Theresa May has hit out at Transport for London’s decision to ban Uber’s London operation despite earlier hailing Britain’s record for protecting workers’ rights.
In an interview with BBC London, the Prime Minister said TfL’s move, backed by Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan, was “disproportionate” and puts thousands of jobs at risk. She said:
“At a stroke of a pen, what the mayor has done is risked 40,000 jobs and of course ... damaged the lives of those 3.5 million Uber users.
“Yes there are safety concerns and issues for Uber to address, but what I want to see is a level playing field between the private firms and our wonderful London taxis, our black cabs, our great national institution.
“I want to see a level playing field. I think a blanket ban is disproportionate.”
Yet in an address earlier in the day to mark 20 years of the independence of the Bank of England, the Conservative Party leader argued ensuring workers were not exploited was central to people keeping faith with free-market economics. She said:
“Britain sets the global standard for high quality corporate governance. International firms are attracted to the UK in part because of the strengths of our regulatory system. But we know that to stay competitive, we must keep our standards high and ensure that bad examples of corporate governance do not undermine the public’s faith in our market economy.
“So our reforms to corporate governance will give workers and shareholders a stronger voice in the board room and ensure that our biggest firms are incentivised to take decisions which are in the right long-term interest of their businesses.”
In another interview, she admitted the Tory election campaign failed to make the case for the benefits of capitalism, a theme she is certain to return to at the party’s conference in Manchester next week to neuter Jeremy Corbyn’s unashamedly and growingly popular left-wing agenda.
TfL said it was concerned about Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, how drivers’ medical certificates are obtained, how criminal record checks are carried out and its use of technology which allegedly helps it to evade law enforcement.
The ride-hailing firm is planning to appeal after its renewal application was rejected on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.
Even Uber’s Chief Executive Officer, Dara Khosrowshahi, appears to have taken a less hardline approach than May, admitting in an open letter that the firm had to “make things right”.
Uber enables users to book cars using their smartphones and is available in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK.
Some 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers use the app in London.
A spokesman for the mayor said: “Sadiq has every sympathy with customers and drivers of Uber, but is clear that any anger must be directed at Uber itself.
“Regulation is there for a reason and it would have been wrong for TfL to have renewed Uber’s licence if they had concerns about Uber being a fit and proper operator.
“All companies must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect - particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.
“London deserves the best taxi and private hire services available and Sadiq is determined to ensure the capital has a vibrant market, with space for all providers to flourish.”