HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc169-70W
Mr. Robert McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the differences between Northern Ireland Road Traffic law and that in Great Britain; and what steps are being taken to ensure uniformity. [23695]

Mr. Paul Murphy

Northern Ireland's road traffic law is broadly similar to that in Great Britain. Notable differences include:

  1. 1. Provisions requiring drivers after passing their driving test to display "R" (restricted) plates on any vehicle they are driving and not to exceed 45 mph have been in Northern Ireland's road traffic law since 1968. Learner drivers are also restricted to 45 mph. These provisions have not been replicated in Great Britain;
  2. 2. Northern Ireland's driving licences have a maximum duration of 10 years, whereas driving licences in Great Britain can remain valid up to age 70 before renewal. This difference exists because Northern Ireland licences also have photographic counterparts which have to be renewed at 10-year intervals to update the currency of the photographs as true likenesses;
  3. 3. provisions have not yet been enacted to enable drivers with certain disabilities to be authorised, in certain circumstances, to give paid driving instruction;
  4. 4. in Northern Ireland taxis are licensed under road traffic law rather than local government legislation as in Great Britain. It is envisaged that in future the taxi licensing provisions will be incorporated in a new Public Passenger Vehicles Order which apart from the taxi provisions, will largely replicate the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981;
  5. 5. there is no power in Northern Ireland to wheelclamp illegally parked vehicles;
  6. 170
  7. 6. enforcement of parking restrictions in Northern Ireland is carried out by police and traffic wardens, whereas in Great Britain they may be enforced by local authorities;
  8. 7. Northern Ireland does not have the same degree of provision in relation to the regulation of heavy commercial traffic.

Steps taken to introduce (where relevant) closer harmony with the law in Great Britain have resulted in three Orders in Council since 1995.

  1. (a) The Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 reviewed the road safety and construction and use of vehicles provisions and generally brought them into line with their GB counterparts.
  2. (b) The Road Traffic Offenders (NI) Order 1996 amended the prosecution and punishment provisions of road traffic law and introduced a penalty points scheme and extended driving tests for the most serious driving offences.
  3. (c) The Road Traffic Regulations (NI) Order 1997 dealt with regulating the movement on roads and the parking of vehicles and took account of current road traffic law in Great Britain.

A draft Road Traffic (New Drivers) (NI) Order was laid before Parliament on 11 December 1997. That Order proposes to introduce new road safety measures relating to new inexperienced drivers similar to those in place in Great Britain.

GB provisions on road traffic matters are not usually extended directly to Northern Ireland because of the difference in the responsibilities of local government in the two areas and certain differences in local conditions, such as the nature and extent of traffic problems encountered.

Forward to