Road Traffic Bill 2009: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Select Committee on Transport Debate

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Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  I welcome the Minister of State and his officials, Mr. Maurice Treacy and Mr. Declan Hayes. A revised grouping list and four additional amendments have been circulated.

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 56:

This amendment presents a minor textual amendment to the section to provide for the inclusion of section 12 because the reference to “this Chapter” does not include that section.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 24, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 57: In page 25, line 28, before “of” to insert “(inserted by section 7 of the Act of 1994)”. This amendment presents a minor textual amendment to the section to include the correct reference to section 39(2) of the Act of 1968.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 25, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 58:

This was discussed with amendment No. 53. The Minister forwarded a helpful briefing note on it, which I received earlier. These amendments are designed to challenge the practice of having a standard deduction of 17.5% from the recorded breath alcohol reading. Campaigning groups have raised the issue of the intoxilyser machines in use in this country because they contend the machines have the 17.5% inbuilt deduction in readings, which means the evidential reading used in court could be between 20% and 25% lower than the blood alcohol concentration, BAC, at the time of testing. Why should this be allowed in the new recalibrated machines?

The Minister’s briefing note explains the Road Traffic Act 1994 and states the specimen with the lower concentration of alcohol shall be taken into account for the purpose of sections 49(4) and 50(4) of the principal Act and the calculation of the factors undertaken by the medical bureau and provided for in the statement formed under SI 326 of 1999. The note further states the best scientific practice of all analytical results are reported with a plus or minus tolerance and the ISO definition of that part of the result is “a parameter associated with the result of a measurement that characterises the dispersion of the values that could reasonably be attributed to the measure”.

The Medical Bureau for Road Safety, MBRS, has also biased the reporting of blood or urine in the driver’s favour by looking only at the minus end of the range. The amounts subtracted differ from scientific analytical method to method. Are these methods standardised? I referred this to a colleague in the Labour Party parliamentary party who has a scientific background and the question she raised related to whether this is a standardised system. Is this the way it operates across the entire scientific community and academia and across jurisdictions? The Minister mentioned the Netherlands has a tolerance of 20%. Why should the tolerance be at the lower end even allowing for the sympathy in the legislation for a driver who has been caught?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The principle of using the lower level tolerance is applied across the system. It varies from country to country. It is in the order of 20% at 35 mg, 18.2% at 44 mg and 16.6% at 66 mg in the Netherlands and the allowance also varies in Sweden. The level of tolerance is different but the principle is the same and the reason we have sat on this is on the advice of the MBRS, which is based firmly on legal cases that have established the principle. To ensure litigation is not successful against the legislation, I cited the cases at the last meeting, including the Director of Public Prosecutions v. Syron, the Director of Public Prosecutions v. Curry and McGonnell v. the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Case law has established the safe limit for the medical bureau to operate under and I would not like to deviate 1% from this because we are certain this is acceptable to the courts and we do not want to give any out to a driver.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  On that basis, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 59:

This is an aspirational amendment. This is similar to amendments tabled on the finance and social welfare Bills. We have raised the issue of the funding of the medical bureau on many occasions, especially given that there will be an enhanced mandatory testing regime following collisions. The question arises about whether Professor Cusack and his staff in UCD have the resources. In 2006 the bureau submitted a proposal to the Minister’s predecessor for a significant increase in funding to massively expand the drugs analysis programme. It also indicated that any move to test all samples for alcohol and drugs would require a significant increase. Has the Minister acted on this? In 2009 the allocation was €4.4 million. How much more will be provided this year? Recalibrating the breathalysers will result in a cost. The recalibration could well defer implementation well into 2011. When the Minister and I had a famous head to head on radio approximately six months ago, he told me that the cost would be €800,000. Will the budget have to be provided by the medical bureau? I raised the issue with the Minister well over a year ago and thought significant funding would be necessary. On publication of the Bill a special estimate of the cost of replacement of the EPT machines should have been included. The agency has done great work for the State and Professor Cusack has been very helpful to Opposition spokespersons and everybody with an interest in road safety. There is a concern over whether the bureau will have the funding needed to do the job, for early recalibration and to develop the drug-driving test.

I was sent a copy of the North report — a British report on drink and drug driving by Sir Peter North, CBE, QC. He recommends moving to a limit of 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. It is likely that the new British Parliament will follow what we are doing swiftly. He also advocates that over a two-year timeframe the British Government should introduce a drug testing regime. It seems to be a fine report which we should review in dealing with the issue of road safety. Given that it appears the United Kingdom is following what we are doing in this regard, all countries in Europe will move towards the limit we are about to introduce. The only difference is that the United Kingdom is likely to provide for stronger mandatory testing. I, therefore, recommend that the Minister read the North report. I ask him to come back to us with an audit of the supports available to the medical bureau.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The amendment is not necessary. As the Medical Bureau of Road Safety is Exchequer funded, its accounts are audited annually by the Comptroller and Auditor General. In addition, the bureau prepares and publishes an annual report with financial statements, all of which is open and transparent. The funding to be provided for the bureau is a matter to be considered as part of the annual Estimates process. I have not endured all the grief I have endured on this legislation to end up with the medical bureau not having the money to do what is necessary under it. The funding to purchase the equipment will be included in the 2011 Estimates. The selection of the equipment is ongoing. The tender process and testing will need to take place. I am confident that the funding for the new machines will be provided in the 2011 budget. The normal procedure is that funding is provided in the Estimates. It is my job, as Minister, to ensure the money will be available in them. As far as I am concerned, it will be available.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Has the Department approved the proposal made in the bureau’s 2006 report?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will have to check, as many things have happened, including reductions in pay rates in various places. In 2008 we provided a sum of €4.2 million. The amount available in 2009 was €5.1 million. Owing to reductions in payroll costs, etc., the figure will be €4.6 million this year. Broadly, it is the same.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments 60 to 63, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 60:

I understand alcohol is measured in milligrammes but that breath samples are measured in microgrammes.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I propose to accept amendments Nos. 60, 61 and 63 and thank the Deputy for bringing the matter to my attention. He is right.

Amendment No. 62 proposes to remove the offer of a fixed penalty notice in certain drink driving offences to “specified” persons and is not a proposal I intend to accept at this time. The introduction of the lower BAC levels has been the subject of much debate and discussion in all parties and elsewhere. I am anxious that, particularly in the early stages following its introduction, there be a certain amount of fairness to allow drivers to adjust to the new lower limits. The option of a fixed penalty notice in such circumstances will assist in the introduction of the new limits. However, consideration may be given at a later stage to reviewing whether the proposed amendment has merits and should be introduced. Accordingly, I ask the Deputy to withdraw it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I thank the Minister for accepting amendments Nos. 60, 61 and 63.

The case has been put to me strongly that it is critical a culture of not drinking and driving is inculcated in new drivers. The Minister still needs to deal with the issue of introducing a graduated driver system. The proposal is that a new driver found to be in the range between 0.2 and 0.8 should not be subject to the one strike and you are out rule, in other words, what many watching us might regard as full mandatory testing. Likewise, persons with a professional role in carrying people or goods on the motorways should have to meet a higher standard, as well as adhering to the lower limit.

I understand the Minister’s point about trying to bed down a new system. However, the purpose is to inculcate this culture in young people. Surveys carried out by the RSA show that people in their 20s and 30s are strong proponents of the concept that one should not drink and drive. I pay tribute to those young people who have taken such a strong line. The culture has changed. When they go out, they make arrangements to get home, which is fantastic. They are setting a standard for the rest of us. We should adhere to the highest possible standard.

We will have other road traffic Bills, at which time the amendment could be reviewed and implemented. Perhaps the Minister needs to think again and talk to the RSA before Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 61:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 62 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 63:

Amendment agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  As amendments Nos. 64 to 66, inclusive, 69 and 70 are related, they may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 64:

These amendments apply similar provisions in respect of the service of fixed charge notices for other offences under the Road Traffic Acts to the service of fixed penalty notices for certain drink driving offences. They provide that a fixed penalty notice may be served personally on a person or by post. The amendment provides for how such service may be carried out. The qualifying criteria under subsection (4) to avail of the fixed penalty notice provisions are also being amended to include the requirement to hold a current driving licence in addition to not being disqualified from holding a driving licence at the time of the commission of the alleged offence. Therefore, a person not holding a current driving licence or who is disqualified at the time of the alleged offence will not be offered the terms of the section and will be dealt with by way of summons to court. All of the amendments are related.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 65:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 66:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 67:

This amendment seeks simply to increase the penalty on summary conviction to the District Court maximum of €5,000.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment on the basis of the legal advice I have been given, which suggests a fine of €2,000 would be proportionate.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I note that a fine of €5,000 is provided for elsewhere in the section.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  That is for a different offence. We are trying to keep it as fair and proportionate as possible because the courts can take a dim view of the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment 68:

This technical amendment is necessary because responsibility for equality issues is to be given to another Department. The reference will have to be changed to “Minister for Justice and Law Reform”.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We can look at that matter on Report Stage to get the terminology right.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Okay.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I thank the Deputy for his proposal which I am agreeing to consider in advance of Report Stage.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Department is aware, as we are on this side of the fence, that traffic law is a very difficult area. I understand the regulation to change the name of the existing Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has not yet been made. This Bill should not be passed before that regulation is made. The Minister should make sure the reference is right because someone who is charged with a road traffic offence might use it to get off on a technicality.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 69:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 70:

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 26, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  This is the main section dealing with penalties and the administrative charge. I would like to make two points. Will the Minister spell out where the administrative charge will be used? I fully support the charge because it is great. It seems the Minister intends to use it sparingly enough in the relevant cases. We are all familiar with cases of this nature. If one looks at the Garda figures for the numbers who have been tested and failed and the numbers of cases that come out at the other end of the courts system, there is often a perception that there seems to be a huge gap. I do not know if the Minister has figures to prove me wrong, but the courts system is a black hole. We should use the administrative charge at various stages along the line. It often seems that if one has the money to pay a smart barrister, one can screw up the courts system. If one buys time, one can drag matters on for an eternity and ultimately beat the system. One can certainly have one’s case delayed for months or years on end. There is always a huge gap between the numbers who fail breathalyser tests and the numbers who come through the courts system as a result. The Minister might want to bring in the administrative charge slowly. Judges and barristers might not want to lose too much business and we have to pay homage to them, etc. We do not want to starve the poor creatures. If the administrative charge were used at different levels, many people would take their medicine and pay the charge. Depending on the level at which they were caught, they would be likely to accept the penalty imposed on them. They might have to face a suspension, as well as the administrative charge. I ask the Minister to comment on the idea of introducing it. I appreciate that it was planned to introduce it some years ago, but that did not happen for various reasons. It seems the administrative charge is to be implemented sparingly. Why not go for it? What is the official answer in that regard?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The official and personal answers are the same — we need to maintain a balance between the need for administrative efficiency which involves preventing the courts from being clogged up with a range of traffic offences and making it easier for the Courts Service and the Garda to fulfil their functions and the need to ensure people take their medicine. In many instances, the shame of having to go to court for this offence is probably much stronger than the effect of allowing somebody to go in quietly to pay a fine. I hope that is still the case. We are trying to give people an opportunity to use the administrative process when they are found to have a blood alcohol level of up to 100 mg. As I do not want to delay the committee, I will not go into the details of the exceptions set out in the Bill. The level prescribed is a reasonable one. While everybody deserves to be punished for drink driving above the legal limit, I suggest those who drive with blood alcohol levels of more than 100 mg in their systems deserve to bear the full brunt of the law in this manner. To ensure the system is not clogged up, we are talking about providing for the administrative charge to be applied in cases of drink driving up to the level of 100 mg. It is prudent to ensure those who drive with an alcohol level above that limit face the full rigours of the law. They will have to go to court and have details of their misdemeanours published, etc. Those who are prepared to drive so far in excess of the legal limit, as it is now or as it will be, deserve to be put before the public. Not only will the courts make decisions on them, but such persons will also have to face the court of public opinion. I make no apologies for saying this.

I do not think Deputy Ahern’s point about smart lawyers, etc., makes a bit of difference, regardless of the level set. If people above or below the 100 mg limit have smart lawyers, they will take their chances in court, regardless of whether they face an administrative fine. If they think they have a legal case they can make, they will argue it in court. We need to strike a balance when it comes to administration. I would not say it is a question of convenience. As I indicated, the purpose is to ensure the courts are not overburdened and Garda time is not wasted. I would sooner have gardaí on the roads detecting people breaking road traffic laws than spending days on end in the courts. If this provision helps to achieve that, it will be worthwhile. The administrative fine has been set at an appropriate and reasonable level. People will no longer be under the impression that it is all right to have three or four drinks before taking a chance on driving in the belief they will not be caught.

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I did not say any of those things.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I accept that.

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Does the Minister have any figures on what I describe as the “black hole”? I have heard a view expressed that we should not move too far because the Courts Service would not be happy, but I have also heard from the other side that the Courts Service does not care whether a strictly administrative charge plus suspension will be the outcome. One can be embarrassed in different ways. I noted a list of names of Revenue defaulters was published this morning.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  They included a county council.

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I did not notice that. One can be embarrassed and shamed in different ways, including by having one’s name published, without necessarily going through the courts. I understand a large number of cases are bogged down almost forever in the courts. If that perception is wrong, I will accept it, but if people are overcoming the system because they have money, perhaps it would be easier to suspend their licences, take their money and shame them by publishing their names in the newspapers.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  In 2009 a total of 14,667 drink driving incidents were recorded, a decrease of almost 19% compared to the figure for 2008 — 18,082. Also in 2009 a total of 529,037 breath tests were carried out under the mandatory alcohol testing regime. In 2008 statistics showed that the number of blood and urine samples received from gardaí for analysis was 6,007, a 2.5% increase on the figure for 2007, while and 318 samples were taken in hospitals, an increase of 9% on the figure for 2007. In 2008 the number of breath specimens taken in Garda stations was 2,699, an increase of 11.5% on the figure for 2007. In addition, the latest figure for the end of 2008 shows that 1,000 roadside alcohol breath screening devices were issued to the Garda by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. These are the figures for the numbers of recorded incidents.

The Deputy also asked about prosecutions. I do not know what is the rate of successful prosecutions. While I am not aware of long delays in processing cases in the courts system, I am aware that we have a large amount of litigation in the courts, involving many lawyers who have tried to query the basis on which equipment has been used and so forth. I have not heard of cases being “lost” in the Courts Service or any failure to prosecute cases to the end. While individuals are not convicted in some cases, I do not believe there is a black hole.

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  The second point I raise relates to the administrative charge in relation to the fine, penalty points and so forth. The Minister has indicated this will be allowed only once in any five year period. This charge appears extraordinary and almost draconian. The proposal to reduce the drink driving limit to 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood is widely accepted. Deputy Broughan referred to a report published today in the United Kingdom. I hope the new British Government which indicated while in opposition that it would not implement the findings of the report will change its mind now that it is in power. I noted in a brief snatch of a television broadcast this morning that Sir Peter North did not express support for a zero alcohol limit for drivers and appeared to indicate that a person should be able to driver after having one pint of beer or one glass of wine. He was not being as intolerant as we are, given that we have gone to the absolute extreme.

We need to secure public acceptance of laws. The public attitude to drink driving has transformed in recent years. While enforcement is essential, public attitudes and securing the support of members of the public are also very important. It is necessary to ensure most people accept and understand rules. The administrative charge is wonderful, but I ask the Minister to reconsider the five year administrative period which appears to be extraordinarily tight. If one were to be caught drink driving frequently, one would be put off the road at some point because one would quickly accumulate the penalty points required for disqualification. Will the Minister reduce the period from five to two or three years? While everybody has signed up to the 50 mg limit in the strategy, I question the penalty. While I accept the Minister has moved on this matter, will he indicate whether he is prepared to reconsider the five year period? I wonder if my colleagues accept the balance of my argument.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  To enlighten the Deputy as to his view on the matter, I do not agree with him. This question of whether drivers would be disqualified for exceeding the new limit was the subject of much discussion, the most intense of which appears to have taken place in the Minister’s party. A decision was made to water down the legislation to some extent by applying penalty points for the first breach. Many argue that this change goes a long way towards meeting the concerns raised about social life in rural areas. The Labour Party’s view has always been that we must establish a decent transport system in rural areas and should proceed with lower limits. Many believe the Minister should have proceeded with his initial proposal and played a straight bat, as it were, in this matter.

I have encountered people who have accumulated close to 12 penalty points, having repeatedly broken the speeding laws. Despite their fear that they will be banned from driving if they are caught again, they continue to break the speed limits. It is disturbing that, following the significant progress made in the past two years in reducing the number of tragedies on the roads, there have been a number of shocking tragedies in the past two or three months, including last weekend, which have left many families devastated. If one considers the global picture, one finds that drink plays a significant role in road traffic accidents. For this reason, I do not agree with Deputy Noel Ahern. The Minister has not gone far enough.

Vintners have traditionally been one of the two most powerful lobbies in the country. Their leader always used to be in the Oireachtas. He used to be in the Seanad, if memory serves me correctly. The vintners must accept the wider responsibility. Some good publicans run premises like social centres and have branched out into offering food and music. They have tried to broaden their service and provide alternative transport for people.

I do not agree with the Minister. If we were to any more signals to weaken the Bill, particularly on proposals that seem to have emanated from the vintners’ lobby, it would be a retrograde step. We need rural transport. I commend the Minister for investing €11 million in the scheme this year. My party will have a target of having public transport no matter where one lives in the country, be it in a city or at a rural location such as the top of County Meath or south of Kells. Whatever needs to be done in this regard must be done.

I do not agree with the Minister. We are making progress, but what has happened in the last couple of months has been a little upsetting. The number of tragedies this year is nearly the same as the number last year. If one considers the matter seriously, one will realise there should be almost no tragedies on the roads. One should bear in mind the families who have been devastated. We should pass the Bill and implement its provisions. As we all know, enforcement is the key. The social system has changed a little, which is well and good. Most have accepted this.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  While I accept what Deputy Ahern said, we have moved beyond the position we were at three or four months ago. It has now been accepted in every party that we are to reduce the blood alcohol limit to 50 mg/dl. I sent an e-mail in this regard and hope I will continue to be in a position to send one. Nobody within my party responded to amendments on these matters. It would be wrong of me to make a decision other than the one we backed. We backed it earlier and will continue to do so.

I am a member of the vintners’ association and a publican. I know from young people that we still have not got it 100% right and many of us still do not have manners. The next big move regarding the Road Traffic Bill ought to focus on drugs, as Deputy Broughan said. In my village I know fellows who are not drinking but, by God, they are taking drugs and driving.

Deputy Noel Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I hear what Deputy McEntee is saying. We all long for the day when we will not have tragedies. I am not querying the limit of 50 mg/dl of blood; it is a case of getting the balance right between offences. It is odd that one receives three penalty points for driving at 100 mph or 120 mph on an unsuitable road when one receives more for driving with 60 mg/dl of blood.

There are several factors that bring about tragedies. It is a case of getting the balance right. Alcohol was a huge problem and may still be, but there is no point in sending a draconian message in this regard when one is not tackling some of the other issues to the same extent. I agree with Deputy McEntee that the main issues are drugs and speed. The latter has been dealt with.

As we introduce the new legislation, reduce the limits and become tougher on drink driving, it will show up the differences in our attitudes to alcohol, speed and other factors that, unfortunately, are not measurable but which also cause many accidents.

I seem to recall that when considering data from other countries on the limit of 50 mg/dl of blood and those countries’ penalties, it was said many countries might have penalties that looked quite sharp but that they were the maximum possible penalties. In Italy or some such place, one could, in theory, be put in jail for ten years for having a pint, but this has not happened since the year of the flood. In our system, if there is a penalty for driving with three pints such as a six months’ suspended sentence, one receives it. Other countries, however, may have a penalty of suspension for one year, but very few receive it because it is the maximum.

We have endeavoured to have our legislation link with and be roughly similar to that in other EU countries. I do not know whether we want to go to the other end of the scale and be the most draconian on alcohol, while not being as tough on other elements such as vehicle type, speed or drugs.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I do not believe that is the case. Deputy Noel Ahern’s argument might have some validity if it were borne out by statistics. If one considers the range of penalties across Europe for driving over the limit of 50 mg/dl, one will note that some are certainly more draconian that those we are proposing. The more extreme systems provide for zero tolerance of drink driving in that one’s blood alcohol limit must not exceed 0 mg/dl. How this level is measured poses a great difficulty. The limits in other states can be as low as 0 mg/dl and the penalties can be much more severe. In some countries cars are confiscated. Jail sentences or heavy fines are imposed in others. By imposing three penalty points for drink driving, we are not at a draconian level — far from it. In effect, we are giving a yellow car to offenders on the grounds that they may not have known a glass of wine or a pint could put them over the limit of 50 mg/dl but saying that, while we are prepared to accept one can make that mistake once, repeat offences will be regarded as deliberate. That is not unreasonable.

With regard to public support for any measures taken, I do not know where the opponents of this legislation come from. I am not classifying Deputy Noel Ahern as an opponent.

Deputy Broughan asked me whether I had seen the North report. I had been aware of it but had not seen it until just before this meeting. The last public opinion survey in Ireland shows that 80% of drivers surveyed by the AA agreed with the 50 mg/dl limit and the imposition of more severe penalties. An AA-Populus Panel survey in 2008 of more than 17,000 AA members in the United Kingdom found 66% in favour of lowering the drink driving limit, with only one fifth opposed. A survey by Brake and Direct Line of 800 drivers found 71% supporting the reduction of the current limit in the United Kingdom. Some 55% of those questioned in the Brake and Direct Line survey supported a limit of 0 mg/dl. The figures are the same in Ireland. The AA-Populus Panel poll in 2010 has found that 64% of more than 20,000 AA members who are motorists are in favour of a 12-month ban, or a longer ban, for breaking a limit of 50 mg/dl. The British Social Attitudes Survey of 2009 cited 71% of people polled as favouring a period of disqualification of five years for drink driving offences. That mirrors, almost exactly, the public attitude to what we are doing here. We are not being draconian. I accept the point the Deputy makes and that is always something to be considered in the whole area of road safety, even in the simplest matters. One saw what happened when we tried to introduce changes to the second provisional driving licence. People are very conscious of any decisions we make which impinge on their freedom to use a car. However, in this area the vast majority of people support the approach we are taking to tackle this problem.

I agree with the Deputy on one aspect where he says that our problem is not young drivers in so far as drink is concerned, but my generation and older people who grew up in the old regime. One had a few pints with the lads and went off to the next pub for another few, and then drove home. That is where the problem is, and perhaps we are slower learners than younger people. That is the area of difficulty. People have been doing this over a lifetime and unless we are fairly strict they will continue until they kill themselves or somebody else. I do not believe any of us, including Deputy Noel Ahern, who made the case here, wants that to happen.

On the other problems raised by the Deputy, I found when I was Minister with responsibility for the environment, dealing with road safety, that — without labouring the point — when one goes after drink driving offenders one gets a plethora of e-mails to the effect that drink is not the problem, but rather seat belts, speed, young drivers, faulty cars, bad roads and so on, everything except the drink. If one goes after the speed merchants, one is told that speed is not a problem at all, since no one can get hurt driving on a motorway where everything is safe, and that the problem is drink, seat belts and so on. In fact, it is a combination. We are tackling drink in this Bill. We have tackled the speed problem, with the speed cameras being rolled out. We need greater enforcement, better roads, all of these things, but none of them can be discounted. That is what we are doing here, closing them off one by one.

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 71:

This amendment presents, again, just a minor textual amendment to the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 27 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 72:

This amendment presents a transitional provision to give powers of entry to the Garda Síochána under section 39(2) of the Act of 1994, similar to the powers provided in amendment No. 15 in advance of the lowering of the drink driving levels contained in the Bill. We mentioned this earlier.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 73:

This amendment provides for the amendment of the qualifying criteria contained in section 5 of the 2006 Act, fixed charge and disqualification for certain drink driving offences, to allow for the commencement and operation of that section in advance of the lowering of the drink driving levels in the Bill.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  What happens, then, with that new section, to a person charged in those circumstances?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Once this is put in place such a person can use this section even if he or she has no licence.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  That means he or she is disqualified.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes, that is correct.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 28, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 74:

“(d) subsections (2), (3) and (4) of section 39 of the Act of 1994,”.

This amendment provides for the inclusion of subsections (2), (3) and (4) of section 39 of the 1994 Act in the list of provisions repealed in Part 2 of the Bill. It is just tidying up the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 29, as amended, agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendment No. 75 is in the name of the Minister. Amendment No. 76 is related, so amendments Nos. 75 and 76 will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 75:

These amendments present minor textual amendments to the section. They also bring offences relating to vehicle registration plates within the scope of the fixed charge system. I shall just advise the committee on this section about an amendment I propose to introduce on Report Stage. I shall give the Deputies a full briefing on it. Proposals have been submitted to my Department by the Road Safety Authority for a financial deposit scheme, primarily focused on drivers’ hours, tachograph and haulage operating offences for consideration in the terms, including an enabling clause in the Road Traffic Bill 2009. The main focus of the scheme is to provide for a legislative basis for dealing with out of State offenders who commit such offences. These will be for heavy goods vehicles, HGVs. Following examination of the proposals and consultation with the key stakeholders, I have sought the advice of the Attorney General’s office with a view to introducing an enabling provision on Report Stage to provide for the scheme. A small number of issues require clarification, and I hope this will be resolved before Report Stage.

I shall let the Deputies have a copy of the briefing note on this. In respect of certain detected road transport offences — initially those relating to drivers’ hours, tachographs and operating licences — we propose to provide for payment by the driver or the registered owner of a vehicle at the roadside and as a condition for permitting the vehicle to resume its journey to a member of the Garda Síochána or an RSA transport officer, a sum of money which will be either a fixed charge, if it is appropriate for the offence, or a deposit against any fine that may be imposed by a court in subsequent prosecution. It will provide also for the immobilisation or detention of the vehicle where a fixed charge or deposit is not paid, until such time as payment is made. This is to deal with the question which has arisen. In some cases it almost amounts to unfair competition where HGVs from abroad come into this country, disregard the law and leave Ireland again before anything can be done about such infringements. I shall give Deputies a full briefing before Report Stage.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Effectively, the Minister is talking about an on-the-spot fine.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It is a deposit scheme against a fine, and I have to be careful how I phrase that, from a legal perspective.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  On the news in recent days to the effect that the European Parliament — and my colleague Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, was heavily involved in it — threw out a proposal from the Commission about self-employed drivers, that they would not have to observe the working time directive on the length of the hours they worked, so that they would clearly have a competitive advantage over people who worked in a major company or whatever, was the Government involved in coming forward with that proposal? It seemed a crazy initiative from the viewpoint of road safety.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We certainly did not promote that view. As far as we are concerned that would be——

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Would the Minister oppose that at the Council of Ministers?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes, if it comes before the Council of Ministers. However, I presume this was part of the conciliation process.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  One of the problems is that a considerable amount of transport legislation is European legislation. For example aviation legislation is European legislation, is it not?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  That is correct, and much of the road haulage legislation is European legislation as well.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Minister will be opposed to what is being proposed in this case. I presume it cannot now go forward, since the European Parliament has absolutely said “No”, in a co-decision.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  They will have to discuss this to see whether agreement can be reached. Under the Lisbon treaty, if they cannot reach agreement, then it is back to the drawing board.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  In the event, that would make a mockery of any progress we make here on HGVs observing road safety.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  From a road safety viewpoint, it does not seem to make sense because a driver is dangerous if he or she is tired behind the wheel. It is probably more likely that an individual working for himself or herself will drive longer hours than somebody in a company, perhaps. It is probably more likely that an individual working for himself will be driving longer hours than somebody in a company.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  We can have a situation where people are coming in from abroad.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Will the Minister give us the amendment? We may want to try to amend the amendment on Report Stage.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will do that.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 76 not moved.

Section 30, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Ahern took the Chair.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Noel Ahern): Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Amendments Nos. 77 to 79, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 77:

We have had a number of discussions on fixed charge notices over the last few years. Both Deputies have raised different issues at different times. These refer specifically to the service of fixed charge notices. This amendment restates, in a clearer format, the published provisions relating to the service of a fixed charge notice and provides in section 77(6) that in a prosecution for an offence under section 36(2), the onus is on the registered owner, if he or she was not driving or otherwise using the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence, to show proof of giving or sending the name and address of the person who was driving or otherwise using the vehicle at that time.

Section 77(7) also provides that where the registered owner of the vehicle concerned is not an individual, the obligation under that provision shall be discharged by a person acting on behalf of, or employed by, the owner. That is for the case of company vehicles. It makes the responsibilities much clearer.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It seems to clarify the original formula. Will this service of administrative penalties be helped by the new system brought in during the Minister’s previous incarnation as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources? We will all have unique identities so it will not be possible to have this confusion that was claimed in the past. Is that going ahead?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes. The example we gave at the time was that of O’Reillys in a townland in Cavan, or even the Dempseys in Trim might cause some confusion. The unique identifier will help.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 78:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 79:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 31, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Noel Ahern): Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 are related and may be taken together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 80:

These amendments provide clarification in respect of the requirement to supply driver licence or learner permit details when completing a fixed charge notice for a penalty points offence. Where the licence details are not provided or are incorrectly provided, the payment will not be accepted.

The amendment also presents minor textual amendments to the section. These are to ensure that if somebody commits an offence, it is recorded accurately on the person’s licence. There have been some difficulties in doing that.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 81:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 32, as amended, agreed to.

Section 33 agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 82:

This is an aspirational amendment. Many of our European partners seem to have a sliding scale of traffic fines based on the ability to pay. It provides for a more equitable system and provides for a more appropriate response for wealthier people who break the law with impunity. It depends on the system in each country. Countries with a more administrative system need to have that base, whereas we are more concerned with bans as well as fines. It is just something that occurred to us in the Labour Party as something we should consider in this Bill.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I do not disagree with the principle, but this is more appropriate to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Fines Bill 2009. While the Road Traffic Acts provide for the maximum fine on conviction for an offence under those Acts, the amount of the fine is at the discretion of the judge hearing the case. The judge can take into account the means and the circumstances of the person. That is where the discretion exists under our Acts. The Fines Bill will meet the Deputy’s concerns, because it will apply to all fines and not just those under the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sections 34 and 35 agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Noel Ahern): Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Amendments Nos. 83 and 84 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 83:

These are minor textual amendments to the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 84:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 36, as amended, agreed to.

Section 37 agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 85:

This amendment proposes that a member of the Garda Síochána may arrest without warrant a person who, in the member’s opinion, has committed an offence under subsection (2). This is about traffic wardens who may have reasonable grounds for believing a person is committing or has committed a fixed charge offence. The traffic warden may request the offender’s name and address, and if the offender does not comply with the request or gives a name or address that is false or misleading, then the amendment shall apply.

We were thinking in particular of foreign drivers who refuse to give a name or address and I wanted to put in a reference to a power for the traffic warden to call up a garda, so that the garda would then be able to arrest that person. It is about strengthening the powers of traffic wardens under section 38, where somebody has committed an offence and refuses to co-operate with the official.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The proposed amendment relates to offences enforced by local authority traffic wardens, which mainly involve the use of a mechanically-propelled vehicle. In such cases, where the name and address of the alleged offender is not available or is refused on demand of the local authority traffic warden, the registration number of the vehicle is available for use in pursuing the identity of the registered owner.

It seems a little disproportionate to arrest a person who refuses to give a name and address for something like a parking offence. I know the point the Deputy is making and I will see if I can do something for Report Stage.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The concern was that in cases in which people who refused to give their names and addresses clearly involved a foreign registration or whatever, a traffic warden effectively would have very little power over such persons.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I understand that at present they can report to a garda if one is available, who then can make the decision on whether an arrest is necessary. However, I will ascertain whether this can be strengthened in some way.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 38 agreed to.

Sections 39 to 41, inclusive, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 86:

This amendment provides for the amendment of section 3, as amended by section 12 of the Act of 2000, of the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Act 1975 in respect of fixed charge notices issued by the local authority traffic wardens to reflect the amendments made in the Bill and the various amendments I have tabled that apply to the fixed charge system.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 42 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 87:

This amendment provides for the amendment of section 103(4) of the principal Act in respect of fixed charge offences to provide for the onus of proof on the registered owner as contained in my amendment No. 72, so as to allow for the operation of that section, as amended, in advance of the commencement of the other fixed charge offences and notice provisions contained in Part 3 of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 43 agreed to.

Amendment No. 88 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Noel Ahern): Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Amendments Nos. 89 to 91, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 89:

These are minor textual amendments to the section but they also provide for the imposition and examination by vehicle insurers approved by me of endorsements on the entry on the national vehicle and driver file. This pertains to the penalty points and disqualifications relating to persons as may be reasonably required for the purposes of renewing approved policies of insurance of these persons. Copies of entries or extracts from such entries may also be made available to such approved insurers, subject to such conditions as determined by me as Minister.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  May I take it that amendment No. 89 does not weaken the Minister’s power in this regard?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No, it does not.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The word “prescribe” is adequate.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 90:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 91:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 44, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 92:

Obviously the last proposal is not completely related but this is the point at which I included it.

Members have made the point about the European Commission’s decision on the working time directive. However, as part of the wider concern regarding tachographs and the monitoring of professional drivers, in the past the Road Safety Authority and the British Vehicle and Operator Services Agency have consistently registered a high percentage of defective Irish HGVs on British roads. I have raised this issue a number of times on the floor of the Chamber. For example, one survey found that out of 2,000 Irish-registered trucks tested on the United Kingdom’s roads towards the end of 2007, a total of 1,110 had serious technical faults. It appears as though we had major problems with HGVs at that time. Moreover, there have been a number of terrible tragedies over the years, including the deaths of young people. I think of one case in particular of a young man who was killed in a collision with a HGV in 2006. At that time, only two gardaí in the entire country were qualified to read tachographs. In that case, the tachograph showed that at the time of impact, the driver was driving at 90 km/h and had been working on a 12-hour shift.

I asked on Second Stage the reason penalties were not being introduced for HGV-related road traffic offences as was favoured by the Road Safety Authority. I also asked whether the Garda was checking tachographs of HGVs at collision scenes for speed, rest periods, hours worked and so on. In addition, I raised the issue of the aforementioned European working time directive, particularly in respect of owner drivers, and what kind of enforcement proceedings have been taken by the Garda after fatal or serious collisions in which there have been breaches of such regulations. It has been stated that many gardaí, even those in the Garda national traffic bureau, are not aware of any Garda enforcement of the European working time directive. This pertains to the entire area of the monitoring of HGVs. The Minister will be familiar with the experience of travelling on the motorway and sometimes wondering about being overtaken by HGVs and the speed at which they are moving. Obviously drivers are busy, even on Sundays, as they head to or come from Dublin Port and so on. While they play a huge role in the economy, nonetheless it is clear that serious attention must be paid to this area in road traffic legislation.

I sought to try to start doing so by tabling amendment No. 92. As for the proposal in respect of disability bay parking, this was in response to a campaign by a number of disability groups. One disability group that contacted me was the Youghal disability awareness campaign in east County Cork, whose representatives told me that it was not a road traffic offence to illegally park in disability parking spots. Most people are very proud of the respect that is given by all communities to disability parking spaces. However, there have been cases in which people such as wheelchair-bound drivers and so on have been extremely upset that the available disability space has been taken up by someone who does not have a disability and that such an action is not encompassed within the road traffic code. Obviously, some of these spaces are located in car parks and so on. However, the point has been made to me that perhaps this matter should be addressed in this legislation. Consequently, the proposal is to add four penalty points in respect of those two issues.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I do not disagree with the Deputy regarding penalty points, particularly in respect of the haulage-related offences pertaining to the tachograph, drivers’ hours and so on. The Deputy has suggested that serious consideration should be given to this issue and I agree with him. The Department already has started this process and it will form part of the next road traffic Bill. It simply was not possible to include it within this Bill. However, work already is under way within the Department. As it will require much consultation, the work is being done in conjunction with——

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I apologise for interrupting but the Minister is acting with regard to deposits and what effectively appear to be large on-the-spot fines. Can he not complete the roll-out and tackle observance in respect of tachographs, the working time directive and so on? He should introduce a significant new section to the Bill in which this area would be dealt with once and for all to ensure that HGVs are regulated properly. It is somewhat shameful that the British authorities have such terrible figures in respect of our HGVs. I acknowledge the figures I have to hand are for 2007 and 2008. Matters may have improved, although one would not hope. Why not just go for it? It is a large industry; it can be profitable for well-run operators. We are in a recession and people are experiencing difficulties now, but why not clarify the issue once and for all, given the number of our HGVs that have been involved in collisions and their shameful record according to the British statistics?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We have started the process. I was conscious that we wanted to thoroughly review the penalty points system instead of approaching bits and pieces of it. We could probably have undertaken several actions in respect of the system. As the Deputy is aware, we introduced fresh penalty points at intervals in recent years. What we need is a thorough examination of all aspects of the system with a view to introducing new penalty points for different offences and determining whether the penalty points being awarded need to be revised upwards or downwards. Instead of doing this on a piecemeal basis, we should focus specifically on this section of the Road Traffic Acts. Involved with us in this effort is the Department of Justice and Law Reform, the Courts Service, the Garda and the RSA. I did not have the time to get the work done ahead of this Bill. I am not trying to be smart, but the Deputies opposite rightly criticised us when we introduced the Merchant Shipping Bill and then needed to add large chunks to it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It was very difficult work, but we did it. We got it through.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I know and appreciate that. If I did it again, the Deputies would rightly criticise me. I do not want to do it.

I agree with Deputy Broughan’s comments on penalty points. Another aspect of the system with which I wanted to deal during the process proved more complicated, namely, whether we could align the penalty points further with the Northern Irish system — and the UK system if it comes to that — because of mutual recognition. I have not addressed the issue yet, but work is commencing on it and it will definitely form part of the next Bill. I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment on this basis.

The Deputy’s second point was on parking illegally in a disabled person’s parking bay. It is a serious offence. The fixed charge penalty is €80, twice the amount of a general parking fine. It is the highest available fine under the current fixed charge penalty system. We should also note that, with the sole exception of dangerous parking, all of the general traffic offences that are or will be brought under the penalty points regime are moving offences. It is also the case that all penalty points are detected and prosecuted by the Garda Síochána. Traffic wardens have no function in that regard, but they are the primary enforcement mechanism against illegal parking in disabled bays. For all these reasons, the provision has not been deemed suitable at this stage. However, when we examine the penalty points system and in light of the report on wheelchair parking, the wheelchair permits system and so on that is currently with the Department, I will consider the matter. I will not promise the Deputy anything, as moving traffic wardens into the penalty points realm would be a big step.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Regarding one of my points on the Garda Síochána and the traffic corps, what is the story with their ability to read tachographs? Where the tragic case of four years ago that I mentioned was concerned, only two people in the country were qualified to read them. There are transport inspectors, but what is the current situation?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Garda is skilled for it now, as are the transport officers to whom the Deputy refers.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Can every garda read a tachograph?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Every garda in the traffic corps probably could, but not every garda.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  They are active. The situation has improved considerably.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is an area in which people have grave concerns, so I will press the amendment.

Amendment put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 6.

Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.



Níl
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 93 not moved.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 94:

This provides a minor textual amendment to the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 45, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 46 and 47 agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 95 and 96 are related and will be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 95:

These amendments make several changes to the section, including the provision in primary legislation for the requirement that an application for a driving licence or learner permit must contain a recent photograph and the entry in the licence records of an applicant’s PPS number in response to discussions between the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Road Safety Authority.

The amendment also provides for the inspection and examination of licence records, the taking of or supplying by me or the licensing authority concerned of information, copies or extracts from the records and also applies to persons approved by me in fulfilling our obligations under European Union and other international enactments and agreements and other categories of persons prescribed by me for the exchange of driver and vehicle information. The amendment provides for the definition of licence records as records maintained under section 60, as amended by section 86 of the Finance Act 1994, of the Finance Act 1993.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Does this bring us any nearer to the mutual recognition of licences?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We are advancing the project for a small, credit card type license. We hope to have that introduced over the next year and a half. This ties up the licence records with the PPS number. We are trying to ensure we do not run into difficulties in respect of data protection so that authorised people can share information for purposes of licensing and penalty points. Normally if one takes information for one purpose it cannot be used for another purpose.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 96:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 48, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 97:

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 49, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 98:

This amendment provides for the substitution of section 40 of the principle Act, which provides for the production of driving licences and learner permits on the demand of a member of the Garda Síochána. This has been the subject of a number of amendments in recent years. The amended section will provide a consolidated and clear presentation of the existing legislation and, in doing so, repeal the aforementioned amending provisions. It will make things much clearer for everyone.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 99:

The amendment presents a minor textual amendment to the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 50, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 100:

This amendment provides for the restatement of section 33 of the Act of 2004, but with the inclusion of a requirement to provide a date of birth in addition to a name and address, when so demanded by a member of the Garda Síochána. The amendment also provides for the repeal of section 33 of the Act of 2004. This will help to tie PPS numbers to dates of birth. It is a double check.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 101:

52.—(1) Where a person, on the demand of a member of the Garda Síochána under section 40(1) or (1A) of the Principal Act or a requirement of such a member under section 51(1) of this Act produces for inspection a driving licence or learner permit under that provision, the member making the demand of the person, where it is produced for inspection to him or her or, where it is produced for inspection at a Garda Síochána station, the member of the Garda Síochána at the Garda Síochána station to whom it is produced for inspection, as the case may be, may require of the person to state whether the address mentioned on the driving licence or learner permit is the address at which the person currently resides, and if it is not, to give to the member the address at which he or she currently resides.

This amendment provides for the requirement of a person, whose driver licence or learner permit has been demanded by a member of the Garda Síochána, to state whether the address mentioned on the driving licence or learner permit is the address at which the person currently resides, and if it is not, to give to the member the address at which he or she currently resides.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  These provisions seem very comprehensive but have we done anything to deal with the problems the Garda traffic corps had with some foreign drivers who gave them ridiculous names in Polish or Romanian? For example, somebody gave his name as “driving licence” in Polish. Will we still have difficulties with this? Unfortunately, some of our eastern European new Irish have apparently left because of the recession. Is there any way in which domestic legislation can eliminate the fact that some drivers break our traffic laws with impunity?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The provisions are designed to try to reduce this considerably. I must put my hand on my heart and say I cannot honestly state they will eliminate it. Tying up dates of birth, PPS numbers, names and current addresses will help but the biggest single advance we could make to get rid of many of those difficulties is to introduce small credit card-sized licences with chips and PINs.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Do our EU partners already have these?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No, they are moving towards it. The operative date is 2012 but issues remain which must be clarified at European level. I have decided we need to move on this. The other issue raised in moving to a credit card-sized licence is that one issuing authority would allow for greater security and we will have to examine that. A single issuing authority would be able to check more carefully and make crosschecks. Perhaps I should not say this in public, but at present there is nothing to stop a person going to 25 different licensing authorities, providing different names and getting licences. We need to overcome this.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 102:

These amendments are minor textual amendments to the section, including clarification that a legible copy of the licence must be produced to the court.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 103:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 104:

This is to try to cover a situation where a driver holding a foreign and an Irish driving licence presents the foreign licence to avoid penalty points or disqualification. It comes back to the area of foreign licences, which I already mentioned. Perhaps the Garda Síochána should be empowered to search the driving licence database for a matching Irish licence when somebody presents a foreign licence. This practice drove a coach and four through the penalty points legislation because a huge number of people got away without receiving penalty points. We came up with this formula in case people hide behind a foreign licence when they have Irish licences.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I know exactly what the Deputy is getting at and it is catered for in the Bill as it stands because it provides for an amendment to existing definitions of a driving licence to include “foreign driving licences”. That was the loophole, as “driving licence” meant only an Irish driving licence. Any application for a driving licence while holding another licence, following the passing of the Bill, will render such an application fraudulent. Section 50 provides that in such circumstances a member of the Garda Síochána may seize a driving licence. The Deputy can take it that it will be fraud to apply for a second licence and will incur fines of up to €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both. It is a serious offence.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  That should be the end of it.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 51, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 105:

This amendment relates to disqualification. I felt we should have mutual recognition of penalty points legislation somewhere in the legislation. If it was contained in primary legislation it would enable the Minister to proceed by ministerial order once the relevant international agreements were reached. It relates to the big problem we had with the penalty points regime and the fact that perhaps one quarter of those who broke the traffic laws went unaffected.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  At present, we have no agreed international framework for dealing with recognition of penalty points for driving offences. It will take a little while before we are able to do so as there is a fair amount of work to be done on it, including the provision of an appropriate framework of law and international agreement.

As the Deputy is aware, because I have stated it on several occasions, I discussed this with my UK counterpart 12 or 15 months ago. I was not filled with optimism that it would done in the shorter rather than longer term. I will examine the amendment to see whether it can be accepted. Normally with regard to a measure like this, one is told by the Attorney General that principles and circumstances need to be outlined as must the reasons for introducing it. One needs to outline the principles and the circumstances in which this would be done. The amendment seems sensible and I will consider it before Report Stage with a view to accepting it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I do not know what formula will be needed at EU level. Perhaps a European system of penalty points could be established but that is a debate for another day. It is disheartening that the penalty point regime was undermined, at least when the economy was booming, because we were able to keep track of only a small proportion of offenders. I welcome the Minister’s comments.

2057Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 52 agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 106 to 108, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 106:

These are minor textural amendments to the section, including the restatement in a clearer format of penalties associated with first and subsequent offences.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 107:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 108:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 53, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 54 and 55 agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 109 to 116, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 109:

These are minor textual amendments to insert a new subsection to provide that, in a prosecution for an offence of driving a dangerously defective vehicle, it will be a defence to show that at the time of the alleged offence the defendant was employed by the registered owner of the vehicle and using it in obedience with the owner’s express orders.

I will let Deputy Broughan make the case for his proposed amendments before speaking to them.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I tabled amendments Nos. 110 to 112, inclusive, and 116. In the Bill as it stands, a person can only be convicted of dangerous driving if it can be proven that he or she endangered someone. This makes it almost impossible to prosecute dangerous driving if a crash does not occur. The Labour Party is of the opinion that dangerous driving needs to be recognised as such, even where it does not result in accidents and, therefore, we propose to amend section 53(1) with the words “or can be reasonably expected to”. Cyclists were particularly interested in this amendment. I ask the Minister to consider amendment No. 110.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  According to my legal advice, the proposed amendment No. 110 might have the opposite effect to the Deputy’s intention. It might dilute the provision that already exists. I have no difficulty in investigating the matter before Report Stage, however.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  This is a complex legal formula. I ask the Minister to consider the proposal.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The issue was raised by the Dublin Cycling Campaign and the Galway Cycling Campaign, both of which regularly correspond with me and, I am sure, the Chairman. They believed cyclists needed the protection of a stronger form of words.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will investigate whether I can strengthen the provision in light of the Deputy’s comments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 110 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 111:

This amendment specifically deals with dangerous overtaking. It was suggested by our cycling citizens because the dangerous overtaking of cyclists is one of their main safety concerns. We need to work harder on road infrastructure and signage for cycle routes, especially at junctions. My main concerns are the overtaking of cyclists closely and at speed and overtaking followed by pulling in or turning left too early. On my route home, the cycle lane goes straight across the junction between the Howth Road and the Clontarf Road, which means cyclists and drivers have to be vigilant.

I understand the offence of dangerous overtaking is not defined by regulation rather than primary legislation, although it is referred to under the penalty points legislation. This offence should be put on a legal basis, alongside the definition of “dangerous and careless driving”. The amendment strives to protect cyclists in vulnerable situations, such as at junctions. There have been too many tragedies in these situations and I ask the Minister to consider the amendment.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I have no difficulty considering any measures that improve safety for cyclists. The existing offence of dangerous overtaking is set out in article 10 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 and it is not advisable to create a duplicate offence. Perhaps the Deputy wants to replace the aforementioned provision with his amendment, in which case his proposal can be considered on Report Stage.

The problem with the wording of the amendment is that it could give rise to enforcement difficulties, particularly where one is reliant on detailed measurements of the distance between a vehicle and a cyclist. Current legislation allows a garda to charge a motorist with dangerous overtaking or dangerous driving where he or she considers that an overtaking manoeuvre was hazardous. This gives the officer latitude when forming an opinion. The point being made is that if there is a stipulation of distance from a cyclist and car or of speed, legal loopholes would be left for people who were clearly manoeuvring dangerously. For that reason the Deputy might reconsider his amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Is there any way a stipulation could be inserted that is specifically designed to protect cyclists? I note a headline from the Evening Herald recently indicated that cycling is not really covered in traffic law. The other side of the equation became evident when a cyclist went through a red light and was found guilty of causing a collision. There is no way to ban someone from cycling, so there is a gap in legislation. In 99% of incidents, the vulnerability of the cyclist is a key issue. I will withdraw the amendment for now but perhaps the Minister will see if we can specifically include cyclists at this point in the legislation, taking in dangerous driving resulting in serious danger, particularly to cyclists. A bicycle is another moving vehicle.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendment No. 112 has been discussed with amendment No. 109.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 112:

This goes back to the start of our discussion.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It involves pedal-driven vehicles.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It concerns the definition of cycling. Did the Minister indicate something would be done about that? It is part of the smarter travel idea. The Minister said there would be a big day for cyclists shortly.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It is all this week. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, is examining the area in the context of developing a new EU framework regulation on all these types of two and three-wheeled vehicles. A range of definition issues is being examined in this regard. The amendment concerns the driving of dangerously defective vehicles and applying that provision to the vehicles described. It does not really work in this respect. A person on a dangerously defective bicycle will not cause the same kind of damage as somebody in a dangerously defective motor vehicle. I indicated that the RSA is considering the issue in the context of the EU framework and we will bring forward proposals following consultation.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I will withdraw the amendment for now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 113:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 114:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 115:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 116:

This is an activity that has developed over recent years and the amendment would add it as another offence. The main activity involved is the selling of newspapers. One newspaper has a circulation five days a week of something like 60,000 and when there is no selling at junctions on Saturdays because people are not working, the circulation drops by approximately 20,000. There can be all kinds of commercial promotions or people raising money in this way. Many of my constituents feel that as we have many fine shopping centres, commercial malls and high streets, we should not need to have this kind of activity at key junctions.

There are some junctions in my own constituency which are extremely dangerous as they connect major roads. One junction takes in the end of a motorway as it changes to a national road before joining a major city road. It is an activity that developed over recent years. The Minister’s own former leader told people early one morning in 2002 to get out and man the junctions in a political campaign. We have seen people waving and handing out promotional literature.

There cannot be a different kind of law with this kind of activity. When driving, people should concentrate on the task and be very alert at junctions. I am putting the case that we should discourage this activity in legislation, irrespective of current activity. There are newsagents on high streets who can sell papers and there were famous newsboys and newsgirls in the inner city down through the years. The sale of newspapers at junctions is not required. I have noticed that around Busáras people walk back and forth through the traffic, and it is a problem at many other junctions. It should not be encouraged.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I thank the Deputy for elaborating on the matter. I understood from the amendment that he was just considering plastic signs, etc. Under section 71 of the Roads Act 1993, the selling of goods and the placing of signage on or adjacent to public roads is already controlled. Under those provisions, any person erecting, placing or retaining a sign on a public road, or erecting, placing or retaining on a public road any caravan vehicle or other structure — whether it has wheels or not — used for the purposes of advertising the sale of goods, the provision of services or other similar purposes is guilty of an offence. A road authority may remove or require the removal of such signs, vehicles and structures. The fixed elements are covered in legislation but I will ask officials to consider the specifics given by the Deputy, including the people who look to clean windscreens or selling the newspapers, etc.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Some work on behalf of charities is done but there are plenty of places to go for that purpose.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We would have to include people promoting charities as well but I will consider the matter for Report Stage. I am told it is probably covered but it might not be any harm to be very specific on the matter. It is a dangerous activity for the people involved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is amazing an organisation has not been involved in an illegal practice. The emphasis must be on road safety and people should concentrate on driving. I welcome the Minister’s comments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 56, as amended, agreed to.

Section 57 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 117:

This is a textual amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 118:

This is the same issue and expands the definition of pedal cycles.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Is the amendment agreed to?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Amendment No. 118 was to be withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Is Deputy Broughan withdrawing amendment No. 118?

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is the same as the previous one, effectively. It is my third amendment.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  As I said with regard to the other amendment, the definitions are being considered.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  OK.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 58, as amended, agreed to.

Section 59 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 119:

This amendment provides for a substitution of subsections (3) to (5), inclusive, of section 69 of the principal Act to provide that where a person is required to produce a certificate of insurance to a member of the Garda Síochána and refuses or fails to do so, he or she will be required to give his or her date of birth in addition to his or her name and address. The amendment also creates an offence of refusal or failure to provide information — date of birth, name or address — or the provision of false or misleading information to a member of the Garda and provides for the arrest without warrant of such a person.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Again, this is for the purposes of the PULSE system, is it not? Why was the PULSE system not based on PPS numbers?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  In those days we were much more sensitive about using these identifiers. The sooner we get to a system under which everything is based on PPS numbers——

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Yes.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  ——the better it will be for us all.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 120:

This seeks to introduce a new provision to allow the photographs and signatures of driving theory and practical test applicants to be taken, stored and placed on their driving licence records or driving licences. These provisions are considered necessary to counter fraud and impersonation with regard to driving licences and tests, as was raised previously by Deputy Broughan. We are closing off these avenues of possible fraud.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 121:

This amendment replaces and restates the enabling provision set out in section 123 of the principal Act to allow the Minister for Transport to make a regulation requiring the submission of an NCT certificate to tax a car. Previously, the enabling provisions set out in section 123 of the principal Act were an extension of regulation-making powers set out in section 12 of the Roads Act 1920. This amendment will bring those provisions up to date and allow regulations to be made by the Minister to re-instate the link between the taxing of a vehicle and the holding of a valid NCT, where applicable, at a suitable time.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 60 agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 122:

This is to deal with an issue that was brought to my attention by my colleague Deputy Howlin. It was drawn to his attention after an accident in October 2005 in which a car mounted the footpath, injuring a constituent of his. When the case went to court, the driver was alleged to have had an epileptic fit. There was a previous court case in 2005 in which a bus driver was found to be blameless in a road collision due to the fact that he had had a blackout. At that time Mr. Justice Quirke stated that because of this, he could not make any award of damages. Apparently negligence must be proved or conceded in order for a personal injury case to proceed. The case is sub judice, but it brought to light the possibility that drivers could use a defence of having had a blackout or epileptic fit. The concern is that this defence could make the prosecution of driving offences impossible or very difficult. We were trying to come up with a formula which might meet this requirement in the law.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will have to consider this more deeply. It is not something with which I am familiar, to be honest. The amendment seeks to amend section 78 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, which deals with the general obligation of vehicle insurers to be members of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland. It proposes that the agreement between the Minister for Transport and the MIBI should include a provision requiring the MIBI to treat all claims as if the defence of automatism did not apply. Where that defence is cited and upheld it is proved that the criminal defendant made only physical movements without intention, as the Deputy has outlined. As a result, no liability attaches to the driver or his or her insurance. The problem I have with this is the question of who is liable. Some poor devil is injured in a case such as this and he or she has no way of obtaining any kind of compensation for the injuries suffered. That is one of the difficulties I see with it. I will consider the issue.

From a technical point of view, the provisions the Deputy is seeking to amend deal only with the general obligation of vehicle insurers to be members of the MIBI. It is not anything specific to do with the agreement between the Minister for Transport and the MIBI. In addition, the agreement is on a voluntary basis. If we introduced a compulsion in law which required the MIBI to sign up to specific terms, it would no longer be a voluntary agreement, which would change the basis of the agreement. As I said earlier, the operation of the MIBI is intended to ensure equality of treatment between the victims of insured and uninsured drivers. The imposition of such a requirement on the MIBI would distort this, as victims of insured drivers citing a defence of automatism would not be compensated. It is quite complicated. I know what the Deputy is trying to do in this regard but I must discuss it further with our own legal adviser and the Office of the Attorney General to see whether it can be achieved in any other way. I do not think this is the proper section for it, but I will consider it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Civil liability is the important thing. A person may obtain a low award or no award at all. It does seem to be a loophole in the motor insurance agreement. My own legal adviser suggested the formula I used to try to exclude automatism because of the impact it could have on cases.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will consider it again. It is not an area with which I am terribly familiar, but I will discuss it. It might not be suitable for this section — that is fairly clear — but it may need to be covered somewhere else.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I asked the Minister, as he knows, to treat the recall of vehicles very seriously. We have made provisions regarding the NCT and introduced a ten-year rule with regard to taxi drivers, but the issue of the recent recalls was a significant one, particularly in the US, where Congress called in representatives of Toyota, Honda and other manufacturers. The big problem that arose with Toyota was that the car seemed to run away on people and became a lethal weapon which the driver could not control. This had enormous implications. We are not talking about the same thing here but the territory is somewhat similar. Toyota was very severely reprimanded for its vehicles. None of the companies that produce our national car fleet of some 2.1 million vehicles is now based in Ireland. We have to take what foreign manufacturers tell us.

I have been interested in this subject for a long time. When the Minister was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I used to ask him questions about it. When a group of French car manufacturers — I cannot remember the makes — introduced piercing blue lights, which some cars still have although the situation has improved in recent years, we did not seem to have any standards in that regard. A significant part of our balance of payments goes towards importing these cars and it is a very profitable business for the distributors in this country. We are only starting to control the area but there is an entire territory to look at. It was a serious matter that new high-spec vehicles were introduced which had major faults. Even though our market is very small, at the height of the Celtic tiger boom we reached some hundreds of thousands of units which is significant. We should be very conscious of these points, especially if, as I hope, we begin to get a grip on speeding, drink driving and other such points covered by this legislation

Is the Minister happy with the situation? Have we dealt with any of these issues or are we taking these people at their word? The Minister recently introduced a new e-mark for tyres for the NCT. At point of entry of vehicles, however, what have we done with regard to their safety? That is related to this issue because a driver could claim, “It was not my fault. The car ran away with me”. Cars certainly did that in the United States and allegations were made about one or two companies in Ireland. I wonder whether this should be covered somewhere in traffic administration regulation. We should look seriously at this matter. I have been chasing this Minister for 12 years on this.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Deputy has introduced an entirely different point. Regarding the cars that were recalled by the manufacturers, we were able to supply them with names and addresses and the cars were recalled at that stage.

I must admit I viewed what was going on in the United States with a somewhat jaundiced eye. As the Deputy noted, there was a problem but the reaction seemed to be prompted more by the difficulties the American manufacturers were having rather than by anything else. Much of it was just business.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There was an element of that but people were killed. Cars actually ran away.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I am not minimising it but that problem was there. In regard to testing vehicles and so on, that is a matter for which the RSA has direct responsibility. It can do testing of vehicles and, if there is a problem, that agency can deal with it.

Regarding the amendment tabled by the Deputy, I shall look at it on Report Stage to see if there is any way the problem he highlighted can be dealt with, but it will not be in this section of the Bill.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I thank the Minister for that and withdraw my amendment on that basis.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 61 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 123:

My amendment removes the provisions to create special category regulatory signs inserted by section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. It is part of our ongoing policy of removing obsolete or defunct legislation. The provisions creating a sub-category of regulatory sign called special category signs are being deleted. The legislative framework for the provision of traffic signs is set out in section 95 of the principal Act. It is merely a tidying up provision.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Will local authorities have carte blanche to upgrade and update their signage? There are many important aspects to this Bill but good signage is important.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The legislative framework for the provision of traffic signs is set out in section 95 of the principal Act and is amended by the Road Traffic Act 1968 and section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. Under those provisions road authorities have full discretion to provide information and warning signs subject only to a requirement that they consult with the Garda Commissioner in advance of providing regulatory traffic signs. Section 37 of the 1994 Act, amended by section 95 of the principal Act, provides for a public consultation process and makes it a reserve function to provide certain special category regulatory signs. No signs have ever been designated as special category signs and it is not envisaged that any regulatory signs will be designated as special category in the future. That is being removed and, for the avoidance of doubt, there is provision to ensure the existing regulatory signs made under local authority executive functions are not impacted upon by the deletion of the special category signs provision. The amendment has more to do with signs and how they are designated that with any other factor.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No 124:

My amendment provides a substitution of section 107 of the principal Act and restates the section to include the requirement of a person, similarly to a ministerial amendment No. 199, to give their date of birth in addition to their name and address when so demanded by a member of the Garda Síochána. The amendment also provides for the offence of refusal failure or the giving of false or misleading date of birth or address to a member of the Garda Síochána. The legislation will be made similar throughout.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 125:

My amendment provides a substitution for section 108 of the principal Act and restates that section to include the requirement of a person, similar to ministerial amendments Nos. 119 and 124, to give their date of birth in addition to their name and address when so demanded by a member of the Garda Síochána

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 126:

This would amend the Act of 2004 to allow for a speed limit of 40 km/h. It goes back to the discussion we had when Dublin City Council was considering a lower speed limit for the central city districts, extending it to a number of areas for which there was no provision. The speed limit jumps from 30 km/h to 50 km/h in a part of the Bill. There would be provision also for a limit of 40 km/h.

I had an ambition when I worked in local government that we would create home zones and low speed zones on a 25 mph basis. Many Dutch cities have this provision of stages and home zones and Britain copied much of this legislation. I believed it was a good idea but at the time we could not enact it. Now the 40 km/h speed limit is missing again. There used to be a debate among drivers about driving at speeds of 30 km/h, 40km/h and 50 km/h. Some maintain that one is just about driving at 30 km/h and that safety issues might arise, while a limit of 40 km/h or 25 mph is considered to be a comfortable low speed at which to drive and as such, that is the limit what we should have. A limit of 40 km/h could, therefore, be included. One could even jump in units of five kilometres, but that might be too complicated. It is strange that there is no limit of 40 km/h. It relates to the fact that when we changed over from using a miles per hour system, we did not realise the differences. Now we all think in kilometres, although many still drive pre 2006 cars which have mile per hour gauges. Will the Minister accept the amendment?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I shall accept the amendment to introduce the option. However, given that 40 km/h is a relatively low speed limit, its use by local authorities should only be considered in accordance with statutory guidelines which I must revise accordingly to allow for it. If the Deputy agrees, I will introduce an amendment on Report Stage to provide for the introduction of a 40 km/h special speed limit. Its application would be required to be considered in accordance with the guidelines issued under section 9. I am pleased, therefore, to accept the amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I thank the Minister.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Is the Minister accepting the amendment?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I ask the Deputy to withdraw it in order that we can include an amendment on Report Stage, but I accept the principle.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Does the Minister believe the phrase “home zone” to apply to an estate, for example, is one we should include in law?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It might not be a bad idea to include it in a regulation because matters can change.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I refer to people living in estates. Most people are aware of speed limits, but some are not.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 127 and 128 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  2057I move amendment No. 127:

I note section 62(7) empowers the Minister to sign contracts with private operators to operate safety cameras at locations to be determined by a Garda superintendent. It is important that local authorities should also have the power to decide on the position of speed and red light cameras and give evidence in court. This is because speed management is a key factor in local authority planning and traffic management and one of the main measures used in promoting cycling and walking. Therefore, local authorities should have power to control the speed of traffic. The key point of amendment No. 127 is to involve local authorities in this aspect.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  In the main this section deals with the enforcement of speed limits, not their designation. It also deals with the use of special detection equipment by the Garda Síochána. Enforcement is entirely within the remit of the Department of Justice and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner. Neither I, as Minister for Transport, nor the local authorities have any role in the enforcement of speed limits. For this reason, I cannot accept the amendment. It is fair to say, however, that there is a good deal of co-operation between the Garda and the company involved in putting speed cameras in place. Again, it is a matter for the Garda to decide where speed cameras should be positioned. However, it will be based on the information available to the Garda and local authority sources, including on which roads are considered dangerous, where accidents have occurred and so on.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  We read local authority planning reports and so forth and know vehicle speeds are relevant. Clearly, a local authority would have sound knowledge of this territory. I refer to the design of cycling and pedestrian networks and so on. The Minister is suggesting this is not the place in which to provide for this.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Not from our point of view because the Garda is supposed to make such decisions. Amendment No. 129 is related. We took the decision a long time ago that the Garda would enforce the traffic laws, especially on the speed of moving vehicles and so on. We have also decided, with regard to speed cameras, that their locations will be chosen by the Garda on the basis of information on the number of deaths and so on. The force does not do this totally off its own bat. It consults the local authorities. However, it is right that there should only be one body — the Garda — making decisions in respect of enforcement.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I refer to speed signs, in respect of which the local authorities have a role. I have an ongoing issue with my local authority. I refer to the issue of whether there should be a small 50 km/h speed limit sign or whether the speed limit should be marked on the road. I take the view that it works better when the speed limit is marked on the road because one watches the road while one is driving. There is a lacuna in this regard. We are delving deeply into the issue of road safety. For example, in the outer part of Dublin city no one has a clue what the speed limits are. In this regard, the local authority has a significant role to play. The system used should be more interactive. For example, a speed limit of 30 mph was painted on one of our key roads and it worked very well, as everyone drove more slowly, as there were estates on both sides of the road. On the changeover to indicating to speed limits in kilometres, the county manager had the markings removed. to be replaced by the word “Slow”. What does “Slow” mean? The road to which I am referring is the N32 extension which is an extension of the M50. It is used by motorists moving from a motorway zone in which they would have been travelling in excess of 60 km/h and perhaps up to 120 km/h. Suddenly they find themselves in suburbia. The local authorities should have a greater role to play in this regard, especially the director of services for transportation or traffic management. Such a person should have a significant role to play in controlling speeds within his or her territory of operations. This applies also to rural areas and all local roads. A driver should always know what the speed limit is, but there is a grey area.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Deputy’s points are all valid, but they are not relevant to this section.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I was trying to introduce the issue at some stage.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I was wondering about that.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Where else could one inser this provision?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  There is nothing in the Bill that prevents local authorities from marking speed limits on roads. I am sure they will be erecting signage in the areas in which speed cameras will be located to warn motorists they are entering an area in which speed cameras are locaded. However, this is not the appropriate place in place to insert the amendment proposed by the Deputy, but it is a nice try.

1Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 128 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 129:

Everyone welcomes the fact that finally we are getting what the Road Safety Authority wants in terms of “safety cameras”. We will have a network of safety cameras. Am I correct in stating there will be no further delays, that the date set is next October and that by next January the figure of 6,000 hours will apply? The amendment tries to facilitate the roll-out of the network in terms of the provision of infrastructure such as road signs and so on. It is the same subject because I presume local authorities will be doing this. Obviously, we need a very clever approach to this. A lot of the terrible tragedies that have happened since spring of this year seem to have happened on very rural local roads in some of the western counties in particular. It is very disappointing and disheartening. We need to have great mobility in this regard. There will be no more slippage on this programme.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I sincerely hope not. I am not directly responsible for this area, although I have pursued it very vigorously over the past two years. It is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, along with the Garda, to have speed cameras in place. It has indicated that they will be in place by October. We will be involved in working closely with that Department regarding the roll-out of any signage that is required as part of the entire process. Road signage is already provided for in road traffic legislation. Therefore, we do not need to include it in the Bill. It is there to facilitate the roll-out of the cameras. As I said, I join with the Deputy in hoping that the roll-out can happen to the latest timescale. It is overdue, as far I am concerned.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 62 agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendment No. 130 was discussed with amendment No. 49.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The amendment concerned costs.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We said we would consider it on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 130 not moved.

2057Section 63 agreed to.

Sections 64 and 65 agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 131:

This amendment provides for additional enabling provisions for the making of regulations governing the approved driving instruction scheme. I made regulations last year to provide for testing, licencing and registration of driving instructors. Additional provisions are now required to supplement the existing approved driving instructor regulations in the areas of the display of plates and badges of approved driving instructors, stabilising conditions regarding the fitness of applicants to be approved as driving instructors, facilities required to be available to driving instructors, for example, compounds for motorcycle instruction, and give the Garda and RSA officers powers of inspection of records, badges and vehicles of approved driving instructors.

This amendment provides additional enabling provisions for the making of regulations to deal with these issues. These regulations will also allow for the creation and prosecution of offences around illegal driving instructors and for associated penalties.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I warmly welcome this much needed section. It is good to see that it is to be inserted. I will support it.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 66 deleted.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 132:

This is something that my colleague, Deputy Shortall, who was the former spokesperson, felt was a huge gap in road traffic legislation. It is a very serious and potentially fatal legal loophole which has put lives at risk all over the country. The amendment refers to new estates which have not been taken in charge. Under the Road Traffic Act 2004 speed limits can only be applied to public roads. When Deputy Shortall was transport spokesperson she found that roads in housing estates that have not yet been taken in charge by the local authority are classified as “public places” rather than “public roads” and so are exempt. The standard of 50 km per hour for urban areas cannot be applied within the estate.

There is also a serious problem in that the enforcement or parking restrictions such as double yellow lines cannot apply in estates that have not been taken in charge. Most Deputies, including the three of us, will have encountered hundreds if not thousands of constituents who are living in new estates and experiencing long and very frustrating delays to the taking in charge process from the local authorities, which is often due to foot dragging and incompletion of the proper works by developers. A drainage scheme or defects can hold up things.

I note in 2006 the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, had to send a long letter to each city and county manager asking for detailed information on inaccuracies in the taking in charge process in their areas, such was the level of complaints. Deputy Shortall was then told that there were 2,500 estates around the country which had not been taken in charge, which often had families with young children living in them. I am asking the Minister to deal with the anomaly which currently prevents urban speed limits and double yellow lines to be applied by local authorities before an area is taken in charge.

Deputy Shortall tabled an excellent amendment to the Road Traffic Bill in July 2006 which allowed local authorities to designate roads in estates yet to be taken in charge as public roads for the purpose of the enforcement of road traffic and parking laws. I am informed that, inexplicably, the amendment was not accepted. The Minister has a chance to remedy the situation. There many estates in my constituency and those of my colleagues where the adjoining traffic limits and general traffic signage applies in estates which have not been taken in charge. There are all kinds of issues concerning property law and so forth, but our first concern should be the safety of residents of estates.

I am not sure about County Meath but in my constituency I note an estate is currently being taken charge which, I understand, was built some eight or nine years ago. The Clarehall estate, which is an important part of Dublin North East, was only taken in charge last year but was built ten years before that. There are worse examples from around the country where estates were not taken in charge for decades. The Minister might take this amendment on board.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will consider the issue. I know the point the Deputy is making. We discussed roads deemed to be public for the purposes of offences but one cannot put speed limits or anything else on them. I know how difficult it can be, even though I introduced the Planning and Development Act 2000 to try to speed up the process of taking estates in charge. I am advised that it is not a great idea to have two separate procedures for taking the road in charge for traffic offences and normal offences. I am not sure whether we can do it in the time involved but it is something I would like to have a stab at. It could be one line to state that in a housing estate or where there are more than three or four houses, a minimum speed limit shall apply.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Or this Bill will apply.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It could be something like that. We could include a provision which enables us to do it at a later stage and give it further consideration. It is a valid point because there are children, etc., in these estates. Thankfully there are not too many but there are some estates that are about 20 years old and they are not being officially taken over.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  That will mean people will try to put in place their own traffic structures. It is not the way to go.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will look at that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 133 and 134 are related and will be taken together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 133:

This is an idea that has been promulgated by the British road safety charity, Brake. It wanted all British local authorities to give an annual report to the Department of Transport on their roads to provide a clear national picture on speed limits and to allow standards to be streamlined across the country.

During the recent controversy over the 30 km/h in the inner core of Dublin city, it became clear that local authorities could only implement a number of restricted speed limits and we have already discussed that. I asked John Tierney to address a number of other issues motorists and commuters have raised, including deficient speed signage across the city because we need a more transparent process. Often people need to know the speed limit because they can claim it is unclear. The road should interact with the driver.

I welcome the Minister’s approach to the 40 km/h limit but we need a more coherent system. Dubliners could be asked the speed limit on Clontarf Road or James Larkin Road and they would get it wrong. If a person is driving along the North Strand, most people would assume the speed limit is 50 km/h but sometimes they can be wrong. There should be clear signage.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Deputy is asking for a statutory obligation requiring all local authority managers to produce and publish annually a report on all the speed limits in their area and requiring an audit and national upgrade programme for signage to include speed limit signage, signage for electric cars, car club cars and partial footpath parking areas. The creation of such statutory obligations is inappropriate in these instances. We have not been able to ascertain the resource implications for local authorities in implementing these proposed requirements.

Work is ongoing within the Department on preparation, under the road safety strategy, of guidance for local authorities on the setting of speed limits and local authorities will be requested to audit their speed limits following receipt of that guidance. Work is also being initiated by my Department to develop signage for electric car and car club parking.

The creation of statutory requirements for this work is inappropriate and, accordingly, I would ask the Deputy to withdraw these amendments.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Has the signage manual mentioned by the Minister been produced yet?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No, that work is under way.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It might not be a bad idea to consider putting it in legislation.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  There are regulations that allow us to do it. It is not necessary, therefore, to put it in primary legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 134 not moved.

Section 67 agreed to.

Sections 68 to 70, inclusive, agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 135:

This amendment provides for an amendment to section 41(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to reduce the period for which gardaí are required to hold a detained vehicle awaiting reclamation by its owner from six weeks to three weeks.

This reduction was sought by the gardaí to reduce storage costs, free up storage space and facilitate an increased number of detentions. Based on figures supplied by the Garda of all vehicles detained by gardaí under section 41 and subsequently released, 48% were released within 24 hours of detention, 88% released within a week and 92% were released within two weeks. Almost all the remainder were reclaimed at the end of the mandatory detention period, with less than 2% being reclaimed from the end of three weeks in detention and the end of the detention period. The gardaí are also required to give two weeks’ notice of intended disposal of the vehicle and this requirement will remain.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 136:

This amendment provides for the repeal of section 13 of the Act of 2002, which has not been commenced to date. That section provided for making of regulations by me for the protection of the environment from vehicle emissions and noise. Such protection is currently provided in legislation decided at EU level and transposed accordingly, thereby making section 13 redundant.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I move amendment No. 137:

This amendment provides an amendment to the provisions in section 33 of the principal Act governing driving tests to provide that the Road Safety Authority would not carry out a driving test unless the vehicle displays a valid tax and NCT disc, where appropriate.

Amendment agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 are related and will be taken together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 138:

This relates to the discussion we had earlier. Amendment No. 139, which calls for graduated driving licences for motorcyclists, was action 72 in the 2007-12 Road Safety Strategy, with a target completion date of the third quarter of 2007 but so far there has been no legislation. It is a huge area given the number of motorcyclists who die tragically each year in collisions on our roads. The Minister has not acted on those two issues, which are core parts of the road safety strategy, and I ask him to do that.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The amendments propose to introduce new sections creating statutory obligations requiring me to make regulations to implement the graduated driver licensing scheme and to implemented compulsory basic training for motor cyclists.

The Deputy will be aware that the Road Safety Authority had a public consultation process and it submitted proposals to further develop and implement a comprehensive graduated driver licensing system in Ireland. I have approved those proposals in principle, subject to refinement of some issues regarding the implementation during the RSA piloting of many of the proposed measures.

Many of those proposals will require primary legislation. They cannot be achieved through regulation per se. Work is beginning in my Department on preparing for the next Road Traffic Bill, which we expect will include the provisions to implement a graduated driver licensing scheme. Creating a statutory obligation on the Minister for Transport to make regulations to implement the scheme is inappropriate at this stage because much of what we must do to implement a graduated driver licensing system will have to be by way of primary legislation. That is the advice we have been given.

Furthermore, the preparation of draft legislative regulations to implement compulsory basic training for motor cyclists is nearing finalisation within the RSA. I expect to receive those proposals shortly.

The enabling provisions to underpin those regulations are already in place and, accordingly, there is no need to put an obligation on the Minister for Transport to make regulations to implement the scheme. That is inappropriate. In the first case we need primary legislation; we cannot implement the system without that. In the second case, the necessary legislation is in place.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Has the Minister done any work on the first one? Are heads of a Bill available?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No. Our focus is on this one. Work has been done on combining various sections of the Road Traffic Act. Some work is being done on the penalty points. This is another area to be addressed in the next Road Traffic Bill.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I would like those issues dealt with.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yesterday.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Everybody, from the RSA down, would like that. I withdraw the amendments for now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 139 not moved.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 140:

In page 67, after line 26, to insert the following new section:

Again, this is an aspirational amendment. The Minister has gone public in regard to the national electric car programme and we heard from the head of the ESB about its generators being able to run a huge proportion of the car fleet. The Minister took a few actions recently and he has strategic deals with Nissan, Renault and so on but people are concerned. We have all been considering this issue and having witnessed the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, we must make alternative plans on carbon fuels. The rollout of electric vehicles is very slow, given that the Minister’s target is ambitious. I accept that, in theory, it is the other Minister who is responsible for this issue but we are talking about vehicles and the Minister is the Minister for Transport. Why will he not make it mandatory for agencies such as local authorities and so on to begin changing the capital fleets, etc., because it is clear we have to move faster on this issue?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We are working with the Departments of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, local authorities and the ESB on the implementation of a national electric car strategy. It is not appropriate to put a statutory obligation on the Minister for Transport to bring that forward. It is happening.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 141:

This is another aspirational amendment to bring forward a regulation to facilitate the setting and enforcement of speed limits and parking regulations on private property to allow owners of private roads set speed limits and arrange for the enforcement of those limits. There is a gap in the law in this area. In the past, in some private areas such as car parks and so on, collisions have occurred. That is an area of the law that should be re-examined. I await the Minister’s reply.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  This is the amendment I said I would consider in regard to unfinished estates and so on. I am advised that a fundamental principle under road traffic law is that where regulatory provisions apply to a road, the road in question must have the status of being a public road. All road traffic law offences form part of the criminal law code, that is, a person is liable to a penalty or to be summonsed to court when he or she contravenes a road traffic law provision.

It would not be appropriate for the Minister for Transport to regulate the use of vehicles on private property and for that reason I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment on the basis that I will examine the issue of public estates that have not yet been taken over.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The issue of private parking and so on must be examined.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Private property comes into it as well but that can cause its own difficulties.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Yes, but there is no standard in terms of speed limits and so on.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 142:

This amendment is an attempt to respond to the problem regarding current legislation on parking. There are significant social problems in urban areas in particular with the parking of cars in residential areas near DART stations, which is the case in my constituency, but also education institutions, quality bus corridors and so on. The options appear to be limited for local authorities in that regard. We have all probably dealt with this issue in representations we make for constituents.

As I understand it there is no provision under current law for residents-only parking. Local authorities can install residential disc parking but this comes with a charge for residents and visitors and requires a majority of residents to accept it. Also, technical difficulties to do with setting boundaries often arise for engineers wanting to install disc parking on parts of roads rather than the full length of a road.

The main problem is that because there is a charge, even if it is low, it is often difficult to get agreement among residents on a road. Residents-only parking may or may not be a good alternative. There are advantages and disadvantages to that but the problem is the Department does not appear to be interested in taking any action on this issue.

The Minister might ask the Law Reform Commission to examine the area. It is causing a significant social problem that is likely to become more common. My colleague, Deputy Róisín Shortall, asked the Minister to include in the Road Traffic Bill provision for free of charge residents-only parking to deal with the problem that current parking laws only allow for residential disc parking, which requires a charge and acts as a deterrent for consensus among neighbours on measures to deal with parking problems and if, failing inclusion in the Road Traffic Bill, he would refer the matter to the Law Reform Commission.

I tried to come up with a formula to examine this area — it is an area Deputy Shortall has pursued over the years — that the Minister would ask every city and county manager to review the operation of residential parking permit schemes in local authority areas to try to come up with a system of residents only parking.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  As far as I am concerned this is an area that should be dealt with by local authorities. I am not sure it is legislation under our aegis that makes it compulsory that we must charge for disc parking per se. I will examine that aspect of it but I understand local authorities’ by-laws decide these issues. It is a matter for the local elected representatives to pursue it but I will check it out for the Deputy.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It seems to be section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1994.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Yes, I will check that.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Perhaps there is a way to amend that to provide for more discretion so one could have the residents-only parking. Everybody is familiar with this issue and the only solution that has been arrived at is disc parking. People continue to suffer rather than having a paid system of disc parking, which can be very inconvenient as well.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  My understanding is that payment for disc parking is a matter for the local authority. If there is a local issue or a particular problem with traffic management in an area, the local authority members should be the people to make the decision that the authority will not charge residents. I will double check it but I understand that is the situation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 143:

We examined the legislation and there is no legal requirement in this regard. Given the priority of public and sustainable transport for smarter travel objectives, it should be mandated that all buses on QBCs get priority.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  In fairness to local authorities, they do afford priority to public transport vehicles as far as is practicable and possible. The introduction of a compulsory provision, without an acknowledgement of the varying circumstances and conditions that might arise and which would be best known to the local authority in an area, is inappropriate. This matter is best left to the local authorities in dealing with their traffic management schemes. In most cases local authorities deem public transport as a priority but there might be circumstances in which it should not be, and that is best left to local authorities to determine taking account of varying circumstances and conditions. I ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Again, it is not provided for in legislation, which is the main issue. I will withdraw it for now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 144:

This is similar to the earlier amendment except it provides for referring the residents-only parking issue to the Law Reform Commission.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  We can talk to the Attorney General but it is wholly inappropriate in a Road Traffic Bill to try to compel the Attorney General to refer any issue to the Law Reform Commission. I am sure the Deputy will accept that. It is quite permissible for this committee, if it wishes, to write to the Attorney General to ask him to refer it, but it is not appropriate for legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 145:

This issue was brought to my attention by the outstanding campaigning group, PARC. The CT68 form is used by the Garda Síochána to collect road collision data after a road collision. PARC wants this form to include a comprehensive range of data on any vehicle defects that are discovered and whether any or all of the drivers have been tested for the presence of alcohol or any illegal substances.

We have discussed this issue previously. I am very impressed by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board reports. At previous committee meetings I have pointed out that in each serious road collision involving injury and death we should consider having an investigation along the lines of those carried out by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. In other words, there would be a thorough investigation of every major collision. I have put that proposal to people such as Mr. Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, RSA. The CT68 is completed by the garda who attends the scene of a collision. It is a preliminary opinion only and does not form part of the Garda investigation file. Its sole purpose appears to be to provide high level research data to assist intelligence-led enforcement, engineering remedial measures and road user education. The most reliable source of collision analysis is to research the complete Garda collision files, including toxicology, coroner’s and court findings, according to part of the reply I received from Mr. Noel Brett.

I have a copy of a CT68 form with me. It is a very basic form if one compares it with the form utilised in Northern Ireland, which appears to be a thorough analysis of all aspects of a collision, that is, whether a driver has taken drink or drugs, the state of the vehicle and so forth. I believe it is called the collision report form. It gives a very detailed picture of a collision. It is a lengthy form. I understand that PARC has proposed using that form to the Garda Commissioner and that some concern was expressed about the amount of information in it. On the other hand, a collision is often the site of an incredible tragedy for an individual and family so a detailed and fundamental report on key aspects of the collision appears to be required.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board conducts its business through a very thorough report. Perhaps we should be considering a somewhat similar investigation for road collisions, comprising a major investigation of each area. This legislation tightens things up considerably, but it is felt that parts of it could be still tighter. Above all, this very basic four page report for each collision is not sufficient to provide a full picture. In amendment No. 145 I am asking the Minister to review the use of this form, look at other jurisdictions and to provide for a thorough report on every collision.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The content and format of the CT68 form and its use is entirely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. It is not within my remit. For that reason it would be inappropriate to provide for the format and content of that form in primary legislation. Including it in primary legislation sets it in stone in that it cannot be changed again except through primary legislation. It is not a route I would wish to take even if I had direct responsibility for it.

With regard to the investigation at the scenes of accidents, the Garda approach has changed quite considerably, particularly in the last number of years. There is basically a forensic examination of the site of an accident in which many details are gathered. In some cases, particularly if there is a court case, information might not be released into the public domain until the prosecution is pursued by the Garda. This form, and its content, are not a matter for me, but for the Garda Commissioner. I will raise the Deputy’s concerns at the next meeting of the road safety committee with the Garda Commissioner, but it is not a matter for this legislation.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I would dispute that. In different types of legislation we have given, perhaps not in prescribed detail, what nature a particular form or report should take. We have given fairly detailed guidance to different boards on processes to be carried out.

We are talking about something fundamental, a collision where somebody has been seriously injured or killed. The Minister need not design the form in legislation, but he could make it a requirement in the form — I refer to the CRF guide — that there would be a thorough analysis of all of the factors, particularly the state of the driver and of the vehicle. It could be standard across the country as a basis for making reports.

It is also important for the Road Safety Authority to be able to give a coherent picture of what is happening. I quoted its chief executive who, it seems, would like a more comprehensive form than CT68, while recognising that one does not want a bureaucratic process. It is to give the deserved importance to a collision, which is such a significant disaster for a family and a community. It needs to be treated so seriously. That is really what PARC is correctly states, and what we should support.

We could provide for it. The Minister need not go down line-by-line through the form, stating, for example, skidding occurred, road works, road width, etc. He could provide a list of requirements that such a report should contain in primary legislation, given the importance of collisions.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I am not diminishing the importance of collisions. I can give instructions to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB, which is a body under the aegis of the Department, even if it is independent. I cannot give instructions to the Garda in the same way.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Can the Minister give instructions to the RSA?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Garda is the investigating body, just as the MCIB is the body for marine casualty investigations. The MCIB is under the aegis of the Department. It is directly responsible to me.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Somebody could be prosecuted. That is what we did in the Merchant Shipping Bill 2009, where the Department could prosecute.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Marine casualty investigations do not apportion blame. They state the facts. I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about this, one way or the other. I am clearly stating to Deputy Broughan that this is something I cannot do in this legislation. It is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and if it is to go into primary legislation, which might restrict what the Garda is doing, it should come from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, not from my Department.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Is there anything the Minister could do for us by Report Stage on it?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I cannot do anything in this legislation. I will be attending a road safety committee meeting, at which the Garda Commissioner, the RSA and every other stakeholder in road safety is involved, where I will bring attention to this matter and put it on the agenda.

The CT68 form is not the only function the Garda fulfils in this regard. The Garda blocks off roads for up to 24 hours and there is much information gathered. I would not be sure of what kind of forms on which such information is put. However, I will raise it in deference to what Deputy Broughan stated. It is an important issue. I am not diminishing it in any way. I am just stating this is not the appropriate legislation.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It also impedes the work of the RSA, which needs to have the best possible information.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  There is a good sharing of information, but I will raise it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 146:

This amendment also provides for a new section. I noted, while looking at the legislation across Europe, that our partner states are moving ahead with alcolock programmes, especially to target persistent drink-drivers. The Dutch institute of road safety research, for example, shows how the programme has developed since 1999. The first EU pilot was in Sweden, and then France in 2004, Finland in 2005, etc. The Netherlands is the latest to have a full-scale programme this year.

From a road safety point of view, alcolock programmes for hard-core drink-drivers have by far the best cost-benefit ratio. According to figures from the Netherlands, such drivers across Europe represent 1% of the general driving population but they cause approximately three quarters of serious alcohol-related crashes, and drivers of passenger cars and vans are involved in 62% of alcohol-related crashes in the Netherlands.

From a commercial point of view, alcolocks for general preventive use in buses and trucks may be cost beneficial as well and have several advantages over workplace testing. North American and Swedish evaluation studies show that alcolocks reduce repeat drink-driving by approximately 70%.

However one looks at it, in terms of, first, the advantages given the horrendous casualties and deaths on the roads and, second, the cost-benefit of implementing road safety laws, it seems that those in continental Europe are way ahead of us in this regard. It is something we should consider as soon as possible. The Netherlands system seems to be an effective one and has had a great deal of success. Would the Minister consider providing for it in the legislation?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Primary legislation is not required to carry out the type of pilot programmes to which the Deputy refers. Any pilot programme on the use of alcolocks can be pursued in consultation with the relevant stakeholders and the outcomes reported following the completion of such programmes. It is not necessary to put it into legislation. The RSA can carry out such programmes without having to put it into legislation.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Is it in the current road safety strategy?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Rehabilitation programmes are included.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I do not recall that alcolocks are included.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Alcolock is not specifically there.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It would be helpful.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  It could be. Rehabilitation programmes are there. There is consultation going on at present in that regard for regular drink-drivers.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Will the Minister accept this amendment?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  No, I do not need to.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  This is the point. Perhaps we should have it in primary legislation.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  One does not need to have it to do the pilot schemes.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Then do it.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The RSA is doing it. One need not put it into primary legislation. If they are successful and there is a recommendation from the Road Safety Authority, then one would need legislation to allow for it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Amendments Nos. 146a to 146d, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I move amendment No. 146a:

These amendments were suggested by Cartell.ie, which discovered that the odometers on almost 20% of cars imported from Britain and Northern Ireland had been changed in order to show lower mileage. The work carried out by AA Ireland and Cartell.ie have provided very important information relating to administration of road safety. I first came across AA Ireland’s report in November 2008. It states that a random examination of 3,000 imported cars found their mileage and registration in this State was different from that which appeared in data held by the National Mileage Register, NMR, in Britain. Approximately 50,000 cars were imported into the State during the year in question.

In the motor industry, changing the mileage on a car is referred to as “clocking”. This usually involves reducing the mileage on a used car in order to increase its price. Occasionally, however, the mileage may be increased in order to reduce the potential import taxes on a car. Mr. Jeff Aherne of Cartell.ie stated that the time that ex-fleet cars are among those likely to be clocked, with Audi, VW and Ford among the makes emerging as most frequently having their mileage changed. Mr. Aherne and Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland called on the Department to make clocking a criminal offence in order to curb the practice.

It is unacceptable that a person could be sold a vehicle with such a misleading figure for mileage on the clock or odometer. When I change cars, I always seek a vehicle which is three or four years old and which has relatively low mileage on the clock. One expects that the mileage provided on the odometer is the actual mileage.

I commend Mr. Aherne and Cartell.ie for the good work they have done in respect of this matter. They produced a formula which I adhered to as much as possible in framing the amendments, which I ask the Minister to accept. Amendment No. 146a states:

Amendment No. 146b states:

Subsection (3) of this amendment is designed to provide some protection to genuine vendors. The term “mileage” is used throughout and I accept that this is odd, particularly as we now use kilometres to measure distances, speeds, etc. The phrase “vehicle mileage certificate”, which was arrived at by Cartell.ie, seems reasonable.

Amendment Nos. 146c states that the sale of every vehicle in the State shall be accompanied by a signed vehicle mileage certificate from the vendor. This is a good idea. Last year, I upgraded my car to a 2006 Toyota Avensis. While I trust the vendor from whom I bought the vehicle, it would still have been good if I had been given a mileage certificate. People are attracted to vehicles with low mileage on their odometers and are often informed that they were owned by elderly individuals who did not drive very much or by those who liked to look at them in their garages or driveways but who also did not drive them that often.

Amendment No. 146d states:

I again commend Cartell.ie and AA Ireland for bringing this matter to my attention. I recall putting out a statement at the time the report was produced in which I commended these organisations and requesting that the Minister take action. I remain of the view that the practice of clocking is illegal and it is astonishing that it is not so considered. The amendments appear to me to be well drafted and I suggest that they should be accepted.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Amendment No. 146a is not required to deal with the practice of car clocking, which is provided for in law at present. In that regard, the relevant provisions are contained in the legislation that is enforced by the National Consumer Agency and the Director of Consumer Affairs. The Consumer Protection Act 2007 makes it an offence for a trader to engage in a misleading commercial practice, which would include the provision of false information in respect of a product’s usage or prior history, to the extent that the information would be likely to cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision which he or she would not otherwise make. A vendor who changes the odometer on a car to show a lower mileage figure and who informs a customer that the previous owner was a little old lady who only drove the vehicle to church each Sunday or whatever would be guilty of said misleading commercial practice. The National Consumer Agency enforces the legislation and provides advice for prospective buyers in its guide to buying a car.

Car clocking refers to the practice of tampering with the odometer of a vehicle to reflect a false figure for the miles or kilometres that the vehicle has travelled. The odometer reading is usually reduced as this generally improves the resale value of the vehicle. From the point of view of protecting the economic interests of consumers, this practice is considered to be a misleading commercial practice within the meaning of Part 3 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. Those who engage in this practice commit an offence under that Act. The National Consumer Agency enforces the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007, including that which relates to misleading commercial practices. In light of the detriment consumers can suffer as a result of purchasing clocked cars, the agency considers car clocking to be a priority area for attention and investigation. Approximately 100 consumer complaints were received by the agency in 2008 and 2009.

In the context of enforcement action, the Consumer Protection Act 2007 empowers the agency, if it has reason to believe that a trader is involved in a prohibited act or practice — such as car clocking — to seek and obtain a formal written undertaking that said trader will comply with the requirements of the Act. This usually involves a trader providing a commitment to cease the offending practice and to compensate consumers who have been adversely affected. If a trader fails to provide or reneges on such a commitment, the agency has the power to take legal action. The latter could entail either applying to the Circuit Court for a prohibition order or taking a prosecution. The agency may also initiate proceedings in the court for breaches of the Consumer Protection Act, including breaches of the misleading commercial practices provisions contained therein.

Four undertakings were received from traders and one conviction was secured in respect of this matter in 2008. One trader was convicted of car clocking in 2009. The agency is currently pursuing two others via legal proceedings in the Circuit Court.

The practice of altering a vehicle’s odometer readings in order to pass it off as having travelled fewer miles than is actually the case constitutes misrepresentation and contravenes consumer law. The Director of Consumer Affairs has pursued successful prosecutions against a number of persons engaged in this practice. From the point of view of the concerns expressed by the Deputy, Cartell.ie and AA Ireland, the necessary legislative provisions are in place.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  After purchasing a house, buying a car is the biggest investment one will make in life. Surely the position should be specified in this legislation. The consumer protection law is, in general, extremely weak if not woeful. One need only consider the position relating to banks in this regard. There is a need to be quite specific in respect of this matter.

I did not make the point earlier but car clocking is an extremely dangerous practice, particularly from the perspective of road safety. It can have an adverse impact in the context of the control systems — that is, brakes and steering — of vehicles. If 20% of used imports are clocked, the number of people who have been nailed for it is derisory because the legislation is vague. Given that cars are a significant part of our lives, we should have specific legislation in this regard because it is dangerous. Will the Minister examine this again? The consumer legislation in place is useless and this is a road safety issue.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I do not accept the legislation is useless nor do I accept that 20% of imported cars are clocked. The figure seems to have been plucked out of the air and there is no evidence to support that as far as I am aware.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Can the Minister disprove that?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Anybody can make a claim and let others deny it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The evidence is in the UK.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  The Minister has stated legislation is place.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  That is not good enough. Will the Minister have a look at this?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  I will, but just from the point of view of road safety.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 146b to 146d, inclusive, not moved.

Title agreed to.

Chairman: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  I thank the Minister for attending and Deputy Broughan for his comprehensive set of amendments.

Bill reported with amendments.


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