FREE CHAPTER from ‘A Practical Guide to Hackney Carriage Licensing in London’ by Stuart Jessop



Hackney Carriages are the oldest form of hire vehicle in England and Wales with documented reports of a hackney carriage as early as 1621 in London. In fact hackney carriage is still the official name used to describe taxis. It has often been said that the law on taxi licensing is complex and dis-jointed. One reason for this is that Hackney carriages, vehicles you can hail or pick up from a rank in the street, are regulated according to different legislative regimes to Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs), namely vehicles you have to pre-book and which are often called mini-cabs. Another reason for this complexity is that the legal regime differs according to whether the vehicle operates from within London or outside London.

It is for these reasons that this book concentrates on hackney carriage licensing within London. The law concerning hackney carriages in London is also complex and is found in several different pieces of legislation spanning over 150 years.

It is common for people to use the term “taxi” to refer to any type of vehicle licensed for the purpose of taking passengers from one place to another. However, in England and Wales the law divides such vehicles and therefore their drivers into to two categories: Hackney Carriages and Private Hire. A hackney carriage is also referred to as a licensed taxi, taxi, cab or London cab.

The key features of a hackney carriage are; it can carry passengers for hire and reward; it can be hailed; it can stand on a rank awaiting a passenger; or it can be pre-booked. The vehicle itself must be licensed as must the driver. Perhaps the most defining aspect of a hackney carriage is that it can ply for hire, something which a private hire vehicle cannot do.

Indeed the exclusive right to ply for hire is a feature which is highly cherished by those who hold a hackney carriage vehicle licence and driver’s licence and has been the source of many recent disputes between the London hackney carriage trade and Uber London Limited, a private hire vehicle operator. Such is the importance of this right to ply for hire that this book dedicates a chapter solely to the topic.

In respect of reform, at the time of writing, the Government had recently given its response to the Ministerial Working Part referred to as the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing (TFG). The Government’s response was summarised in the following terms:

Above all other considerations the TFG put the passenger at the heart of its thinking; we welcome and share this view. Government will take action where needed to ensure a safe and well-functioning sector which meets the needs and expectations of its passengers.

The Government accepts the three key measures recommended to achieve a safe service for passengers:

  • National Minimum Standards

  • National Enforcement Powers; and

  • A national Licensing Database.”

However, with so much else occupying the focus of the Government, not least the United Kingdom’s expected but as yet unfulfilled departure from the European Union, it remains to be seen if or when such measures will be addressed.

This book deals with hackney carriage vehicle licences separately from driver’s licences, each having their own chapter setting out the relevant provisions including the power to grant, refuse, suspend and revoke such licences. As has been said, there is a separate chapter on plying for hire. The book then summarises the various criminal offences that exist in relation to both the vehicles and the drivers and finally considers decision making in respect of licensing of hackney carriages generally and appeals against such decisions.

The relevant statutes and statutory instruments are too numerous and voluminous to set out in full in a practical brief guide to the subject but in order to assist those unfamiliar with the topic the relevant legislation is set out below:


  • Public Health Act 1975, s 76

  • Rehabilitation of offenders Act 1974

  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, s 167

  • Equality Act 2010, ss 160-173, and s 149

  • Policing and Crime Act 2017, s 177

  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998, s17

  • London Hackney Carriage Act 1831

  • London Hackney carriages Act 1843

  • London Hackney Carriages Act 1850

  • London Hackney Carriages Act 1853

  • Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869

  • London Cab Act 1896

  • London Cab and Stage Carriage Act 1907

  • London Cab Act 1968

  • Transport Act 1985, s17, s 10-13 and Sch 7, para 1

  • Greater London Authority Act 1999

  • Transport for London Act 2008

Statutory Instruments

  • London Cab Order 1934

  • Regulations for Enforcing Order at Cab Standings in the Metropolitan Police District

  • London Cab Order 1972, SI 1972/1047

  • Local services (operation by taxis) (London) Regulations 1986, SI 1986/5066

  • London Taxi (Licensing Appeals) Regulations 1986, SI 1986/1188

  • Licensed Taxis (Hiring at Separate Fares) (London) Order 1986, SI 1986/1387

  • London Taxis Sharing Scheme Order 1987, SI 1987/1553

  • London Cab Order 1934 (modification) order 2000, SI 2000/1666

In respect of decision making by TFL, the regulator for hackney carriages in London, the reader is also advised to consult TFL’s website for its various policies and the Regulator’s Code.