Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the House for facilitating the introduction of this Bill at such short notice. The Bill involves technical amendments to existing legislation to deal with issues related to the endorsement of penalty points on driver licence records and contains a provision to address the implications. In essence, this Bill is about road safety and preserving the integrity of the fixed charge notice and penalty points system.

Deputies will recall that, in the Road Traffic Act 2014, which was passed by the House last year, provision was made for the adjustment of penalty points for certain offences, for the endorsement of penalty points on the record of foreign driver licence holders and for the reduction of the disqualification threshold for learner and novice drivers from 12 penalty points to seven. As is normal with road traffic legislation, sections of the Act were commenced at different times. Among the penalty points adjustments in the 2014 Act were provisions for bringing the offences of using a vehicle without a valid National Car Test, NCT, certificate and parking a vehicle in a dangerous position into the fixed charge notice system, with the consequent endorsement of three penalty points on the person's licence record. I commenced the relevant section of the 2014 Act for these and other adjusted penalty point offences with effect from 8 December 2014. Prior to commencement, these were straight to court offences attracting five penalty points on conviction. In other words, people who committed these offences could not avoid a court appearance by paying a fixed charge.

When preparing the Commencement Order, an oversight in the legislation was detected in my Department. The Road Traffic Act 2002, which first established the fixed charge notice and penalty points system, provided for the endorsement of the relevant number of penalty points on the records of those who made payment on foot of fixed charge notices for offences listed in the Schedule to the Act. It excluded from this provision those offences which were straight to court offences, including using a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate and parking a vehicle in a dangerous position. When the 2014 Act was being drafted, these two offences should have been removed from the exclusions contained in the 2002 Act. Due to an oversight, this did not happen and I am proposing to rectify the position in this Bill. There are no implications from this oversight so long as it is closed by the provisions of this Bill.

The other issue that the Bill addresses also relates to the endorsement of penalty points. Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides the basis on which penalty points can be endorsed on a person's record following the payment of a fixed charge under section 103 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Section 8 of the 2014 Act amends section 2 of the 2002 Act by substituting a reference to section 37 or 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 for section 103 of the 1961 Act. In other words, with the enactment of the 2014 Act, penalty points would be endorsed on payment of the fixed charge under those sections of the 2010 Act. Section 8 of the 2014 Act was commenced with effect from 1 August 2014. Unfortunately, because sections 37 and 44 of the 2010 Act have not yet been commenced, the commencement of section 8 of the 2014 Act removes the power to endorse points on the licence record. To summarise, when the 2014 Act was brought in the section that referred to the application of penalty points due to the receipt of fixed charge notices made reference to two sections in the 2010 Act that had not been fully enacted. That issue arose and was identified when I was dealing with the first issue.

Section 2 of this Bill seeks to address both of the issues to which I referred. The section also provides clarity on a situation where an offence has been committed but the appropriate penalty points associated with the offence have been increased before the fixed charge is paid. The section reflects the current practice of endorsing the number of penalty points that were applicable on the date the alleged offence took place. The concern that arose when this error was detected was that there might be a question mark over the penalty points endorsed since 1 August following the payment of a fixed charge.

I contacted the Office of the Attorney General on this point and received comprehensive advice which pointed out that the legal vacuum caused by the commencement of section 8 of the 2014 Act could not be said to reflect the intention of the Oireachtas, which can be taken to have been that there would be, at all times, some mechanism for endorsing penalty points on the driving licences of persons choosing to make a fixed charge payment in lieu of a potential prosecution. On the basis of this advice, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to provide that penalty points that have been endorsed following the payment of fixed charges should be retained on licence records. The effect of section 3 is that penalty points endorsed since 1 August following payment of a fixed charge are deemed to have been lawfully endorsed. This is appropriate as the drivers involved will have received a fixed charge notice for the alleged offences and made payment on foot of it. The fixed charge notice will also have advised the person of the number of penalty points to be endorsed on his or her licence following payment. This is a key point in the proposal.

The issue that has arisen relates to a flaw at the end of the process of receiving penalty points, that is, the point at which they are attached to a driver's licence after he or she has accepted responsibility for a road traffic offence. I am not proposing to create a new offence but to deal with the administration of an offence for which responsibility has been accepted. This concern applies only to drivers who have paid the fixed charge. The penalty points applied to drivers convicted by the courts were not affected, as endorsement in these circumstances is provided for in a separate section of the 2002 Act. While the number of penalty points affected by this issue is wide, the legislation does not address penalty point offences adjudicated on in court; it deals only with those applied by means of payment of a fixed charge notice.

When the fault in legislation was detected in the week before last, I instructed my Department immediately to cease issuing advice to drivers who had paid the fixed charge notifications that their licences would be endorsed. With the enactment of this Bill, endorsement of licences will recommence. However, to remove any doubt that the penalty points that were not endorsed in the two and a half week intervening period may be now applied, the Bill provides in section 3(3) for the endorsement of these points.

I introduced a Committee Stage amendment in the Seanad which has become section 3(4) of the Bill. The purpose of this subsection is to make it clear that section 3(1) is not intended to infringe in any way the constitutional rights of individuals. The subsection was inserted following judicial review proceedings taken in the High Court on Monday in which the applicant challenged the endorsement of penalty points on her licence which resulted in her disqualification. The constitutional separation of powers prohibits legislative interference in proceedings in being before the courts. This provision will ensure the section cannot be interpreted in a manner that would interfere or be perceived to interfere with proceedings pending before the courts.

The fixed charge notice and penalty points system has played an important part in enhancing road safety and has been very effective since its introduction in 2002 as part of a suite of measures in addressing safety concerns on the roads. The main objective of the penalty points system is not to penalise but to raise awareness of unsafe practices and, as a result, reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the roads. The system is widely accepted by members of the public, as evidenced by the fact that more than 70% of those served with a fixed charge notice pay the stipulated amount without recourse to the courts.

The Bill provides a means of addressing inadvertent errors that took place in recent months. I am satisfied that its enactment will correct these errors and provide, in accordance with the previously stated will of the Oireachtas, a clear legal basis for the endorsement of penalty points when a fixed charge payment has been made following a road traffic offence. The provisions will also ensure penalty points endorsed following the payment of a fixed charge since 1 August remain on the licence record.

I again thank the House for facilitating the Bill. I am sure Deputies will appreciate the urgency of the matter. The Bill is being introduced to ensure the robustness and integrity of a system that plays a vital role in saving lives and reducing the number of injuries on the roads are maintained. I commend it to the House.

I thank the Minister for outlining the provisions of this relatively short Bill which is technical in nature. The Fianna Fáil Party supports the legislation. The Oireachtas has done a good job on the issue of reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries on the roads by taking a non-partisan approach to road traffic legislation in the past ten years. As I have indicated previously, I wish to continue with this non-partisan approach.

As the Minister noted, the purpose of the Bill is to protect the integrity of the penalty points system. It is unfortunate that the circumstances he described have arisen. It appears, having taken advice from the Attorney General, that he is precluded from going further than he has in the Bill. The 2014 Act omitted to refer to the previous penalty points legislation and, as such, undermined the provisions contained therein. I remain concerned, given the retrospective nature of the Bill, about the potential for a legal challenge. It is essential that the integrity of the penalty points system be protected and that the law covering this area stand up to legal scrutiny.

As the Minister noted, the technical flaw in the legislation may affect up to 78,000 drivers. The introduction of penalty points for driving offences by the then Fianna Fáil Government helped to transform road safety and saved thousands of lives. The legislation in question was enacted with the assistance of the Fine Gael Party and other parties in opposition at the time. The House has maintained a relatively progressive approach to developing legislation and reducing the number of deaths on the roads. Notwithstanding this, the number of road deaths began to increase again in 2012, possibly as a result of a reduction in enforcement caused by a decline in Garda numbers. The previous chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Mr. Gay Byrne, laid the blame for the increase in the number of road deaths on the dramatic reduction in resources allocated to road safety. He referred specifically to the reduction in the budget of An Garda Síochána preventing the force from reaching the levels of detection that would result in a continued reduction in the numbers of deaths and injuries on the roads.

The Government must refocus its efforts to prevent road fatalities and provide the Garda with the resources it needs to carry out road safety duties. Once the legislation has been passed, the Minister will have an ongoing battle at the Cabinet table as he fights his corner to ensure additional resources are provided for the Garda for road safety purposes. While the Road Safety Authority is a self-financing agency which no longer requires financial transfers from the State, road safety efforts must be supported and funded through the Garda budget.

The Bill has been introduced to address technical flaws in the 2014 Act which extended the use of penalty points in road traffic legislation. Sections of the Act failed to make reference to the Road Traffic Act 2002 which had established the penalty points system. It is important that we find a solution to the problem that has arisen. Having sought some advice on the matter and spoken to people in legal circles, concerns remain that while the issue identified is a relatively insignificant technical error, it involves the imposition of more than 200,000 penalty points on more than 76,000 motorists.

While the issue is identified as technical in nature and relating to two specific offences, namely, using a vehicle without a test certificate and parking a vehicle in a dangerous position, the error relates to all motorists detected of a penalty point offence and all penalty points since 1 August. Because of its size and scale, the expectation is that there will be numerous challenges to the legislation and its retrospective nature. The Minister has identified one which has begun this week, rightly so, and he has identified the need to carry out the separation of powers. There will be no interruption to the enforcement of road traffic offences under the penalty points system. Indeed, the error identified will lead, as I said, to multiple challenges, one of which has already begun.

To take the substantive issue dealt with in the second part of the Bill, under section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 2014 reference is made to previous statutory provisions contained in sections 37 and 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010. Sections 37 and 44 must be read in the context of section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, and this updates the statutory provisions regarding the services of fixed charge notices. Section 35 is not an issue here. However, section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 deals with the payment of fines where the motorist acknowledges wrongdoing, discharges the fine and accepts the penalty points within the statutory 56 days. Section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 has not been enacted and, therefore, section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 deals with the payment of a fixed charge and the service of a summons. This allows a motorist to pay a fine and accept the endorsement of penalty points on a licence beyond the expiry of the statutory 56 days and where a summons has issued. Prior to the summons being lodged and entered in court, this is a further mechanism in which it is proposed that a motorist can accept wrongdoing but not have to appear in court.

Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 has not been commenced. Therefore, section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 2014, which was commenced on 1 August 2014 under SI 147 of 2014, refers to both section 37 and 44. As neither of these sections of the Road Traffic Act 2010 have been enacted, any reference in the subsequent and amending legislation of section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 2014 is, based on the legal advice I have, erroneous and seeks to evoke provisions which have not yet been commenced. This, again, is identified as a simple legislative error. The legal advice available to me suggests it is open to considerable challenge. Obviously, we will have to wait and see how that plays out in due course.

In conclusion, while we accept the legislation and will support it, we are concerned that the retrospective nature of the Bill is open to significant challenge. Obviously, at a later stage, it may prove impossible to endorse the points to which this legislation seeks to give legislative foundation. If that happens, I guess there is nothing that can be done about it, other than that we will have to accept it and move on. However, it will mark a stark blow to the whole structure of our penalty points system and the integrity that surrounds that. If that happens, we will have to deal with it. The Government and the Minister will have to be far more imaginative in the way they resource the Garda Síochána, as I said at the outset. Perhaps if they can deal with that, it will help to address whatever fallout emerges from the mistake that has occurred in this instance.

Huge strides have been made in recent years in regard to safety on our roads. This year and last year, however, for the first time in a number of years, we have seen an unfortunate rise in the number of deaths on our roads. It is a well-worn statement that one life lost is one too many, and we must always strive to reduce road fatalities and the potential for the accidents that cause them.

Major strides have been made in the past decade with the introduction of the penalty points strategy, which had greater success than even the Government of the time had expected. This success was due, in part, to the ability of penalty points and the attached fines to modify the behaviour of Irish road users. Practices that were commonplace in the 1990s are frowned upon and shunned today, which has meant drivers now use the road in a safer and more secure and careful manner.

The strength of the deterring effect of penalty points was down to two things, in the main - one, that the public saw the administration of penalty points as fair, and, second, because they had sufficient reason to believe they would receive penalty points if they flouted the law. These two essential planks of the penalty points system's effectiveness have been severely damaged over the past three years, and this issue has not helped the matter. The mistake of not removing the requirement for a valid NCT and dangerous parking from the list in previous legislation, making them exempt from fixed charge penalties, was just that - a mistake.

I have many issues with the Government and the politics behind many of its policies, which extends to this Department, but it would be wholly unfair to not understand that mistakes are made and human error is always a danger. This Bill was debated in the House and this issue was not picked up by anyone. I must state that this speaks to an issue in the way Bills are drafted and presented to the Dáil. On more than one occasion I have read Bills which were before the House and which required sitting down with two or three previous Bills in the same vein, going back and forth to decipher what each new section meant. I have had some experience of reading legislation in the last few years and have become more accustomed to this practice, but it remains a difficult and sometimes confusing endeavour to really try to get a firm understanding of the effect of each section.

This is made all the more difficult when we consider that a reference might not have been made which should have been made. This issue could only have been identified by the drafter, given the current way we deal with legislation. Providing expertise in the drafting of Bills rests with the Department and checks and balances are essential. We must look to present legislation which is easier to work with and to consider all the implications it might have on previous Acts in the same category. How this is done is another question, of course.

The failure to commence the other section in question was another case of human error, which we must work to avoid at all costs but which will always be a possibility. In recognition of this, I would like to express my appreciation of how the Minister has handled this. I am sure we will probably lock horns again in the near future but, in the last week, the Minister has acted swiftly and with consideration for the Opposition and the desire across the board to see this issue fixed. With 78,000 people affected from 1 August to 3 December, and with 49 licences suspended and the possibility of many more, the Minister had to act quickly once this problem was identified and understood.

The Minister met transport spokespeople from the Dáil and the Seanad. I ask that this engagement become more commonplace and certainly be continued for the duration of the outworking of this Bill. I also ask the Minister to agree to update the spokespeople and the committee in the new year on other issues.

For many members of the public it is very difficult to take the time to make an in-depth analysis of these somewhat complicated issues but it is important that this remedy is seen to be fair and proportionate. Confidence in the penalty points system has been damaged by scandal in recent times. Most people strongly believe that some people, by way of influence or a good connection to a member of the Garda, can make penalty points disappear - whether we like it or not, that is what most people believe. There is a case for transparency and fairness in the administering of the scheme, not scrapping it as some might argue.

This is especially important in the context of a policing organisation which has weathered three years of harsh austerity. Cuts made by this Government have meant fewer gardaí, fewer vehicles and fewer stations but, all the while, more responsibility for road safety is laid at the door of the Garda.

They have clearly worked extremely hard to fill the gaps caused by this lack of resources, but they cannot be spread so thin and continue to be effective. Less capacity for gardaí to do their job means more people continuing to drive dangerously on the roads and more people who should have been banned remaining behind the wheel. This is clearly why we have seen an upturn in road deaths in the past two years. Without proper resources, we cannot return to the success of previous years. I do not believe we have reached a threshold. There are still people flouting the law and endangering lives. We can do better; the key is to give the correct supports to the Garda to do its job.

I also want to raise issues concerning the NCT. Vehicle safety is as important as safe driving. I do not dispute that drivers must have a valid NCT to drive, but there is a problem when it is not so easy to undertake an NCT test within a short period. We raised this issue when the Bill was discussed previously. The Minister has said that waiting times are not a problem, but this is not borne out by the experience of the people I speak to. I have been told of people waiting for a test appointment for two, three, four or five months. This is far in excess of the 11 days the Minister cited, although that might be the case in some test centres.

The NCT centre in Ballymun has a fixed time period for conducting each test, and workers are instructed to complete the tests in that time. However, that time period has been reduced recently. I am concerned that this quicker turnover of cars could lead to health and safety issues. The Minister said that if tests could not be provided within 28 days drivers would be offered a free test, but the number of free tests has been very low. I wonder if people are being offered these free tests - I have not heard that they have - or if they do not know that they should ask for them, which might explain the low figure.

The NCT and the definition of dangerous parking are two issues that the legislation has not dealt with properly. It is not clear to ordinary citizens what we mean by "dangerous parking". We need to get the message out and explain this further. I am not clear on what is meant by the phrase. I realise that when people park they could cross over a line or enter another square, but it is unclear what is meant by this. We need to get the message out more.

In the past, I mentioned the GoSafe vans and issues with regard to where and how they park, such as inaccuracies in terms of where and how they parked and where and how their cameras were set up. Do we need to look further into these areas? We are aware that judges have quashed penalty points and that cases have been thrown out of court for various reasons. Has a proper analysis been done of this? Have we looked carefully enough at the issues to ensure we will not see other problems down the road in regard to these vans? Two serious anomalies have been identified in this Bill, but we may yet face a legal challenge, despite the fact the Attorney General's advice is that the Bill should be robust enough to withstand such a challenge.

We will not oppose the Bill, as road safety is so important. The Minister mentioned an addition to the Bill from the Seanad in the context of a case taken recently. Will he elaborate on that addition? I understand he is saying this is to safeguard the integrity of that case, but that the enactment of the legislation does not prohibit others from challenging it. I ask the Minister to comment on this in his response.

Before I start, I wish the Ceann Comhairle and his staff a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year. I wish the same to the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. I hope they enjoy the break. They deserve it, as they have had a rough few weeks in the House.

Yes - well able to take the heat. I thank the Chair for the opportunity to speak on this new piece of legislation, the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014.

Before I go into detail, I wish to say that the penalty points issue is driving many people mad. There is no doubt that there is grave injustice in some cases. This leads me to wonder and ask whether this is just another way of making money or of hammering regular people or soft targets who do not generally break the law. They seem to be getting hammered in the neck from every quarter, and the penalty points are just another example of that. Let me give an example. The other morning I was driving to work and saw an unfortunate man in a white van, who was driving to work with his ladder and other gear, drive slightly into the bus lane. Within ten seconds a garda appeared, flashed him down and pulled him aside to give him the full monty. I presume he will get penalty points as a result. The reason I give this example is that one week previously, when I contacted the Garda about part of my constituency that was being intimidated by drug gangs and gang leaders, they said there was nothing they could do about it unless the people being intimidated came to the Garda with the evidence. The point is that the ordinary Johnny in the van who is going to work is hammered, while people who are causing havoc throughout the city are left to walk around freely. People see this as a grave injustice. I do not blame the Minister for that, but that perception exists and is part of what leads to the anger in our broader society. I am horrified at this and want the Minister to understand that when a regular working or unemployed person gets two, three or four points added to his or her licence for something trivial, but there is no action taken on other serious issues, people have a reason to be angry.

To give another example, if the ordinary man in the van has a little Johnny or Mary who plays football on the road, a garda will stop them and warn them that they cannot do that. However, when a public representative contacts a garda to report something or when a community is being devastated by drugs, gardaí will say they have no evidence and can do nothing. That is not the kind of Ireland I want to be part of. Recently, I heard the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, speak about the kind of Ireland he wants to live in. We must be cautious that a nanny state does not evolve.

A change was made to the penalty points system in August and a problem was discovered in early December in regard to how the penalty points were being applied to licences, whereby they were not in order due to an oversight. The Minister then had two choices. He could either give everyone who had received penalty points in between August and December an exemption, or he could retrospectively apply the new rules. I represent the regular working man or woman, and the jobs of some of those people are dependant on not having penalty points. I have met taxi drivers who have lost their taxi plates and licences over the issue of penalty points. This is an issue we must examine. We need a common sense approach.

Despite the fact that choosing option two could lead to legal challenges by individuals who lost their licences during the period after accruing high points, the Attorney General is confident in her opinion that retrospectively applying the new rules, as opposed to applying an amnesty, is within the law and that any such challenge would be unsuccessful. As a result, the Minister went for option two. I call on the Minister to focus on the real issues.

He has a responsibility and I will support him on the broader issue of public safety but I have serious questions about this policy given the issues that constituents raise with me.

Speeding and drink and drug driving are no-nos but what about the little man and little woman who are regularly picked off and fined €80 and who are left wondering about what will happen when they reach eight penalty points for three minor offences they committed while driving back and forth to the shops? I was on Griffith Avenue the other night. There is no speed limit sign but a van was parked on the side of the road picking off people leaving the football club and so on. A total of 35 or 40 people were picked off who might have been ten or 11 km over the speed limit. These are soft targets and it is like shooting fish in a barrel. That generates anger and does nothing for road safety. This was at 9.30 p.m. when the school was locked up with no kids around.

Reference has been made to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Shane O'Farrell case was horrific. A young Trinity College student from County Monaghan was mowed down and killed and nobody batted an eyelid except his mother, Lucia Farrell. She approached us, having approached the previous Minister, and raised the case. The guy who hit him walked free. There is injustice within the system and the law and this also drives people mad. The Minister has to stop letting people down.

There is also an issue about confidence in the penalty points system. A transport policy cannot be implemented without confidence and trust. The penalty points system was seriously damaged when certain people started having their points quashed. I have penalty points and I put my hands up because I should not have committed an offence. However, I recently drove to Kerry and I had to slow down going through every town but it was easy to drive accidentally above the speed limit. I could have returned to Dublin with another six penalty points and been in serious trouble. There has to be confidence and trust in the system and penalty points have to be applied fairly. While the Minister has responsibility for this and I support the legislation, he must recognise the broader picture and not just think that all he has to do is introduce a new scheme to hammer Johnny and Mary who go out to work and obey the law every day of their lives. We need to give them a break. This is linked to a root and branch reform of the entire system.

The Bill makes technical amendments relating to the endorsement of penalty points on a person's driver licence. As of 8 December, there is a fixed charged penalty for the offences of using a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate and parking in a dangerous position with penalty points consequent on payment of the fixed charge. Previously, people accused of these offences were required to go to court and received additional penalty points on conviction. I welcome the reform in this section. The Minister got away lightly with the learner drivers, an issue similar to this. I do not know how many learner drivers there are in the State but 90% of them are law abiding but he has introduced legislation that provides that they must have a fully qualified driver sitting beside them in the car. That does not encourage safe driving. The learner drivers I know are hell of a lot safer than others driving around the State breaking laws left, right and centre. They felt they were a soft target in the public safety debate. I want to represent the soft targets and the regular person.

During drafting of the legislation, a second issue came to light in respect of section 2(1) of the 2002 Act, which provides the basis on which penalty points can be endorsed on a person's record following the payment of a fixed charge. The original reference to this payment came under section 103 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

I will support the legislation but there are issues the Minister should consider. He said the legislation presents no financial implications for the Exchequer but there are significant financial implications for many innocent people who are being hammered every day by penalty points and by laws that are excessive. At the same time, when they seek safety and protection for their children from drug dealers and drugs gangs, they cannot secure it.

Most Members will work with the Minister on this. While everyone has a responsibility, when we support something, it needs to be done in a rational way. Once a Bill goes through, sadly, given the increased regulation introduced for motorists, commonsense seems to go out the window. We all travel around Ireland and GoSafe vans can be seen everywhere in 50 km zones. They are there to collect money because, in general, they are not found at blackspots. They are in places where they can catch someone travelling at 2 km or 3 km. over the speed limit. That aggravates many people because they feel they are being short-changed in the context of legislation being introduced in the public interest.

There has been a major problem in recent months getting vehicles through the NCT. People have received penalty points because of a failure to display a valid NCT certificate but if something is not done to address a problem such as this backlog, the Minister has to put his hands up and say he did not have the resources to address that and in the best interests of everyone, take a step back, get it right and then impose whatever sanctions he wants.

I have a major problem with the legislation relating to learner drivers. Every one of us had a provisional licence. At the time, we did not even go to a driving school because as youngsters we probably drove in a field for a while to get used to driving a tractor or a car. We got the feel of a vehicle and when we went on to a road, we were wary of ourselves. However, the statistics highlight that learner drivers are not responsible for the safety issues on our roads. The Minister is from Dublin but he needs to bear in mind that in rural counties such as Mayo, if youngsters get into college in a city, their parents might buy them a car because of the price of accommodation so that they can drive back and forth to their home. The sad reality of regulation gone wrong is that they would be as well off if they never bought the car because they have to jump in the car beside them when they go to college. If someone has ten or 12 lessons done with a driving instructor, he or she should be able to sign a certificate to say the person is fit to drive on the road.

People may be worried about speed when youngsters are starting off. Tachographs and special speedometers were installed in lorries years ago and there is no reason the speed at which a car travels cannot be restricted when people are starting off. It may be a solution rather than putting families to significant expense. They may not be able to afford to send their youngsters to college but they might have a diesel car for them to travel up and down. That would not cost near as much as if they had to take accommodation. We need to examine these issues in a commonsense way.

Another thing that is causing the major problem around this country at the moment is the issue of trailer licences. For 15 or 16 years, they have been going to marts and town. They have been turning, twisting and doing everything one could with the car and trailer. They are now illegal on the road. In the past few weeks, I have seen that gardaí have actually pulled people up and penalty points are involved. These drivers are as good as any one would see but once again, we have gone mad on regulation. We need to think before we do some of those things.

It is worrying thing, particularly in rural parts of Ireland. What is the interpretation of parking in a dangerous place? A farmer could be on the side of a by-road for five minutes looking at cattle. Does a garda interpret that as dangerous parking? Everyone believes there should be penalty points for driving recklessly. Perhaps a person could pay a fixed penalty charge for the first, second or third times without penalty points. Anyone can make a mistake once or twice but if it keeps recurring, obviously the penalty gets heavier.

In respect of the two points I highlighted, those young people are not reckless. They are trying to start in this world. Many of them are trying to give themselves an education. They are to the pin of their collar trying to finance all of this. We could put a limiter in a car, which can be done as we have done it with the lorries where it has worked successfully. We also need to sort out the issue of trailers. We need to have a bit of common sense about it besides saying that a person got a licence in 1991 and that on 13 September before it, they were sound and could drive away and the gardaí would give them another tick on their licence while if it was a day after that, the gardaí would not give them the tick on their licence. That is regulation gone mad and bureaucracy gone wrong.

I will support the Bill but I ask the Minister as a new Minister to start looking at common sense and not just listen to what somebody who does not understand says. I advise the Minister to ask the likes of the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, because he knows what it is like to live in areas like that. He knows the different problems in different areas of Ireland. The Minister cannot just cater for one section of a community. He must cater for everybody.

I am also delighted to be able to speak on this legislation. I have not made up my mind as to whether I am going to support it. It is not because I do not want to see road safety because I do. I read about the background and context. I am very concerned about it, as I am about a lot of legislation in recent times. Information I have received states that as the Bill is in effect emergency legislation, pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications and the Oireachtas Select Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport has not occurred. According to some reports, regulatory impact analysis is not expected for the Bill for the same reason. That is very concerning for any legislation. We know why the Minister is here today. He had only two choices - address this loophole or let it go. A total of 78,000 people are affected. It is very bad. Rushed legislation is bad legislation. We cannot cater for everything but the people who draft the legislation should try to ensure that it is read and understood through the impact assessment.

There has been no impact assessment of many pieces of legislation that have been passed recently regarding the effect on ordinary families. I support all the safety measures. One death on the roads is one death too many, particularly coming up to Christmas. It is an awful tragedy. I heard about a hit-and-run last night on the news. One accident is one too many. Much of the legislation in recent years has proved that many bad practices have been wiped out. As I said, this loophole must be filled. However, I question the cost of running GoSafe. Estimates of the cost were provided and my understanding is that the cost has gone way above that. The lads in the vans have a hard enough job in those conditions sitting in a van in all kinds of weather but they seem to be in places in my constituency where there were not that many fatalities. We were told that this was the reason they were there so I question that.

I also want to put the issue of weight restrictions on record on behalf of road hauliers. My colleague, Deputy Healy-Rae asked me to mention this. There is a derogation at present and I know the Minister has the option of renewing that. I appeal to him for the sake of business, road hauliers, employees and the families involved to continue this derogation because a pallet list on a load is make or break. It is the difference between being profitable and unprofitable and those involved are hard-pressed at the moment.

I would also ask the Minister to look at hedge cutting. We are talking about bad practices. There are aspects of the Bill regarding parking in a dangerous place. None of us can accept that somebody should park in a dangerous place. However, one might park in a very safe place but the bushes on country roads are growing to the middle of the road. Egress and access to fields, particularly for contractors and farmers, are impossible. The Government should look at the legislation that stops people from cutting roadside hedges at any time during the year. We heard Deputy Healy-Rae's brother's comments about how birds will not nest in a place if they think they will get destroyed. Birds have brains. People must be able to cut hedges all year round in the interests of safety because one has to come out to the middle of the road. Normally, agricultural machines have a long bonnet and the driver is not sitting as close to the front as they would in a car so they must come out to the middle of the road and it is highly dangerous. It is highly dangerous for tourists as well. One cannot navigate around roads. They are closed in in many parts of the country. I am referring to my constituency. We need to look at the legislation to see whether we can do something about hedge cutting. I know that submissions on this issue are being taken and they should be looked at.

I salute the staff I know in NCT centres because they work very hard. However, people cannot get an NCT test. The Minister is saying they can but I can give examples of countless cases. I have heard them on "Liveline" with Joe Duffy and people have contacted me telling me that they had been notified in early November that their NCTs are up at the end of December. However, the earliest test they can get is mid-February and sometimes March. I have spoken to the gardaí and I salute the Garda traffic corps for the work they do. I have spoken to an inspector in my area. They have said that they cannot put people off the road for this and they must try to work within the law as best they can and be liberal in their attitude. If a man going to work is stopped three times with no NCT certificate despite the fact that he has applied for a test and he is trying to be law-abiding, he could be off the road. That is a farcical situation. It is those who are on the road all time trying to make a living and look after their families who are being penalised here. The Minister must amend this because the NCT centres are running beyond their capacity and cannot manage. I want to see fairness here because the person who never goes to work or does anything is fine but the man on the road, be it a haulier or an ordinary man going to school, Mass, a match or the shops or to see Santa Claus with the kids, is affected. It is farcical that such people should be affected despite the fact that they cannot get the NCT test. They have got their car pre-checked in garages and have paid for it and they have to wait for the NCT. That is not viable.

In his reply, could the Minister clarify the following matter? In the NCT charter, which is on the website of the Consumers' Association of Ireland, it states that if a person cannot get a test within a certain length of time, they will get a free test. It also states that if they arrive at the centre at an appointed time and do not get a test within an hour, they will get a free test. Why are people not made aware of this? I am not blaming the workers who work very hard in these centres - at least the one I go to - and who are very efficient. If a person cannot get a test on the date they were given and they are supposed to get a free test, they should get it because the consumer is weighed down with regulations, as other Deputies have said. I ask the Minister to look at that.

I now turn to the issue of "L" plates and learner drivers. I recently said on the radio that-----

The Deputy is straying a bit.

A small bit but it all relates to road transport.

We have gone from hedge cutting to learner drivers.

It is road safety.

Perhaps the Deputy would stick to what is in the Bill.

I am trying to but hedge cutting is very serious in rural areas.

Road safety is a farce if one cannot see where one is going or cannot see the road signs.

I agree with the Deputy but it is not in the Bill.

I have raised the issue of "L" plates and learner drivers. I have five kids who have full licences.

My wife and I were able to train them. That is the way it works. However, a mother or father cannot always accompany a young driver to work or college. It is fine in Dublin and other cities because people can access public transport, but there is no rural transport service. Therefore, it is not fair or equal and legislation must be fair and equal to all citizens. Young drivers are forced to travel together in one car, which leads to accidents because of brinkmanship and peer pressure. They are buying cars and insuring them before going onto the road. Perhaps they should be subject to a curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., but it is not fair to penalise them. Research indicates that only 6% of accidents are caused by young drivers in cars with "L" plates.

The issue of making vintage vehicles undergo the NCT should also be considered. Such vehicles certainly must not be allowed on the road if they are unsafe, but their engines will not stand up to tests for fumes because they are old. These vehicles are part of our heritage and it is wonderful that they are being preserved. The vintage car associations are very concerned about this issue. Legislation must be practical and, as Deputy Finian McGrath noted, we should not victimise people. I acknowledge that is not what gardaí do and I salute them for the work they do across the country. However, it is not fair to introduce legislation which requires them to stop motorists for relatively unimportant issues. Then we have people like Lucia O'Farrell, whose son was mowed down by a driver wanted in two jurisdictions for up to 30 crimes.

I salute the Garda for administering the law, but I question the use of vans. I hope somebody will challenge the provision under which the two penalty points are doubled if the fine is not paid and the individual concerned is brought to court. That is a strange provision. If somebody misses the first notice, his or her penalty points will be doubled and a serious fine may be imposed.

I wish the Minister well with the Bill, but I ask him to consider the issues I have raised. They are important for hard-pressed families. Some of these provisions appear to be a cash cow, which is not fair. People need to respect the law, but it also needs to be accepted by them.

The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, and Deputy Michelle Mulherin will be sharing time.

I am delighted to share time with Deputy Michelle Mulherin as we share the same constituency.

I commend Members of all parties for supporting this legislation. It is a credit to them because we cannot compromise on road safety.

Deputy Mattie McGrath referred to a derogation for hauliers. I have raised that issue with the Minister who has given me a good hearing and I know that he will do the right thing. I thank him for giving the issue so much thought. He understands there is a problem in this regard and I hope he will deal with it when he gets an opportunity to do so.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice made a valid point which I also made a number of years ago when I was on the opposite side of the House. It is an issue that should be considered at European level. I refer to manufacturers producing high performance cars, despite legislation in every European country prohibiting vehicles being driven faster than 100 km/h. These cars can reach twice that speed. Sometimes I do not agree with the legislation produced in the Europe and Union and hope the Minister will ask at European level why manufacturers are allowed to produce high performance cars when legislation in most countries restrict the speeds at which they can drive. If we can land people on the moon, it is not impossible to make cars that can only go as fast as the speed limit.

When this problem arose, the Minister was attending an important meeting in Brussels. He immediately asked his officials to deal with the issue by contacting the Attorney General and preparing the necessary legislation, which we are now considering. He did an excellent job in solving a problem that was not of his making and I commend him for closing the loophole.

We have made considerable progress in reducing the number of road deaths. Last year there were 181 which was 181 too many. However, 365 people, or one person per day, were killed in 2006, while 640 were slaughtered on the roads in 1972. We have, therefore, made considerable headway. To give credit where it is due, the previous Fianna Fáil Government brought forward legislation to deal with this issue. As a consumer and practising politician who lives in the west, I do not like penalty points, but I acknowledge that they have slowed me down and that they have saved many lives by slowing others down. That is why I compliment Opposition Deputies for supporting the Bill. This is a question of road safety and saving lives.

I urge motorists to drive slowly over the Christmas period. We do not want the local priest, doctor or garda knocking on a door at 3 a.m. to tell a mother or a father, a brother or a sister, an uncle or an aunt that a loved one has been killed on the road. Let everyone enjoy a peaceful Christmas without people being killed on the roads. I have attended too many funerals during the years because of tragic deaths which could have been avoided.

For the sake of road safety, it is important that secure legislation be in place and that we obey the law. This is a technical Bill which closes a loophole to ensure people can have confidence in the law.

A number of valid issues were raised by Opposition speakers in regard to penalty points. The Minister is someone who listens. He has a conscience and knows how people have to live. I have confidence that he and his officials will review the penalty points regime to determine how well it is working. This is not about money; it is about road safety. I do not like speed cameras or penalty points, but, as Deputy Willie Penrose will know as somebody who travels to Dublin from the west on a regular basis, we have to slow down because of the speed camera vans. That proves that the legislation works. People will obey the law if it is seen to be fair. They may say judges make decisions in court. Judges have a job to do which they do very well. If they find that legislation which has passed through the House is flawed, they have a duty to protect the citizen.

They have a duty to ensure that the legislation enacted by the Oireachtas is proper legislation. I would not be critical of a judge who reviews and makes a decision on penalty points or the law in this country. That is their job and we have put them in that position. That is the reason they do it and they do it very well.

I wish to compliment my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe. I was in the Department before he was appointed and he has done an excellent job. He uses common sense. He is a man who sees what must be done and ensures it is done. When he saw this problem he dealt with it quickly.

The Deputies in the Opposition who will support this legislation are doing the right thing. Sometimes in politics one must do the right thing. I compliment them. We might fight with one another in the House occasionally, but when something is right for the common good, everybody must support it. I also compliment all the previous speakers. I did not hear anybody say that road safety is not an issue or that there should not be penalty points or a law to protect people on the roads.

There were 181 deaths on the roads last year. That is a lot of people, a lot of families and a lot of hurt. Many people in this country have suffered. In previous years the number was 640, so we are making progress. We all hope the time will come when no person will be killed on the roads. Sometimes when I see accidents where people have been killed on the road I often wonder if they might be suicides and whether they should be recorded in the same way as accidents. It is an issue that should be considered.

Ultimately, the laws we are introducing are working. I compliment the Minister on the part he has played and for closing down this loophole as quickly as possible. I also thank the Members opposite for their support.

I acknowledge and welcome the efficient and professional approach of the Minister in dealing with this amending legislation to resolve the issue with penalty points. As the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, said, we might not like penalty points, but they are there for a reason. We must keep that foremost in our minds.

I wish to bring two important issues to the Minister's attention and perhaps he might act on them. They relate to the NCT. The first is the renewal of the NCT certificate for vehicles which are off the road. The NCT is in place to ensure that vehicles are roadworthy and are not likely to cause an accident for other road users or, indeed, for the driver of the vehicle. The current position with NCT certificates for vehicles that are off the road is that if one's NCT certificate expires and one takes the vehicle off the road for six months, after the six-month period one must put the vehicle through the NCT again. However, the certificate one is given will be backdated to the commencement of the six-month period off the road, which is the date on which the previous NCT certificate expired. It has retrospective effect. That makes no sense. It causes additional expense and bother for the vehicle owner or for a garage where the vehicle is on the forecourt but not on the public road.

The new NCT certificate should run for the 12 months from the date of the test, not from the anniversary of the date of the initial registration of the vehicle. There should be no need to backdate it when it is off the road. It will not be a hazard on the road because it is off the road. The NCT is a road safety measure, not a revenue-earning bonanza for National Car Testing Service Ltd. or a means of unduly inconveniencing citizens with red tape. In the case of motor tax, an individual can declare in advance that a vehicle will be off the road so that he or she can avoid liability for payment of motor tax during that period. A similar regime should be introduced for the NCT certificates. This type of regime already exists in other European jurisdictions, and I ask the Minister to move to a more sensible approach whereby the certificates would only operate from the date of the test, especially where a person takes the opportunity to declare the vehicle to be off the road.

The other matter that concerns me is the introduction of penalty points for driving a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate. I can vouch for the situation in my local car test centre in Ballina. If my NCT is due in January or February next and I seek an appointment today, the earliest date I will get is at the beginning of March. I accept that there is a priority list, where an individual might benefit from an earlier date if there is a cancellation. That was the information I was given today by National Car Testing Service Ltd. However, if the test does not happen, is it not manifestly unfair that an individual should receive penalty points where the NCT certificate has expired in these circumstances? It is outside his or her control owing to the fact that there is a waiting list. The person has applied for the test but cannot get a date. What will the Minister do to ease the situation?

The regime I described earlier concerning vehicles that are off the road is adding to the problem. There are more demands for test appointments on account of vehicles that are off the road receiving certificates with retrospective effect. It means that a vehicle such as the one I described will only have a six-month certificate when it is put back on the road and will be back for another NCT in six months. That is another reason to change that regime.

I seek reassurance from the Minister for motorists who are caught in those circumstances. Even though they have applied for the NCT, they cannot get a date within a reasonable period of time. What discretion does a garda have not to issue penalty points in a situation in which a motorist has applied for the test? Perhaps the Minister will provide clarification on that. This is not something theoretical. It is a real problem in my area, and many people use the test centre in Ballina. It is also a problem throughout the country. I accept that there is a priority list, but I am concerned with the eventuality that somebody cannot be catered for owing to the massive demand that currently exists. Perhaps the Minister would speak on that and also consider changing the rules relating to the certificate for vehicles that have been off the road.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to the debate on this Bill. We are all aware of why it became necessary to introduce this measure to amend the Road Traffic Act 2002 and the Road Traffic Act 2014 in respect of penalty points. It is a loophole or a lacuna which has arisen as a result of the implementation of the Road Traffic Act 2014. Two significant issues emerged. These matters would not arise if we had consolidated legislation. I said the same in respect of the companies legislation. It is a nightmare. Legislation should be clear and implementable, and everybody should know the consequences. It is not fair when individuals find themselves with consequences visited upon them. We all have a duty in this regard.

One of the issues relates to section 2(1) of the Road Traffic Act 2002, which facilitates the endorsement of penalty points on a licence record following the payment of a fixed charge. Section 2(1) expressly exempted from its effects a list of offences that are subject to penalty points but not fixed charges. On 8 December last, a fixed charge penalty was imposed for the offences of using a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate and parking a vehicle in a dangerous position, with the penalty points consequent on payment of a fixed charge. The NCT issue is causing mayhem in some areas. I am due to have my NCT in February and I will probably get the test on time in Mullingar, but that is not the case in other areas. One can make an application for the test, but under the legislation one can make all the applications one wishes to make, but one must have an NCT certificate. If I could not get the test in February, it would mean I had to sit at home from that date and not travel to the Dáil. It is so stupid as to be unbelievable. I endorse what Deputy Mulherin said. What should happen is that when one makes the application one is given a receipt confirming that the application has been made, and that should cover the motorist in the event that he or she is stopped by a garda. It is unbelievably simple.

Common sense is worth all the doctorates that everyone in the world can muster. I was a postgraduate student, but I have a brother who is a far sharper lad altogether. Let us be clear about this and not deprecate people or run them down. People who only came through national school could write this Bill without any errors. I salute all the people who are honed in the school of common sense and reality and who had to work their bones off in rural Ireland. There are probably people of the same type in urban areas as well. However, I am speaking unashamedly as a rural advocate and I am sick to the teeth of some of this.

It was all right when a garda could have some discretion. Now, you cannot say “hello” to a garda without it being written down. Gardaí have to implement penalty points because it is in the law. Apart from the risk of disqualification, penalty points can increase people's insurance costs. The Minister is putting people off the road, although it is not his intention. From what the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, says, the Minister has a fair lot of commonsense in his head, notwithstanding that he has a very high level of education, and I appeal to him to use it.

The Bill seeks to amend section 2(1) of the 2002 Act so as to delete references to the two offences that have been exempt, namely, failing to display a valid NCT certificate and parking in a dangerous position. The second issue is more important and significant. It appears to have arisen from the application of section 2(1) of the 2002 Act and how it coexists with section 8 of the original Act of 2014. It contains a number of provisions relating to the endorsement of penalty points and appears to have its genesis in the failure to commence sections 37 and 44 of the 2010 Act, which specifically refer to section 8(b)(i) as the means of endorsing penalty points on a person’s licence after payment of fixed charge notices.

This is all gobbledygook, and I am a barrister. Ordinary people should be able to work this out without paying a barrister or solicitor. It should be clear. This is part of the problem. Laws are constructed in such a way that the negative always applies in order to achieve the positive and for someone to understand it. It is time it was all cleared up. Let us leave behind our colonial past and bring laws back into language the plain people understand.

It is clear that there is a problem with the fact that section 8 of the 2014 Act commenced on 1 August and brought into being a legislative error in so far as sections 37 and 34 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 had not yet been commenced. While the legislation did not provide for endorsement of penalty points within a fixed notice system in which a person has paid a fixed charge, section 103 of the 1961 Act remains valid. It was inserted by means of section 11 of the 2002 Act. Mother of divine institution. While the Bill will address a number of these problems on a prospective basis, clarity will no doubt be sought by way of judicial determination as to the lawfulness of the penalty points endorsed between 1 August and the day the Bill is passed, in respect the payment of a fixed charge. The question of retrospectivity must be addressed and considered within the ambit of the constitutional provisions, especially Article 15.5.1° of the 1937 Constitution. It is important that retrospective legislation does not conflict with the constitutional provisions.

The question which arises in this case, and which appears to have been considered by the Attorney General, is whether Article 15.5.1° of the Constitution applies to procedural or remedial matters. In the case of the Minister for Social Affairs v. Scanlon [2001] 1 IR 64, the Supreme Court held that the Social Welfare Acts could provide for the recovery of wrongly paid entitlements on a retrospective basis. However, I think this is a little more, and while I will not go into the ring with the Attorney General, who is very competent, I would not mind arguing from the far side of the fence. In this instance, the question that will arise for consideration is whether the retrospective operation of a criminal procedure ruling infringes the constitutional provisions. It appears that some court decisions indicate that it might not, and the Minister, the Government and the Attorney General are clinging to this.

We are bound by legal provisions, the Constitution, the European Court of Human Rights and European conventions. We must take a whole corpus of law into account. It will be interesting and a challenge, but it will be judicially determined. The cohort of cases between 1 August and now are critical. Hard cases make bad law, as they say. The Minister is trying to remedy something and I salute him because we all subscribe to road safety. The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, outlined, as only he can, the frightening statistics from the 1980s and the 1990s and the progress we have made. The previous Government played a major role in it and I salute it.

I turn to road traffic law and the application of penalty points to improve driver behaviour and to reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. There has been a major extension of the number of offences which attract the imposition of points and other penalties. In August 2014, a lower threshold of points leading to the disqualification of learner and novice drivers was introduced and in recent weeks, penalty points were introduced for learners driving unaccompanied and learner and novice drivers failing to display L plates and N plates. There was confusion about the novice drivers who have passed their tests, and I accept the Minister's clarification of it. The lower threshold of seven points leading to disqualification applies to drivers who took out learner permits on or after 1 August 2014 while they are driving under a learner permit and for the first two years they drive under a full driving licence. Young people in urban areas may be able to leave the car if they do not have a qualified driver to accompany them, and still be able to go about their tasks by travelling on a bus, Luas or taxi in their immediate environment. However, those facilities or resources are not available to people where I live, in rural Ireland, or in Belmullet, the Aran Islands or some of the places whose names the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, used to resonate across the Dáil in his heyday.

It is great to see him back in the arena. These transport facilities are not available to people who live outside the Pale, and it worries me. Very often, legislation seems to suit the big towns and cities and the Pale, while we are forgotten about in so many ways. The legislation will prevent young people from using their vehicles, despite having undergone stringent theory tests and having had a huge number of lessons from professional tutors. If nobody qualified is available, the car remains parked outside their doors and they cannot reach their destinations. Many, if not all, of these young people would be far better qualified than many of us, having undergone their theory tests. When we learned to drive, 35 years ago, we did no theory tests. It was enough to recognise a few signs, do a handbrake start and reverse around a corner. My colleagues, who are wiser than I, have done this.

While the Minister is going the right way with the high level theory test, he must re-examine this. Young people would be far better qualified than people like me, who have had a licence for almost 40 years and who, notwithstanding the experience they have gained in the those years, have garnered poor habits which a learner driver would be better to avoid. Many parents in rural areas may buy vehicles to allow their children to travel to third level institutions. I have in mind Athlone Institute of Technology, one of the finest in the country, for example. These people come from rural areas such as Ballinacarrigy, Castlepollard, Multyfarnham, Bunbrosna, Edgeworthstown, Lisryan and Coolamber. These cars would be useless and there is no bus to bring them to Athlone Institute of Technology. In the absence of a qualified driver to accompany them they cannot access third level education, and it is nonsensical.

My colleague, Senator Marie Moloney, raised this in the Seanad with the Minister. I salute him for taking the debate there. These things do not go unnoticed by the ordinary mortals like ourselves. Senator Moloney gave the Minister the statistics available for 2013, and they showed that 6% of fatal collisions involved learner drivers, which means 94% did not involve a learner driver. Similarly, 6% of collisions in which serious injuries were sustained involved learner drivers and 94% did not. We are leaning very heavily on learner drivers. The Minister can point to accidents involving people aged under 25. I am a practising barrister and am not blind. I have three daughters aged 25, 22 and 18, and they are far more careful than I. People see this as another way of punishing people and safety does not seem to be the paramount objective. The RSA is driving this, and while it has done good work, if safety and competence among young people is its prime objective, why not consider adopting a proposal I have made here over the years? I propose the RSA liaises with the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Education and Skills and the Environment, Community and Local Government and get them to incorporate driving lessons into the school curriculum.

Driving is as important as the three Rs. When a young person emerges from secondary school or the transition year programme or at whatever point one might like to do this, one should ensure they have had access to simulation with motor vehicles. I recall visiting Mullingar community college five or six years ago where this was being done by a company based in County Monaghan. Fair play to Mullingar community college which was ahead of the curve in giving students three or four lessons. The Minister should not be afraid to be innovative. I note his officials are writing and I am glad that is the case. Eight to ten lessons should be provided free in order that when young people emerge from secondary school, they will have the necessary confidence, competence and skills to drive a motor vehicle and will understand the dangers of driving at speed, recklessly and without due care and attention, as well as the importance of driving with no alcohol or drugs in one's system. As I am a pioneer, it is easy for me to say this, but I am glad that the Minister has brought forward legislation providing for drug testing which is a huge step. While I might have the odd negative comment to make here and there, let me praise all of the positive measures the Minister is taking.

A second point I have made during the years concerns something that has been in place across Europe for young drivers and workers under 21 years of age. One should restrict the size of motor vehicle and, even more fundamentally, ensure there is a speed restrictor or governor in place in all such motor vehicles driven by young people under 21 years old in order that they cannot exceed speeds of 60 km/h, for example. It is simple and one would have solved the problem. It would be a practical way of dealing with the issue, rather than not allowing young people who have received important levels of tuition in driving, to drive their cars. The Minister should request the Road Safety Authority to examine this proposal because I genuinely believe - I am making this point in a constructive fashion - it would contribute to road safety in a positive manner and help to achieve the objectives of the graduated licence system he has introduced. This is practice.

I have referred to the national car test, NCT, and the long delays people have experienced and will experience in having their vehicles tested. This is of crucial importance in the context of it now being an offence to use that vehicle without a valid NCT certificate. It attracts significant penalty points, which I could not believe. While it is all right to impose penalty points, I could not believe it and asked myself whether I had fallen asleep in letting that measure through. Therefore, I call on the Minister to ensure drivers are not victimised by the imposition of penalty points when, despite their best efforts, they are unable to secure an NCT slot owing to centres being booked out. As I said, when people are trying to comply with the law, one should allow for this. If they can produce a certificate and are not engaging in pretence, the garda concerned could take a reasonable view.

There is another old issue that the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, mentioned, that is, speed limits are often adjusted. I recall speaking in this Chamber on this subject approximately ten years ago, when the Minister of State used to drive along the same road as me through Palmerstown, beside where Deputy Thomas P. Broughan came from originally. At the time there were five or six speed limits on the road which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle would also have travelled. There were varying limits of 40 mph, 50 mph and 70 mph and one would go from one to the other when, bang, one would be caught. Moreover, one often finds GoSafe vehicles parked or positioned in areas that are genuinely safe. I have not seen accidents at some of the places at which they are located. In common with the Minister of State, I acknowledge and accept that they operate and I am aware of the reason behind their use, but while I travel extensively throughout the country, they are often placed just inside the speed limit zone, which is the sneakiest of things to do. One might just have driven into a speed limit zone and the next second one is caught. They are often also located outside churches or graveyards and I believe reference was made to this in one of the cases. One should be open about this because otherwise, one creates the perception among the public that it merely is a way to collect money. There will be a perception that it is not about safety at all but about collecting money and that it is a revenue-generating device.

These are all practical points and Members must pay far more attention to these real issues that have an impact on citizens in rural areas. I note that two Deputies present, Deputies Thomas P. Broughan and Dessie Ellis, come from the northside of Dublin and they probably experience the same thing. I am sure they could describe parts of their constituencies as rural also, but I refer to where one does not have everything available. I have always been an unashamed advocate on behalf of people in rural areas and rural issues and perhaps had Members paid a little more attention to the genuine issues and matters raised by Deputies from rural areas, there might not be splits in the parties that are leading to the emergence of new parties and groups. People are frustrated that their opinions not getting through. I refer to people outside the Pale and must emphasise that those of us from outside the Pale believe we often do not get a fair shake of the bag. I imagine the Minister of State has often made that point.

Westport United got it though.

Fair play to that club, it is a good soccer team.

So did every club in Dublin.

Deputy Willie Penrose to continue, without interruption, please.

It is high time people outside the Pale were recognised and that legislation reflected their concerns.

I am not simply raising these issues just to be awkward, but I hope these proposals will be accepted in the spirit in which I have put them forward.

I will conclude by noting that while it is important to concentrate on learner drivers, one should note that they have received eight or ten lessons, from which they emerge with a level of competence that I am sure was not matched by the level with which Deputies Thomas P. Broughan and Dessie Ellis and I emerged. To be clear, we received three or four lessons and perhaps did not even have the price of them. While they are reaching that level of competence now, were one to include them in the school curriculum, it would be guaranteed. All Members present studied the three Rs, but this skill is as important because unless one has a full driver's licence on one's curriculum vitae, in the country one may as well say goodbye to the hills as far as getting a job is concerned. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle who comes from a rural constituency knows that unless one has a driver's licence, it is goodbye. I do not refer to Dublin in this regard but simply to the general position in rural areas. It is easy for people in urban areas as they can manage, but it definitely has been proved to be difficult in rural areas. I urgently ask the Minister to consider these proposals because they would be well received in rural Ireland and generate both greater respect for the law and people's adherence to it, once they saw there was a common-sense touch to it.

Probably like other Deputies, before considering the Bill, I examined the latest horrendous death and casualty figures on the roads, to which the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, may have referred. I understand the figure currently stands at 188 deaths in 2014 - the comparable figure this time last year was 181 - with 40 pedestrians and 11 cyclists having been killed. These are really shocking statistics because if there was a disaster involving air or rail transport in which 188 people died, the House would be talking about it for weeks. A public inquiry would be held and major action taken, yet, year in and year out, unfortunately, it appears to be acceptable to have these numbers of casualties. Moreover, it must be stated that, on the Minister's watch and that of his predecessor, Deputy Leo Varadkar, the position has deteriorated in respect of the number of casualties. In tandem with the new chairperson of the Road Safety Authority, former Deputy Liz O'Donnell, and its new chief executive, Members must try to reduce seriously these numbers because they are simply horrendous. Again, in a point to which I will refer, one should think of the terrible effects on the families and friends of each one of those 188 people, as well as on those others who were seriously injured. This is a point to bear in mind when considering the Bill and I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

In a way, this debate should not be happening and it should not have been necessary to have it because Members effectively are meeting in emergency session to correct lacunae in road traffic law. The legislation should have been right from the outset and the Minister has a responsibility to the House for that fact. He is directly responsible to Members in being obliged to correct these two matters today. Moreover, his predecessor, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and the former Minister, Mr. Noel Dempsey, also bear a heavy responsibility for the necessity to bring forward this legislation. That said, Members are now in this position and I support the Bill because it offers important protection for road users. As I understand it, it addresses two loopholes in road traffic legislation as it relates to the penalty points system. The first concerns the validity of penalty points for the offences of using a vehicle without a valid NCT and parking in a dangerous position. I note that the Minister's intention in section 2 is to correct references in road traffic legislation about the applicability and endorsement of penalty points for these offences.

As far as I understand it, the Bill also seeks to ensure that those offences which are now fixed charge offences are deleted from a list of exemptions of offences upon which driving licences would be endorsed with penalty points upon payment of a fixed charge. As I understand it, section 2(1) of the 2002 Act will be amended, in effect to delete references to the two above offences, as being exempted.

The first gap we are correcting relates to two very important offences. The recent flurry of people applying for NCT appointments appears to highlight that. I have some sympathy for the cases outlined by Deputies Mulherin and Penrose in terms of how the test operates in their areas. In the case of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe and I, we have the Ballymun facility which operates in an efficient way. People have said, for example, that they wold like to have their NCT before the three-month period. Deputy Penrose is correct that if one has made a genuine attempt to get one's NCT it should be proof that one is trying to have the test carried out. That is an area the Minister could seriously examine to see how we could make it more efficient, in particular in terms of allowing people to have an early NCT.

Parking in a dangerous space is another issue. Any of us who were councillors prior to becoming Deputies recall that such an issue came up a lot, for example, outside supermarkets and schools. It is important the issue is remedied.

The second loophole relates to correcting the effect of section 8(b)(i) of the Road Traffic Act 2014 because this amended section 2(1) of the Road Traffic Act 2002 and made reference to sections 37 and 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 in substitution for section 103 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, but because the sections of the 2010 Act have not yet been commenced the endorsement of penalty points upon payment of a fixed charge would not be valid.

Again, I welcome the legislation in correcting the loopholes but I must reiterate my strong concerns because we should not have to be in the Chamber again to correct the legislation. I understand the loopholes came to light during a High Court challenge by a motorist who had received a number of penalty points and when an inquiry was made about the endorsement of the penalty points by the motorist's solicitor, it transpired that the legislation was defective or infirm.

I note that the second loophole which the Minister seeks to address in the Bill specifically refers to section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010. As the Minister is well aware, I have called for the enactment of section 44, which provides for the so-called third payment option. I made such calls a number of times in the media. Under this mechanism, a person who is served with a summons for a fixed charge offence will have a final opportunity to pay a fixed charge, of an amount 100% greater than the original penalty, not later than seven days before the court date on which the charge is to be heard.

As the Minister is also aware, the PARC Road Safety Group, brilliantly led by that great citizen and road safety activist, Ms Susan Gray from Donegal, has consistently campaigned for the enactment of section 44. I understand PARC raised the matter with the Minister. I also understand the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, met with members of PARC in June of this year and committed to enacting section 44. I am informed that making section 44 operational requires the allocation of resources to an Garda Síochána to update its IT systems to recognise the creation of a new structure in the penalty points system. I was told that at one of the Minister's meetings with PARC in September that it was said to the multi-stakeholder group under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality that €6 million would be provided to update the Garda IT systems. That has been sought for many months. The courts also needed to update their systems. I understand they were quicker off the blocks in doing that, but some issues still arise in terms of the Garda system. If the necessary resources are available the Minister must ensure they are drawn down. That should allow for the system to be updated. However, it appears there are further delays in making the necessary changes. I would like the Minister to explain the reasons for the delay in the enactment of section 44 in his response. Mr. Bob Olson, of the Garda Inspectorate carried out a major report for the Government on fixed charge processing and he highlighted section 44 as one of the elements the Minister must address.

I am often asked why fixed charge notices are not delivered by registered post. Deputy Penrose outlined brilliantly the reason we need plainly written legislation steeped in common sense. Instead of the rigmarole in court, if one commits the offence, one should take the points and improve one's driving. That is the whole idea of penalty points. Why can we not have registered post in order that there would be no question over the delivery of fixed charge notices? It seems bizarre that such an approach was not taken.

As our barrister colleague, Deputy Penrose, said, the problems with the road traffic legislation, which the Minister is now attempting to rectify, highlight the need for a consolidated road traffic Act. I think the Minister referred to that in his introductory remarks for which I was unable to be present. Everyone knows the legislation on road traffic is complex. On many occasions in recent decades, because of the complexity of road traffic legislation, it has been shown to be easily open to challenge by an intelligent solicitor in a court. That is also a factor in the ongoing unacceptable level of bad driving and ultimately deaths and casualties on Irish roads. On numerous occasions in the Dáil, including during my time as transport spokesperson for the Labour Party for a number of years, I called for the consolidation of road traffic legislation. The current situation whereby there is a large number of Road Traffic Acts, dating back to 1961 according to supplementary information provided by the Minister, makes matters too complicated and messy. It makes it very difficult for us as legislators and policy makers for the future, for practitioners in the courts and for ordinary citizens to understand.

I wish to commend the Minister on one initiative since he has taken up this portfolio, namely, a proposal which I also advocated for many years, including during my time on Dublin City Council and as transport spokesperson in this House. The previous Deputy referred to people being outside the Pale. I am one of those who, like him, comes from a county council cottage, but we also had cattle. I am a country Dubliner. Deputy Dowds knows the area very well as he represents my native land. I can see both sides of the equation. A long speech was made last night about setting cities against country areas. To me, that is pointless politics. We are all people regardless of where we live. Someone such as I who had a rural background but lives in an urban area represents everybody. It is a fundamental thesis of social democracy and socialism that no matter where one lives, one should get exactly the same level of service. That is why I do not begrudge a cent to Westport United in any way. I know quite well that brilliant town in the constituency of the Minister of State, Deputy Ring.

I thank Deputy Broughan very much. I knew he was a soccer man.

Yes, exactly. One initiative which the Minister has introduced is to have a special speed limit in estates in urban settings. When I pursued the matter 15 years ago as leader of the rainbow civic alliance in Dublin City Council - the Labour Party was in a fortunate position in that it was the biggest party and Fine Gael was the smaller party - we called them home zones. The system was based on a Dutch model and the premise was that when one went into an urban estate, one dropped one's speed. At the time we aimed at 25 mph but the Minister is opting for 25 km/h. I agree with that also. It is a very useful initiative. We brought it forward but we floundered with the lack of activity and the lethargic approach of the then Department of the Environment, and later the Department of Transport. We could not get the measure through. I think of estates in my constituency in areas such as Marino, Donnycarney, Edenmore, Clonshaugh, Newbury and other places in Dublin Bay North, where one goes in off the main street and one is then in a residential area with seniors, children and families walking around doing their business and one must slow down immediately. I would like to see more signage on roads, not written on small signs, giving the home zone speed limit. That would be a very useful contribution to the protection of life for urban Ireland if the Minister were to introduce it, given the number of pedestrians involved. It could apply in all towns. I wish the Minister well in that regard. I hope it happens.

I presume the Minister will do that as part of a future road traffic Bill. I am not sure whether the Minister can do it unilaterally, by regulation. If so, I look forward to that.

On the general issue of road traffic legislation, I refer to a series of four articles, to which, perhaps, other Members referred, written by The Irish Times journalist Peter Murtagh, entitled "Anatomy of a Car Crash". The articles refer to a terrible crash that happened on the very first day of 2014. In an outstanding piece of journalism, Mr. Murtagh analyses all aspects of that disaster, which resulted in the deaths of two men and horrendous sadness for their families and all of their friends. By the way, he refers to this as "the ripple effect" on the close-knit communities around the two deceased. It brings home vividly the disaster of one terrible crash and two communities ripped apart. In his articles, Mr. Murtagh goes down through the different elements of it. For instance, he covers the inquest, which occurred in October. When reading it, I was reminded that, as marine spokesman for the Labour Party for many years, I was one of those who campaigned for the provision of marine safety reports on disasters at sea when someone is lost or suffers serious injury. We used get the hard copy, but now the Minister e-mails the report of each incident to us. The Murtagh articles made me think it would be interesting to receive a full report on every crash in which somebody is killed or seriously injured. Obviously, it would entail major resources, but it would be important. It is something worth thinking about, to bring it home to us. One hundred and eighty-eight is merely a number. If the deceased had died together, there would have been a public inquiry, a major report or something similar. It is something on which the Minister might reflect to see if there is some way we could go forward in treating every one of those deaths as a major disaster, which it is for the country and for the citizenry as well as for the close connections.

As I stated, I am supportive of the Bill. Texting while driving was dealt with in the Road Traffic Act 2006 (Restriction on Use of Mobile Phones) Regulations 2014, which created the offence of accessing data on a mobile telephone while driving or texting while driving. I asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, for data on texting, but she could not provide it. It is still upsetting for all of us who drive safely on the motorway anywhere around the country or in the city to see somebody talking away on their mobile telephone and, perhaps, driving erratically. In reply to a parliamentary question, the Minister stated that the Courts Service indicated that the relevant IT systems were updated with a new offence code on 7 December 2014 and, consistent with normal recording procedure, it will be a number of months before any meaningful data can be provided. That is something of interest to citizens, who also recognise that mobile phone use and texting are important problems.

I note the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, indicated that he will take action on drug testing. I used talk constantly to his predecessor about the possibility of introducing the systems they have in places such as Victoria and New South Wales in Australia to identify drug usage, because that has been a factor in so many crashes, and the reply was always that there is no adequate testing, except for the initial legislation that the Government brought in recently.

I also wanted to ask the Minister about the supply of data from the National Vehicle and Driver File, NVDF, which is another important element of creating a regime. In a parliamentary reply, he told me that the system would start on Wednesday, 17 December, with one insurance company. This relates to drivers who have a bad track record, have not been behaving properly and have not brought their driving to a much better standard. This will be on such a driver's record for insurance purposes. It is another safeguard for the driving public.

I welcome the Bill. It is unfortunate that we must do this. Although the Government may not have that long to go, the Minister might take a stab at least at putting in place some sort of process of consolidating road traffic legislation. As Deputy Penrose stated eloquently, that would be something we could all understand and adhere to. As I stated, I welcome the home zones. Perhaps the Minister would also take a look at the reporting system for terrible crashes.

I wish to share time with Deputy McNamara. I need only five minutes.

Deputy McNamara was on my list.

Má thagann sé, suífidh mé síos.

Deputy O'Donovan is here as well.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has moved quickly to close the loophole in the penalty points legislation. If he had not, it would be a cause of embarrassment, especially if certain persons who had had serious breaches were driving around improperly.

I will use my time to mention two issues that need to be raised and two changes to the penalty points system that I hope the Minister will agree to make in the near future, although I understand that he cannot make them in this Bill.

The first relates to drivers who breach weight restrictions. I welcome the recent introduction of penalty points for drivers who breach weight restrictions where there is a safety issue, such as a weak bridge or other obstacle, but I would like to see penalty points introduced for drivers who breach traffic management weight restrictions by going through residential areas that they are not supposed to enter. Currently, such a penalty does not exist. I have been dealing with a number of cases in my constituency in which hauliers regularly drive large vehicles far in excess of the weight restriction and it is having an impact on the lives of residents. One example of this is Kennelsfort Road in Palmerstown in Dublin 20, where the local community council has been trying for more than 15 years to reduce the number of HGVs using the road illegally. The road is subject to a traffic management weight restriction and I have been in touch with the gardaí responsible on numerous occasions to try to ensure these restrictions are being enforced. I am sorry to say the current system is not working due to a combination of the lack of a deterrent and a lack of adequate enforcement. Obviously, enforcement is a matter for the Garda, not for the Minister, but the deterrent is in his domain. I ask that the Minister amend the penalty points system as soon as possible to bring in penalty points for a breach of traffic management weight restrictions. This will improve the quality of life for many residents around the country. After 15 years of trying to do something about it, the people of Palmerstown, and, indeed, Lucan, where a similar issue arises, deserve a little more support from the State when it comes to enforcing its own laws.

Second, I want to bring up the issue of fines for breaches of weight restrictions. Under the new regime, a breach of weight restrictions will be subject to a €60 fine and a single penalty point if the charge is paid within 28 days. This is not an effective enough deterrent to haulage companies, and I ask that there be higher fines for this. I understand the Minister will not be able to do it in this Bill, but I would be appreciative if he could introduce those changes in the near future.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this and I am sorry that I was not in the House a couple of minutes ago.

I declare to the House that I have four penalty points on my driving licence. The last two were received in respect of a speeding offence in June. As I paid the fine in July, I do not think I am one of the people affected. It is important to state that the fine was paid in July. Section 3(3) states, "Where, at any time during the period from 1 August 2014 until the passing of this Act, a payment was made by a person..." So I do not think I am caught by that.

I am sure everyone in the House agrees on the need for road safety and we have to make our roads as safe as possible. Better than most, I know what it is like to lose a loved one suddenly in an accident and the jarring effect that has. Many families are facing into this Christmas without a loved one for the first time. Some of them lost that loved one in a road accident. We have a moral duty to do everything we can to make the roads safe. However, at the same time regardless of what we do, there will be a certain amount of road accidents. It is a matter of reducing them to the greatest extent possible.

We have to balance that with a sense of fairness and we need to ensure that all our legislation is fair. We do not want to have a police state. We want to allow people freedom to the greatest extent possible. We want to ensure that not alone is our whole system fair, but it is seen to be fair and felt to be fair. I heard many contributions, mainly from the Opposition benches about the perceived unfairness of the system.

On my way up here on Tuesday I called into a shop in Killaloe, just before crossing the bridge and continuing to Dublin. If the Minister is ever in County Clare I would like to bring him to meet that shopkeeper. He is a very ordinary man who goes about his business, earns a livelihood and pays his staff. He was saying that penalty points are having a very detrimental effect. He was talking in particular about the idea of penalty points for cars without NCT certification. I asked him what he meant. He said, "I've people coming in here and they are saying things like, 'I'd have nothing to do with the guards; I wouldn't give them the time of day now'. This is Ireland where we have always had regard for the Garda and there have always been good relations between the community and the Garda."

Whether we like it or we do not, whether it is right or not, there is an increasing perception of unfairness. I accept that some GoSafe vans are put in accident black spots. However, many GoSafe vans are parked in places where they are more likely than not to catch somebody speeding - breaking the law admittedly - while hidden behind a humpback bridge, around a bend or other places where drivers will not see them. The Lissycasey Road in County Clare is quite famous for GoSafe vans because they can hide. People do not really appreciate that.

I will give another example. I am from Scariff, a small town in east County Clare. It has a Garda station - it was one of the towns that retained a Garda station. Most people are glad of that; it gives them an additional feeling of security even though the nature of crime has, of course, changed considerably. Some weeks ago there was a spate of robberies. A van was robbed in the main estate and a car was robbed from the main square.

The car's owner had the pleasure of seeing on YouTube the perpetrators driving his car at over 100 mph and burning it out. It is on YouTube for the world to see. The crime has not been solved and there are no leads. However, the following week in Scariff gardaí were out issuing penalty points in the 500 m between the town and the school. They were issuing penalty points at school time because when mothers are driving their children to school, there is an issue with regard to safety belts and penalty points. Those women who were driving their children to school were breaking the law and presumably they have been issued with penalty points. They may be among those affected by this Bill.

I do not condone them breaking the law; the law is there for a reason. However, there is a perception in the community that they are able to go out and give penalty points to women and men driving their children to school, but nothing is being done about the criminals who stole a car, filmed it being driven and filmed it being burnt out. It seems they are sort of immune and we always go after the easy targets. That perception may not be correct but it is there and it is very damaging.

I return to the specifics of the Bill. The first I heard of this was last week when the Minister spoke on radio saying that a loophole had emerged. I completely support him in closing the loophole. Of course, we should close the loophole and move forward. However, I do not understand how we propose to apply legislation retrospectively because that is a very unusual thing to do. The Constitution contains some provisions about it - I will not go into it.

The Minister has been advised that the Bill is constitutional and yet there are real doubts. Deputy Dooley has said that his legal advice was that it is at risk and maybe we will find out. However, we will only find out if somebody wants to challenge the legislation. That would have to be somebody who either has a huge amount of money so it does not really matter to them how much it costs, or they have no money at all so they have nothing to lose because that is how out system works. A judicial review is incredibly expensive. A person would either have to have an infinite amount of money or no money.

An ordinary mother or father bringing children to school, or even a Deputy driving to Dublin, does not have that kind of money for a constitutional challenge. How our system works is inherently unfair because the State will meet this with an army of lawyers. I appreciate the State has to defend its position. However, an ordinary person will not be in a position to challenge this.

I completely support the Minister in his endeavours to make the roads safer from now on and to close the loophole from now on. However, regardless of what we in this Chamber do today or tomorrow, there is nothing we can do to make the roads safer a week ago, three weeks ago or five months ago. So why are we legislating for three weeks ago or five months ago? I accept the State made a mistake but the State comprises individuals. The Minister is a human being and the Department is staffed by human beings who make mistakes. Human beings drive cars too fast - they make mistakes. However, when people drive their cars too fast we expect them to hold up their hands, admit to making a mistake, pay the fine, take the penalty points and move forward.

Judge Durcan in Ennis District Court threw out approximately 100 summonses one day because the proofs were not in order, as people say in legalese. The evidence was not there. He was not clear who was there to give evidence on behalf of GoSafe. He was not happy they were authorised to do so under the Act. So all those cases were thrown out because the Sate made a mistake. That is the very nature of our justice system. When the State makes a mistake, it puts up its hand and admits it, and then goes about fixing the mistake for the future to ensure it does not happen again.

However, this legislation indicates we made a mistake but we are not going to admit we made a mistake. It is like saying, "When you make a mistake, you pay; but when we make a mistake, you still pay." I do not mean to denigrate this, but it is almost like a Bart Simpson approach to legislation, "I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can't prove anything." That is no way to run a country and no way to run a justice system because it is unfair. I accept it is not good that people who were caught speeding between 1 August and now do not get penalty points endorsed on their licence.

Of course, it is not good but a mistake was made. It also is not good that some people had their cases thrown out. As people are entitled to the presumption of innocence we have to presume all the people involved were innocent, but we will never know if that is the case. I am assuming they were innocent, as is the State. When a mistake is made by the State it is usually acknowledged. I do not understand why we do not, to use a phrase used previously by the Taoiseach, "man up" and admit the State is not perfect and it made a mistake. The alternative is to look like a tyrannical State that legislates retrospectively because it cannot admit when it is wrong. That is far worse than people having their penalty points for a defined period written off.

A loophole has been identified. I am happy to support the Minister in closing that loophole from this day onwards. Every Bill I have had the pleasure to support, and those I have had the displeasure to have to support, have applied from a particular day onwards. That is how we usually legislate. It is logical to say that we cannot change the past. Much as we would like to, we cannot change it and we should not be seeking to do so. I am not sure if this legislation is constitutionally sound. Whether it is in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights is even more doubtful, in my view. On my proposed amendment, I accept that it is not appropriate because the remedy is a declaration of incompatibility. Are we actually saying that we know that this legislation is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights but we do not care because we are the State and we do what we like? Is that the approach we are taking? I hope not because that would be an appalling vista. I know what we are speaking about are only road traffic offences but speeding is nevertheless a criminal offence, as are most offences under the penalty points system, albeit minor ones. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response on that point.

I support the Minister in making our roads safer and in closing off loopholes but I have a difficulty with retrospective legislation. I am concerned about the legality and constitutionality of such legislation and about whether it is in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. More fundamentally, I am concerned about the morality of such legislation. Law must have a moral quality and the State must be above pettiness and vindictiveness. It must not when it makes a mistake seek to deny it. The commencement order in respect of the Road Traffic Act 2014 states:

Given under my Official Seal,

20 of March 2014,


Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Are we saying that legislation is deemed not to have been commenced? That legislation was commenced, as the Minister and I well know. Every punter affected by it will know by now that it was commenced. Why then are we pretending to the contrary? Why are we engaging in this "Alice in Wonderland" fiction? Why not put our hands up and admit that it is unfortunate but a mistake was made and we will remedy it? I do not believe anybody in this House has not committed to supporting the Minister in remedying this problem from this day onwards.

I wish to share time with Deputy Durkan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Bill and the Minister's initiative to close off the loophole referred to. This is a short piece of legislation but it is no less important than lengthier pieces of legislation from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Minister will be aware of my particular interest in this issue in that I have previously raised the penalty points issue with him on the floor of this House and in a private capacity. In my dealings with the Minister, whether as a member of the transport committee or as a Member of this House dealing with legislation or constituency matters, I have always found him to be very proactive. I compliment him on the work he has done up to now.

This legislation is narrow in focus in that it deals with one particular element. The Minister will know that for the past number of weeks I have been raising an equally worrying issue in relation to penalty points, namely, the number of cases being thrown out of courts across the country. This problem is not confined to any particular court or district. There is a great deal of uncertainty and a lack of confidence in relation to the implementation of the penalty points system and road traffic legislation generally. As a member of the transport committee I have asked the Chairman, Deputy John O'Mahony, that the committee undertake a review of the penalty points system. As a result of whistleblower revelations, cases being thrown out of court and address of this loophole by the Minister, there is a drip, drip, drip erosion in confidence in relation to the State's commitment to make our roads safer by changing people's behaviour. We know that when people change their behaviour the roads are safer.

I recently learned through the Department of Justice and Equality that, unfortunately, since 2009 approximately 1,400 cases relating to penalty points have been thrown out of court for one reason or another. This arises not because these cases were isolated incidences but because there are systemic issues in relation to the delivery of the penalty points system, which I think needs to be reviewed. I have asked the Chairman of the transport committee to engage with the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and his colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, an Garda Síochána, the operators of GoSafe and the legal practitioners about what is happening in our courts and how we can improve the system. I acknowledge the issues that have arisen with the current legislation.

I am hoping that the transport committee will undertake a comprehensive review of the penalty points system to see if there are other anomalies arising in relation to the issuing of penalty points, including who can and cannot give evidence in court in this regard, the relationship between the driver and an Garda Síochána and the legal standing in this regard. If there are anomalies that are preventing the application of penalty points to the licences of people who have committed road traffic offences then they need to be addressed. I do not say that as a slight against the Department, the Minister or his predecessor because it is not today or yesterday this issue arose. I understand that review will be commenced after Christmas, which I welcome.

If one goes to the Oireachtas Library and takes out the local newspaper from Deputy Kitt's constituency, Deputy Durkan's constituency or my own constituency one will see in the courts pages the list of cases being churned out by the District Court every week. There is a real problem in this area and I would like to see it addressed. I would also welcome the Minister's views on that matter. My concern is for the people who accept their penalty points and pay their fines unlike others who go to the courts and say they did not receive the notification, leaving the judge, because of a lack of proof, with no option but to dismiss the case. I do not doubt that some people will not have received their notifications but I very much doubt that all of the 1,400 people mentioned earlier did not receive them. That is a bit far fetched. There are people who were legitimately detected by the speed detection vans whose penalty points were not properly processed and, for want of a better phrase, got away with it. This leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those who accepted their penalty points which resulted, in turn, in their insurance premiums increasing. In some instances, people were put off the road, and rightly so. As I said during a Topical Issue debate last week, part of which the Minister was in the House for, the law needs to be seen to be fair regardless of who the person is, from where he or she comes, what District Court area the case is heard or by whom the offender is represented. The law must be seen to be fair. As things stand in terms of this issue, it is not.

Another issue that the Minister might consider in future legislation is one that has been raised with me, as I am sure it has been with the Minister and all other Members, by a person with a physical disability - namely, that of non-disabled people knowingly parking in spaces designated for people with disabilities. I hate using the term “disabled parking space”. The parking space is not disabled; it is the person driving the car who may have a physical disability. Will consideration be given to examining some measure which would encourage people to change their parking behaviour? People who take up spaces to which they are not entitled often use excuses such as “I was only running in for a few minutes,” or “As I was only leaving the car there for a while, I left the engine running.” Such actions deprive people with physical disabilities of the right to go about their business.

I have raised before, both here in the Chamber and at the transport committee with the Minister’s predecessor, the issue of how statistics for road traffic fatalities are reported. Some work was done on it. Will the Minister give us an update on how it is progressing? The rising number of road fatalities is stark and needs to be tackled. A statistic below that, however, is life-changing injury, which needs to be included in the overall statistical picture presented by the Department and the Road Safety Authority, RSA, every quarter. A life-changing injury means the victim is no longer independent and is relying on a family member, causing upheaval to someone’s life. The National Rehabilitation Centre and the hospital network do fantastic work in this area. The presentation of such statistics will give a better analysis county by county as to what is happening with driver behaviour and the seriousness of accidents. There are three elements to road safety - namely, engineering, enforcement and education. An important element of education is telling people what is happening on the roads. I would appreciate it if the Minister could examine this area.

I have spoken to the chairperson of the RSA, Liz O’Donnell, about road engineering. Local authorities and the NRA, National Roads Authority, ultimately have responsibility for the engineering of our roads to ensure they are safe. There should be some sort of an exercise, either through the RSA or the Department, to examine physical road conditions and realistic speed limits. It happens across the country. One could be driving along a road with grass in the middle of it and the speed limit is 100 km/h. I accept that the Minister will point out that this the maximum speed allowable and that the motorist should drive with due care and attention. These signs, however, are dangerous. There was a suggestion to bring back the old white speed limit sign with the black line across it to emphasise that motorists should use their discretion. The sooner these are rolled out the better. Parts of the national secondary road from Killarney to Kenmare over Moll’s Gap are so narrow that they are not wide enough for one car, but there are 100 km/h signs all along it. On the other hand, one can go, as I do on my way home every evening, from the Red Cow roundabout in Dublin along the N7 in Deputy Durkan’s constituency, a three-lane road, with unrealistically low speed limits. It is just a barrel for shooting fish in terms of collecting penalty points and revenue. All people want is realistic speed limits on the roads, not ones that are a revenue-generating exercise.

We cannot have slippage in how people view the law and penalty points. When that happens, driving behaviour changes. When that changes, bad practices start to come in and then, before one knows where one is, it becomes cyclical, with road fatalities and life-changing injuries increasing. Will the Minister and his officials review this whole area of penalty points? Over the past 12 months at the Committee of Public Accounts, in the Chamber or on the street, the perception of the fairness and impartiality of the penalty points system has got a walloping. We cannot have situations where a judge - an impartial and independent adjudicator of the law - in the Cavan-Monaghan District Court claims the law is being brought into disrepute by the penalty points system and that cases under it should not be brought before his court. We cannot ignore this. While I accept this legislation has to be passed today, will the Minister come back in the new year to do a comprehensive review of the penalty points system with the transport committee with a view to introducing amending legislation to get rid of the loopholes in it? One could drive a lorry through some of these loopholes. For most people, that is unfair. All they want is to be treated fairly.

I concur with my colleague, Deputy O’Donovan, in that all Members have experienced the issues he raised, particularly contradictory speed limit signs. One often will have a stretch of road with a sign stating the limit is 100 km/h, while 100 metres further down a sign states it is 50 km/h.

We are all in favour of doing everything possible and fair to reduce road traffic accidents and deaths. We cannot eliminate road traffic accidents entirely, human nature being what it is. It is important, however, that the rules of the road are enforceable and sufficiently strong with no loopholes. We also cannot take away the right of legal representatives to challenge the law where necessary.

I have had penalty points myself. Before they were introduced, I predicted that everyone would, at some stage, get penalty points. They have not done so yet, but it is working its way towards that. Human nature being what it is, there is no possibility that people can be sure they are on the right side of the points system. I got my points some six years ago when I overtook traffic on what was claimed to be a continuous white line when I actually had not. However, it was a case of peculiar circumstances over which I could not go to court. An Oireachtas Member going to court to defend such driving will have two chances. In that case, I had just survived a serious traffic accident an hour before. The golden rule is that one should cease driving after such an event and take time out. Unfortunately, like all Members, I had a schedule to keep and continued on, but paid for it with penalty points when I overtook. Fortunately, it was nothing else.

The law is funny in some circumstances. Like Deputy Michael McNamara, I have seen cases which have been challenged in court and where the State adopted a position but lost in the judicial review. In many such cases, the State then reverted to its original position afterwards.

My theory was that matters must have turned on technical points, but that is not necessarily so because the law is peculiar, particularly regarding pension entitlements. It is not unusual for the State to revert to its original position and set aside a decision of the court, as though it did not understand matters properly, almost always to the benefit of the State. This is wrong and should not happen, but it is something I will raise on another occasion.

Like many others, my car has a global positioning system, GPS. As it recently broke, I obtained a second GPS device and discovered that it could tell me where checkpoints were located, although the locations are given on the website. The peculiar thing was that the GPS conflicted with the road signs on numerous occasions. Something should be done to merge the speed limit registration system with the global positioning system because they should be ad idem on road signs and if they are not, there is a problem.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, has been very helpful since he came to office, as was his predecessor. However, to declare an interest, I happen to be the owner of a couple of vintage vehicles and, boy oh boy, the last registration system for vintage vehicles gave me headaches. I spent years trying to register vehicles that would probably never be put on the road because I at least wanted the option of putting them on the road in the future. Consolidating legislation is required to merge all road traffic legislation on matters such as penalty points, vehicle registration and so on. We should recognise that some vehicles are not put on the road and there should be a simple system to allow a person to register a vehicle as being off the road until he or she wants to put it back on it. Previously one could have had the registration documentation stamped in a Garda station when one wanted to put the vehicle back on the road but some people abused the system. There are simple ways to eliminate such abuse and I hope they will be found.

How much time have I left?

The Deputy is out of time.

Am I out of time? What an awful thing to say. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has hurt me deeply.

I will conclude by saying we all agree that there is a need to ensure the highest possible safety standards on the road and that we support the Minister's actions. I have doubts about the retrospective aspects of the legislation because I do not favour applying the law retrospectively. I only know of one law which was applied retrospectively during my time in the House. It was very controversial and I will not go into it now because some Members on the other side of the House will know what I mean.

I am glad that the Deputy did not go into detail.

How does one follow Deputy Bernard J. Durkan?

The technical nature of this Bill should not confuse people because, ultimately, it is a matter of road safety, something on which we should never compromise. It is good that we can rectify the error and bring forward this legislation early. It is important to put things in context because we have come a long way on road safety and driver behaviour. How many of us would travel in a car without wearing a seatbelt? How many of us would contemplate driving without motor tax and insurance? How many of us would drive without having our tyres checked? These are things most of us now do automatically and it is welcome that it is a driver's responsibility to ensure a vehicle is safe and roadworthy.

It is important that we have greater transparency in the operation of the national car test, NCT, because, anecdotally, all of us have been told about issues regarding the availability of test centres. It seems that there is a lack of flexibility in how people are looked after, particularly taxi drivers who rely on their vehicles to earn a livelihood. It is important that they have certainty in this regard.

Members have spoken on the issue of speed cameras. I have reservations about the locations of some speed cameras in my constituency. We need a proper debate on the reason for speed cameras because the real purpose is supposed to be deterring speeding and a reduction in the number of fatalities, but it sometimes seems to be like a revenue-generating measure. I know that road safety is a priority of the Minister's, but the number of fatalities is a source of concern because it rose last year for the first time since 2005. Those of us who drive the route every week know that the motorway from Cork to Dublin is probably the safest in the entire road network because driver behaviour is pretty good, the road surface is very good and the engineering is good. The only major issue one generally faces on it is the backwash spraying towards one's windscreen from lorries on wet nights. However, when one leaves the motorway and traverses country roads, issues arise. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan referred to the issue of road maintenance. We need a real debate with local authorities, the National Roads Authority and the Road Safety Authority on keeping the road network fit for purpose. We all have examples of roads with huge potholes, but such information is useless to those who have died and been injured on the roads. It saddens me greatly that my own county, County Cork, recorded the highest number of fatalities in car accidents last year.

We must get the message across that the most dangerous time of the day on the road is between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to the evidence available to me. This period covers the school rush and some driver behaviour around schools creates bedlam. We must educate parents and, in particular, children on road safety. Equally, people take chances in rush hour traffic by breaking lights, speeding and doing things they should not in order to get home. We must educate drivers to be more mature because most fatalities occur among drivers from 18 to 35 years of age.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan touched on the speed limit review. I welcome the decision of the transport committee to examine the issue of speed cameras. Speed limits should be reviewed because they make no sense on some of the roads in my rural constituency. The limit is too low in some cases and too high in others; many roads have an inappropriate speed limit of either 80 km/h or 100 km/h. The purpose of speed limits is to reduce speed, but we need to question what we are doing in this regard because speed limits are failing in their purpose. In some parts of my constituency people race to beat the traffic lights or take certain turns in the road to cut driving time.

We have to be honest with ourselves. We need to have realistic speed limits that deter speeding and that are not dangerous to the road user.

I was travelling on a road last Sunday from Abbeyleix to Carlow when a motorist passed out two cars at once on a particular stretch. It was the will of God nothing was coming. There as no way he could have seen any oncoming traffic. It was the will of God that the person in that car was not hurt or killed. Yet the limit on that road was 100 km/h. To me, that made no sense. For part of the journey on that road the limit was 80 km/h. The car in question was going so fast that my car and the car in front went down to 30 km/h because we got such a fright. All of this concerns me because I do not think we get the message about education yet, although I know we have made changes to the penalty points, and that is important.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, has referred to the issue of transparency in penalty points and said that we are in a new era. I welcome that. I have always held the view, as a person and a politician, that if a constituent got penalty points then he deserved it, and if I got them then I deserved it. I had them once although, thankfully, I do not have them any more. I was attending a conference in Tralee before the 2007 general election. When I was coming out of Farranfore and heading home to go canvassing, I did not observe the speed limit. A garda stopped me and I got a fixed charge notice and penalty points. That was fair enough. I learned my lesson. It was a built-up area and I should have slowed down. The speed restriction applied on the road until the sign indicating a speed limit change, and that is fair enough. I learned from it, and that is important, because driver behaviour is something we should always educate people about.

I have often thought that although we have all passed our driving tests, we should consider how we drive now. I am not advocating that people should have to do a refresher course, but I often wonder whether we could bring people in for a spot check to see how they behave on the roads. I am 47 years of age, which means I am 30-odd years with my driving licence. Has my driving behaviour changed? I know it has, but have we challenged ourselves about how we use our cars on the road? What if we picked ten licences per year and brought those people in to do the test again? It is not that they would have to re-sit the test, but they could do it as a trial to see how they get on. We cannot become complacent about road safety. I know the Minister shares this view.

I commend the Minister on his initiative to introduce this change quickly. We can never allow a situation to develop whereby a lack of money for the Garda Traffic Corps is tolerated, if that is the situation. I am unsure whether there has been a reduction in the Garda Traffic Corps presence. Anyway, particularly at this time of year, it is important that we remain vigilant regarding the issue of alcohol and alcohol consumption. My final appeal is to those who are contemplating consuming alcohol and driving. I urge them not to do so. This is about our lives and the lives of people we love and cherish. That is why it is important always to keep road safety to the forefront of what we do.

I thank all Deputies for their contributions this afternoon in what has been a constructive discussion of the Bill. I was struck by the tone in which all Deputies addressed the matter. There was open criticism and questioning of why this change is needed, as I would expect, but it took place within a framework of support for the objective of road safety legislation as well as an acknowledgement that this issue is rather different from many of the other issues to which we devote time in this House.

Let us consider the array of different issues and challenges with which we engage. Making our roads safe and the peace process in Northern Ireland are unique in this regard. They are two areas of political engagement in which people seek to approach the discussion and structure their policy approach in a very different manner and tone. These areas command a different approach. They have been supported in different ways by various Governments of different complexions over the years. Given the various comments that I have heard this afternoon, it is evident to me that the cross-Dáil consensus to make our roads safer is as strong as ever, and the way in which this Bill has been approached demonstrates that.

Many different questions have been put to me and I will respond to them presently. One of things that makes those of us in political life stop and think sometimes is the question of how to make politics, and the way we engage with issues on behalf of the people we represent, better. From the discussion this afternoon I am certain that road safety law and legislation is one such example, because people genuinely approach the issue in a different way. As the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I do not take that for granted. It is not something I expect from Deputies or Senators. It is something that has to be worked upon to ensure it continues. Indeed, I am committed to doing my part as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to ensure it continues.

My colleagues have put various points of detail to me in respect of the legislation and I will respond to each in turn. Five common areas were touched on by almost all Deputies in their contributions, and I will touch on each of them. These were the areas of common concern or focus and I am keen to recognise that.

The first theme picked up by several Deputies was the notion of the unfairness of the penalty points system and the view that it is being used by agencies of the State to collect revenue or earn money. This charge was levied particularly in respect of the GoSafe vehicles, about which there has been an understandable level of focus recently. I am keen to be clear on the point. The GoSafe vehicles cost the State a good deal of commitment and funding to run and maintain. Far from being in any way about revenue collection, the only purpose of these vehicles and the associated strategy is to find another way to make our roads safer. We locate these vehicles in places where there is a history of road safety incidents, collisions and accidents.

Another charge levied against the penalty points regime is the notion of unfairness and the idea that in some way penalty points are meant to target people. One statistic is worth reflecting on in this regard. Some 70% of all penalty points levied on people, particularly through the fixed charge system, are accepted. I am not making the extrapolation that everyone accepts them because they are fair - that would be an unreasonable deduction to make. However, I contend that one of the reasons we see such a level of acceptance, particularly in respect of fixed charge notices, is the widespread understanding and acceptance that penalty points have played a vital role in making our roads safer. The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, outlined the history of where we were.

It is bad enough that a life per day was being lost on our roads. Not so long ago there were far more lost. While nobody wants penalty points, their breadth and implementation have made a very important contribution to making our roads safer.

Many colleagues raised the operation of the NCT centres, particularly after the changes that took place in the penalty points regime in respect of the test. It is not a case of a new charge being created of driving without an NCT certificate. That sanction was changed to give people the option of not going to court but paying a fixed charge and incurring three penalty points. There was always an offence, but the nature of the offence changed when we changed the law in that area. The bigger change that has created some of the difficulties Deputies referred to is the amount of advertising by the RSA when that change happened. It communicated this change very strongly and changed public awareness of the offence. Figures made available to me for the week commencing on 24 November show that 25,000 car tests were carried out. Of those, 9,000 were late or very late. A total of 1,450 were tests that should have been carried out in 2013. That figure is one of the reasons this change in the nature of the offence, as opposed to the creation of an offence, will play a role in making vehicles, and therefore our roads, safer. That said, I am aware of Deputies’ concern about this matter. I continually check the average waiting time. The most recent set of figures indicates that the average waiting time is between 12 and 13 days. A total of 65 new testers have been trained and will be ready to go into the NCT centres. Tests will be carried out up to and including Christmas Eve. Some centres where there have been difficulties are taking measures to ensure that more services can be made available. In response to the issues many Deputies raised this evening, I will again discuss this matter with the RSA to see what can be done to ensure this system is brought in effectively and fairly.

The third theme Deputies raised was the change in the requirement for people with a learner permit to have a driver with them. This is not a new offence but it attracts penalty points. Deputy Fitzmaurice put to me the idea that Dubliners make law and are not very aware of its consequences in different parts of the country. Deputy Broughan rebutted it very well. I am very aware of the consequences of this law in all parts of the country. Like many Dubliners, I am one step removed from the rural life on which Deputy Fitzmaurice and others have commented.

This year 28% of people who lost their lives on our roads were between the ages of 16 and 30. That figure is equal to 53 lives. I feel I am obliged to consider measures that will reduce that figure and that changing the sanction to include penalty points will bring down the number of lives lost on our roads, particularly those of young people. It reflects the fact that people who are on a learner driver’s licence will not have the same level of experience as people who have their full licence and may have been driving for longer. I believe this is the correct measure but, as with any measure I bring in, I will always keep it under review to make sure it is achieving its objective. I accept that this will require a change in the behaviour of people in some communities.

The final theme articulated by several Deputies was the notion of retrospection and its consequences in the law. Deputy McNamara is approaching it in a deeply principled manner because of his concerns about what it could mean for people who incurred penalty points between 1 August and the time when I became aware of the issue. He used certain language out of fear that we would create an environment in which the State has a degree of tyranny over its citizens. He said creating new offences is no way to run a country.

I have no problem with the Minister creating new offences to deal with a problem.

I meant the retrospective creation of new offences. I was incorrect.

I did not say the Minister was creating a new offence retrospectively.

I understand his concern about the retrospective nature of what is being proposed. I will be very happy to deal with his point on Committee Stage, but for now, I will sketch out my two principles for believing this is the right approach. First, the particular issue is the application of penalty points, as opposed to the enforcement of penalty points, which occurs after a person has accepted liability for a road traffic offence. I am not seeking to create a new offence, because if I was I would share some of the Deputy’s concerns. I am seeking to deal with the application of penalty points. When an offence has been committed, that is recognised by other parts of our road traffic law, which a person has accepted responsibility for. That has been my guiding insight in believing this issue should be considered.

It is a point at which liability has been accepted. For this reason - Deputy Michael McNamara may understand this better than I do-----

The Minister's time has concluded.

Deputies have raised a large number of detailed points on which they expect me to respond. However, I will conclude on this point.

The acceptance of liability means that this issue will not end up in court and is, as a consequence, a civil law issue. The guiding point for me in all of this has been that I am not proposing to create an offence but dealing with a legal vacuum at the point at which the administration of the offence takes place. It is the correct approach for this reason. I am sorry I do not have more time to respond to Deputy Michael McNamara's request that I explain the reason for taking this approach, but the approach is necessary because continuity of enforcement is essential to a system such as penalty points. It is merited because I am achieving continuity of enforcement by addressing a legal issue and lacuna in the application of penalty points. If I were to seek to deal with other areas of law for which I am responsible or other types of behaviour, my answer to the Deputy's question would be different. The issue relates to the application of penalty points after the admission of liability. I am not seeking to create a new offence and my approach is correct for these reasons. Perhaps I might be able to engage with the Deputy on later Stages.

If the Acting Chairman will forgive me, I propose to address quickly a number of specific points raised by Deputies. I fully concur with Deputy Timmy Dooley's statement that while the error is technical in nature, its consequences are great. I have been transparent in communicating publicly on the number of people who have been affected by this issue.

Deputy Dessie Ellis asked whether I would take this approach to other items of legislation for which I was responsible. I will do so. I am aware of the Deputy's particular interest in drug testing and I will continue this approach in dealing with that matter.

Deputy Finian McGrath asked what the consequences would have been if the penalty points in the relevant cases had been erased. This goes to the heart of the question Deputy Michael McNamara posed.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice raised the issue of GoSafe vehicles, which I addressed. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the reason there had been no pre-legislative discussion of the Bill. The reason is the urgency attached to the matter. I did my utmost, as Deputies have acknowledged, to consult people before introducing the Bill.

The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, noted the importance of having a derogation in respect of an aspect of the haulage industry. I am aware of the issue he raises.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin raised the issue of the national car test, one to which I referred.

Deputies Willie Penrose and Thomas P. Broughan have raised an issue that is at the heart of the difficulty I face, namely, the need to consolidate road traffic legislation. Deputy Willie Penrose sketched the different laws that had been touched on and commented on the technical nature of the issue. The only response must be to consolidate traffic law which I hope will be done in the longer term. I will commence work in this area.

I hope Deputy Thomas P. Broughan is following the debate in his office. He has asked me on a number of occasions to outline the position on funding for information technology that would allow us to proceed with the third payment option. He has raised this issue repeatedly in the media and the House. He has a great interest in it and understands its importance. I am pleased to inform him that I have secured sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to begin work on it. I will update him on the matter.

I will consider the detailed points raised by Deputy Robert Dowds on penalty points applied in the future.

I have responded to the best of my ability to the points raised by Deputy Michael McNamara.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked whether I would come before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications to discuss some of the points he had raised. I will do so.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan raised the issue of inconsistent speed limits. A review of this issue was published earlier this year and its implementation is under consideration.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer also raised the issue of NCT centres, one to which I referred.

In the past three hours many Deputies have raised detailed points in a constructive manner. I appreciate the indulgence shown by the Acting Chairman, Deputy Catherine Byrne, in allowing me to respond to them and touch on the broader issues raised by Deputies.

Question put and agreed to.