From the steam engine to the web, Britain has a long history of inventing and embracing brilliant new technology, often with London leading the way with the very latest developments.
In recent years, we have seen great leaps forward in areas such as green technology, medical innovations and contactless payments on the underground, but also with mobile phone applications that can make the lives of Londoners easier – whether it’s ordering food, renting a flat or doing financial transactions.
As we move through the next stage of 21st century innovation, I want London to continue to be at the forefront of these developments and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.
I welcome and embrace these innovations – not only because they can improve the everyday lives of Londoners, but because they can spark new ideas for business, new possibilities for jobs in our city and new opportunities to cement London as a global capital of digital technology.
However, as with every other sector doing business in this city, from the financial services to manufacturing, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – above all when it comes to the safety of customers.
Providing an innovative service is not an excuse for it being unsafe.
Today, Transport for London has made the formal decision not to renew Uber’s operating licence. This was made independently by TfL as the regulator. I know this decision will be controversial in some quarters. Uber has become a popular service for many Londoners. But I fully understand the decision that has been taken.
It would be simply wrong for TfL to continue to license Uber if there was any way this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety or security. TfL has said it believes Uber’s conduct demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibility around a number of issues that have potential public safety and security implications. These include Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, and the way it obtains medical certificates and security checks (Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service) for their drivers.
All private-hire operators in London need to play by the rules. The safety and security of customers must be paramount.
Uber’s current licence does not expire until the end of September so the service will continue, for now. The company will also be able to continue to operate until the appeals process has been exhausted.
Around the world, new private-hire vehicle companies and other disruptive technology businesses are springing up all the time, with new and different ways of working. We know it is possible to combine innovative technology within these fields while also ensuring the necessary safety standards are met. It would not be right for exceptions to be made.
I have repeatedly said the regulatory environment is critical in protecting Londoners’ safety, maintaining workplace standards for drivers and sustaining a vibrant taxi and private hire market with space for a range of providers to flourish. It is not simply regulation for regulation’s sake.
One of the reasons why London has become such a success with international business over centuries is because of our professionalism and sense of British fair play, with transparent rules, laws and regulations. This ensures that all companies are treated equally – something we would never want to lose.
I suspect it will take some time before this situation with Uber fully plays out. In the meantime, I will continue my work to help support innovative businesses in London and to create a vibrant and safe taxi and private hire market.
During the mayoral election, I promised I would be the most pro-business mayor London has ever had. That promise is reflected in the work we are doing from City Hall to support companies and entrepreneurs who are reinventing and reviving many of our traditional business sectors.
As we go forward in the months and years ahead, I know London will continue to be an incredible hotbed of innovation and new technology, as well as a city where businesses understand that they have no choice but to adhere to the rules like everyone else – especially when it comes to the safety of Londoners.
• Sadiq Khan is the mayor of London