Report on the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill (NIA 35/11-15)

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 19 March 2015

Reference: NIA 180/11-16

ISBN: 978-0-339-60568-8

Mandate Number: Mandate 2011/16 Eighth Report

Road Traffic.pdf (20.71 mb)

Executive Summary

This report sets out the Committee for the Environment’s consideration of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill contains 27 clauses and 2 Schedules. Its principal purpose is to amend existing provisions in the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Orders o   f 1981 and 1995, the Road Traffic (New Drivers) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 and the Road Traffic Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 to introduce lower drink driving limits, new learner driving requirements and mandatory safety helmets for quadricycle riders.

Members sought a balanced range of views as part of their deliberations on the Bill and requested evidence from interested organisations and individuals as well as from the Department of the Environment.

The Committee was broadly supportive of the Bill and agreed the majority of clauses as drafted, but members expressed concerns in relation to two provisions of the Bill. These were the retention of the so-called ‘statutory option’ - the right to ask for a blood or urine specimen to replace a breath test if that breath test is marginally over the present prescribed limit – as well as the introduction of a 12-month minimum learning period for learner drivers, commencing at the earlier age of sixteen and a half.

In response to these concerns the Department agreed to remove the statutory option included in clause 3 of the Bill; the Department also agreed to amend clause 17 to reduce the minimum learning period from 12 to 6 months, and to remove clause 16, thereby retaining the lowest age for obtaining a licence at seventeen years as present.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The following key issues were identified in the course of the Committee’s consideration of the Bill:

‘Statutory option’

Under the current legislation, Article 19 of the 1995 Order, a driver who provides a breath test that is marginally over the prescribed limit is entitled to ask for a blood or urine specimen to replace the breath test. This right is commonly known as the ‘statutory option’, and was retained in the Bill at clause 3 to apply to the new lower prescribed limits.

The Department advised the Committee that consideration had been given to the removal of this option, but that legal opinion had suggested that the withdrawal of such a right may run contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Officials indicated, however, that further legal clarification was being sought.

The PSNI outlined the logistical problems of coping with this option. When a driver with a positive breath test has to be accompanied back to the station for further blood or urine tests, the impact of police resources may result in the closure of the roadside checkpoint. Police representatives emphasised that modern breath-testing technology has vastly improved since the time when the statutory option was envisaged as an essential safeguard and now provides reliable and consistent evidence.

Departmental officials also stressed that the use of a breathalyser at the scene of a traffic collision may provide a more accurate snapshot of the driver’s condition than tests carried out a number of hours later.

In addition, the Committee took into account the fact that no other signatory to the ECHR has ever had a similar option, and that Great Britain was in the process of removing the legislative basis for the statutory option in a Bill that was about to receive Royal Assent.

For these reasons, the Committee has recommended that the continued provision of the statutory option as set out in clause 3 of the Bill should be removed.

Minimum age for obtaining a driving licence

The Bill proposes that the minimum age for obtaining a provisional driving licence should be reduced to the age of 16½. This closely aligns with the proposed introduction of a minimum learning period of 12 months, so that the lowest age for becoming a qualified car driver would be 17½.

The Department lowered the minimum age so that young drivers would not be unduly disadvantaged by a specified learning period. Officials told the Committee that the average time taken to learn to drive currently ranged from seven to nine months; also, that only 4% of the age group between 17 and 17½ held an ‘R’ licence.

The Committee learned that, although some countries permit drivers to hold licences at the age of 16 or younger, in the rest of Britain and Ireland the minimum age is 17 and in many other European jurisdictions it is 18.

There was little support for the lowering of the age-limit per se among submissions. The Driving Instructors National Association Council in both its submission and oral evidence to the Committee was strongly opposed to it, and raised concerns about the impact of the discrepancy with other areas of Britain.

The Committee could not see that there was any real justification for the lowering of the age limit and, accordingly, recommends that this clause should be removed from the Bill.

Minimum learning period

The Department has attempted to address the disproportionate numbers of young people aged 16 to 24 who are killed or seriously injured on Northern Ireland’s roads by introducing a minimum learning period for young drivers at clause 17. The Department proposed that this should be a 12 month period to allow learners to experience a full range of weather and light conditions under close supervision. It should also be supplemented by a student logbook to show that the learner has completed an approved period of training during the 12 months.

While the Committee fully supports the introduction of any measures which will improve road safety for young people, members expressed some concerns that 12 months was an unnecessarily long period of time. It seemed likely that learners would not take formal lessons evenly spread over the period of a year, but that they would prefer to focus on the final few months to prepare for their driving test. Similarly, it could not be guaranteed that young drivers would take advantage of this period to gain experience in a wide range of conditions.

The Committee believed that a robust record of the learner’s driving experience, properly supervised and witnessed in the student logbook, would be a more effective means of encouraging young people to be well-trained, competent and responsible drivers than specifying a lengthy minimum period of learning.

The potentially disproportionate impact on rural dwellers was also taken into consideration by the Committee. Many young people, particularly those from a farming background, may have significant driving experience before the age of 17 and would suffer greater disadvantage by having to wait for a year to take a driving test.

Taking all these factors into account, the Committee recommends that this clause should be amended to provide for a minimum learning period of 6, rather than 12, months.

Summary of Recommendations

Recommendation 1: The Committee has considered the retention of the so-called ‘statutory option’ which currently entitles a driver who provides a breath test marginally over the prescribed limit to ask for a blood or urine specimen to replace the breath test. The Committee recommends that this option should be removed from the Bill.

The Department has drafted an amendment to remove clause 3 from the Bill.

Recommendation 2: The Committee did not believe that there was any real justification for lowering the age at which a provisional driving licence can be obtained to 16½, and agreed that the minimum age should remain at 17 years as currently provided. The Committee has consequently recommended that clause 16 which specifies this change should be removed from the Bill.

The Department has drafted an amendment to remove clause 16 from the Bill.

Recommendation 3: The Committee agreed that a minimum learning period of 6 months, provided that it is properly structured and recorded in the student logbook, would be more effective than a 12 month minimum period. The Committee therefore recommends that clause 17 should be amended to reflect this.

The Department has drafted an amendment to clause 17 to reduce the specified period from 12 to 6 months.

Consideration of the Bill by the Committee

Introduction

The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was referred to the Committee for the Environment for consideration in accordance with Standing Order 33(1) on completion of the Second Stage of the Bill.

The Minister of the Environment made the following statement under section 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998:

‘In my view the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly’.

The policy context for the Bill is the delivery by the Department of its responsibility for the promotion of road safety and the regulation of road traffic in Northern Ireland. The Bill aims to address the key challenges of reducing the number of road deaths and serious injuries; reducing inappropriate and illegal road user behaviours, including drink driving; and, the protection of young drivers.

The proposals have been prompted by growing public concern about the impact of drinking and driving, the high number of young and other new drivers involved in fatal and serious collisions and the risks to users of quadricycles involved in collisions on public roads.

The Bill brings forward specific provisions to tackle drink driving by introducing new lower breath, blood and urine alcohol limits, a new graduated penalty regime including greater use of educational courses and new police powers of enforcement.

These new blood alcohol limits set a new limit – down from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml – which is generally applicable to most motorists, as well as establishing a more stringent limit – 20mg/100ml – which will apply to new or professional drivers. The police will also have powers to set up controlled roadside checkpoints and to breath-test persons without a previous suspicion of drink-driving. The Bill also introduces new administrative fixed penalties, together with be a graduated system of penalty points and fines.

There are a number of measures which the Department has brought forward in this Bill to address the over-representation of newly qualified drivers in road casualties and collisions. These include the reduction of the age at which young people can obtain a provisional licence from 17 years of age to 16½; to require the completion of a ‘Learning to Drive’ syllabus evidenced by a compulsory student logbook; to remove the 45mph speed restriction on L and R drivers and riders, allowing changes to be made to the driving test to include driving on a wider range of roads at up to the posted limits and to allow L drivers to take lessons on motorways.

The Bill also introduces restrictions on the passengers who can be carried by young drivers within six months of passing their test, as well as replacing the current one year restricted period with a two year ‘new driver’ period.

The final element of the Bill extends the mandatory wearing of protective headgear to riders of quadricycles on public roads – the Department cannot legislate for their use on private land.

The Department briefed the Committee on 13 May 2014 immediately after the introduction of the Bill to the Assembly on 12 May. Departmental officials provided a useful overview of the policy underlying the Bill, before taking questions from members.

The Bill was referred to the Committee after its second stage reading on 27 May 2014. The Committee had before it the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill (NIA 35/11-15) and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that accompanied the Bill.

At its meeting on 29 May 2014 the Committee referred the Delegated Powers Memorandum submitted by the Department to the Examiner of Statutory Rules for scrutiny. He reported back to the Committee on 19 August 2014 that he was satisfied that the subordinate legislation referred to in the provisions of the Bill will be appropriate for its purposes.

The Committee also agreed a motion to extend the second stage of the Bill until 7 March 2015 to allow adequate time for scrutiny and, at the request of the Department, to potentially accommodate another Bill during the same time period. The motion to extend was agreed by the Assembly on 16 June 2014

The Committee agreed to insert advertisements in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter seeking written evidence, as well as writing directly to key stakeholders inviting comments on the clauses of the Bill.

A total of 17 organisations responded to the request for written evidence. A copy of the written submissions received by the Committee is included at Appendix 3 and additional information submitted at Appendix 6.

Subsequently the Committee considered the Bill and related issues at meetings on 11 and 25 September 2014, on 9 and 23 October 2014, 20 November 2014, 4 December 2014 and 15, 22 and 29 January 2015. The relevant extracts from the Minutes of Proceedings for these meetings are included at Appendix 1 and Minutes of Evidence at Appendix 2.

The Committee had oral briefings from Departmental officials and from representatives of TTC 2000, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Driving Instructors National Association Council (DINAC).

TTC200, an organisation which delivers drink driving awareness courses, provided very clear examples of measures of wines, beers and spirits, and outlined how these drinks are metabolised in both men and women. The Committee found that it was very useful to see the comparison between samples representing existing blood alcohol limits and those limits for the proposed two-tier system.

At its meeting on 25 September 2014 the Committee was briefed by representatives of the PSNI. The officers outlined the practical implications for police resources in the implementation of the new provisions of the Bill, particularly with reference to the proposed blood alcohol limits and the enforcement of passenger restrictions for newly qualified drivers.

Representatives of the UFU and Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster put forward the views of rural dwellers on 9 October 2014. They highlighted their concerns regarding the proposed mandatory learning period of 12 months and believed that this would be excessive for many young people in the farming community who are already experienced drivers before the age of 16½. They also referred to the disproportionate impact that passenger restrictions would have on those who live in isolated rural areas.

On 24 October 2014 the Committee had its final oral evidence session from DINAC. The representative of driving instructors indicated that his organisation was content for the minimum age for obtaining a licence to remain at 17 and advised the Committee of potential anomalies in specifying a 12-month minimum learning period – for example, where older people were required by their circumstances to obtain a licence more quickly. He stressed the importance of driver education and awareness in road safety.

Departmental officials returned to the Committee on 20 November 2014, 4 December 2014 and 15 January 2015 as members carried out their consideration of the issues.

On 20 November 2014 officials undertook to provide further information on the legal opinion sought by the Department in relation to clause 3, and on proposed consequential amendments. The Committee also requested further information on statistics on drink driving offences in relation to clause 7.

During its consideration of the Bill on 4 December 2014 the Committee noted that there would be a consequential amendment to clause 23 and asked the Department for details of this as soon as it was available. The wording for the amendment was provided by the Department and considered by the Committee on 15 January 2015.

On 4 December 2014 officials also agreed to provide data on the length of time between obtaining a provisional and a full driving licence for learners in rural areas, as compared with the average figures outlined in the briefing, but the Department subsequently responded that this data could not be extracted from existing records.

The Committee was concerned that the Department had provided it only with feedback from focus groups that had taken place in 2011, and believed that a more up-to-date report on the views of young people on the actual provisions of the Bill would be useful. Accordingly, the Committee requested that Assembly Research and Education Service (RaISe) should collate these views, both through the use of an online survey and also through face-to-face feedback from youth groups visiting Parliament Buildings.

On 15 January 2015 the Committee was briefed by RaISe on the outcome of the survey which had been carried out over the preceding few months. Members welcomed the level of enthusiasm for the survey – 582 responses were received – and found that the qualitative feedback from young people was particularly interesting. A full report on the survey has been included in Appendix 5 – Research papers.

At the same meeting the Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Departmental amendments to clauses 3 and 18, and a new clause 22A. In addition, the Committee asked the Minister to consider an amendment to Clause 3 to remove the statutory option; to delete Clause 16 so that the minimum age for a provisional licence was not lowered to 16½ years; and to amend clause 17 so that the minimum period for holding a provisional licence is established at 6, rather than 12, months.

Through his officials, the Minister agreed that, subject to Executive approval, he was broadly content to bring forward these amendments. The Committee then proceeded to conduct its formal Clause by Clause scrutiny of the Bill on 22 January 2015.

At its meeting on 5 February 2015, however, members considered correspondence from the Department indicating that further consequential amendments may be required to effect the removal of the statutory option at clause 3. Since no details of any of these amendments were available at that time, the Committee agreed that it would prefer not to finalise its scrutiny until it had had sight of the wording of the amendments.

The Department provided the wording of the amendments requested by the Committee, together with a number of consequential and miscellaneous amendments, for consideration by the Committee at its meeting on 5 March 2015. The Committee was content with these amendments and agreed to rescind its previous decisions on clauses 3, 6, 16, 17, 18 and 23, and on Schedules 1 and 2, to reflect this additional information. The Committee then proceeded to agree these amendments on a formal Clause by Clause basis.

At its meeting on 19 March 2015 the Committee agreed its report on the Bill and ordered that it should be printed.

Key Issues

Drink driving limits

Clause 2 inserts a new Article 13A into the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 (‘the Order of 1995’) which replaces the existing prescribed drink drive limit with two new limits, each expressed in terms of the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath, blood and urine. The two limits are applicable to different categories of driver licence holder.

The first limit, expressed in terms of blood alcohol content (BAC), is 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millitres of blood (50mg/100ml) and this applies to a typical driver, referred to as a ‘person who is not a specified person’. The second limit is a BAC of 20mg/100ml and this applies to a ‘specified person’. The specified person is defined in new Article 13A(5) and (6) and includes a learner and new driver (qualified for not more than 2 years) and a range of professional drivers

Some members believed that it may be more appropriate, and more in keeping with the slogan of the road safety education campaign, “Never Ever Drink and Drive”, to reduce the lower limit to zero, but both Departmental witnesses and TTC2000 explained that this would be unenforceable.

Members sought clarification from officials on whether the new prescribed (lower) limit would apply to professional drivers such as lorry drivers or taxi drivers when they were not driving in the course of their employment. Officials confirmed that the new limit would only apply to driving in the course of their employment.

Members also expressed concerns that the PSNI may be unable to enforce the two new limits, particularly on rural roads. Officials explained that the new package of measures in the Bill, including mandatory checkpoints, would address the lack of obvious impairments in driving; motorists could also be asked to provide a breath sample without the police needing to show reasonable suspicion. This would provide a more visible, focussed enforcement.

The Committee had some reservations regarding the capacity of the PSNI to enforce both of the new drink driving limits, but the Department provided assurances that the PSNI has confirmed that it has the resources to deliver this.

Clause 3 retains the option (commonly called ‘the statutory option’) at the new lower prescribed limits for a driver to ask for a blood or urine specimen to replace a breath test if that breath test is marginally over the present prescribed limit.

Members queried whether someone who is technically just over any limit on a roadside breath test would be able to request a blood or urine test which would show a lower reading due to the time delay in arranging for the test to be carried out. Officials explained that the Department did look at the possibility of removing this option (known as the statutory option) but initial legal opinion suggested that this would be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Department had sought further legal advice on this and had undertaken to bring it back to the Committee. Officials pointed out that no other country has this right, with the exception of Great Britain where it is currently being removed.

Officials also explained that two breath tests are taken, and it is the lower of the two readings that are taken at the side of the road that is used: there is a preliminary breath test and two evidential breath tests. Officials also noted that the need for a police officer to accompany a driver back to the police station to have the test administered may also result in the checkpoint being closed down.

Clause 7 introduces new administrative fixed penalties. Graduated penalty points and a fine will apply at BAC levels below the existing limit where there is no existing offence. This means that a court can attribute between 3 and 11 penalty points and the police can apply the graduation element where a licence counterpart is to be endorsed i.e. issue a fixed penalty of 6 points, or 3 points on completion of a course.

Officials explained that rehabilitation, particularly at an early stage, is the main focus of such a course. It would apply only to first-time offenders below the current legal limit of 80mg – above that, there would be a driving ban, subject to judicial discretion. Members queried if this would be available to professional drivers who marginally exceed the new limit of 20 mg and officials confirmed that, for a first offence, this would be the case. Some members expressed concerns that professional drivers who are convicted of drink driving at the lower limit for the second time would be subject to a 3-year driving ban - which may be a disproportionate punishment in terms of loss of employment.

Clause 9 amends the Offenders Order by inserting a new Article 59A, 59B and 59C. Courses for drink drive offenders are currently available to drivers disqualified following a court conviction and are provided for in the Offenders Order. This clause will enable a driver to access the same course through the fixed penalty system, rather than through a court. It sets out the administrative procedure for the completion of courses and what happens if a person, having accepted a reduced fine and penalty points on the condition that he would complete a course, then fails to complete the course. The new Article 59C(2) will enable police to issue the further fixed penalty of £100.

Members asked for further clarification on the implementation of this clause and whether there would be an additional penalty for those who booked the course but who did not attend. Officials explained that the further fixed penalty of £100 would simply bring the amount of the penalty up to what it would originally have been (£200) without the reduction in respect of the course attendance. Officials indicated that the full cost of the course would be £155, with concessionary rates available, and that the course providers may charge a cancellation fee for non-attendance.

The Committee agreed that it was content with the Department’s explanation of the issues raised in relation to drink-driving issues, with the exception of the retention of the ‘statutory option’ at clause 3. Accordingly the Committee sought, and received, the Department’s agreement to bring forward an amendment at Consideration stage of the Bill to remove this option.

Learners and new drivers

Clause 16 amends Article 17(1) of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981to reduce the age for holding or obtaining a licence to drive a car or light van from age 17 to 16½.

Members asked for further information on the rationale for this lowering of the present limit. Officials explained that the lowering of the age limit for a provisional licence related to the requirement for a statutory learning period of one year, so that the end result is that the age limit for obtaining a full licence would be raised to 17½. The age for learning to drive in other jurisdictions ranges from 14 to 18. Members expressed reservations about this change from the existing age of 17.

Clause 17 requires a person to hold a provisional licence to drive a motor vehicle (car or light van) for a minimum period of 12 months before being able to undertake the practical driving test for that vehicle. The requirement will not apply to drivers who hold a licence or permit to drive in Northern Ireland for up to 12 months (usually drivers from other countries taking up residence in Northern Ireland), or to those who are required to pass a test following disqualification or revocation of their licence. General exemption powers are also included to enable the Department to exempt other persons from the requirements in Regulations.

The Committee requested clarification on the rationale for the introduction of a minimum learning period of 12 months. Officials explained that this was to allow learners to have a longer period of supervised experience in different conditions and times of day.

Members expressed concerns that this was an unnecessarily long period of time: that possibly six months, or no specified period if supported by robust evidence in the log-book, might be more appropriate. Also, that learners may not actually drive over the whole period but perhaps only in the final few months.

The Committee asked for information on the length of time currently taken by learners to pass their test. Officials stated that the average period taken to learn to drive was between seven and nine months; also, that only 4% of the age group between 17 and 17½ held an ‘R’ licence. Members noted that some young people, particularly rural dwellers, may have significant driving experience below the age of 17.

Clause 18 makes it a requirement that a person must produce a logbook (which will show that the person has completed an approved programme of training) before being able to undertake a practical test in the driving of a motor vehicle or a motor bicycle.

This clause enables Regulations to be made for the programmes of training that must be completed in relation to motor vehicles or motor bicycles. It also inserts the definition of a ‘log book’ as a document where the driving lessons or practice undertaken by a person working through the approved programme of training is recorded and specifies that it must be signed by an approved instructor or a qualified driver. It is also an offence to forge, alter or misuse a logbook.

Members queried how the logbook would be maintained and evidenced, particularly since the Bill includes no requirement for a learner to have professional lessons or endorsement. Officials responded that the economic considerations had gone against stipulating paid lessons for learners, but that they believed that most logbooks would be kept truthfully, especially since it is an offence to do otherwise.

The Department proposed a technical amendment to clause 18 due to the Immigration Act 2014 having inserted a new Article 13A into the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981. As a new Article 13A is also proposed in this Bill an amendment was necessary to avoid duplication. Members were content for the Department to proceed with the technical amendment

Clause 20 has the effect of removing the present 45mph limit for learner drivers and new drivers and will also be instrumental in allowing learner drivers to take lessons on motorways.

The clause also imposes restrictions on newly ‘qualified drivers’ during the ‘new driver period’. The first restriction is that a newly qualified driver must display a distinguishing mark – still to be determined - on the vehicle during a ‘new driver period’ of 2 years. The current R-plate provisions only require it to be displayed for 12 months.

The second restriction is if the driver is under 24 years of age, and there is more than one passenger in the vehicle, he will be restricted from carrying any other passengers aged between 14 and 20 unless he has a ‘relevant accompanying person’ with him in the front seat of the vehicle. A ‘relevant accompanying person’ must be age 21 or over, hold a full licence and have held such a licence for not less than 3 years. The ‘new driver period’ for this restriction is 6 months. There will be exemptions for certain persons related to the driver, a passenger for whom the driver is entitled to a carer’s allowance and if the vehicle is being used for emergency purposes or in the training for such use.

The police will have powers to ask the driver or passengers for the names, addresses, ages and relationship to the driver of any passengers and may request the driver to produce evidence of this to a police station within 7 days. Contravention of these restrictions will be an offence and the driver will be liable to a fine of up to £1,000 and 3 penalty points.

The Committee asked the Department whether this was effectively age discrimination against the under-25s, but officials clarified that they had taken legal advice which supported the introduction of this age limit.

Members also queried if the passenger restrictions would have a disproportionate impact on young people in rural areas. Officials reminded members that the passenger restriction would only be for a 6-month period after passing the test; and that the 18-24 age group carrying passengers were most likely to be killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents. Officials also explained that raising awareness of the new passenger restrictions would be part of the training process for obtaining a licence.

Overall, the Committee was content with the majority of provisions for learners and new drivers, but members did not believe that that there was any real justification for lowering the age at which a provisional driving licence can be obtained to 16½, and agreed that the minimum age should remain at 17 years as currently provided. The Committee has consequently recommended that clause 16 which specifies this change should be removed from the Bill.

The Department has agreed that it is prepared to bring forward an appropriate amendment to delete this clause.

The Committee was also of the view that a minimum learning period of 6 months, provided that it is properly structured and recorded in the student logbook, would be more effective than a 12 month minimum period. The Committee therefore recommended that clause 17 should be amended to reflect this.

In its response, the Department has agreed that it is prepared to bring forward an amendment to clause 17 to reduce the specified period from 12 to 6 months.

Protective Headwear

Clause 22 extends the range of vehicles subject to the existing requirement to wear protective headgear. This will enable the Department to make regulations to extend the requirement to wear headgear to quadricycles.

Members queried whether the requirement to wear protective headgear should also be extended to tricycles. Officials explained that the Department already had the power to include tricycles outside this Bill, but that it may consider including these vehicles in the Regulations.

Clause by clause consideration of the Bill

Part 1 - Defined Expressions in this Act

Clause 1: Defined expressions in this Act

This clause defines the expressions used in the Act.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Part 2 - Drink-Driving

Clause 2: “The prescribed limit”

Clause 2 replaces the existing prescribed drink drive limit with two new limits, applicable to different categories of driver licence holder. The first limit is 50mg/100ml and applies to a typical driver. The second limit is 20mg/100ml and applies to specified person including learner and new drivers (qualified for not more than 2 years) and a range of professional drivers.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 3: “The prescribed limit”: further provision

Clause 3 retains the right for a driver to ask for a blood or urine specimen to replace a breath test if that breath test is marginally over the new lower prescribed limits.

The Committee was content with a small technical amendment to clause 3 to comply with the Examiner’s recommendation on the Delegated Powers Memorandum that the regulation-making power should be subject to ‘draft affirmative resolution’ rather than ‘affirmative resolution’ as currently drafted.

In addition, the Committee asked the Department to bring forward an amendment to remove the statutory option – which was agreed by the Minister. The following amendment was put forward by the Department:

Clause 3, page 3, line 36

Leave out clause 3’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the Departmental amendment to leave out clause 3.

Clause 4: Breath testing at authorised check-points

Clause 4 provides police with power to establish a check-point and to require the person in charge of a vehicle to provide a breath test.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 5: Check-point breath tests: further provision

Clause 5 contains a number of further amendments to facilitate the new power to establish a check-point and require a breath test.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 6: Evidential breath test without preliminary breath test or check-point breath test

Clause 6 enables police to carry out evidential breath tests at the roadside without the need to have firstly conducted a preliminary breath test and extends the police power of arrest, currently linked to the preliminary breath test, to enable police to arrest a person following an evidential breath test.

The Committee was content with the policy content of this clause, but the Department brought forward a minor technical drafting refinement made by OLC for consistency elsewhere in the Bill.

‘Clause 6, page 7, line 13

Leave out ‘repealed’ and insert ‘omitted’’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with clause 6 subject to the proposed Departmental amendment.

New clause 6A: Choice of specimens

This clause resulted from a consequential amendment of the deletion of clause 3. The Department provided the following wording for the new clause:

After clause 6 insert -

‘Choice of specimens

6A. Article 19 of the Order of 1995 (choice of specimens of breath) is amended as follows -

(a) for the title, substitute “Lower of 2 specimens of breath to be used”,

(b) in paragraph (1), the words “Subject to paragraph (2),” are omitted,

(c) paragraphs (2), (2A) and (3) are omitted.’    

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the Departmental amendment to introduce new clause 6A’

Clause 7: Graduated penalty points for certain drink-driving offences as fixed penalty offences

Clause 7 enables the introduction of new administrative fixed penalties, graduated penalty points and a fine will apply at BAC levels below the existing limit where there is no existing offence.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 8: Reduced penalty for course completion

Clause 8 allows for a reduced penalty for completion of an approved course for Drink Drive Offenders.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 9: Approved course: completion and failure to complete

Clause 9 enables police to issue a further fixed penalty fine for non-completion of an approved course for Drink Drive Offenders

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 10: Payment of fixed penalty: failure to complete course

Clause 10 allows for additional penalties to be imposed for non-payment of fixed penalty fines.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 11: Endorsement of further penalty points: failure to complete course

Clause 11 enables further penalty points to be endorsed onto a person’s driving record without the need for a hearing in court when it is established that the offender has failed to complete a course satisfactorily.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 12: Minimum disqualification: offence under Article 14(1)(b) or 16(1)(a) of the Order of 1995

Clause 12 introduces a graduated minimum disqualification period linked to the amount of alcohol consumed at the time of detection.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 13: Increased disqualification for repeat offences

Clause 13 imposes the current minimum penalty of 36 months disqualification on offenders who have been convicted of more than one offence within 10 years.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 14: Reduced disqualification for course completion

Clause 14 makes the referral to a course for drink drive offenders automatic.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 15: Administration costs in relation to approved courses

Clause 15 contains an enabling power for the Department to make regulations that will provide for the recovery of costs associated with the management and administration of the courses for drink drive offenders.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

PART 3 - Learner and New Drivers

Clause 16: Minimum age for licence: small vehicle

Clause 16 reduces the minimum age for obtaining a provisional licence from 17 to 16½. The Committee agreed to ask the Department to bring forward an amendment to remove this clause so that the minimum age remains at the current statutory age of 17. One party – Sinn Fein – dissented from this decision and did not object to the proposal to reduce the minimum age to 16½.

The Department provided the following amendment:

Clause 16, page 15, line 4

Leave out clause 16’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the Departmental amendment to leave out clause 16.’

Clause 17: Provisional licence to be held for minimum period in certain cases

Clause 17 makes it a requirement for a person to hold a provisional licence for at least 1 year before being able to take the practical driving test. The Committee asked the Department to bring forward an amendment to reduce the minimum required period of learning to six months.

The Department provided the following amendment:

Clause 17, page 15, line 17

Leave out ‘12’ and insert ‘6’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with clause 17 subject to the proposed Departmental amendment.

Clause 18: Approved programmes of training: category B motor vehicles and motor bicycles

Clause 18 relates to approved programmes of training. The Department proposed a number of technical amendments due to the Immigration Act 2014 having inserted a new Article 13A into the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981 (‘residence requirement’). As a new Article 13A is also proposed in this clause an amendment is necessary to avoid duplication.

The Department provided the following amendments:

Clause 18, page 17, line 17

Leave out ‘13 (grant of licences)’ and insert ‘13A (residence requirement for grant of licences)’

Clause 18, page 17, line 20

Leave out ‘13A.’ and insert ‘13B.’

Clause 18, page 17, line 37

Leave out ‘13B.’ and insert ‘13C.’

Clause 18, page 19, line 17

Leave out ‘13A’ and insert ‘13B’

Clause 18, page 19, line 19

Leave out ‘13B’ and insert ‘13C’

Clause 18, page 19, line 27

Leave out ‘13B’ and insert ‘13C’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with clause 18 subject to the proposed Departmental amendments.

Clause 19: Revocation of licence: forged etc. logbook

Clause 19 allows for the revocation of a licence.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 20: Changes to restrictions on learner and new drivers

Clause 20 removes the current 45 mph speed limit on new & learner drivers, and imposes restrictions on newly qualified drivers.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 21: Approved courses for new drivers as alternative to revocation

Clause 21 allows new drivers the opportunity to complete an approved course as an alternative to having their licence revoked.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

PART 4 - Protective Headgear: Extension of Requirements

Clause 22: Extension of requirements as regards protective headgear

Clause 22 extends the requirements as regards protective headgear to quadricycles.

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 22A

The Department proposed to insert a new clause after clause 22 on the recommendation of the Examiner of Statutory Rules. It provides that subordinate legislation made under the 1995 Order should be subject to draft affirmative procedure – rather than affirmative procedure.

The new clause also includes (at (a) and (b)) provision that was originally part of Clause 3 of the Bill. Since Clause 3 has now been removed, the draftsman relocated the provision in Clause 22A. The Department provided the following wording for the new clause:

Before clause 23 insert -

‘Further amendment of the Order of 1995

22A. Article 110 of the Order of 1995 is amended as follows -

(a) in paragraph (1) (exception from requirement for orders to be subject to negative resolution), for “this Order”, where it first occurs, substitute “paragraph (3A)”,

(b) after paragraph (3) insert -

“(3A) An order made under -

(a) Article 13A(4) or (7), or

(b) Article 63(9),

shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.”,

(c) in paragraph (4) (procedure for certain regulations), for “shall be subject to affirmative resolution” substitute “shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly”.’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the Departmental amendment to introduce new clause 22A.

PART 5 - General

Clause 23: Supplementary, incidental and consequential etc. provision

The Department brought forward a technical amendment to clause 23 to clarify that draft affirmative procedure would apply to any subordinate legislation which amends primary legislation. Officials explained that it was a drafting refinement which is now being applied generally in Northern Ireland Bills. The Department provided the following wording for the amendment:

Clause 23, page 28, line 11

Leave out ‘a statutory provision’ and insert ‘Northern Ireland legislation or an Act of Parliament’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause subject to the proposed Departmental amendment.

Clause 24: Transitional and saving provisions

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 25: Repeals

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 26: Commencement

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 27: Short title

At its meeting on 22 January 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with the clause as drafted.

Schedules

Schedule 1 Transitional and saving provisions

A number of consequential amendments to Schedule 1 arose as a result of the previous amendments. The Department proposed the following amendments to Schedule 1 in relation to the removal of the ‘statutory option’.

Schedule 1, page 29, line 7

Leave out ‘sections 2 and 3’ and insert ‘section 2’

Schedule 1, page 29, line 17

At end insert -

‘Choice of specimens

2A. The amendments of the Order of 1995 made by section 6A do not apply in relation to an offence committed before the commencement of the amendments.’

The Department also proposed the following amendments to the same Schedule in relation to the minimum age for holding a provisional licence and the mandatory minimum learning period:

Schedule 1, page 31, line 30

Leave out paragraph 12

Schedule 1, page 31, line 35

Leave out ‘12’ and insert ‘6’

Schedule 1, page 31, line 40

Leave out ‘12’ and insert ‘6’

Schedule 1, page 32, line 28

Leave out ‘12’ and insert ‘6’

The third, and final, amendment to Schedule 1 relates to the definitions of ‘taxi’ and ‘taxi driver’s licence’. This was a transitional measure, which was only required until the commencement of sections 22 and 23 of the Taxis Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. Those provisions have now commenced and paragraph 2 is therefore no longer required.

‘Schedule 1, page 29, line 10

Leave out paragraph 2’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with Schedule 1 subject to the proposed Departmental amendments.

Schedule 2 Repeals

The Department proposed the following consequential amendments in relation to the removal of the ‘Statutory option’

Schedule 2, page 33, line 31

In column 2, leave out ‘In Article 19, paragraph (2).’ and insert ‘In Article 19(1), the words “Subject to paragraph (2),”.’

Schedule 2, page 33, line 31

In column 2, at end insert -

‘Article 19(2), (2A) and (3).’

At its meeting on 5 March 2015 the Committee agreed that it was content with Schedule 2 subject to the proposed Departmental amendments.

Find MLAs

tools-map.png

Locate MLAs

Search

News and Media Centre

tools-media.png

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

tools-social.png

Keep up-to-date with the Assembly

Find out more