Sadiq Khan’s Uber ban in London ‘could breach race laws’

Sadiq Khan’s Uber ban could breach race laws as more than 90 per cent of its drivers are from ethnic minority backgrounds, campaigners have said.

It comes as 20,000 of the company’s workers emailed the mayor of London to protest the decision to strip Uber of its licence in the capital.  

More than 650,000 people have also signed a petition urging Transport for London to reverse its decision. 

TfL sensationally stripped the global taxi app of its licence to operate in London on Friday, claiming it was not ‘fit and proper’.

Uber’s private hire licence will not be renewed after a bombshell decision by TfL on Friday

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been blasted by some MPs as he tells furious passengers to 'direct your anger at Uber'

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been blasted by some MPs as he tells furious passengers to ‘direct your anger at Uber’

Iqbal Wahhab, former chairman of the Department of Work and Pensions Ethnic Minority Advisory Group, said the move could breach TfL’s legal duty [under the 2010 Equality Act] to make sure minority groups were not discriminated against.

‘I wonder what regard TfL gave to this legal duty as part of its decision making process,’ he wrote in the IBT.

‘There is a huge disparity in socioeconomic conditions of BME [black minority ethnic] citizens and their white British counterparts. And for many of them, Uber was a way to earn a living, however modest, and come off benefits.

‘If they are able to win their appeal, Uber will have to rigorously clean up its conduct and be fit to serve London better. But by having put fear of economic uncertainty into 40,000 households, City Hall could more rigorously interrogate all its responsibilities.’

Women’s charities have also warned the move could put passenger safety at risk. 

Nimco Ali, co-founder of the anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, said: ‘The mayor talks about public safety while knife crime is at a record high and women use Uber for safety. If the mayor thinks cancelling the licence is how to make women feel safe, it shows how much he knows and cares about [violence against women] in London.’ 

Others suggested it could lead to young people using unlicensed taxis again.

Dame Esther, who spent years spearheading safety campaigns, said: ‘In the past, when young people were desperate late at night and somebody stopped for them, many were tempted to jump in unlicensed cabs which can be very dangerous. I’m extremely worried that may happen again.’  

The decision is another setback for the firm, which has previously been banned by other cities including Barcelona and Vancouver

The decision is another setback for the firm, which has previously been banned by other cities including Barcelona and Vancouver

TfL took the decision not to renew Uber’s licence following concerns about the tech giant’s failure to report serious crimes by drivers and the firm’s vetting process. 

Unions and Labour MPs have welcomed the decision. 

Wes Streeting, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on taxis, described it as a ‘courageous’ move.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he believed TfL was doing the ‘right thing’ by refusing to renew the taxi firm’s permission to operate in the capital amid complaints it has failed to report crimes carried out by drivers.  

However some MPs have accused Mr Khan of relenting to union pressure.

He had been given £30,000 for his mayoral campaign by the union that represents black cab drivers.

GMB, which has almost 640,000 members and campaigned for years against Uber’s presence in London, has called the ban an ‘historic victory’. 

However, Mr Khan – who as mayor is chairman of the Transport for London board but did not take part in the licensing decision – said Uber had brought the ban on itself.

He told BBC World At One: ‘If drivers are angry, as they will be, if users of Uber are angry, as they will be, their anger should be turned towards Uber for knowing the rules and failing to play by them.’ 

Drivers of traditional black London cabs held a protest this year against the minicab app. The app was seen as unfairly undercutting black cabs due to the lack of regulation of drivers

Uber has said it’s willing to make a series of concessions as it seeks to reverse Friday’s decision.  

Uber said TfL gave it no notice of the issues it wished the firm to address and have only held one meeting this year.

Mr Khan had refused requests to meet anyone from the company since becoming mayor 16 months ago, Uber sources said.  

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in London, told the Sunday Times: ‘While we haven’t been asked to make any changes, we’d like to know what we can do.

‘But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have recently.’

Uber’s concessions are likely to involve passenger safety and benefits for its drivers, possible limits on working hours to improve road safety and holiday pay.  

The firm has said it will appeal the decision, during which time it will continue to operate as normal. 

The process could see the dispute go on for up to a year.  

Uber and out? Controversial company’s chequered history

The news that taxi-hailing app Uber will not be given a new operating licence in London is the latest in a long line of controversies in the firm’s history. 

Here are some of the contentious moments in the life of the transport giant:

  • In July, chief executive Travis Kalanick, who helped found the company in 2009, resigned following a series of scandals and criticism of his management style.
  • A month earlier the company sacked 20 people including some managers after a law firm investigated specific complaints made to the company about sexual harassment, bullying, and retaliation for reporting problems.
The app has drawn angry reactions from cabbies around the world. Pictured: Marseille

The app has drawn angry reactions from cabbies around the world. Pictured: Marseille

  • In May, hundreds of taxi drivers in Poland’s four largest cities drove at a crawl during rush-hour in protest against the rise of services such as Uber.
  • In February, thousands of Italian taxi drivers clashed with riot police during a week-long strike and protest against Uber that crippled transportation in Rome, Milan and Turin.
  • Uber ended in Denmark earlier this year following the introduction of new tougher taxi laws.
  • At the start of 2017, the firm paid £16.2 million in the US to settle allegations it gave false promises to drivers over how much they would earn.
  • In October 2016 Uber lost a landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers rather than being self-employed. The firm had claimed its employment arrangements allowed its drivers across England and Wales to be their own boss and work flexibly, but the tribunal panel gave a scathing dismissal of Uber’s arguments.
Taxi drivers in Argentina protest at Uber presence in Buenos Aires last year

Taxi drivers in Argentina protest at Uber presence in Buenos Aires last year

  • A few months later Uber announced it would offer English courses, financial advice and introduce an appeals panel for its UK workers after facing criticism over lack of support and rights for its drivers.
  • In 2015 the New Delhi government banned app-based taxi companies after an Uber driver raped a passenger in his vehicle. Uber lost its licence in the Indian capital for a time, having failed to carry out proper background checks on drivers.
  • Uber stopped operating in Austin, Texas, when it was told drivers would have to have fingerprint background checks, but it reinstated its services after the requirement was ended.

What other apps can Londoners use? Competitors pile into market

Taxi app Uber will not be issued with a private hire operator licence, Transport for London said.

The ride-hailing app has 21 days to appeal, but if it chooses not to, or is unsuccessful, what other options do Londoners have?


Gett is an app for booking black cabs. In fact, the company claims just under half of the black cabs in London are signed up to its service.

As well as connecting customers with taxi rides, the company recently announced a partnership with Citymapper for a fixed-route taxi service across the city for just £3 per passenger.

‘Gett Together’ will offer four routes in London, which can be accessed through the CityMapper and Gett apps: Ladbroke Grove to Aldwych, Belsize Park to Berkeley Square, Clapham Junction to London Bridge and Highbury and Islington to Waterloo.

Users can choose to be picked up and dropped off anywhere along these set routes. The taxis will run between 7.30-10.00am and 5-8pm


Mytaxi, formerly Hailo, is another app for ordering black cabs.

Users can pay by cash or through the app and it has many of the benefits of Uber, including in-app ordering, a live journey tracker and enabling the user to call their driver.

The app even offered half-price fares on Friday in response to Uber’s licence woes.


Taxify is a newcomer to the London cab market, having launched in early September.

The Estonian firm, which operates similarly to Uber with private cars, suspended services just days after its launch in London, so will need to overcome its own licensing hurdles to make the most of Uber’s setback.