Tougher language rules for Leeds taxi owners

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Leeds city council bosses have rubberstamped new rules which mean owners of taxi licences must speak English.

But they have also inserted a special ‘widow’s clause’ requiring non-English speaking spouses of deceased proprietors to learn the language in just SIX months.

The authority was forced to take legal advice on its Hackney Carriage taxi policy - and whether its language requirement could be discriminatory - after concerns were raised by unions and hackney carriage companies. The debate was in relation to possible special dispensation for wives of deceased older drivers - who may never have learnt English - to allow them to inherit the licences without speaking English. Comparisons were made with other businesses - everything from football clubs to small firms - which can be legally owned by non-English speakers.

A proprietor of a taxi licences is effectively the owner of a small business - and won’t necessarily ever face the public or drive a taxi.

A meeting of the council’s licencing committee heard yesterday that lawyers had confirmed there was no case for discrimination - and an English language proviso was “reasonable” and “perfectly permissible”.

A report presented to the meeting said: “The proprietor is accountable for a wide range of statutory responsibilities; the safety of the vehicle, controlling the drivers and maintaining a relationship with the council. It is...reasonable to expect a proprietor to speak and understand English.”

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