Thank you to those who gave contacted me about the Access All Areas event.
I share your belief that everyone deserves the right to access services freely and with dignity. That is why I am proud that there are already strict laws in place against discrimination facing those who rely on guide dogs, giving people with disabilities the freedom and confidence to work and visit friends independently.
The Equality Act 2010 makes clear the duties of all people to permit guide dogs without any hindrance. As I am sure you are aware, taxi and PHV drivers convicted of illegally refusing the carriage of assistance dogs already face fines of up to £1,000 in addition to costs, and may also have their licence suspended or revoked by the respective local licensing authority. This is absolutely right, as the independence that a guide dog gives people with disabilities is an important part of their lives.
I am pleased that in response to the report of the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing, Ministers intend to include in new best practice guidance for licensing authorities that they should require taxi and PHV drivers to complete disability awareness and equality training. Moreover, Ministers intend to make it simple to report discrimination and take robust action against drivers who have discriminated against disabled passengers. In the longer term these training requirements are intended for inclusion in national minimum standards.
I welcome the work that the Access All Areas Campaign is undertaking to raise awareness of the rights of guide dog owners and of the confidence-damaging discrimination that many of them so often face.