Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 05 June 2008

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill

COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT

(Hansard)

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill

5 June 2008 

Members present for all or part of the proceedings: 
Mr Patsy McGlone (Chairperson) 
Mr Cathal Boylan (Deputy Chairperson) 
Mr Billy Armstrong 
Mr Trevor Clarke 
Mr David Ford 
Mr Tommy Gallagher 
Mr Samuel Gardiner 
Mr Ian McCrea 
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:
Mr Donald Armstrong ) Department of the Environment 
Mr John Brogan ) 
Mrs Gillian McIntyre )

The Chairperson (Mr McGlone):
We now move to the departmental briefing on the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill. The Committee has been provided with a copy of the departmental briefing, which includes a summary of the overall purpose of the presentation; a document outlining how road haulage operator licensing functions under the existing legislation; information about changes in the licensing system that will be enabled by the Bill; and a list of key potential issues to be addressed by the Bill. Members may wish to identify other issues. We have also been provided with a Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill master file, which contains the documents for the Committee’s consideration of the Bill. It will be updated and retained by the Committee staff after each meeting.

I welcome Mr Donald Armstrong, Mrs Gillian McIntyre and Mr John Brogan.

Mr Donald Armstrong (Department of the Environment):
Thank you for the invitation. The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill is now at Committee Stage, so we have drafted a short presentation, which aims to put the Bill into context and to focus on the key issues for scrutiny.

The Bill is not a riveting read; some people might consider it a cure for insomnia rather than an inspiration. Nevertheless, some aspects are worth mentioning. We will outline the philosophy behind the Bill, comment on the Bill’s powers and draw the Committee’s attention to specific areas of detail that we must begin to consider. We will comment on the range of documentation and guide members to the most useful sections. Finally, without telling the Committee how to do its job, I will outline how the Department can help with the process.

During the drafting of the Bill, the Department sought advice from a range of people, including our counterparts who use the Bill in GB. They advised that the Bill should be as straightforward as possible and contain basic enabling powers, the detail of which should be carried into subordinate legislation. With the agreement of the Office of the Legislative Counsel (OLC), we have followed that advice, and Gillian McIntyre has drafted the instructions for the Bill on that basis. Therefore, the Bill is essentially an enabling document, and, upon scrutiny, members will recognise that much detail is missing. Those details will subsequently be included in subordinate legislation. We will discuss and research those details more thoroughly, consider the options and reintroduce those details in the subordinate stages. However, we recognise that the Committee needs to know details, which will be discussed over the next few months.

The Bill attempts to focus on the drivers for change — road safety, fair competition, environmental impact and combating organised crime — that were discussed during previous presentations. In the coming months, we hope to demonstrate that the Bill addresses those issues, and members will, undoubtedly, have plenty of questions about that.

At a previous briefing, my colleague John Brogan provided an overview of the Bill, which he will now revisit. He will not go into the Bill in detail, but he will outline some of the Bill’s key powers and what those powers seek to achieve.

Mr John Brogan (Department of the Environment):
Unlike other Bills, the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill is not divided into neat chapters, so it can be a daunting read. However, it has several distinct areas or clusters, and I shall identify those during my presentation.

The first area is covered by clauses 1 to 22. Those clauses comprise almost the entire first page of the contents list, and they refer to the powers of the operator’s licence. They establish the requirement to hold an operator’s licence and provide for exemptions. That section outlines the two different types of licence — the restricted licence and the standard licence — the application process and, importantly, determines the factors that will be used to assess applications. All applicants will have to demonstrate that they are fit to hold a licence and that they have the finances that are required to maintain and operate the business’ vehicles safely.

Standard licence applicants will also have to demonstrate standards of good repute, appropriate financial standing and professional competence. The reason for that is that we want operators to show strong standards of fitness and reputation, particularly those that are involved in hire-and-reward work. They will be required to show that they are professional, and that they are able to maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition.

The Bill also includes powers to attach conditions and undertakings. Those are intended to reduce road safety problems around operating centres and to reduce any adverse effects on environmental conditions around the operating centres. The licence holder will also have to inform the Department of anything that might affect the licence. That condition is generally applied to all licences; they must notify the Department of any relevant convictions, of an event that could affect their repute and any prohibitions, for example, for overloading. The reason for that is that the power to place conditions on a licence provides the Department with an element of discretion when making a final decision on an application. That leaves an option other than outright refusal.

The second area concerns disciplinary powers, and those are covered by clauses 23 to 26. Those powers are intended to keep a firm level of control on the operators. They should provide a deterrent to those who have a disregard for road safety and road traffic laws, and they should contribute to the image of a clean industry. They include the powers to revoke, suspend or curtail a licence and to take action against a licence holder in a range of circumstances, from a breach of conditions, to a failure to meet specified standard licence criteria. The Bill also includes the power to disqualify someone whose licence has already been revoked from holding or obtaining a further licence.

The third area is covered by clauses 27 to 31, and it deals with operating centres. It contains powers to carry out a review of an operating centre every five years and to close a centre down if necessary. The Department would seek to alleviate any problems that were found during the review. The Department would be able to attach certain conditions to the licence, or even vary existing conditions, which would, hopefully, resolve the problems without taking the drastic action of closing down an operating centre. The Bill is includes provision relating to environmental matters in and around operating centres.

The next area, which is covered by clauses 32 to 35, deals with legal issues. It includes powers to hold public inquiries into applications, or into disciplinary actions taken against a licence holder. It also includes provision for all decisions to be reviewed by the Department, and for an appeal to be heard by the Transport Tribunal if necessary. The Bill refers to that as the Upper Tribunal. In April 2009, the Transport Tribunal will be subsumed into a grand Upper Tribunal, so we have taken the opportunity to use the name by which it will be known when the Bill comes into force.

The fifth area contains the enforcement powers of the Department; those are covered by clauses 38 to 45. All the main powers, bar one additional power, have been in place in Northern Ireland since 1967, and they are currently in use to enforce the operator licensing system. They have been copied from the Transport Act ( Northern Ireland) 1967, and placed in the Bill, because they work well. Among other powers, those include powers of entry to vehicles and premises and powers to seize documents and obtain information. The one new power relates to the impounding of vehicles and their contents. That will take place when a vehicle is detected as being used on a road without an operator’s licence.

The remainder of the clauses appear under the headings “miscellaneous” and “supplementary”. They deal with a range of miscellaneous matters, and I do not need to talk about those today. The final section of the Bill includes the schedules. Schedules generally deal with provisions that contain detail, as distinct from principles, which should always be in the main body of the Bill.

Detail can also be included in regulations, and that is the case with this Bill. Some detail has been outlined in schedules to the Bill, and some has still to be developed and drawn up in the regulations. There are six schedules, the most notable of which include the arrangements for the transfer of an operating centre from one licence to another and provisions for the detention of vehicles used without an operator licence, which I mentioned earlier.

Many of the powers that I have described can be linked to the four drivers for change that Donald mentioned: fair competition; road safety; environmental impact; and combating organised crime. To ensure fairer competition, all operators will have to be licensed. As regards road safety, the Bill’s powers are designed to maintain an element of control in vehicles, whereby every vehicle should be related to an operator’s licence, and it should be possible to trace any vehicle that is involved in an offence back to an operator. The operator must be held responsible for certain actions of his or her drivers. The environmental factors will be taken into account in the assessment of applications, and they will be kept under review. The measures to tackle organised crime will again involve all vehicles being registered and traceable to an operator. Vehicles that operate illegally will be impounded, along with their contents.

Mr D Armstrong:
Members will become more familiar with the details of the Bill as times goes on, but I hope that John’s overview has set out the broad blocks of the Bill and the main areas: its application; discipline, the operating centres, and so on.

It is clear from reading the Bill that it contains very little detail — it has all been taken out. Broadly speaking, it provides enabling powers. Recently, Gillian McIntyre and I have looked at some of the key areas that must be addressed for the regulation stage. I have no doubt that the Committee will be interested in what is happening in that area. Gillian will expand on the four or five key areas on which we need to work over the summer and on which we hope to bring the Committee information.

Mrs Gillian McIntyre (Department of the Environment):
As Donald said, the Bill is really a framework for the licensing of operators of goods vehicles in Northern Ireland. As members will know, much of the detail of the scheme will be contained in the regulations. We have identified five areas on which we feel that we must focus at this early stage so that we can develop proposals for regulations that will be workable and acceptable, both to the Department and the industry.

The first issue is that of operating centres, which has been mentioned many times, both by the Committee and at industry briefings. The main concern is the potential impact that the requirement for an operating centre may place on small businesses. In Great Britain, all operators are required to have an operating centre that is big enough, has safe access and meets environmental standards. In Northern Ireland, standards for operating centres are applied to the hire-and-reward sector only.

Mr T Clarke:
Chairman, may I ask a quick question?

The Chairperson:
Perhaps we will wait until Gillian has finished her presentation before taking questions.

Mrs McIntyre:
The hire-and-reward operators here have to have an operating centre, although they do not have to meet the same stringent environmental standards as operators in Great Britain. The Bill will require all operators to have an operating centre. Given the large number of small operators out there, many of whom have only one vehicle, we are considering what an appropriate standard for Northern Ireland might be.

For example, we understand that many of the small operators in Northern Ireland park at home. In Great Britain, operators who wish to park at home must be able to drive into their driveway, turn and come out again in a forward gear. We are considering whether that standard would be appropriate for Northern Ireland. We are also considering other options, such as the granting of grandfather rights to existing operators. There is much work to be done in that area.

We are also researching the role of the traffic commissioner in Northern Ireland. During consultation, it was decided that there would not be a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland. However, the Bill gives the Department all the powers that traffic commissioners in GB have. The traffic commissioners in GB are the issuing authorities. They issue licences, hold public inquiries and take decisions on disciplinary matters. They have wide discretionary powers, and they are accepted by the industry, largely because of the degree of independence that they have. We are considering how best that function can be carried out. For example, we are considering whether the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), which is, and will continue to be, the issuing authority, should carry out that role, or whether it would be better for the Department to carry out that function and keep it separate from the DVA. Those are further issues requiring our consideration.

One of the issues that was raised most at the industry meetings was exemptions, and the Department has been asked to examine that issue as a matter of urgency. GB has a long list of exemptions, and a list of exemptions also applies to the hire-and-reward sector in Northern Ireland. However, the exemptions are complicated and, in some cases, outdated. The DVA and our colleagues in the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) advised us that the Bill may provide a good opportunity to examine the list of exemptions more closely and consider a suitable list of exemptions for Northern Ireland. For example, we are determining the breadth of the definition of Crown vehicles and to which vehicles that will apply.

The Committee asked us to work closely with our counterparts in Ireland on the introduction of operator licensing in Northern Ireland. As the Committee knows, the current system of operator licensing in Ireland meets EU requirements and is similar to the current system here. A short time ago, we met officials in Dublin and, although a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers recommended that the Irish Government consider the introduction of full operator licensing, our information to date is that they have no plans to do so. We will continue to work closely with our Dublin counterparts to share information on our respective plans and to co-operate where possible, for example, on enforcement.

In introducing the proposals, we are aware that they present a considerable change to a large number of operators. The wide-ranging change will present a challenge not only to operators but to the Department’s staff. We want to avoid peaks every five years when licences are up for review. We are considering, for example, how we might migrate the existing hire-and-reward sector to the system and how to introduce the own-account sector so that there is a transitional period. The Bill gives us the power to introduce appropriate transitional arrangements. We are considering various options: phasing in operators by fleet size; perhaps phasing in the standard at renewal stage; and the possibility of granting grandfather rights to existing operators.

Mr D Armstrong:
Members can see that much work lies ahead of us over the next few months. Although the detail is to be provided through subordinate legislation, it is important that we get on with the work and bring the Committee some detail on what is happening to give members a flavour of the major issues that will arise.

The last stage of our presentation deals with the long list of documentation that the Committee has received. Gillian will go through the list and highlight to members the documents that she considers to be most useful to them at this stage of their consideration of the Bill.

Mrs McIntyre:
It may be helpful to point out several documents that will give members a good background to the Bill. Early on, the Committee received copies of the policy memorandum that outlines policy and gives details of the consultations, the various options and the key measures. Today, members received a further two documents that set out how freight operator licensing operates under the existing legislation. Another document illustrates the changes to the licensing system that the Bill facilitates. All those documents provide good background information.

To gain an understanding of the contents of the Bill’s clauses, the explanatory and financial memorandum gives a brief policy summary and a short commentary on each of the main clauses. The summary of the main provisions of the Bill should be read together with that memorandum. It provides a fuller commentary on the content of the various sections of the Bill that John Brogan outlined. It is not a clause-by-clause examination, but it follows the structure of the Bill.

Members also have notes from the stakeholder meetings, questions and answers and the Bill itself.

Mr D Armstrong:
I shall finish with our hopes and thoughts about working with the Committee during the next several months. Our team of three wants to give you as much support and be as helpful and as informative as possible. That may include providing clarification on the meaning of clauses, about which John is our expert, or helping to align the contents of the Bill with the submissions that members receive in response to the Committee’s call for views. That process will complete by 11 July 2008. We can answer questions, explain any aspects of the Bill and help the Committee to understand the freight industry as it is and as it will be in the future. We want to be as helpful as possible and to give Committee members as much assistance as they require.

In conclusion, we want to produce a good piece of legislation. To date, we have received a lot of help from the industry and from stakeholders. We hope that the Bill will be good for the future. Bad legislation is worse that none at all. We aim to create a good piece of legislation and we want to help members as much as possible to achieve that.

The Chairperson:
Good. We look forward to working with you towards a productive outcome.

Mr T Clarke:
I want to raise a few points because I might have missed the essence of Gillian’s comments on England and centres for small operators. Do small operators need a full operating licence for 3·5 ton vehicles?

Mrs McIntyre:
A full operating licence is needed for any vehicle that weighs over 3·5 tons.

Mr T Clarke:
So, licences are needed for all vehicles that weigh over 3·5 tons. That is OK.

The summary of main provisions, which refers to operator’s licences, says that it will not apply to certain vehicles, including small goods vehicles that weigh under 3·5 tons; vehicles that are used by a haulier who is established in another member state; and vehicles that are used by a haulier who is established in GB and not in NI. Does that basically mean that if a haulier is established elsewhere and not in Northern Ireland, it does not need a licence?

Mrs McIntyre:
A haulier who is established outside Northern Ireland will not require a Northern Ireland operating licence.

Mr T Clarke:
Therefore, if I were to establish a business in the Republic of Ireland and move the operation to Northern Ireland, would I be exempt from needing a licence?

The Chairperson:
To clarify, a licence would not be needed in Northern Ireland; although one may be required in GB. A business established south of the border will not need a licence. The potential driver or owner of the business may not have a licence. Is that what you are saying?

Mr T Clarke:
It refers to a haulier who is established in another member state. Therefore, if someone from Northern Ireland wanted to establish a haulage business in the Republic of Ireland, then move the operation to Northern Ireland, that person would not need a licence because he or she is established in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr D Armstrong:
If someone wants to establish an operation in the Republic of Ireland, he or she is free to do so. As a foreign operator, his or her vehicle could come in and out of Northern Ireland. However, he or she cannot establish as an operator in the South of Ireland and work from the North.

The Chairperson:
I understand Trevor’s point. Potentially, someone from Newry could simply move his or her operation down the road to, for example, Drogheda or Dundalk. Likewise, someone in Derry could move his or her business out the Letterkenny Road, and, bingo, he or she does not need a licence.

Mr D Armstrong:
That is correct. However, that haulier would be classified as a foreign operator who is registered and hired for work in another member state, namely the Republic of Ireland.

The Chairperson:
That would not affect the haulier’s work and business operationally, other than to lessen the cost that he or she potentially would have to pay and the regulation that he or she have to work under as a consequence of the Bill.

Mr D Armstrong:
If a haulier has an operating centre or operates a business in Northern Ireland, and wants an operator’s licence in Northern Ireland, all the vehicles covered must be registered in either GB or Northern Ireland. Vehicles that are registered in the Republic of Ireland would not to be covered. If the haulier transfers its operation to another base —

Mr T Clarke:
According the definition in the summary of main provisions, that will not apply to a vehicle that is used by haulier established in another member state. We had a presentation earlier from a representative of a business that has operated for over 100 years. I am sure, though, that the representative was not about when the business was established.

The Chairperson:
He certainly did not look it, Trevor.

Mr T Clarke:
According to that definition, there is nothing in the legislation to say that if someone moves an established business that has been formed in a state other than Northern Ireland, he or she is exempt from holding a licence.

Mr D Armstrong:
If that person was to move that business and re-establish it in Northern Ireland —

Mr T Clarke:
If someone established a business — for example, “McGlone Transport” — in Drogheda, and then moved it to Northern Ireland, it has been established in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr D Armstrong:
That is different. There is no exemption for someone who transfers a business to Northern Ireland that has been established in another country. There is no provision for that. The legislation refers to operators and operating centres that are established in another member state, and can send their vehicles in and out of Northern Ireland. There is nothing to stop them from doing that.

The Chairperson:
A haulage operator from Derry, for example, may operate a mile down the road across the border for all sorts of reasons, not least because of fuel costs. Have you picked up from the industry that it thinks that the extra regulation could potentially tip it over the edge?

Mr D Armstrong:
We have not found that. The briefings that we gave and the questionnaires that we issued showed little interest in the issue of flagging out, as transferring business across the border is sometimes called. First, the standards that will be applied to vehicle roadworthiness and compliance with the law will stand, regardless of where the vehicle is registered. Secondly, the cost of licensing under the Bill will not be business-breaking money; it is a relatively small cost. Most businesses will not notice a huge difference in cost. It is less than the cost of one tyre for one vehicle a year.

Mr T Clarke:
That is not a valid point.

Mr D Armstrong:
Those issues were raised at our briefings, and we did not find any indication that significant numbers of operators wanted to flag out. Only around 11% of the questionnaires that we received raised the fact that they would even consider flagging out, let alone decide to transfer their business. Other costs are associated with transferring a business across the border that would not be incurred in the North. From our briefings, it has not come across as an issue that people wanted to register in the Republic of Ireland and would try to operate in Northern Ireland. As more detail emerges, that may well become an issue.

Mr T Clarke:
Donald, can you find a location at which I could buy an operating centre for less than the price of a tyre?

Mr D Armstrong:
No.

Mr T Clarke:
The cost is more than the price of a tyre, so you are misrepresenting the case. For someone to have an operator’s licence, he or she must have an operating centre. Mr Armstrong said that the cost of licensing was less than the cost of one tyre for one lorry for one year. If an operator does not need an operating centre, the licence is an additional cost; therefore, what he said is incorrect.

Mr D Armstrong:
We are talking at cross purposes. I am talking about the cost of licensing.

Mr T Clarke:
As am I; and an operator must have an operating centre to have a licence.

The Chairperson:
If you finish your point, Trevor, we can get clarification on that issue.

Mr T Clarke:
To have an operator’s licence, someone will be required to have an operating centre. I count the cost of acquiring the operating centre as being part of the cost of acquiring the licence.

The Chairperson:
Are you referring to someone who works from home and who parks their vehicle outside their house?

Mr T Clarke:
It will include anyone who operates a vehicle weighing 3·5 tons and over.

Mr D Armstrong:
When we refer to an operating centre, we mean the place where a vehicle is normally kept, stored or parked when it is not in use. In Northern Ireland, a significant number of people park their vehicles at home, and others park their vehicles at the roadside. Parking at the roadside will not be an acceptable way of storing a vehicle; people will have to find somewhere else to park their vehicles. As Gillian said, if the GB standard were to be applied in Northern Ireland, operators would have to be able to drive in and drive out of their driveways. They would have to be able to drive in, turn and drive out again.

Gillian mentioned that consideration must be given to whether that standard is acceptable in Northern Ireland. Given that lots of people in Northern Ireland park in their driveways, it may not be acceptable. It may be that our impact assessment results in that standard being changed. We do not anticipate that people who do not currently have somewhere to park their vehicles will have to buy operating centres. Everyone currently has somewhere to park their vehicle, but people who park on the roads will have to find somewhere else to park.

The Chairperson:
Perhaps I am being a bit stupid, but do you define a road as being somewhere that is adopted by Roads Service?

Mr D Armstrong:
That is the definition that we use for a public road when considering on-street parking.

The Chairperson:
Potentially, that could affect quite a lot of people.

Mr D Armstrong:
Yes, that is possible.

Mr B Armstrong:
What will be done about a person who has a vehicle in the Republic of Ireland, lives in Northern Ireland and parks their vehicle on the edge of the road?

Mr Boylan:
A mechanism is needed to check on drivers who come across to park outside homes in the North, because operating centres are not required in the South. Is that being considered?

Mr D Armstrong:
It is currently unacceptable for people to regularly park goods vehicles on a public road.

Mr Boylan:
That is the clarification that we were seeking.

The Chairperson:
Members have all been out and about around housing estates and have seen lorries or vans parked outside houses on public roads. It may be unacceptable, but it happens. To pick up on what Mr Clarke said, the consequences of the legislation may be to enforce penalties and to force people to address the issue. We need to know what will be done and what the repercussions may be. Operators will have to find somewhere else to park vehicles and deal with the financial impact of that. The parking of vehicles on a road may be perfectly workable at present. However, whether it is acceptable is a different question.

Mr D Armstrong:
That is correct. For owners to get an operator’s licence, an operating centre will have to be specified. When Gillian spoke about that, she said that we need to consider what it will mean for operators who currently park in a driveway or on a public road. We will have to conduct a lot of research to ascertain what will happen in such cases. The impact of insisting on the GB standard and of insisting that operators park off-road — as they ought to at present — will have to be considered. It is unacceptable for operators to park on-road at present; we are not changing legislation in that respect. However, as a requirement for an operator’s licence, operators must be able to specify where they will park, and it must be off-road.

Mr T Clarke:
I want to return to the subject of operating centres. It was said earlier that there is no reason why an operating centre should not be from a private home, provided the vehicle can turn in the driveway and drive out again. There is possibly an option of doing that. However, the Department’s letter of 16 April 2008 states:

“Additionally and separately, an operator will have to ensure that any proposed operating centre meets the requirements of planning law.”

Most elected Members are aware that if someone applies to operate a registered business from a rural dwelling, planning permission will be refused. That means that rural operators will have to move their businesses to another operating centre.

Mr D Armstrong:
We are not experts in planning. However, if a person has been parking in a driveway over a period of time, it is deemed as having been approved by the Planning Service.

Mr T Clarke:
Not necessarily.

Mr D Armstrong:
Approval of an operating centre and planning approval are separate issues. We talked about that at a previous meeting. We will not be involved in the planning constraints of an operating centre. However, planning law will impact on new operators, because existing operators, for the most part, will be deemed to have received planning approval, provided they have been operating in that fashion for years.

Mr T Clarke:
Yes, provided they have been operating for at least 12 years.

The Chairperson:
Trevor is correct about running an established business. We will return to the issue of the legislation’s knock-on effects.

Mr Boylan:
My point is related to that. Many members have raised the issue of operating centres. We worry about it because there are a substantial number of single operators. We discussed that at a previous meeting, and we will come back to it.

We received a presentation from representatives of a transport company who discussed a level playing field. What are your views on exemptions? I do not refer, as Trevor has, to operators across the border who will have exemptions. I mean exemptions from licensing for Crown vehicles, and so on. Gillian has already referred to it, but perhaps she could elaborate on it.

Mrs McIntyre: 
At present, there is a list of vehicles that are exempt from complying with operator licensing, including emergency vehicles, such as fire engines, ambulances and certain military vehicles. The list is long and complicated, and, because of the wording, enforcement teams find it difficult to interpret. Provisions for Crown vehicles are the subject of discussions with officials in GB. We are uncertain what the final definition of Crown vehicles will be. Potentially, it could include the vehicles owned by local authorities and Departments.

Mr T Clarke:
That is unfair.

Mr Boylan:
I do not have an issue with emergency vehicles. We will wait for your reply, but the question needs answered. Emergency vehicles should be exempt, but a level playing field is required.

Mr Ford:
I want to follow up the points that have been raised about ineffective flagging out, which the industry does not consider to be a particular problem. Therefore, we accept that. However, there is an issue about vehicles that are registered elsewhere being parked on the street; that will not lead to a level playing field. For example, it could be possible for somebody with a Monaghan or Donegal registration to regularly park in a housing estate in Antrim. There must be some way of regulating that. Will provision be included in the regulations, because there is none in the Bill?

Mr D Armstrong:
I cannot give you an answer on that issue. I cannot imagine, for example, that the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill will contain provisions for vehicles that park on a road in a residential estate. I am happy to investigate the issue to ascertain how it will be addressed, and I will then respond. However, such is a provision will not appear in the Bill or in the regulations.

Mr T Clarke:
There should not be a provision for that. If someone with an operating licence in Northern Ireland cannot park in the street — with the greatest respect, and I do not care where they are from — no one else should be allowed to do so. Why should we tie the hands of people from north of the border?

Mr Ford:
That is the point that we tried to make during previous discussions on the issue. We wanted to ensure, as far as is possible, that there is a level playing field. About once a year, a Polish lorry driver may stop in the street, but that is not the same as parking regularly.

The Chairperson:
As you can see, we have a flavour of some of the issues that are ahead of us.

Mr D Armstrong:
I am gratified by that, because those are the issues that Gillian talked about in her presentation.

Mr T Clarke:
I want to return to the issue of tractors used for purposes other than farming. A letter from the Department stated:

“Subject to further consideration, a person using a tractor for purposes other than farming would be required to hold an operator’s licence.”

Agricultural contractors are not deemed to be farmers because they have to use clear diesel in their vehicles. I believe that their vehicles should be classified the same as a tractor. That is an issue that must be tied down.

Mr D Armstrong:
Farming and forestry vehicles will be included when we consider exemptions. A decision must be made as to whether they are classified on the basis of the function that they perform or on the type of vehicle. That is a huge area.

Mr T Clarke:
A problem exists with that issue. Agriculture contractors are expected to use clear diesel because they have contracts, even though the purpose of their work is agricultural.

The Chairperson:
The point has been well made. I am conscious of the time. We will revisit the issues that were raised. I thank Gillian, John and Donald for their time.

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