Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 23 October 2008

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill

COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT

(Hansard)

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill

23 October 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Patsy McGlone (Chairperson)
Mr Cathal Boylan (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Billy Armstrong
Mr Roy Beggs
Mr Trevor Clarke 
Mr David Ford
Mr Tommy Gallagher
Mr Ian McCrea
Mr Daithí McKay
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Peter Weir

The Chairperson (Mr McGlone):

We will now move to the Committee’s consideration of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill. We have completed taking evidence on the Bill, and will proceed with clause-by-clause scrutiny after recess. If extra meetings are necessary, we will use them. Members have been provided with a paper that outlines the various issues that were raised during the evidence sessions, by organisations through written submissions and by members through deliberations on the Bill.

Members should note that the issues paper produced by the Committee staff lists the issues raised against the relevant clauses of the Bill. The departmental Bill team has provided assistance in identifying the relevant clauses, and has provided a departmental response to each issue in the paper provided. A copy of the Department’s response of 16 October 2008 to the Committee’s request for details of enforcement actions taken over the past five years has been provided for information.

I will run quickly through some of the issues that we will be considering. Members should take time between now and the next meeting in order to be satisfied that all the issues that they have raised have been included; there will be an opportunity to make additional points where appropriate.

Mr T Clarke:

Before we start, were we not still to receive an update from the Planning Service on those matters?

The Chairperson:

We are still waiting for that. We have not had any communication back yet. We have moved to our consideration of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill. The Assistant Clerk tells me that a response has received, and will be included in the papers for our next meeting.

Mr Ford:

The general issues that are outlined at the front of the table of responses include matters that are of concern to me. We had some discussion about the traffic commissioner. When will we have the opportunity to further engage the Department on issues such as that? They are not covered in any of the clauses of the Bill as currently drafted.

The Chairperson:

We will have to raise that issue with the Department.

The Committee Clerk:

They will be present at the next meeting, and will have something to say about those general comments.

Mr Ford:

Will they make comments on the general issues?

The Committee Clerk:

They have led me to believe that they will.

Mr Ford:

Will you lead them to believe that we expect them to do that?

The Committee Clerk:

Yes.

Mr T Clarke:

Could you go slightly further? We do not necessarily want to hear comments. We have heard this fluffy talk before about guidance. I would like to see some sort of policy that backs up the guidance that we have been given in the past.

The Chairperson:

OK. I will run through the issues briefly. Clause 1 deals with the types of vehicles that will be subject to operator licensing. It includes the 3·5 ton weight threshold and provides for exemptions. Members may wish to consider the possibility of requiring secondary legislation-raising powers in the clause to be subject to draft affirmative procedure.

Clause 6 deals with the definition and use of operating centres. Clause 11 is concerned with objections to operating centres during the application process. Clause 12 relates to the determination of applications for operators’ licences, including the power to prescribe a date when stricter professional competence requirements could be attached to restricted licences.

Clause 20 allows for the Department to add further conditions to licences over time. The Examiner of Statutory Rules recommends that the Committee consider requiring the broad secondary legislation-raising power at clause 12 (1)(d) to be subject to draft affirmative procedure.

Clause 27 deals with the frequency of review of operating centres. Members should note that secondary legislation-raising powers under clause 27 (3) are subject to draft affirmative procedure.

Clause 56 provides for powers to amend, repeal or modify statutory provision. With agreement from the Committee last week, the Department has been asked for more information on how it envisages exercising those powers, but members should note that any Orders under this clause will be subject to draft affirmative procedure.

Clause 57 creates additional offences relating to the Bill. At last week’s meeting, the Committee asked the Department to provide details on the level 3 fine, confirm that the additional offences created were necessary and indicate how they will exercise those powers. The Examiner of Statutory Rules recommends that the Committee requires clause 57(8) to be subject to affirmative procedure.

Clause 60 provides for commencement dates for bringing certain clauses into operation. The Examiner of Statutory Rules has drawn the Committee’s attention to the degree of overlap between clause 60 and clause 56 and notes that orders raised under this clause appear not to be subject to any Assembly proceedings.

It would be useful to have this synopsis emailed to members, because it will add some focus to their consideration.

Mr I McCrea:

Some of the pages are running into each other.

The Chairperson:

I noticed that.

Mr I McCrea:

For instance, page 10 runs on to page 11, and some words are missing.

The Chairperson:

We will try to get another copy emailed to members.

Mr Beggs:

I want to return to how we finished the last discussion. I accept that there was a lack of transparency, but I think that most members would accept also that there was considerable evidence of special scientific interest in the area. If we say that the whole process is flawed, it may well be disregarded and put to bed.

The Chairperson:

We did not say that the whole process was flawed; the consultation element based on the complete information provided to the local residents was flawed.

Mr Beggs:

We moved over that quickly, and there was not much opportunity to comment. It struck me that the Department could park the whole area and say that it does not want to do anything in this area, because it has been negated by the Committee. It is right to state that there were flaws in the process, and a lack of transparency, but we need to say that there were significant areas of scientific interest in the area.

Mr T Clarke:

How did you find that without the information?

Mr Beggs:

There is a whole series of reports there. We will be belittling ourselves if we rubbish everything and leave it parked.

The Chairperson:

We did not rubbish everything. We rubbished the consultation element of the process and the lack of information that was provided.

Mr Beggs:

We made no comment on anything else.

The Chairperson:

We did not need to. We are working on the presumption that everything else is correct, and it is hoped that it is.

Mr T Clarke:

I would not work on that presumption. I believe that the opposite is true. I believe that it should not be designated until they make a proper case and go through the correct process. What is the point of going through a consultation process that is flawed? How can one support such a process? We should not support the designation until — [Interruption.]

Mr Beggs:

I am not saying that we should be supporting it; we should not leave it as if we believe there were no areas of interest there.

The Chairperson:

We can get the scientific evidence, and, if needs be, we can follow it up with further briefings from officials.

Mr T Clarke:

I could not support the designation as it stands until all those issues are ironed out.

Mr Beggs:

I am comfortable that there was a lack of transparency, but there are significant areas of interest in the area.

The Chairperson:

There probably are, as there are everywhere else. Trevor is saying that the whole process is inadequate, because the consultation element was incomplete.

Mr T Clarke:

In fairness to the landowners, they have asked for that document on more than one occasion — to enable them to make their presentation.

The Chairperson:

We have bounced over some items of business. We will return to that issue under any other business.

A synopsis document on the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill is being passed round the Committee.

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