Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Nineteenth Report


13 May 1998

  By the Select Committee appointed to report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders laid under section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.



  1.    At present a person living in Great Britain who holds a driving licence issued outside the European Economic Area[1] and needs to acquire a British licence has to take a driving test unless his licence was issued by a country or territory listed in an order made under the Road Traffic Act 1988.[2] That order has to apply to all classes of licence and if a country is listed in it, any licence issued there can be "exchanged" for a British licence. Because of this "all or nothing" approach the list of exchange countries is relatively short. For example, it does not include any country which issues a "full" licence after a test limited to driving a car with automatic transmission. The proposal,[3] which was laid before the House of Lords on 25 March, is to replace this "listing" power with a more flexible one which will enable the Secretary of State to list a country either for all licences or only for licences of a specified description.

  2.    The proposed measure would apply to England, Scotland and Wales. Separate legislation applies in Northern Ireland, and the introduction of similar measures in Northern Ireland is being considered.[4]


  3.    In its consultation document, the Government described the burden to be removed in the following terms:

  It is proposed to make the present system more flexible by further amending the Road Traffic Act 1988 to allow the designation of countries or territories whose systems of driver licensing are only partly satisfactory as well as those whose systems are wholly satisfactory, by making it possible for the designation to be limited to certain classes of vehicle or to licences granted in specified circumstances.[5]

  4.    As the explanatory memorandum to the proposal states, "the main benefit will be to allow the grant of a full British licence, without the time and expense involved in passing a driving test, to a number of licence holders from other countries. For some this will have wider benefits, for example, advancing their availability for a wider range of employment."[6]

  5.    The Committee considers that the proposal lifts a burden from those who under the existing law would have to take a test to continue driving in Great Britain but under the proposal would be able to "exchange" licences. The Committee is satisfied that the proposal would remove a burden.

Necessary protection

  6.    The memorandum argues that there is no loss of necessary protection. There is no reason to fear that drivers who do not qualify for an "exchange" licence at present but would under the proposal are worse drivers than those who qualify now.

  7.    In its response to the consultation exercise, the Association of Chief Police Officers supported the proposal provided the standard of driving of those obtaining a British licence was equal to or better than the standard of driving in this country. The Magistrates' Association was concerned that necessary protection could be lost. On the other hand, the British School of Motoring (BSM) believed that the proposal would allow a more focused targeting of those tests from other countries which were of a comparable standard to the British test for certain categories standing alone, and pointed out that targeting could increase road safety.[7]

  8.    The Committee attaches considerable importance to the BSM's expectation that the proposal could result in greater targeting of tests, thereby increasing road safety. On balance, the Committee considers that necessary protection would be maintained under the proposal.


  9.    Those consulted are listed in Annex B to the memorandum and appear to include all those who ought to have been consulted. Two months were allowed for responses, which is adequate. The 10 responses which were received are summarised in Annex C of the explanatory memorandum.

  10.    The Committee is satisfied that there was adequate consultation on the proposal.


  11.    The Committee is satisfied that the proposal for the Draft Deregulation (Exchangeable Driving Licences) Order 1998 meets the requirements of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and is appropriate to be made under it, without amendment.


  12.    The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 provides a two-stage process for the parliamentary scrutiny of deregulation orders. A document containing the proposal is laid under section 3(3) of the Act in the form of a draft of the order, together with explanatory material; and we and the Commons equivalent committee have 60 days in which to consider and report on it. The Government then lay under section 1(4) of the Act a draft order, either in its original form or amended to take account of the two committees' views, for approval by resolution of each House. In the Lords a motion to approve a draft order can only be moved after we have made a second report on it.[8]

  13.    The proposal for the draft Deregulation (Deduction from Pay of Union Subscriptions) Order was laid under section 3(3) of the 1994 Act on 18 December 1997. We reported on the proposal in our 13th report of this session, dated 25th February 1998.[9] In that report, the Committee commented on the transitional arrangements provided by the proposal, and supported concerns expressed by the House of Commons Deregulation Committee that the prescribed notice (contained in the schedule to the proposal) to be sent to workers under the transitional arrangements was excessively complicated. The Commons Committee sent a suggested simplified draft of the notice to the Department for comments and the Department, having made further amendments to the draft, agreed to amend the prescribed notice. We concluded that the form of notice to be given under Article 3(2) should be amended.

  14.    In response to the concerns of the two Committees, the draft Order has been amended to include a simplified text of the prescribed notice. In addition, the prescribed notice has been shortened and simplified further by removing the tear-off portion of the notice, in response to other points made by the House of Commons Deregulation Committee.

  15.    The Committee reports that the draft order is now in a form satisfactory to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution.

  16.    We are required by our terms of reference to perform, in respect of documents and orders laid under section 1(4) of the 1994 Act, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. The Committee has concluded that there is nothing in the draft order which the Joint Committee would have needed to draw to the attention of each House.[10]

1   The European Community States plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Back

2   1988 c. 52. Back

3   The proposal was laid before Parliament in the form of a draft of the Order and an explanatory memorandum from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Back

4   Explanatory memorandum, paragraph 3. Back

5   Consultation document, paragraph 14. Back

6   Explanatory memorandum, paragraph 14. Back

7   Explanatory memorandum, paragraphs 24, 27 and 29. Back

8   Standing Order 70(1)(b). Back

9   HL Paper 75. Back

10  This report is also published on the Internet at the House of Lords Select Committees Home Page (, where further information about the work of the Committee is also available. Back

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