One of the best parts of being an MP is the ability to try to bring about real change. For the past few months, myself and my office team, have been involved in organising a Parliamentary launch to gather cross-party support for the introduction of new legislation.

We have worked closely with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity which is focused on promoting personal safety, to call for national minimum standards on taxis and private hire vehicle licensing across England and Wales. A report launched by the trust reveals that taxi and private hire vehicle licenses are being granted to drivers with criminal convictions that include violent offences. Research has indicated that safety is being compromised because there are no national minimum standards to enforce sufficient safety checks.

My involvement began following a meeting over a year ago with Elaine Pickford. Elaine is an extremely passionate and selfless lady who has used her terrible past experiences to drive forward change for the safety of others. Elaine is the mother of Sian O’Callaghan who was murdered by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell. We first met at my constituency office when Elaine was keen to volunteer her time to worthy causes including victim support and other organisations who assist families of those who have been victims of homicide. Since then we have stayed in touch and it was Elaine who inspired me to get involved in this specific campaign.

When you get into a taxi you are putting the driver in a position of trust. You expect to be taken directly to your door safely, regardless of whatever time of day or night. The vast majority of taxi and PHV drivers are law abiding citizens who do exactly that. However there are occasions where that position of trust has been abused, as we have seen recently with the case of John Worboys. Our campaign is all about ensuring that appropriate and sufficient safety checks are in place, and consistently so, for members of the public.

Many people already assume that this is done rigorously. However, figures show that licensing authorities in England and Wales are failing to keep an accessible record of taxi and private hire drivers’ criminal convictions, with only 46 out of 316 local authorities able to provide detailed information on drivers’ criminal histories. Furthermore a significant number of licensed drivers highlighted in the research have criminal records including convictions for actual bodily harm, common assault, speeding and drink driving. In one case, a licensed driver has over 36 separate convictions dating from 1973 to 2017, with offenses including actual bodily harm, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and threatening behaviour.

With national minimum standards, we would have a minimum threshold for required checks across the country to ensure that everybody getting into a vehicle can be assured of their safety. Of course, we would look to consult with drivers and their associated bodies to get them involved and contribute their views.

The campaign launch was a real coming together of everybody involved as we managed to get signatures from cross-party MPs in support of the change. I will continue to press the Department for Transport on this issue and I am extremely grateful to both Elaine and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for their hard work in this area.