Transport for London turned a blind eye to the discrimination caused by new writing tests, Uber lawyer tells court

Hayley Kirton
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The app is challenging the legal basis for TfL's new rules (Source: Getty)

Uber has today accused Transport for London (TfL) of burying its head in the sand when assessing the level of discrimination involved in its proposed English language testing.

The tech giant is challenging the legal basis for rules proposed by TfL which would require private hire drivers to take a written English language test.

Legal eagles for Uber told the court yesterday TfL's new rules could lead to as many as 33,000 private car drivers vanishing from the streets of London.

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Thomas de la Mare, Uber's lawyer, today added the measures could cause about a third of those working in London today to have their licence pulled, and said the decision process TfL used for imposing the written tests was "flawed" as it failed to properly quantify the problem.

The majority of those with their licence on the line are thought to be from countries with a first language other than English.

"If you hide from numbers as stark as these, you do not confront the discrimination," de la Mare said.

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De la Mare claimed Uber's customers did not seem as concerned as TfL about the written English language requirement. "The scheme has been operated with all these drivers in place with not a single complaint," he said.

However Justice Mitting, the judge overseeing the case, pointed out there may be valid reasons for the test, such as it being unacceptable to have drivers "who can't respond to normal questions", despite the knock-on effects. This was "particularly relevant" because of the number of people with disabilities who use private hire drivers.

"At the end of the day, it may be perfectly justified to put a third of those licences off the road," the judge said.

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Figures by the Business Department suggest seven per cent of the UK's population would fail the proposed written test, while Uber claims it is more advanced than the current language requirements for British citizenship.

The case is ongoing.

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