John McDonnell called Uber a 'disgrace'

Ben Skipper
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Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has called taxi company Uber a "disgrace" following Transport for London's (TfL) sensational decision not to renew the app's operating license in the capital, which is set to expire at the end of September.

Speaking on ITV's Peston on Sunday, McDonnell said: "Hand on heart, I don't think I've ever used Uber. The company is a disgrace. You have to abide by the law. If the company was outside the law, what could Transport for London do?

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"I think the company is at fault here. Four months ago they were told to get their act together and they didn't."

On the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said TfL's decision had given Uber an opportunity to "mend its ways".

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Uber is reportedly open to making changes to its safety protocols, according to a report in the Sunday Times. Tom Elvidge, Uber's general manager in London, told the paper: "We'd like to know what we can do . . . to sit down and work together to get this right.

The ride-sharing app was criticised by TfL in a statement on Friday (22 September) which said the company's practices "demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications."

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"We haven't been asked to make any changes," he added. "We'd like to know what we can do. But that requires a dialogue we haven't been able to have."

According to the report, Uber's concessions could include changes to passenger safety and benefits from its 40,000 employees based in London. This could include holiday pay and limits on work hours.

A source close to TfL told the paper that talks with Uber were a possibility and the move was "encouraging".

Uber immediately came out against Friday's decision with Elvidge saying in a statement at the time: "By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.

"This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers."

His most recent comments mark a shift in tone.

On Friday Uber stated its intent to appeal the decision (meaning Uber will continue to operate as normal for the foreseeable future) and started an online petition to drum up support among its customers in London.

So far, over 630,000 people have signed their names in the hope that TfL and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan might reverse the decision.

On Friday, Khan immediately came out in support of TfL, saying: "I have every sympathy with Uber drivers and customers affected by this decision but their anger really should be directed at Uber.

"They have let down their drivers and customers by failing, in the view of TfL, to act as a fit and proper operator. I suspect it will take some time before this situation with Uber fully plays out."

Based in San Francisco, Uber has long been criticised for its business practices, including the background checks it implements on potential drivers and for allegedly exploiting drivers once they have been hired.

These controversies, as well as a string of PR disasters, led to co-founder Travis Kalanick resigning as CEO in June 2017. He has yet to be replaced.

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