of those areas.

'Is it because the legislation is unsure, difficult to interpret, that these transport executives are not in fact saying these are the minimum conditions you the company must meet if you wish us to grant you a licence to operate in our area?

'I would like to hear the minister's view on this. I think the position is quite clear, it just takes a few – or at least one – transport authority to say this is the interpretation.'

Mr Field said while Uber had made a positive contribution to the market and many workers it was also a 'destructive force for many people's living standards', accusing it of offering a 'bogus' self-employment contract.

He added that wages were pushed down in the 'gig economy' of private hire vehicles through low fares, high rates of commission, the cost of renting the right vehicles and refuelling and maintenance. 'Those are the downward forces in the economy which make it very difficult for people to make a decent living, and indeed as I'm going to argue to make a living to which they've covered by the statutory minimum wage,' said Mr Field.

Mr Field went on to challenge Mr Hayes to outline 'the encouragement he might give to transport authorities that they in fact do have powers'.

In response, Mr Hayes said it was not good enough to wait for the Taylor review, an overarching review of workers' rights in the modern economy, before this issue was tackled.

The minister added: 'As he requested, I will look at the guidance that is issued to local authorities who may be unaware of the extent of their powers, and certainly may be unaware of their ability to use them.

'He's right to say there are problems with different local authorities interpreting those powers in different ways, and it seems to be very important that we should give clarity about that through the advice that we offer to local authorities.'

Mr Hayes also pledged to set up a working party in the Department for Transport to look at the issue, and meet with Mr Field and drivers' representatives.

He said that with the working group in place there would be, 'no veil, no mask, and nowhere to hide for people who do not do the right thing'.

Mr Field has previously published a report which concluded that drivers working with Uber are in danger of taking home as little as £2 an hour – less than a third of the National Living Wage.

Speaking after the debate, he said: 'This is a big, big breakthrough. The government has acted on the evidence I submitted on the poverty pay and shoddy treatment meted out to some workers at the bottom of the 'gig economy', both by commissioning the Taylor Review and now by inquiring specifically around the private hire industry. Watch this space.'

Daniel Martin, Daily Mail


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