An association for cabbies is welcoming plans to slash red tape around taxi licensing, saying the current system is a “nightmare”.

The Keighley and Bradford Taxi Drivers’ Association is supporting a Government plan to get rid of many of the checks and restrictions that drivers and operators currently face, despite critics saying this could put passengers in danger.

Association chairman Shabir Ahmed said: “There has been an unjust and unnecessary level of bureaucracy implemented by the local authority at the expense of the taxi driver, be that in private hire or hackney carriage, for a very long period of time.”

He said he hoped the cost of the licensing fees would be the first thing to be cut, as drivers were having to pay hundreds of pounds a year just to be in the job.

He said: “It’s such a nightmare. We give them so much money and get nothing back for it. Every year it costs us about £300 just to be on the road – that is just for licensing and without insurance.”

The changes to the Deregulation Bill would: l Allow non-licence holders, perhaps a family member, to drive a private hire vehicle when they are ‘off duty.’ l Introduce three-year licences for taxis and private hire drivers – and five years for operators – scrapping annual checks in many areas.

l Allow minicab operators to ‘subcontract’ bookings to other operators in a different district, without the passenger’s knowledge.

The shake-up is designed to save an estimated £9 million a year.

But it has drawn fierce criticism from some MPs, who fear it will be easier for people to pose as licensed drivers, putting women at particular at risk.

Mr Ahmed, a Hackney Carriage driver who also works for First Choice Private Hire in Keighley, dismissed this claim as “nonsense”, suggesting critics did not fully understand the review.

He said: “It is just the scare tactics they use all the time.”