MORE people could be raped or sexually assaulted if plans to cut red tape for private hire drivers are made law, police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd has warned.

Mr Lloyd has spoken out about the Deregulation Bill, which has attracted criticism from Bolton taxi operators and Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West.

If approved by MPs, the bill would allow anyone with a ordinary driver’s licence to drive a private hire car when it is ‘off duty’ — which Mr Lloyd said could led to a ‘private hire free-for-all’.

Other proposed changes include allowing private hire taxi firms to pass bookings to operators licensed in a different area.

Mr Lloyd said while taxi regulation reform is overdue, people would be more unsafe if the bill is made law.

He and other crime commissioners have now written to government minister Ken Clarke outlining their concerns.

Mr Lloyd said: “There will be no guarantee that a driver is who he says he is, and the inevitable consequence is that there will be an increase in people being attacked after a night out.

"Private hire regulation is good here in Greater Manchester — but that’s as a direct result of a terrible case nearly 20 years ago when a young woman was brutally murdered after getting into a vehicle she thought was a cab.

“I never want to see a case like that again in our region, but I’m afraid to say these proposals make that prospect much more likely.

“These current proposals are ill-thought through — rushed law is often bad law.”

Asif Vali, chairman of the Bolton Private Hire Operators’ Association, agreed that proposals to run ‘off-duty’ taxis for personal use could put the public in danger.

He said: “To me it’s a crazy idea. The licensed vehicles are there to protect the public and for them to be aware of the vehicles they are entering in to.

“I really don’t understand how we can use taxis to double up as normal cars — I think it would be confusing for people.

“Our standards are very high, we understand how good and safe our cars have to be and how we should conduct ourselves — now after years of lobbying the government is doing a u-turn and saying it doesn’t matter what you do.”

The bill is set to be read again in the House of Commons, where MPs will have the chance to debate it and propose amendments.