DORSET’S Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has backed a campaign to remove a series of measures from the Deregulation Bill to protect taxi and private hire passengers.

He and other crime commissioners believe that plans to cut red tape for taxi and private hire drivers risk increasing incidents of people being raped and sexually assaulted after a night out.

The concerns are backed by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault.

The campaign calls on the government to ensure that people can be “Be Sure, Be Safe” when getting into a private hire cab.

Mr Underhill said: “People need to be sure that when they get into a marked private hire vehicle they know it’s genuine and driven by a licensed operator. These new measures put people at risk which is why we have written to Ken Clarke, to urge him to introduce a dedicated Taxi Bill.”

Currently, only licensed private hire drivers can get behind the wheel of a marked private hire vehicle; drivers have to be regularly relicensed and there are restrictions on vehicles operating across local authority boundaries.

But under the Deregulation Bill, these limited safeguards are to be swept away, opening up the prospect of a private hire free-for-all, with no guarantees that the driver of a vehicle are who they say they are.