Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s decision to introduce the congestion charge for minicab drivers is not unlawfully discriminatory, the High Court has ruled.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claimed that removing minicabs’ exemption from the £11.50 daily fee indirectly discriminates against a 94% black and minority ethnic (BAME) workforce.
The union argued Mr Khan’s decision, which came into effect in April, disproportionately affects BAME drivers, while drivers of London’s traditional black cabs – 88% of whom are white – remain exempt from the charge.
IWGB also claimed the decision disproportionately affects women, who are more likely to work part-time, and disabled passengers, whom they claim will be adversely affected by a reduction in the number of available minicabs.
But, giving judgment in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Lewis dismissed IWGB’s claim.
The judge said the decision was “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the reduction of traffic and congestion within the congestion charge zone without reducing the number of designated wheelchair-accessible vehicles”.
At a hearing earlier this month, Ben Collins QC, for the IWGB, told the court that Mr Khan’s decision “does serious harm” to BAME and female drivers, as well as disabled passengers.
He said: “Drivers are driven out of business or required to work hours which impact on their family, well-being and potentially health.
“Disabled passengers have their ability to travel to central London significantly affected.”
Mr Collins submitted: “The discriminatory effect of this measure wholly outweighs such limited benefits as the defendant is able to establish.”
But lawyers representing Mr Khan and TfL argued that the decision “is an important means of reducing road congestion and traffic within the congestion charge zone without reducing the number of wheelchair-accessible passenger transport vehicles”.
Martin Chamberlain QC said removing the exemption would “achieve significant and important road user, health and environmental benefits” and result in quicker journeys and cleaner air.
Union to appeal congestion charge ruling
IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee confirmed the union would attempt to take its case to the Court of Appeal.
He said: “The judge, defendant Sadiq Khan, and we all agreed that this charge is bad for ethnic minority and female drivers.
“The question is whether or not the mayor can legally justify it by showing it’s reasonable and there were no better alternative measures to reduce congestion.
“He hasn’t done this and the judge adopted the incorrect legal test when assessing the matter. So now we take the fight to the Court of Appeal.”
Mr Moyer-Lee added: “The IWGB is not about to give up at the first setback.”