§ 2. Mr. William Ross
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he plans to make any changes in the format of the new 10-year driving licence in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
Yes, Sir. Some changes to the existing format will be made to meet the requirements of the European Community model licence, which the United Kingdom is committed to introduce from 1 January 1986.
§ Mr. Ross
I am surprised to hear that reason being given for the changes that are necessary. Why has the Northern Ireland licence been introduced from 1 January this year when it will last for only one year and be superseded by the European licence? Why not wait until next year? Will the hon. Gentleman explain why the new one is in the form of a three-part licence rather than the booklet that we had previously? Could not all the information have been put on one plastic card which could have been made small enough to fit in with all the credit cards that one carries nowadays, rather than the back of the new licence being used as an advertisement for the DOE?
§ Mr. Patten
The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is that it was introduced because the Public Accounts Committee suggested that we should get ahead, and it is always right to take the advice of that Committee—[Interruption.] Perhaps I should have said that it is invariably right to take the advice of that Committee. The hon. Gentleman was wrong in the second part of his supplementary question, because the new licence is in two, not three, parts. One part is in plastic so that a photograph can go on it and be secure. The other part could not be in plastic because too much information needed to be carried on it.
§ Mr. Patten
The House will doubtless be discussing the EEC decision— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] — which goes back to 1980. I am sure that there have been a number of occasions since then when the House has been able to consider the point.