LTPH Director John Mason recently issued this PCO Notice 01/12 Taxi Driver License Checker.
In December 2011, Transport for London arbitrarily decided without any consultation whatsoever with the Taxi trade to make available on their website a section where a driver’s badge number could be entered and the full name of that driver would be disclosed for the world to see. Coupled with the new, soon to be compulsory Badge Colour Vehicle Identifiers issued to every London Taxi driver which clearly identifies a driver’s badge number and whether they are an All London or Suburban driver.
Naturally a large number of the Taxi trade were concerned that their safety and security was being seriously compromised by this decision because anyone with a modicum of computer knowledge and ability would then have no trouble accessing a driver’s address and personal information about them and their family. The consequences of this information in the hands of somebody with malicious intent doesn’t bear thinking about, and understandably drivers were outraged.
To show how easy it was to obtain this information, UCG Committee Officer Jimmy Thomas using readily available computer software gained personal information of some of the Committee Members of the London Cab Drivers Club, the protaganists behind the identifier scheme, along with photographs of their houses.
After announcing on Twitter that he was in possession of this information he was then contacted by LTPH Deputy Director Helen Chapman, and he explained to her how easy it was to obtain, and what the implications could be if it fell into the wrong hands.
Thankfully Helen, who stands head and shoulders above her counterpart John Mason in terms of intelligence, efficiency, and respect for London’s Taxi drivers instantly understood the problem and immediately instructed staff to remove the license checker section on TfL’s website.
The trade sought assurances from LTPH that this section would not re-appear on their website at a later date, but due to none being forthcoming, and rumours abound that John Mason was indeed intending to reinstate it, the RMT’s London Taxi branch instructed their General Secretary Bob Crow to write directly to Mayor Boris Johnson informing him that they were planning to take legal action against Transport for London.
They told the Mayor that they believed this was an infringement of driver’s human rights and also contravened the data protection act.
John Mason and LTPH have often had a blatant disregard for the law of the land and the UCG and the RMT believed that this was just another example of it.
A meeting was then called by Boris Johnson, with John Mason, the LTDA and Unite in attendance, and Mr Mason again arbitrarily announced that he was indeed planning to re-introduce it.
The Mayor was said to be livid with Mr Mason and then told him in no uncertain terms that this License Checker section will most definitely NOT be going back up.
Mr Mason, who had to eat humble pie then scurried off back to Palestra with his tail between his legs and a few days later was forced to issue the above PCO Notice 01/12 stating that the whole idea has now been binned.
To everybodys surprise, he did however add the section on the end of the notice claiming that this was all down to the LTDA, who in reality were in favour of this License Checker section and were oblivious to the work that had been done by the UCG’s Jimmy Thomas in getting this taken off of TfL’s website in the first place. Silent Bob strikes again!
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!
Questions must now be asked about the cosy relationship Mr Mason has with the LTDA (Licensed Taxi Drivers Association), a Taxi trade organisation that is often accredited by him with the acheivements attained by others, and why he feels the need to do this.
It is alleged that John Mason can often be heard during his badge awarding speeches telling the new entrants into this trade that they should join the LTDA, and on a recent United Cabbies Group recruitment drive on ‘passing out’ day at Palestra we were dismayed to see Mr Mason actually handing out the LTDA’s glossy orange bag containing their propaganda.
The photographs below clearly show Mr Mason holding a bag, inspecting it’s contents, then handing it over to an unknown woman.
A source close to the hierarchy of the LTDA has also told us that they view Mr Mason as…
“The best recruiting sergeant they have ever had”!
What the hell does John Mason think he’s doing handing out LTDA recruiting paraphernalia? Surely the Director of Taxis & Private Hire should be impartial and show no bias to any one Taxi trade organisation over another!
The United Cabbies Group believes that Mr Mason is acting unprofessionally and we have drafted a letter of complaint which will be sent directly to Mayor Boris Johnson.
We will keep you informed as to any response and outcome.
Dear United Cabbies Group
I noted with interest the most recent article on your website regarding the taxi driver license checker and other matters.
Firstly, I am sorry you have such a low opinion of myself but I am obviously very pleased to note how highly you respect my Deputy, Helen Chapman.
While I can not and would not want to stand in the way of any action you may wish to take as alluded to in the article I thought you may be interested in the following facts.
The weekend I instructed the license checker to be taken down Helen and I had been contacted by a number of driver groups and drivers. Jim Thomas was indeed in contact with Helen and, at the same time, I was in contact with reps from the LTDA and LCDC who were raising the same concerns.
The letter from Bob Crow (to Peter Hendy, not the Mayor)is regarding the taxi driver identifiers and was received AFTER the meeting I attended with the Mayor and Bob Oddy which had been planned since before Christmas.
The letter from Bob Crow does not threaten legal action unless there is another letter I have not seen.
Grant Davies was not at the meeting when the license checker was discussed.
I did not announce I was going to re-introduce the facility.
The Mayor was not livid and did not shout. We discussed with Bob Oddy the concerns of the trade and we agreed with Bob that taxi driver names should not be made available through such a facility.
I hope this clarifies the matter.
Moving on to finals day at Palestra and the suggestions you make with regards to my involvement and apparent promotion of the LTDA.
Firstly you will not find one licensed taxi driver who I have presented a badge to who will corroborate your absurd allegation that I tell drivers they should join the LTDA. I have never have and never would make such a statement either in the finals presentations or anywhere else for that matter. If one of your members or committee would like to attend a finals presentation then please let me know and you can see exactly what I say for yourself.
In light of the above I respectfully demand a complete retraction of this unfounded allegation.
As for the photos of me outside handing out LTDA bags to candidates. This is simply not the case regardless of what you think you witnessed.
After finals I went down to collect a big brown envelope from the LTDA rep. No, not cash, 4 copies of TAXI. The LTDA rep asked me if I knew Maria (a member of my team) as he had some LTDA diaries for her. My taxi licensing officers find the diaries very useful for key facts a info regarding the trade.
I confirmed I did and he handed the bag with the diaries to me.
I was then approached by Maria and another one of my members of staff who asked the LTDA rep if he had the diaries. I said I had and handed her the bag.
We all the proceeded into Palestra and went back to our business of doing our best to serve the great London taxi and private hire trades as best we can.
I hope this clarifies matters and trust you will put matters straight on your website and, in particular, you will retract the inaccuracies and incorrect statements made about me in your article.
Enjoy your weekend