HL Deb 12 July 2004 vol 663 cc1089-92

7.49 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 14 June be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee]. The noble Lord said: My Lords, international conventions provide for the free movement of traffic between countries which are party to the conventions. In this country, the Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order 1975 prescribes the detail of the various documents, fees, minimum ages, enforcement arrangements and so on, which apply to our residents who wish to drive abroad, and visitors from abroad who wish to drive here.

The order which is now before the House is necessary to cover the costs of issuing the necessary documentation, to remedy anomalies which have come to light in relation to vehicle types driven by visitors and to bring the holders of vocational licences issued in Guernsey into line with those from Jersey and the Isle of Man by allowing them to drive British registered large vehicles during visits here.

International driving permits and international certificates for motor vehicles are documents which may be issued to drivers who are visiting a country outside the European Economic Area. IDPs translate details of a driving licence into several languages, enabling foreign authorities to interpret the entitlements held, validity periods, age and identity of the holder. ICMVs translate details of British registered vehicles being taken temporarily to another country.

The issue of IDPs is a statutory function deriving from international obligations; namely, the Paris Convention of 1926 and the Geneva Convention of 1949. This function is currently delegated by the Secretary of State for Transport to the motoring organisations in Great Britain; namely, the Automobile Association, Royal Automobile Club Motoring Services and Green Flag. Those motoring organisations have applied to raise the fee for IDPs and ICMVs from £4 to £5.50, to cover increased administrative costs of issuing the documents. That is a substantial part of the order.

The anomaly which requires remedy relates to the types of British-registered vehicles which non-European Economic Area licence holders may drive during visits to Great Britain. Non-EEA licence holders who visit Great Britain may drive for a period of 12 months from the date they last entered the United Kingdom on the strength of a valid national driving licence issued in their country of normal residence. Such licence holders may drive small vehicles such as cars and motorcycles, medium-sized goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes and minibuses with up to 16 passenger seats, provided they are not driven for hire or reward.

Conversely, non-EEA licence holders who are resident here are restricted to driving only small vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and with up to eight passenger seats, such as motorcycles, cars and small vans, during their first 12 months of residence. What we are seeking to do is to correct that anomaly, thereby restricting non-EEA licence holders who visit Great Britain to driving small vehicles. They will still, however, be allowed to drive larger vehicles which have been registered outside Great Britain but which they have driven into the country. That provision is already granted to drivers of large vehicles during visits.

Visitors with Guernsey driving licences may only drive large vehicles during visits if they have brought the vehicle into Great Britain; unlike their counterparts from Jersey and the Isle of Man, they cannot drive British registered large goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles. An assessment undertaken by officials in 2001 considered the testing standards in place in Guernsey for these drivers and found them to be comparable to those in the UK. That is why we are proposing that Guernsey large vehicle licence holders be allowed to drive British registered large vehicles during their visits to Great Britain, giving them the same status as holders of such licences from Jersey or the Isle of Man. As noble Lords will recognise, a terrible anomaly will have been rectified. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 14 June be approved [24th Report from the Joint Committee]. —(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

Lord Bradshaw:

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this seemingly very important amendment to the regulations. One cannot say very much about it. The fee charged does not seem very much to me but it appears to satisfy the motoring organisations—the AA, the RAC and Green Flag. If they are satisfied and believe that is enough money, I do not believe that we should argue with them—let them get on with it!

I am happy with the regulations for the people from Guernsey who have satisfied the standards in their own country. They are probably enforced more strongly than the regulations in this country—which are not enforced. I have frequently crossed swords with the Minister on that matter, but it is a debate for another time.

I am slightly less at ease about the non-EEC licence holders, because in the figments of one's imagination one can imagine people from Outer Mongolia driving fairly large vehicles on the roads here with perhaps a lesser degree of care than the Government would be comfortable with. However, that is my only reservation. This is not an area in which I have great expertise, and I am quite content to let the order pass.

Lord Davies of Oldham:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord—and grateful for his forbearance, because I had foreshadowed the possibility that he would berate me again about enforcement operations as regards large vehicles. That would have occupied us for a considerable period of time, given his eloquence and great knowledge on the issue.

I am happy to agree with what the noble Lord has recognised—that the motoring organisations are scarcely being exploitative when charging a fee of such a modest amount. It is merely there to meet their costs for a service that they provide.

The anomaly as regards Guernsey arose from the obvious point that we were not satisfied about the standard of testing there at the time when the Isle of Man and Jersey were benefiting from the general arrangements. That is why Guernsey is an exception. We are happy to be putting that right.

The only other point that I make about the order as a whole is obvious enough. We may have our reservations about standards elsewhere, but the House will recognise that on the whole it is of great benefit to our fellow citizens if we can achieve reciprocity in the world. It may be that we have to watch with care; as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, often says, we have to look with care at the standards of the vehicles brought into the country. However, that is a subject for another debate. This order is about fulfilling due obligations with regard to reciprocity and the minor extension of the fee.