The Northern Ireland Assembly needs your help with the project to redesign our website. Take our survey and tell us what you think of the current site and what you would like to see in a new one. Closing date is Sunday 10 March 2024. Take the survey and join the conversation!

Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 20 November 2008

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill: Clause-by-Clause Scrutiny

COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT

(Hansard)

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill
Clause-by-Clause Scrutiny

20 November 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Patsy McGlone (Chairperson) 
Mr Cathal Boylan (Deputy Chairperson) 
Mr Beggs 
Mr T Clarke 
Mr McClarty 
Mr Ford
Mr I McCrea 
Mr Ross 
Mr Weir

 

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

The Deputy Chairperson (Mr Boylan):

We come to the clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill, and I ask members to declare any interests. Today, the Committee will get feedback from the Department on the outstanding issues in the Bill. If members are content with that, we will move on to the formal clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.

The Department will first address the two outstanding items that cannot be linked to a clause: planning; and the appointment of a traffic commissioner. I will ask the officials to comment on any further outstanding issues as they occur during clause-by-clause consideration. I remind members that they considered departmental amendments at previous meetings and were content with all the proposals.

M embers have a copy of the Bill, its issue paper, and the accompanying papers, which include issues that were raised by the Committee; departmental responses to date; proposed departmental amendments; advice and feedback from the Examiner of Statutory Rules; recent letters from stakeholders; correspondence from Tom Wilson of the FTA, in response to the Committee’s request for information on any assurance given by the Department concerning a traffic commissioner; and information on the Bill’s powers to make secondary legislation. A list of circumstances that would render an amendment to the legislation out of order is included, as is the cover note for this item of business.

A further meeting may be scheduled for Tuesday 25 November if clause-by-clause scrutiny is not completed today. I introduce Donald Armstrong, John Brogan, and Gillian McIntyre, who are here to provide further information and to help us through clause-by-clause scrutiny.

Mr Beggs:

I declare an interest as an agricultural landholder and as someone who assists on my father’s farm. Some aspects of the Bill might be relevant.

Mr T Clarke:

I declare an interest as a member of the motor trade.

The Deputy Chairperson:

During clause-by-clause scrutiny, some issues were raised by the Bill team. The first is the planning concerns of the operating centres. The Department said that it would be happy to submit a statement to the Minister for perusal at consideration stage. The Committee considered the first draft of that proposed statement and asked for the removal of the third paragraph, along with the reference to the fact that the Minister will be speaking as Minister for the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and for the Planning Service.

Following further discussions with the Planning Service, the Department proposed a revised statement:

“Following a designation by the Department of a place as an ‘Operating Centre’ under the GV(LOO) Bill, the issue of read-across into interest or action by Planning Service may be of concern to some.

I want to give you an assurance that the designation of a property as an Operating Centre will not in itself have any read-across to Planning action; nor will it be used by, or influence any action by Planning Service as to the use of the property.

Irrespective of this assurance, it is the responsibility of all land owners to ensure that the use of their property satisfies the requirements of planning law.”

Are members content with that?

Mr Weir:

Why do we need that third sentence? It is a truism to say:

“Irrespective of this assurance, it is the responsibility of all land owners to ensure that the use of their property satisfies the requirements of planning law.”

Mr Ford:

What are you reading from, Chairperson?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Tab 49 in the master file. For clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Bill we will be examining tabs 47, 48, 49 and 50 in the master file. Do members agree on the planning section of the revised statement?

Mr T Clarke:

I would prefer some changes in the terminology for an operating centre or the need for one, particularly for smaller operators.

Mr Weir:

We have asked for changes, and the Department has — to a large extent — bent over backwards to meet our concerns and even included the wording that Mr Ford asked for.

Mr Ford:

Most of the concerns that we expressed have been included and, in order to be nice to the Department, we should agree on that part of the revised statement.

Mr Beggs:

I concur.

The Chairperson:

Do Committee members agree to the planning section of the revised statement?

Members indicated assent.

Mr T Clarke:

Put me down as a no.

Mr Beggs:

Are you going to say that for every part of the Bill?

Mr T Clarke:

I am not against the whole Bill, only certain sections of it. It is ill thought-out.

The Deputy Chairperson:

On enforcement, the revised statement says that the Committee may want to consider:

“1. If it should make a recommendation that the Department should separate the regulatory and enforcement roles when implementing the Bill in Northern Ireland; and

2. If it should make a further recommendation that the Department pursues the feasibility of the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland, to have statutory responsibility for among other things, Goods Vehicles Operator Licensing; or

3. If it should make a series of amendments to bring the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland into the scope of this Bill. “

Mr Weir:

Regardless of the merits or demerits of having a traffic commissioner, I understood that provision for one was outside of the scope of the Bill and would be part of a separate consultation. There is nothing in the Bill that precludes the introduction of a traffic commissioner at a later stage, nor is there anything that makes a traffic commissioner a necessity. We should not muddy the waters by making further amendments to the Bill on the issue.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I will go through the three points again.

Mr Ford:

Whether there should be a traffic commissioner is a matter of some debate. I do not accept Mr Weir’s statement that the appointment of a traffic commissioner is outside the scope of the Bill.

Mr Weir:

Correct me if I am wrong, but officials previously said that it was; I understood that that issue was separate from the Bill.

Mr Ford:

Legally, the appointment of a traffic commissioner is not outside the scope of the Bill, which is to regulate road freight; it is entirely within the legal scope of the Bill to insert provision for the appointment of a traffic commissioner. The decision on whether or not to do that is a different issue; however, it is not valid to say that the appointment of a traffic commissioner is outside the scope of the Bill. The issue must be considered on its merits.

Mr Weir:

The appointment of a traffic commissioner would be outside the original intention of the Bill, which was not to prejudge that issue one way or the other. Arguments can be made about whether that is outside the scope or outside the intention of the Bill; I think that the appointment of a traffic commissioner was intended to be a separate issue. It should not be introduced as an issue at this stage; it is for another day. It is fair enough that the Bill does not preclude or make necessary such an appointment. The Bill leaves it open.

Mr Ford:

At the risk of being nice to the departmental officials twice in a row, the correspondence with which we have been supplied suggests that it is difficult to substantiate that a guarantee that a traffic commissioner would be appointed was given to some of the freight associations. However, it seems that the issue of a traffic commissioner has been part of the public consultation process for some years. It is for the Department to decide whether it chooses to introduce that.

It will be for the Assembly to decide on the evidence whether it believes that a traffic commissioner is a good idea now rather than in five, six or seven years’ time. On the basis of the evidence that we have received, we should consider appointing a traffic commissioner as part of the Bill rather than wait five, six or seven years.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I need agreement on whether to accept the three proposals. Donald, do you want to respond before we do that?

Mr Donald Armstrong (Department of the Environment):

Chairperson, in your opening remarks you recommended that the Department press ahead with consideration of the appointment of a traffic commissioner. We are content with that recommendation.

The Deputy Chairperson:

The first consideration on which we must agree is whether the Committee:

“should make a recommendation that the Department should separate the regulatory and enforcement roles when implementing the Bill in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Weir:

What will that mean in practice?

Mr D Armstrong:

It means that the Department will not put the role of regulator — or what was termed the “traffic commissioner” function — into the agency; we will separate that function from the agency. The last time that we met the Committee we gave an undertaking that we will separate the functions.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Are members content?

Members indicated assent.

The Deputy Chairperson:

The Committee should consider:

“If it should make a further recommendation that the Department pursues the feasibility of the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland, to have statutory responsibility for among other things, Goods Vehicles Operator Licensing.”

Can you clarify that for the Committee?

Mr D Armstrong:

The Department will proceed with consideration of the appointment of a traffic commissioner, and we will do so as expeditiously as possible. That will cover freight, buses and taxis.

Mr Weir:

By “feasibility” do you mean that it will be deemed whether or not that is the right route?

Mr D Armstrong:

Yes. A policy decision is not in place to appoint a traffic commissioner because we do not know whether that is the best solution.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Are members content?

Mr Ford:

The third option is a direct alternative to the second, so you must read both before putting the question to the Committee.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Thank you, Mr Ford. The Committee may wish to consider:

“If it should make a series of amendments to bring the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland into the scope of this Bill.”

Mr Ford is determined to get that in.

Mr D Armstrong:

The Department would not be happy with the third option.

Mr Weir:

We accept the second option rather than the third.

The Deputy Chairperson:

The Committee is therefore agreed on the second option.

Mr Ford:

Do you wish to record a vote on that?

The Deputy Chairperson:

I have to record a vote for Mr Clarke’s benefit. For clarification, I will read the first and second proposals again.

I have been thrown into the hot seat today without briefing notes. We are voting on proposals 1 and 2.

Mr Weir:

Are we not voting on proposals 2 and 3? I thought that 1 had been agreed to.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Sorry, my mistake; we are voting on proposal 2. Are Members agreed?

Members indicated assent.

Mr Ford:

Can I record my dissent?

The Deputy Chairperson:

OK. We have to go back to vote on the previous issue on planning, as Mr Clarke has expressed his dissatisfaction.

Mr Beggs:

With regard to proposal 3, shall I read that out and then we will have dealt with all three? That seems reasonable.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Just for clarification, the third proposal is opposed and the second is agreed. The second reads:

“If it should make a further recommendation that the Department pursues the feasibility of the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland, to have a statutory responsibility for among other things, Goods Vehicle Operating Licensing.”

Mr Ford has voted against that. The third reads:

“If it should make a serious of amendments to bring the appointment of a traffic commissioner for Northern Ireland into the scope of this Bill.”

Mr Ford:

Procedurally, since the Committee has agreed to proposal 2, there is no point in voting on proposal 3.

The Deputy Chairperson:

It is only for clarification purposes for Mr Beggs, and I take your point. We are going back to the revised statement. Are members agreed?

Members indicated assent.

Mr T Clarke:

I vote against.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Mr Clarke’s dissent has been recorded. You will be delighted to know that we are going through the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Bill clause-by-clause.

Mr Ford:

Can I make a procedural point? I have recorded my dissent from the recommendation not to proceed with the traffic commissioner. I do not intend to obstruct the Committee by suggesting an amendment to every clause, given that the principle has been decided by the rest of the Committee that there will not be a traffic commissioner. I do not believe, however, that that negates my right to continue to express my view in favour of a traffic commissioner. There is, however, little point in my obstructing the Committee’s work and suggesting an amendment to every clause that says “Department” where it should say “traffic commissioner”. In the interests of being helpful to the Committee, I reserve my right to continue to object in future while not objecting in practice to clause-by-clause scrutiny at this stage.

Mr I McCrea:

I would not have expected anything less.

Mr T Clarke:

Come you and sit beside me, David.

Clause 1 (Operators’ licences)

The Deputy Chairperson:

Mr Armstrong, what is the Department’s view on clause 1?

Mr D Armstrong:

Members will have a copy of a letter dated 12 November from our departmental Assembly liaison officer, Una Downey. I have given members a paper on exemptions that sets out the arrangements for exemptions in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. During our scrutiny of the exemptions we met representatives of the GB traffic commissioners who said that they would recommend the removal of 60% of exemptions in GB. There are European Union proposals on exemptions. Earlier this year, we were consulted as part of a UK-wide consultation on the regulation of the European Parliament Council’s establishment of common rules to be implemented for transport operators. The proposal will come into law directly as a regulation.

The UK Government believes that member states should be free to continue granting exemptions. In particular, they have cited the agriculture industry, and the UK Government is lobbying as part of that. We have received requests for exemptions, and we have listed those in papers that were distributed to members.

The exemptions are listed in appendix C and are to some degree generic. The public sector, including local authorities, the Department for Regional Development and the Department of Agriculture have made requests for exemption.

Mr Weir:

What is a showman’s vehicle?

Mr D Armstrong:

It is a sort of roundabout circus vehicle, for which exemption is already being sought.

Mr Weir:

Are there many showman’s vehicles in Northern Ireland?

Mr D Armstrong:

That is among the proposed exemptions that the traffic commissioners in GB feel should be removed.

Mr T Clarke:

Have local authorities asked for exemptions?

Mr D Armstrong:

Some local authorities have; others have not.

Mr T Clarke:

Which requests is the Department considering?

M D Armstrong:

No one on that list has yet been considered; it is a list of requests. The Department will continue to engage with stakeholders and with those who have requested exemptions to establish whether there is a justification for their request. We could use the function of a vehicle as a criterion rather than the vehicle itself. However, the possible effect on the various industries of proceeding in that manner must be explored.

The effect of the European dimension for Northern Ireland and for the rest of the United Kingdom must also be considered, as well as the UK’s response. The importance of exemptions must be recognised, and we will have proposals for the consideration of the Minister and of the Committee as soon as possible. In six months’ time, after the Bill has been completed, the Department should be able to make proposals on what may be exempted. Essentially, the Bill grants the power to give exemptions. However, it is too early to say what those exemptions may be.

Any proposals will be subject to public consultation before final decision and before subordinate legislation is introduced.

Mr Beggs:

Surely there should be a specific reason for an exemption. Should public bodies not be aware of the dangers of over-legislating and that a balance must be maintained?

Mr D Armstrong:

There is no Crown exemption in the proposed legislation; justification, therefore, is required for public or private exemption. The Department takes into account the function of a vehicle when considering exemption. The process of engaging with stakeholders has started. Proposals may take as long as six months after the completion of the Bill.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Are members content with the Department’s thoughts on exemptions or do they wish to make any other points?

Mr Beggs:

I am content, at this stage.

Mr Weir:

The Committee cannot issue a blank cheque; some re-examination will be necessary.

The Deputy Chairperson:

In relation to clause 1(2)(d), may I refer members to tab 47 of their papers?

Mr D Armstrong:

Is that the letter of 17 November?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Yes.

Mr John Brogan (Department of the Environment):

The amendment to clause 1(2)(d) gives the Department the power to make exemptions through regulations. Having considered the Committee’s earlier comments, we are content for any regulations made under amended clause 1(2)(d) to be subject to affirmative resolution. As the Bill is drafted, clause 1(2)(d) is subject to negative resolution; therefore the Committee must recommend an amendment to make clause 1(2)(d) subject to affirmative resolution. However, that amendment will be made to clause 57 rather than to clause 1. When we reach consideration of clause 57, we can include clause 1(2)(d) on a list of clauses that will be subject to affirmative resolution.

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows: In page 1, line 10 leave out

“within the meaning given in Schedule 1”

and

In page 1, line 16, at end insert —

“(2A) For the purposes of subsection (2)(a) a goods vehicle is a small goods vehicle if-

(a) it does not form part of a vehicle combination and-

(i) it has a relevant plated weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes, or

(ii) in the case of a vehicle which does not have a relevant plated weight, it has an unladen weight not exceeding 1525 kilograms; or

(b) it forms part of a vehicle combination and complies with such conditions as may be prescribed;

and 'relevant plated weight' in paragraph (a) means a plated weight of the description specified in relation to that paragraph by regulations;” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendments, put and agreed to.

Clause 1, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendments, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 (Operating centres to be specified in operators’ licences)

The Deputy Chairperson:

The Committee had already decided that it is broadly content with clause 6.

Mr T Clarke:

I am not broadly content with operating centres, full stop.

Question put, That the Committee is content with the clause .

The Committee divided: Ayes 5; Noes 1.

AYES

Mr Beggs, Mr Boylan, Mr I McCrea, Mr Ross, Mr Weir.

NOES:

Mr T Clarke.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 ( Determination of applications for operators’ licences)

The Deputy Chairperson:

Has the Department any issues with clause 12?

Mr Brogan:

The Department would be content for clause 12(12) to be subject to affirmative resolution.

Clause 12 referred for further consideration.

Clauses 13 to 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 (Conditions of licences)

The Deputy Chairperson:

I invite the Department to discuss its response to clause 20.

Mr D Armstrong:

The question was whether clause 20(1)(d) should be subject to negative or affirmative resolution. The Department has considered the matter and its view is that it should remain subject to negative resolution.

Mr Beggs:

Can you explain why?

Mr D Armstrong:

Clause 20(1)(d) deals with conditions that would be attached to a licence; for example, road-safety conditions may be introduced. A fundamental policy issue is not involved, and, as such, we should leave the provision subject to negative resolution.

Mr T Clarke:

Does that mean that we cannot make changes later?

Mr D Armstrong:

Changes can be made under SL1 processes.

Mr Beggs:

Just to clarify: you want clause 20(1)(d) to be subject to negative resolution so that regulations can be brought straight into effect and the Committee would have six months in which to object to them. In contrast, under affirmative resolution, the regulations would have to be approved by the Assembly before coming into effect.

Mr D Armstrong:

The Committee will have the same access to any regulations and will still scrutinise them under SL1 processes; the only difference is that instead of having an affirmative vote in the House, the Committee would have to pray against it as a negative resolution.

The reason, which members may recall from a couple of weeks ago, is that it is part of bringing the discretionary process into licensing. For example, if someone were to commit a misdemeanour, his or her licence would be removed. This clause will give us the ability to grant a licence and attach conditions to it; for example, for road-safety reasons. It gives us flexibility to grant licences rather than take them away. The phrase in 20(1)(d) “any other prescribed purpose” is used because it allows us to grant licences for road-safety reasons.

Mr T Clarke:

What was that last thing you said?

Mr D Armstrong:

The clause allows us to prescribe conditions on a licence for road-safety reasons. That is not in paragraphs 20(1)(a), (b) or (c). It enables the licence to be granted as opposed to withdrawn or refused.

Mr T Clarke:

Therefore, in a sense, you are weakening the legislation.

Mr D Armstrong:

Sorry?

Mr T Clarke:

You said that someone had to commit a misdemeanour. By adding that measure, you have weakened what should have been in place.

Mr D Armstrong:

We are being given the power to apply conditions, should we wish to do so.

Mr T Clarke:

Are you applying conditions as opposed to not giving a licence at all?

Mr D Armstrong:

Yes.

Mr T Clarke:

Therefore you have weakened the legislation.

Mr D Armstrong:

We have not weakened it; it simply gives greater discretion to the person granting the licence. For example —

Mr T Clarke:

You are making it easy for a person who has a history of misdemeanours to obtain a licence.

Mr D Armstrong:

I will go over the points that I made about it last week. Under EU legislation, when a person is deemed to be of poor repute because he or she has committed traffic or transport offences, we must remove his or her licence. Clause 20 allows us to apply a condition to the licence and give it back. We must take the licence off the person; we have no choice, because that is what EU law demands. However, in GB there is discretion to return the licence on condition that, for example, the person provides monthly tachograph records for the following six months or provides more detailed information about maintenance checks on the vehicle.

The provision is about being able to let a person have a licence as if he or she were on probation, and we will watch how that person complies with the conditions. Instead of taking someone out of business, the provision allows them to continue in business, but with certain conditions; and 20(1)(d) enables the Department to specify what form those conditions should take.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause , put and agreed to.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 (Revocation of standard licences)

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows: Page 20, line 36,

“leave out subsection (3)”

Page 20, line 39,

“leave out ‘subsection (3)’ and insert ‘section 26(1)’” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendments , put and agreed to.

Clause 24, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendments, agreed to.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 (Revocation, disqualification etc: supplementary provisions)

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows: Page 22, line 17,

“after ‘first’ insert ‘giving the holder of the licence or (as the case may be) the person concerned notice that it is considering doing so, and’” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment , put and agreed to.

Clause 26, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, agreed to.

Clause 27 (Periods of review for operating centres)

The Deputy Chairperson:

Is the Committee happy with clause 27?

Mr T Clarke:

No. Operating centres will be all right for five years, and then if the Department does not like them, it can get rid of them.

Question put, That the Committee is content with the clause.

The Committee divided: Ayes 5; Noes 1.

AYES

Mr Beggs, Mr Boylan, Mr I McCrea, Mr Ross, Mr Weir

NOES

Mr T Clarke

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clauses 28 to 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 (Large goods vehicles)

Mr D Armstrong:

We wrote to the Committee on 18 November 2008 about clause 50 and schedule 4. Trevor Clarke raised some concerns about the clause during the previous meeting of the Committee, particularly about the threshold weights for large goods vehicles.

This issue highlights the value of Committee scrutiny. It appears that the provisions on weight are out of date. We searched through the mists of time for previous examples and found them in the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995. We discussed the matter with our colleagues in the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the Department for Transport (DFT). Schedule 5 never came into effect in GB, even though it was in the 1995 Act. Were it to be brought into effect now, parts of it would have to be substantially amended, such as the old HGV 16·2 tonnes weight limit. Things have changed drastically since that weight limit was in effect.

The Department of the Environment would be happy for the Committee to remove clause 50 and schedule 4. There are a couple of other references to schedule 4 in the Bill. Furthermore, the Department recommends the replacement of the provisions in clause 57(2) by giving the Department the power to make regulations that will require certain documents to be carried by drivers of large goods vehicles. The definition of large goods vehicles will have to be specified to bring it up to date.

In response to Trevor Clarke’s query, the Department suggests that the Committee drop clause 50 and schedule 4 and amend clause 57(2).

Mr T Clarke:

Does schedule 4 deal with consignment notes?

Mr D Armstrong:

Yes.

Mr T Clarke:

We did not get an explanation why consignment notes were needed for larger vehicles and not smaller ones.

Mr D Armstrong:

That was your question. We can find no requirement in law for them; consequently, we do not believe that such a requirement should appear in the Bill. Broadly speaking, consignment notes give details of the consigner, the consignee, the content and weight of the load.

They are used as good practice in the industry, but there is no law that requires that — either here or in GB. The law in GB has not been enacted in its 13 years of existence, and if it were enacted, it would be out of date. We suggest that if GB were to amend and enact it, we would have a provision in 57(2) that would enable us to follow suit. It is good practice, but it is not a legal requirement.

Mr Beggs:

The proposal is to remove clause 50 and grant the power to the Department. Would the Department introduce a decision on the matter by affirmative resolution?

Mr Armstrong:

That could be done, as it would be a policy change — we would be considering new weights and what consignment notes are required. Consignment notes are quite common, but there is no legal requirement for them. The Department suggests that if it were to be introduced, it would require an amendment to the weights issue, as has been suggested. The Department suggests that clause 50 and schedule 4 be dropped and that we watch developments in GB so that we can introduce similar provision if necessary.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Could the Department come back to the Committee with an amendment on clause 50?

Mr Weir:

We could disagree to clause 50 now.

Mr D Armstrong:

The Committee could drop clause 50 and schedule 4 and amend clause 57(2).

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, put and negatived.

Clause 50 disagreed to.

Clause 51 (Method of calculating weight of vehicles)

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows:

“After clause 51 insert —

‘Payment of grants

51A.—(1) The Department may, with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel, pay such grants to such persons or bodies as it considers appropriate in connection with any provision of, or the purposes of, this Act.

(2) Grants under this section shall be subject to such terms and conditions as the Department may, with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel, determine.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, put and agreed to.

Clause 51, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, agreed to.

Clauses 52 and 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 (Application of Act to the Crown)

The Chairperson:

Are members content with clause 54?

Several Members:

Yes.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, put and agreed to.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Mr T Clarke:

What was clause 54 again?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Its title is “Application of Act to the Crown”.

Mr T Clarke:

Which means?

Mr Brogan:

It would apply the Act to Crown vehicles.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Can I put the question on clause 54 to the Committee again? Are members content with the clause?

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, put and agreed to.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 (Application of Act to harbours)

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows: In page 36, line 19, leave out “‘commissioners’ and insert ‘authority’.”— [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, put and agreed to.

Clause 55, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 (Regulations)

Mr Brogan:

The Committee was concerned about clause 57(8), and it requested that it be subject to affirmative resolution. In its letter of 17 November, the Department explained what it hoped would be done in regulations under clause 57(8) and gave examples of the nature of the provision that will be included. I have listed the style of a disc and where it will be fixed to the windscreen of a lorry or goods vehicle; arrangements for name and address changes to be notified to the Department; and arrangements for the return of licences and discs.

Offences will be attached to the provisions: contravention of the requirement to place the disc in a waterproof container and to display it in the near side lower edge of the front windscreen; writing on or making an alteration to a disc; and failing to notify the Department of a change in name and address for correspondence purposes. Such issues will be dealt with under clause 57, and the offences come into play in clause 57(8), as they are more of an administrative rather than a policy nature.

We are also looking to the future. The Department planned a single composite set of regulations that would contain all the administrative matters that are spread throughout the regulation-making powers in the Bill. The regulations that would deal with the issues that I have listed under clause 57 would be, by nature, more at home in that composite set of regulations. However, if we make clause 57(8) subject to affirmative resolution, we will have to split the composite set of regulations and set them aside, whereas all the other administrative material will be subject to negative resolution.

There is not a hair’s breadth between the scrutiny that the Committee affords to negative and affirmative resolutions; therefore, there will be adequate opportunity for scrutiny for the provision under clause 57 generally. For those reasons, we would like clause 57(8) to remain subject to the negative resolution procedure.

We have taken legal advice on the matter, which confirms our opinion that if we want to keep it in a composite set of regulations, we must stand firm in our hope that it will remain subject to negative resolution.

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows:

“(a) to widen what is in subsection (9) [draft affirmative procedure] to apply it to-

 any regulations made under [clauses] 20(1)(d) and 27(3) (whether or not in conjunction with other provisions of [the Bill];

 any regulations containing a declaration under subsection (8); and

(b) to provide, as in subsection (10), that any other regulations under this Act shall be subject to negative resolution.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question put and agreed to.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, put and agreed to.

Clause 57, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, agreed to.

Clauses 58 and 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 (Commencement)

Mr Brogan:

We have taken legal advice, and the strong recommendation is that we should not drop clause 60(3). It provides the Department with the ability to do some tidying up through amendments or modifications in a Commencement Order. I stress that the Commencement Order must be related to the commencement of the provisions. All we would ever wish to do is to correct minor slips that have occurred in the drafting of the Bill. That is a well-precedented power. It occurs in many Bills throughout Departments, and, indeed, it appeared in clause 56(2) of the Taxis Bill, which the Committee considered earlier this year.

It is also worth considering that when all the provisions of the Bill have been commenced, clause 60(3) will cease to have effect, and any further amendments to the Act would be made under section 56, which is subject to affirmative resolution.

Question, That the Committee is content with the clause, put and agreed to.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 agreed to.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 (Detention of vehicles used without operator’s licence)

Question proposed:

That the Committee recommend to the Assembly that the clause be amended as follows: Page 47, line 29 ,

“leave out from ‘for’ to end of line 30 and insert ‘authorising a vehicle detained by virtue of paragraph 1 to be returned to the owner, in prescribed circumstances, without the need for any application under paragraph 8.” — [The Minister of the Environment (Mr S Wilson).]

Question, That the Committee is content with the schedule, subject to the Minister’s proposed amendment, put and agreed to.

Schedule 3, subject the Minister’s proposed amendment, agreed to.

Schedule 4 disagreed to.

Schedules 5 and 6 agreed to.

Long title agreed to.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Thank you very much for your time and patience, gentlemen and lady.

Mr D Armstrong:

I record our thanks to the Committee for how it has treated us over the past few months. No doubt, we will meet again to discuss this important stage of the Bill.

The Chairperson:

I thank Donald, Gillian and John for providing the Committee with that level of detail; it was very useful. It is good to have an informed relationship with the Department.

Find MLAs

Find your MLAs

Locate MLAs

Search

News and Media Centre

Visit the News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Follow the Assembly on our social media channels

Keep up-to-date with the Assembly

Find out more

Useful Contacts

Contact us

Contacts for different parts of the Assembly

Contact Us