HL Deb 18 January 1990 vol 514 cc799-801

7.10 p.m.

Viscount Davidson rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 4th December be approved [3rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Driving Licence (Community Driving Licence) Regulations 1989 be approved. The United Kingdom is obliged, by the provisions of the First European Community Driving Licence Directive, to issue full driving licences in the format laid out in a model in Annex 1 of that directive.

The present pink driving licence was introduced on 1st January 1986 to meet that obligation and is issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre at Swansea to all drivers in Great Britain (Northern Ireland licences are issued in Northern Ireland by their own licensing authority). The European Commission considers that this licence does not satisfy the requirements of the first directive sufficiently.

The solution which has been devised to overcome the problem, and for which these regulations are required, is to have a driving licence (coloured pink) which fully conforms to the model in the directive and an endorsement and provisional entitlement document (coloured green) to be known as the "counterpart" which is legally separate from, but included on the same piece of paper as, the driving licence. This solution has been accepted by the European Commission. The new provisions will affect licences effective in Great Britain on and after 1st June 1990 and those effective in Northern Ireland on and after 1st January 1991.

For ease of handling what would otherwise be a rather complex series of amendments, the regulations have been divided into four schedules. These are: Schedules 1 and 2, which contain amendments to the relevant provisions in the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988; Schedule 3, which contains amendments to Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information Systems) Act 1989 (but which is not yet in force); and Schedule 4, which contains the amendments to relevant provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1972 and the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973.

Although the matter was not raised during discussion in the other place on 11th January, your Lordships ought to be aware that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has queried the power to require a driver to produce both the licence and counterpart in the circumstances prescribed in Section 164(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This amendment to that section is brought about by paragraph 9(a) of Schedule 1 of the draft regulations we are discussing tonight.

Our view is that such a change is a matter arising out of, or relating to, the Community obligations to which effect is given by these regulations and is therefore intra vires. The licence and counterpart are to be printed on the same piece of paper, even though legally separate, and so it is logical for Section 164(1) to be amended to require the driver to produce both licence and counterpart. This does no more than preserve the present arrangements. I commend these regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 4th December be approved [3rd Report from the Joint Committee]. —(Viscount Davidson.)

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I take it from the necessarily complicated explanation that the noble Viscount gave that this licence will now be valid in other countries in Europe and one will not require to get a translation when one goes abroad. It is extremely complicated. Perhaps it has to be, but it is describing something with which we are all basically familiar.

There was one point that I wondered about, and I gave the Minister prior notice because it is a technical point. My present driving licence gives me authority to drive motor vehicles in groups A, E and G. My licence also says that it acts as a provisional licence to drive motor vehicles of all other groups.

If one looks at the explanatory note (a) —and I know that there is always a danger in looking at explanatory notes, but it is simpler than trying to unravel the jargon in the rest of the order —it says: to delete the requirement that the licence contain a statement as to the clases of vehicles the holder is entitled to drive as if he were the holder of a provisional licence for these classes of vehicles". I have looked at Section 98 of the 1988 Act; but since I have given the Minister some intimation of my question, I should be grateful if he could explain to me what it means in a way that I could understand. Does it mean that my licence to drive groups A, E and G only refers to holding a provisional licence for those vehicles and not complete licences? I should be grateful if the Minister could clear up this point for me.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I always know when I am about to speak because they turn down the lights in the Chamber.

Is it intended that people with existing licences should have them substituted by the new document? The licences that we now have —until we get them so full of endorsements that nothing further can be put on them, which I hasten to say does not apply in my case —are intended to be for life, or until at least you reach the age of 70, or whatever it is.

I wonder whether there has to be a big exercise to exchange all the existing licences for the new document. I trust that that is not the case, because it would seem to be rather an expensive exercise if it is. Otherwise, I thank the noble Viscount for explaining this order so clearly in the circumstance of it being extremely complicated. Perhaps the noble Viscount is now in a position to answer the question.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for carrying on for an extra minute. I can tell him that there will be no need to exchange all our driving licences at the same time. It will be phased in over a period.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for giving me notice of his question, which was not quite as complicated as my speech. I think I can give him the answer. First I can tell him that there is no need to translate this, because the categories will be common in all member states and most other European countries.

The holder of a full driving licence will continue to be able to drive other vehicles under provisional licence conditions, because the amendment to Section 98(2) in paragraph 4(b) of Schedule 1 of these draft regulations provides that the holder of a licence may also drive other vehicles under provisional licence conditions. This is achieved by the inclusion on the counterpart of the licence space to show such entitlement. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord. If it does not, I shall of course send him a copy of the document.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I ask him, further to the reply he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whether it is the case that, if and when we reach the age of 70, we shall have to exchange our present green and white driving licences for the new pink ones to which he referred in his opening remarks?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am advised by sign language that that is the case.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 10 minutes past eight.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.19 p.m. to 8.10 p.m.]