Publication - Advice and guidance

Circular 25/1986: Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Cars

Published: 5 Apr 2012
Part of:
Law and order

A Circular providing information for local licensing authorities on the licensing of taxis and private hire cars and their drivers. This is not a stand alone document and must be read in conjunction with 'Taxi and Private Hire Car Licensing: Best Practice for Licensing Authorities'

58 page PDF

686.7 kB

58 page PDF

686.7 kB

Circular 25/1986: Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Cars
Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Transport Act 1985 Licensing Of Taxis And Private Hire Cars

58 page PDF

686.7 kB

Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Transport Act 1985 Licensing Of Taxis And Private Hire Cars

Circular no 25/1986

Previous Circular Cancelled: 24/1983
Cancelled/Amended: Amended 6/1983

Our reference: L/TX/25/2
Date: 7 August 1986

The Chief Executive
District and Islands Councils



1. This Circular replaces SDD Circular 24/1983. It informs local authorities of the new regulations which the Secretary of State has made under section 20(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 ("the 1982 Act") and of those which he has made under section 12(10) of the Transport Act 1985 ("the 1985 Act"). It also commends a new set (Annex B) of model licensing conditions to all local authorities who resolve to adopt the taxi and private hire licensing provisions of the 1982 Act. These model licensing conditions may serve local authorities as a basis for the preparation of their own local licensing conditions: they replace those annexed to Circular 24/1983, and take account of the changes in the hire car provisions which have been introduced by the 1985 Act. It should be noted, however, that as a result of the new regulations made under the 1982 Act, conditions having the same effect as model conditions 14 and 22 for taxi licences will now have to be contained in all taxi licences: see paragraph 6 of this circular. Finally, it brings to local authorities' attention a guidance paper on fare scales for shared taxis (Annex C).

2. SDD Circular 6/1983 outlined the content of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. Annex A to this circular gives the paragraphs which should be substituted for paragraphs 2.14 to 2.59 of Appendix A to that circular, in the light of the changes introduced by the 1985 Act.


3. In 1983, the Secretary of State made regulations under section 20(1) of the 1982 Act: The Local Authorities (Prohibited Conditions for Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Cars and their Drivers) (Scotland) Regulations 1983. He has now made further regulations under the same powers: The Licensing and Regulation of Taxis and Private Hire Cars and their Drivers (Prohibited and Required Licensing Conditions) (Scotland) Regulations 1986. A copy of the 1986 Regulations is enclosed, and additional copies may be obtained from HMSO.

4. The effect of the 1983 regulations was that a licensing authority could not impose on any licence it grants conditions which would have any of the following results:

a. Limiting a taxi or private hire car operator to only one vehicle;
b. Requiring the licence holder to reside within the area of the licensing authority;
c. Banning radios or other means of communication in private hire cars or imposing additional conditions solely because they have radios; and
d. Preventing licence holders from engaging in any other employment or business.

5. The 1986 regulations revoke the 1983 regulations, but substantially re-enact them. Thus, conditions of the four types listed in the preceding paragraph of this circular continue to be prohibited: the 1986 regulations, however, now make it clear that the first type of prohibition applies to a limitation to any specified number of vehicles, and not just to a limitation to one vehicle. In addition, the 1986 regulations prohibit any condition in a taxi operator's or driver's licence which would have the effect of restricting the use of the vehicle, or the driver, to the operation of a licensed taxi in one mode of operation only. That is, a licensing authority will not be able to impose conditions in a licence so as to restrict the use of a taxi to exclusive use, to use as a shared taxi (taxis carrying passengers for hire or reward at separate fares), to use as a taxi-bus (shared taxis operating a local service - defined in section 2 of the 1985 Act - under a restricted PSV operator's licence granted under section 12 of the 1985 Act, which is or requires to be registered under Part I of the Act, has been previously advertised, and has a destination or route which are not entirely at the discretion of the passengers) or to prohibit any of these uses. It should be noted however that, quite apart from any conditions which may be attached to a taxi license, only the holders of such licenses can apply for a restricted PSV operator's licence under section 12 of the 1985 act; and in consequence only licensed taxis may be used as taxi-busses. Similarly, a licensing authority will not be able to exclude or require the use of a private hire car for exclusive or for shared hire through attaching conditions of that nature to licences, although private hire cars will of course, as before, not be able to ply for hire.

6. Finally, the 1986 regulations also require the inclusion in a taxi operator's licence of conditions to the effect that a taxi-bus while being used as such must display a notice which indicates that the taxi is being so used; and must carry a fare table. Both the notice and the fare table are to be in the form and position prescribed by the licensing authority. While neither the regulations nor the model conditions specify what those forms and positions are to be, licensing authorities may feel that it is desirable in the interests of the passengers to consult with the licensing authorities for neighbouring areas with a view to securing as much uniformity as possible, especially in the form and position of the external notice. As a minimum, that notice should obviously be large enough to be easily legible, should be visible from the front and nearside of the vehicle, should perhaps be illuminated at night, and should preferably include the word "taxi-bus" or at least "bus"

7. The Secretary of State has also made regulations under section 12(10) of the 1985 Act to prescribe those parts of the taxi code which will apply to taxi buses. A copy of these regulations - The Local Services (Operation by Taxis) (Scotland) Regulations 1986 - is also enclosed, and again further copies may be obtained from HMSO. The effect of these regulations is that most of Part 1 and of sections 10 to 23 of the 1982 Act will apply to taxi-buses, with the following modification:

a. Section 7(2) (which; makes it an offence to breach licensing conditions) has to be interpreted so that the "conditions" to which the subsection refers include only those conditions that the operator or driver of a taxi can reasonably be expected to observe while the taxi is being used as a taxi-bus.

and the following exceptions:

b. section 14, since private hire cars have no relevance to taxi-bus operation;
c. section 15, since the designation by the licensing authority of destinations outside its area has no-relevance to taxi-bus operation;
d. sections 17 and 18, since - while licensing authorities will continue to have the responsibility for fixing maximum fares for exclusive and shared taxis - the fares charged by taxi-buses will be subject to any control only if and insofar as they are the subject of any subsidy agreement or other formal agreement for the provision of a service.
e. section 21 apart from subsection (4), since it clearly cannot be an offence for a taxi-bus to operate outside the area for which it was licensed as a taxi; since a taximeter (if fitted) will usually be inoperative while the taxi is being used as a taxi-bus; and since restrictions on vehicles other than taxis can have no application to taxi-buses; and
f. section 22 (which in effect disapplies most of the taxi code from contract hire vehicles) since a taxi-bus cannot be a contract hire vehicle.

8. The Secretary of State still does not intend to use at present his power under section 20(2) to specify the types, sizes and designs of vehicles for particular licensing authorities or particular areas of authorities, such as major city centres. He will, however, continue to regard these powers (and the further use of the power to prohibit or require conditions or classes of conditions) as reserve powers to be used if there is evidence that licensing authorities are imposing restrictions on the taxi and private hire trades which work against the interests of the travelling public.

9. Section 14 of the 1985 Act, which applies to Scotland only, is less restrictive than sections 10 and 11 of the Act, which apply to England and Wales only: section 14 allows full sharing systems (where sharing passengers may both board and leave the taxi at different points) whereas sections 10 and 11 allow only partial sharing systems (where the sharing passengers must either board at the same place or book in advance). It is the Secretary of State's intention that full sharing systems should be introduced in Scotland as soon as possible, but he recognises that in some areas it may not be possible to do so at once, perhaps because it is desirable to give the travelling public and the taxi trade time to become used to a partial sharing system before introducing a full one; or because time is needed to devise fare scales for a full sharing system; or because the meters which would be needed for a full sharing system are not yet easily enough available. For an initial period, therefore, he will not use his powers under section 20(1) of the 1982 Act to prohibit licensing conditions the effect of which is to restrict taxi operators to partial sharing systems; but this will of course not prevent the introduction of fully sharing systems if the licensing authority so decides. If, however, after a reasonable interim period to allow practical difficulties to be dealt with, it appears to him that licensing authorities are preventing the introduction of full sharing systems for reasons unrelated to considerations of practicability, he will use his powers under section 20(1) to prohibit such licensing conditions, after having given due notice of the coming into effect of regulations made for the purpose of such a prohibition.

Recommended Licensing Conditions

10. Paragraph 2.45 of Appendix A to SDD Circular 6/1983 indicated that the Secretary of State would issue advice to local authorities on a "common core" of licensing conditions following recommendations by a working group including Convention and trade representatives. Accordingly, in 1983, a Joint Advisory Group on Hire Cars was convened by the Scottish Development Department. The Joint Advisory Group consisted of representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the National Federation of Taxicab Associations, the Scottish Private Hire Association and the Scottish Development Department.

11. In considering the conditions which could be recommended to licensing authorities, the Joint Advisory Group took account of the provisions of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 itself, the range of byelaws and regulations then in force throughout Scotland and the then existing practices of regulation and enforcement. The Joint advisory Group prepared and published in their Report a comprehensive set of licensing conditions, although they recognised that, in certain circumstances, licensing authorities might wish to vary or add to these conditions to meet the particular circumstances of their area. For example, the conditions dealing with the conduct of taxis at taxi stances might need variation and expansion in some areas because of the introduction of sharing systems, or the nature and siting of taxi stances in different areas; and authorities might also wish to take account of the particular nature of chauffeur-driven types of private hire cars with livery drivers.

12. The Joint Advisory Group concluded that the adoption of the recommended licensing conditions by all licensing authorities throughout Scotland would be advantageous for the following reasons:

a. They would provide effective regulation of the taxi and private hire car trades in such manner as to ensure that these trades served the public in a safe, fit and proper manner.
b. They would assist enforcement. Variations in conditions amongst authorities would lead to difficulties in enforcement.
c. They could be adopted by licensing authorities in the knowledge that the terms of the licensing conditions as a package had been agreed by the Joint Advisory Group.
d. They would assist the taxi and private hire car trades in providing their services to the public by ensuring that there were no significant differences amongst areas which would inhibit the development and expansion of these trades to meet public needs.
e. They would benefit users of taxis and private hire cars by ensuring a measure of uniformity. Conditions which varied too widely from area to area would confuse the public.

13. These reasons for the preparation and adoption of recommended standard licensing conditions are as cogent now as they were in 1983. Accordingly, the Scottish Development Department set up a working group, along with representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and of the Scottish Taxi Federation, to consider what modifications and additions to the recommended conditions prepared by the Joint Advisory Group were necessary or desirable because of the introduction by the 1985 Act of shared taxis and of taxi-buses. The extended standard Conditions recommended by that working group, which incorporate and consolidate those originally recommended by the Joint Advisory Group, are set out in Annex B to this circular. For the reasons given in paragraph 12, the adoption of these recommended licensing conditions by all licensing authorities throughout Scotland would assist licensing authorities, the taxi and private hire car trades and the users of taxis and private hire cars. The Secretary of State therefore commends the recommended licensing conditions to all licensing authorities in Scotland as the basis for the preparation of their own licensing conditions.


14. It should be noted that breach of any licensing conditions will attract the offence provisions of section 7(2) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, subject to the regulations described in Paragraph 7 of this circular. In addition, the Act itself sets out specific offence provisions for taxis and private hire cars. (See paragraphs 2.48 to 2.54 of Annex A to this circular). Licensing authorities' attention is drawn to paragraphs 2.49 to 2.51 which deal with the offence provisions of section 21(1) of the Act and the specific exemption from these offence provisions in certain circumstances provided by section 21(2). In particular, it should be noted that the exemptions in section 21(2) for the picking up of passengers in certain circumstances in another licensing area do not include plying for hire, which would be an offence; and that only subsection 21(4) applies to taxi-buses.

Shared taxi fares

15. Under section 17 of the 1982 Act, as read with section 14 of the 1985 Act, licensing authorities will now have to fix maximum fares for shared hire of taxis as well as for exclusive hire. It will be for each authority to devise a scheme or schemes best suited to the requirements of its area; but Annex C contains some notes of guidance which authorities may find useful in deciding on shared fare scales for their areas. These guidance notes have, like the recommended licensing conditions in Annex B, been agreed to by the working group with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Taxi Federation which is referred to in paragraph 13 of this Circular.

Parking of Vehicles

16. Licensing authorities may also be interested to know the views of the original Joint Advisory Group on the question of the parking of taxis and private hire cars. The Joint Advisory Group noted that section 23 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 defines taxis and private hire cars and that, read with sections 7(1) and 21(1)(a), it makes it an offence for a private hire car to be engaged by arrangements made in a public place between the potential passenger and its driver for a journey beginning there and then: only taxis are licensed to carry out such engagements. In addition, the recommended licensing conditions cover such matters as identification of taxis and private hire cars, signs on vehicles and prohibitions on drivers canvassing or importuning in a public place for employment. Private hire cars and taxis parked other than at appointed taxi stances are subject to the road traffic legislation regulating the parking of vehicles. The Joint Advisory Group believed that the present statutory provisions in the Civic Government (Scotland) Act and road traffic legislation, together with the licensing conditions mentioned above, should be sufficient to safeguard the interests of the public and the trades from problems which can arise from parked taxis and private hire cars. It will be open to licensing authorities to consider whether special conditions are required to deal with the conduct of taxis at taxi stances in their area. The Joint Advisory Group considered that, at locations where there is evidence of difficulties arising from parked cars which cannot be dealt with under road traffic legislation or by licensing conditions dealing with the conduct of taxis at or near taxi stances, the licensing authority should consider designating a taxi stance at the locations concerned.

17. Any enquiries about this Circular should be made to Mr G McDonald 031-556 8400 Ext 4949.

Yours faithfully




Email: Joanna Mackenzie