A High Court judge has rejected a claim for judicial review of a decision removing the exemption from liability to pay the congestion charge in Central London from private hire vehicles save for those designated as wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The decision at the centre of Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Mayor of London  EWHC 1997 was given effect to by the Greater London (Central Zone) Congestion Charging (Variation) Order 2018 made by Transport for London on 29 June 2018 and confirmed by the Mayor of London on 19 December 2018 by an Instrument of Confirmation 2018. The change came into effect on 8 April 2019.
There were three claimants: the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (a trade union representing low paid workers in the United Kingdom which has a United Private Hire Drivers Branch representing such drivers); a Dutch national born in Somalia; and a part-time private hire vehicle driver.
The claimants contended that the withdrawal of the exemption from private hire vehicles save for those which are wheelchair-accessible contravened sections 19 and 29(6) of the Equality Act 2010 as they said it was discriminatory in relation to drivers from a black or ethnic minority background, female drivers and disabled passengers. They contended that the majority of private hire vehicle drivers were from a BAME background and women were more likely to be part-time drivers.
They claimed that the changes given effect to by the Confirmation Order put them at a particular disadvantage as compared with non-BAME or male drivers, and also placed disabled passengers at a particular disadvantage, and the Mayor could not show the measure to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
The second and third claimants also contended that the changes given effect to by the Confirmation Order involved an interference with the right to respect for their, and their families', private and family life within the meaning of Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights which the defendant could not show was justified under Article 8(2) ECHR.
They also contended that the Order resulted in an interference with the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions within the meaning of Article 1 of the First Protocol ("A1P1) to the ECHR which the defendant could not show was justified.
Finally, they contended that the changes given effect to by the Confirmation Order involved unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 ECHR. They contended that the Order involved differential treatment on grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, or disability in respect of matters which fall in any event within the ambit of either or both of Article 8 and A1P1 ECHR (even if it did not involve a breach of those Articles). They contended that the defendant could not show that the effect on BAME or female drivers, or disabled persons, was objectively justifiable.
The Mayor accepted initially that the amendments given effect to by the Confirmation Order put BAME and female drivers and disabled passengers at a disadvantage within the meaning of section 19 of the 2010 Act but submitted that the measure was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely reducing traffic and congestion in the central London charging zone without reducing the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The defendant contended that the measure, involving as it did the application of the congestion charge, did not involve an interference with the right to respect for private or family life, or an interference with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions but, if it did, it was justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The defendant contended that the matter did not fall within the ambit of either Article 8 or A1P1 ECHR but, if it did, the impact on the claimants, and BAME and female drivers and disabled passengers generally, was justified.
Mr Justice Lewis rejected the claims. He said: “The removal of the exemption from the congestion charge for private hire vehicles does not involve any discrimination within the meaning of section 19 of the 2010 Act as the defendant has shown that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the reduction of traffic and congestion within the CCZ without reducing the number of designated wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
“The amendments to the Scheme are compatible with, and involve no breach of, Articles 8, and 14 and A1P1 ECHR. For those reasons, this claim is dismissed.”