Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Road Traffic and Transport Bill 2006 [Seanad]: Second Stage
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I thank the Members present for their interest in this Bill and for agreeing to deal with this matter at such short notice. I particularly thank the spokespersons for each party for facilitating this debate and the speedy passage of the legislation. The Bill is short, as it comprises only two sections, the first relating to road traffic law which underpins and promotes road safety in the area of drink-driving and the second relating to road transport matters. The Bill is mostly a technical one, although it proposes two important policy initiatives which improve and strengthen provisions relating to drink-driving. I shall address the road safety provisions in the first instance.
Deputies have shown a particular interest in road safety issues generally, expressing particular concern about the high level of deaths and injuries on our roads — a concern that I equally share. Indeed, many of the issues raised by Deputies during debates and discussions are now reflected in legislation enacted by the House. The key determinant of road safety performance is the behaviour of road users. Positively influencing behaviour forms the primary focus of our road safety strategies.
Behaviour is influenced by initiatives across a number of areas, including the promulgation and enforcement of laws that promote road user behaviour. Such laws must also be underpinned and supported by the application of fines, prison sentences and driving disqualifications that collectively create an appropriate deterrent to those who endanger the lives of others by their failure to acknowledge and comply with the appropriate behavioural norms. The Road Traffic Act 2006 considerably strengthened the law in these areas.
The number of people being killed and injured on our roads is still unacceptably high. I do not hide my personal concern about the trends in road deaths established over the past two years. A total of 396 people lost their lives in 2005 and 279 people died up to the end of September 2006. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the future. A small change has happened — potentially a very significant one. Since the introduction of roadside mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, in July, which has a legislative basis in the Road Traffic Act 2006, drivers are beginning to take heed and, more importantly, they are beginning to change their behaviour and attitudes towards drinking and driving.
The number of road deaths in August 2006 was 17 — the lowest number for any month since November 1999. This compares to 24 road deaths in August 2005 and 35 in August 2004. This trend is also reflected in the number of deaths during September 2006 which was 22, compared to 31 deaths in September 2005 and 34 in September 2004. This downward trend follows the introduction of MAT. In parallel, the number of road collisions has also fallen. Increased levels of enforcement are having a significant deterrent effect on those who would otherwise drink and drive. While it is important not to base trends on two months' statistics, the reduction during August and September is a positive development which I am hopeful will continue.
The immediate focus of the Bill on the road traffic side is to support the introduction of legislation that will further strengthen drink-driving provisions and improve enforcement. Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a person arrested under various provisions relating to drink driving, and the commission of other serious offences, can be required to provide a breath, blood or urine sample in a Garda station for evidential purposes. However, the section refers to the formation of an opinion by a member of the Garda that an intoxicant has been consumed in advance of administering an evidential test.
My Department has looked at decisions in the courts and has found that the presentation of the wording of the section gives rise to the potential for misinterpretation. In recognising that this is a pivotal provision in terms of the overall code applying to drink-driving, I am taking the first available opportunity to both clarify and strengthen the provision. It is proposed to re-state section 13(1), therefore, to remove the requirement for a member of the Garda to form an opinion in the Garda station, where a driver is arrested under any of the drink-driving provisions, including those relating to a refusal to provide a roadside sample, and in the case of the other serious road traffic offences which are not drink-driving related.
This amendment is sensible since the initial roadside encounter between a garda and a driver involves either the commission of a serious road traffic offence, the formation of an opinion that an intoxicant has been consumed or, in the case of a MAT checkpoint, a refusal by a driver to provide a sample where there was no requirement to form an opinion. In the circumstances, with the assistance of the Attorney General, I am proposing to streamline the provision so that the necessity to form an opinion again in the Garda station no longer applies.
At present, only a designated doctor can take a blood or urine sample in a Garda station. The timely availability of a doctor has given rise to problems in this area. Given the increase in detections resulting from the introduction of MAT, it is likely that this problem will become more significant. It is proposed to extend the pool of resources available to the gardaí to take blood and urine samples. The provision will ensure that, once practical arrangements are in place for the identification of nurses in the vicinity of Garda stations, a greater number of medical staff are available for taking samples. There are a number of consequential amendments resulting from this provision included in the Bill.
A typographical error, which could have a limited impact on the operation of mandatory alcohol testing, is also being corrected. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2006 provides for the introduction of MAT checkpoints. It is an offence under section 4(6) to refuse to give a roadside breath sample, the penalty for which is a fine of up to €5,000 on conviction and/or imprisonment for up to six months. Anyone who refuses to give a roadside breath sample can be arrested under section 4(7).
Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a person arrested under various provisions relating to drink-driving, and the commission of other serious offences, can be required to provide a breath, blood or urine sample in a Garda station for evidential purposes. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2006 amends section 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to provide that a person, who is arrested for refusing to provide a roadside breath sample under the MAT system, can be required to provide an evidential test in a Garda station. The amended section 13 refers to a person arrested under section 4(6) of the 2006 Act. This should read section 4(7). This typographical error relates only to a small number of cases where a person refuses to give a roadside breath sample and where they are arrested for the purpose of providing an evidential test.
The MAT system has been operating effectively since the end of July and the numbers who refuse to provide samples are, according to the gardaí, very low. It would ultimately be a matter for the courts in any relevant case brought before them to determine whether the typographical error did or did not negate the clear intention of the Oireachtas in enacting the relevant provisions of the 2006 Act. However, to remove any such uncertainty, and in light of legal advice received from the Attorney General on this matter, it is proposed to amend the section. There are also a small number of consequential technical amendments, which arise as a result of the changes which are being made.
Section 2 of the Bill deals with road transport provisions, in particular the granting of operator licences to both road haulage operators and to road passenger operators. The reason for these provisions is to address an issue that was identified during routine work within my Department. It emerged that section 3 of the Road Transport Act 1986 had been inadvertently repealed in October 2005. This section is the main statutory power given to the Minister to grant licences to road haulage operators. The repeal was made under the Road Transport Act 1999 (Repeals) (Commencement) Order 2005, made on 28 October 2005, in the mistaken belief that section 3 of the 1986 Act was obsolete.
The Office of the Attorney General has confirmed that a power for the Minister to grant such road haulage operator licences must be contained in primary legislation — the necessary powers to do so do not exist under the European Communities Act 1972. As both passenger and haulage operators share a common regulatory framework under EU law, the Office of the Attorney General also reviewed my power, as Minister for Transport, to grant passenger transport operator licences. The power to grant such licences is contained in regulation 3 of the European Communities (Road Passenger Transport) Regulations, 1991, which were made under section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972.
The advice of the Office of the Attorney General was that specific provisions are not contained in the parent EU directives that permit or oblige the issue of these licences. Accordingly, that office advised that it was beyond the Minister's power at the time to make regulations providing for such licences. Instead, such a power must be contained in primary legislation. Section 2 of this Bill will remedy this problem by providing for such a power.
The main provisions of section 2 are as follows. Subsection (1) provides for the Minister to have the power to grant both road haulage and road passenger transport operator licences. Subsection (2) provides that applicants must be of good repute, appropriate financial standing and have professional competence. Subsection (5) retrospectively validates any licences for both road haulage and passenger operators granted, or deemed to have been granted, under the previous legislation.
The Office of the Attorney General has advised that all relevant statutory instruments made under the Road Transport Acts be reviewed to ensure they are statutorily compliant in relation to licensing. This work is under way. A comprehensive review of all legislation governing the road haulage and road passenger operator sectors will then be undertaken with a view to consolidating them into one Bill, a point Deputy Olivia Mitchell has raised on a couple of occasions and with which I agree.
I am conscious that the Road Traffic Acts have also become a complex body of legislation and this needs to be addressed. A programme of restatement of legislation is being commenced under the Government initiative to improve the quality and accessibility of legislation. In response to the consultation exercise carried out during the summer, my Department put forward the Road Traffic Acts as a body of legislation suitable for restatement and I understand this is currently under consideration. The restatement of these Acts will greatly facilitate their subsequent consolidation.
I thank the House for allowing the urgent debate on these important provisions. I look forward to a positive and supportive debate on the Bill and I commend it to the House.
In the interests of road safety generally and of good governance, I am anxious to co-operate in the speedy and efficient dispatch of this business, that is, passing this Bill into law, because I recognise it is urgent. I share the hope of the Minister that our road safety legislation is perhaps beginning to have an impact. I hope the better figures for last month and the previous one are part of a trend rather than one off figures.
I am compelled to say it is really a bit of an embarrassment that we are amending legislation we only passed the last week we sat before the summer break. We have dealt with three transport Bills this year, including this one, and the Minister has promised a fourth one. I was pleased to hear him say we should consolidate all this legislation into one Act rather than try to do almost the impossible.
What has happened here is an example of what happens when we do not have the type of scrutiny which is absolutely essential for legislation. We passed a series of unrelated items — a hodgepodge — quite apart from the mandatory breath testing, or MAT as it is called, before the summer break. It was done in an enormous hurry — like a rabbit pulled out of a hat — even though we had been told for some time it was not possible. I feel sorry for people in the drafting departments who are asked to produce legislation at very short notice. In this case, we had been told all along it was impossible to bring this legislation forward.
To add to our difficulties, the Opposition was told not to delay the passage of the legislation — that it was not to do its job, that it was not to try to amend or even examine the legislation in any great detail for fear it would hold it up. The debate was guillotined and the result is defective legislation. Both myself and Deputy Shortall warned of that at the time and we have been proved right. I hate to have to say we told the Minister so. It became an issue in the media and, as far as the Minister was concerned, we had to produce something but what we produced was defective. Let us be honest about it.
It is the role of the Dáil to scrutinise legislation and ensure it is robust but that did not happen with this legislation. As the Minister is aware and mentioned in his contribution, I warned of the danger for our road traffic laws generally of a secretion of Acts, one amending another and inserting, deleting, enhancing, refining or expanding on what went before. The Minister's description of the mistakes and how they happened was so archaic that it is a mystery that any of the legislation is implemented correctly in the area of road traffic because it has become almost impossible for those trying to draft legislation. Not only is there legislation but there are all orders, schedules for new offences created by legislation and new penalties imposed, changed, refined and so on. I suggested consolidating legislation and I believe Deputy Shortall has also spoken about that. I have tabled an amendment asking the Minister to introduce such legislation and I am pleased it is a suggestion that will be taken on board.
Of the four elements in the Bill, two seek to address errors in the road traffic legislation. One corrects an oversight and the other one extends to nurses the ability to become involved in evidential testing. That refines rather than corrects the legislation. However, the above shows a record of poor legislative scrutiny. By failing in what we do, we make it almost impossible for the practitioners — judges, barristers, solicitors, local authorities and, most of all, the unfortunate gardaí — to do their jobs. If the written law is not clear, its implementation will not be clear. It is almost impossible to unravel the labyrinth of road traffic offences and penalties attaching to them which are often amended.
It is no wonder that in recent cases daily practitioners of the law and of road traffic law, in particular, assumed the offence of dangerous driving carried a mandatory penalty. They assumed the offence carried mandatory disqualification but when it became clear that was not the case, it was assumed that at least penalty points attached. The reality is that neither applies. That is a genuine mistake, although I know the Minister suggested in a reply to a parliamentary question that one would not get penalty points if there was a possibility of losing one's licence in the courts. However, the reality is it is only a possibility. There is also a possibility that one would lose one's licence for careless driving. Surely, if there is a hierarchy of offences, such as dangerous and careless driving, there should also be a hierarchy of penalties attaching to them. That is an error and a loophole in the law which we should try to solve. Whether the Minister accepts my amendment to solve it or does so in another way, it definitely needs to be addressed. It is no wonder practitioners of the law assume there must be a law stating that one loses one's licence or one gets penalty points.
Recently I spoke to a member of the Garda Síochána about enforcing the law in regard to cars parking on cycle paths. The garda told me there was no such offence as parking on a cycle path. I told him to look again which he did. There is such an offence but he did not know that. It must be impossible for young gardaí, particularly those coming out of Templemore, to even know where to get the information about what is and is not legal in terms of road traffic.
In terms of road transport, even more disturbing is that there was no legal basis for the granting of the road passenger and road haulage licences as it was deleted by accident. Again, it is perfectly understandable how that happens when one sees just how archaic the whole system is. We can only hope that now the information is public, it will not have any implications for the Minister or licence holders, particularly in respect of their insurance if accidents took place during the period when they were not legally licensed.
I hope that if we pass this legislation, we will move immediately to try to introduce a consolidated road traffic Bill in the interests of clarity for all the practitioners involved in trying to impose the law. Every time we make a mistake, either in the drafting or implementation of the law — they are not unconnected — we devalue the law in the eyes of the public and show ourselves not to be serious when we speak on the one hand about the importance of road safety but on the other keep failing to get it right.
I do not believe anyone in the Chamber wishes to hold up or place an obstacle in the way of having this legislation enacted. Ultimately, many people, including many Members, travel by road. Thus, the laws governing road safety are vitally important.
The day that penalty points were introduced it was evident that the same type of overtaking did not take place. I refer to the road from Dublin to Cork. Most definitely, there was a sense of security and safety on the roads at that time but this very quickly evaporated. It soon became clear that this particular section of road legislation was not being implemented. I am sure the Minister would accept this point. Behaviour on the roads reverted to how it had been previously. This makes it unsafe for people who travel by car due to the persistent and constant danger on the road and gives rise to a sense of unease which leads people to look to other methods of transport to get from A to B.
I do not think anyone would disagree that road traffic legislation is vitally important. However, road traffic legislation is not what road safety in its entirety is about. It is also about behaviour, standards and what one perceives to be the purpose of roads. While legislation is a pivotal element, it is about more than legislation. I accept that it is vitally important to enact this amended legislation.
Deputies Olivia Mitchell and the Labour Party spokesperson on transport, Deputy Shortall, have consistently said that consolidation in this area is vitally important. It is about more than fragmented items of legislation. Joined-up thinking is crucial, not only in the area of legislation but also in related areas. A programme of education is required, especially in regard to young people and resources.
Deputy Olivia Mitchell correctly pointed out, and Deputy Shortall previously made the point in regard to the earlier legislation, that sufficient time is not provided to discuss the legislation. It is evident that the Department does not have the necessary resources in order to produce legislation that is not flawed. We are not blaming anybody, merely stating that the resources are insufficient. Surely a Department that relies so heavily on a legislation-based approach should have its own senior counsel. We are only now trying to come to terms with road traffic offences and we desperately want to get it right. Expert advice is required on this specific area. We should not always have to rely on the Attorney General's office, which we know from past experience cannot always be relied on.
It is of the utmost importance that the kind of joined-up thinking that is required in this area would come together in one Bill. I accept that such a Bill would be weighty. When such legislation comes before the House, sufficient time must be provided for it. Widespread consultation is also required, in addition to an appendix of ancillary services, not just relating to penalties and the implementation of the law. This point has been previously made in the House by all those concerned with this matter.
The Labour Party has tabled two technical amendments to the Bill which Deputy Shortall hopes the Minister will accept. They are concerned with ensuring that the citing of the legislation in the Short Title will facilitate people in navigating the legislation. This brings me back to why we are here today; so that people who need it can find out about the legislation and how it links into other legislative measures. That is the sole purpose of the amendments. People from other jurisdictions researching legislation down through the years find it virtually impossible to wade through the maze of legislation that exists, how it was enacted etc. It is important that we would bring some regulation into the system.
Deputy Shortall asked me to refer to an issue she previously raised — the citing of European legislation in regard to car testing. She still has significant doubts on this matter. Now that the legislation has returned to the House she hopes the Minister will re-examine the issue. If someone got it wrong in respect of breath testing then it is possible that he or she also got it wrong in this area. She remains concerned about this matter. She believes the legislation is not cited properly and that a problem could arise at a later stage. While we do not wish to put anybody wise to it, we believe the matter should be examined carefully. Deputy Shortall is most anxious that the Minister would review the matter.
The consolidation of road traffic legislation was supposed to have been completed by the end of the year. Will the Minister indicate if that is still likely to be the case? The legislation is likely to be weighty and, despite the fact that no one talks about the elephant in the room, we are in the run-in to an election. This legislation is important and we need to take our time over it. Nobody wants it to be rushed. Is it likely that the legislation will appear this side of Christmas or will it be after Christmas? Will it be dealt with before the election? It is important that we would know. If the Bill will not be ready before the election, will the heads of the Bill be published?
Two reports have been produced by a committee of the Oireachtas on road safety and traffic and they are well worth examining. They refer to experiences in other countries. We need to adopt approaches similar to those in Australia and France. While legislation is at the heart of the matter, implementation and resources are of crucial importance. I hope the Minister will take this point on board.
I believe the Minister will receive support from across the House to get this short Bill through as quickly as possible. My party is in full agreement with the provisions outlined. We understand the need for them. It is regrettable but understandable how such mistakes can be made. I do not think anyone here is beyond reproach in this regard. We have made similar mistakes ourselves in the past. It is not worth our time dwelling on the reasons some of those mistakes were made, other than to state that in this area the question of resources available to the Department is a serious issue. Colleagues have previously made this point.
I do not speak in terms of this legislative area alone. We have a new Department of Transport and we find it is an area that is increasingly in the news and is the source of contentious debate around transport issues. In the past three or four years, we have gone from one fire fighting issue to another, be it the airports, bus regulation, the building of public transport or overruns in road programmes. In a constructive manner, I would question whether there are sufficient resources within the Department or whether it is structured in a way to give it those resources to cover all of these bases and operate in a strategic and forensic manner instead of running from one crisis to another. In those circumstances, it is more likely that typographical or legislative errors will be made.
A question must be asked about the scope, resources and ability of the Department to fully cover the wide transport brief with which it is charged. Any new Government should consider strengthening the Department by, for example, moving the roads function of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Department of Transport, where it would have a natural home. This would give a transport Department the resources to legislate and have joined-up thinking in its area; this is something which my party will certainly consider.
I do not have any problem with the provisions or changes to be made. I welcome a new addition that has not been made on the basis of a typographical error or mistake in the original Bill, namely, the use of nurses to take blood samples in Garda stations. Our nursing profession is not sufficiently recognised for the skills and expertise of its members. It is appropriate that nurses are able to administer some of the medical procedures they would not have been allowed to do previously. The Acting Chairman might excuse my view, as no offence to the good doctors of this country is meant, but there is no reason such procedures should not be taken over by the nursing profession.
I also welcome an apparent trend in the past two months. While it is difficult to speak of trends when examining a mere two months' figures, the coincidence of the introduction of mandatory breath testing with the reduction in the number of collisions, which I suppose is the most accurate measure, and fatalities is welcome. We should go further with this. The political will exists across the House and the country for Deputies to effectively address the tragedy that is the number of deaths, injuries and losses on our roads. As has been said, this would not only require legislative changes, but would also stiffen our resolve to go further.
Three "E"s are involved in the examination of what needs to be done in terms of road safety. Enforcement and education are of crucial importance, but I would turn to the "E" in respect of which we are not seeing action or sufficient priority being given, namely, engineering. The foremost task or role of the traffic department of each local authority, the Railway Procurement Agency and other transport delivering bodies is to design safe facilities that will further reduce fatalities. The only correct approach is to have no tolerance, not only for drink driving, but also for road conditions that allow or tend to lead to road accidents occurring. I would like to see the resources of the State being invested in the crucial area of road design and engineering, down to every junction. One must start from a local level and work out.
If one walks outside the front gates of this building onto Kildare Street, one is faced with a typical example of what exists in every corner of the country. How can one cross from Buswells Hotel to Leinster House in a road-safe way? It is impossible. One is effectively forced to jay walk, as there is no pedestrian crossing or right of way. One need go no further than the front door of this building to see the problems that exist. This type of lack of planning and attention to detail in road traffic management typifies what spreads from Leinster House to the rest of the country.
While I support the introduction of mandatory breath testing, for which my party has called for a long time, any consequent reduction in the number of accidents is an impetus to further action and endeavour. My party will support the Bill. We hope the Minister will provide a consolidated road traffic Bill before the next election. This matter should be at the top of the legislative agenda of all parties in the House because it is a matter in which any legislation enacted will be picked apart by lawyers. The legislation must be clearly understood, but for that to happen we will need a consolidated Bill. It should be on the agenda of whoever is in office after the next election.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I listened to the Minister speaking about the reduction in the number of deaths and so on and we all welcome that it is a decreasing trend. I have the Garda national traffic bureau's statistics with me. In February 2003, there were 21 deaths whereas there were 31 deaths in the same month this year. The important fact is that the current figures are decreasing. I have the figures for 2000 to 2006 and I guarantee that each of the Deputies present has attended a funeral of one of the individuals killed in this way and has gone through the trauma of families affected. Meeting the survivors of serious accidents has affected me as a public representative. Our statistics do not delve into the matter of survivors.
Deputy Lynch spoke about taking a journey in Ireland. Driving a car is taking one's life in one's hands due to bad behaviour, dangerous driving and so on. Anyone who drives from this House to Cork, Donegal or wherever will encounter at least one incident of someone breaking the rules of the road, taking crazy risks or doing something that might result in a person being killed. Perhaps it has something to do with my getting older, but I find the road is a frightening place because of speed and so on. While we are discussing changes to sound legislation, road safety comes down to the personal responsibility of people who decide to get into cars, trucks or vans or onto motorcycles. We can have the best laws in the world, but those people need to take responsibility for their own driving.
I agree with Deputy Eamon Ryan about the need for extra resources. I would not say it is embarrassing to be discussing this matter again, but it sends the wrong signal to the crazy drivers. On my way here this morning, I saw a four-car pile up on the Cheeverstown Road in Tallaght. On the same road last night, there was another four-car pile up. People say this is down to bad driving, but it is also down to people's frustration with trying to get out of traffic, get to work or take their children to school. Being caught in bottlenecks causes problems.
I agree with the consolidated Bill concept and the call for extra resources for the Department of Transport, particularly legal resources. There is something wrong with society when all these intelligent members of the Law Library seem to spend most of their working lives thinking up ways of getting around existing legislation. Considering what is happening on the roads, there is something wrong with society when supposedly the best brains in the country spend so much time trying to find loopholes in laws, and that is why I agree with the idea of extra resources.
I have seen the extra levels of enforcement and all of us will agree they are welcome. I have been stopped a number of times going home from this Chamber. I see greater visibility of gardaí on the roads and that is welcome. I also still see gardaí with cameras at the usual spots. Maybe that will change, but a mentality exists to build up the conviction figures and get so much in fines at certain spots on roads where I have never seen accidents or where there is rarely an accident, but we do not see them at accident black spots.
The legislation also requires that applicants for an operator's licence must be of good repute, of appropriate financial standing and have professional competence. While I can understand the requirement for professional competence, I presume financial standing means that the person is not bankrupt. Perhaps the Minister will expand on that. What exactly is meant by a person of good repute? For instance, is it to do with someone who may have a criminal conviction? I listened to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform speaking about someone from his constituency who was convicted of an offence 20 years ago and said he was looking at ways of changing matters to take account of circumstances where such a person has learnt his or her lesson and has gone on to be a good citizen. What does the Minister mean by "good repute" in the Bill?
A colleague of mine in Donegal stated that one of the best forms of enforcement was where a local garda sergeant comes out in one village in Donegal with the traffic gun. It is well known in the area that one sergeant in that Garda station comes out on a regular basis and people in that area slow down going through that village on the basis of that garda's initiative. Other gardaí, if they are listening to this and maybe do not have something better to do, might come up with similar initiatives.
On the issue of road safety, high visibility works. The Garda authorities need to concentrate on those areas and times where there are difficulties on the roads, particularly in the hours after midnight, rather than spending the time on public order, high visibility on the street etc. We probably also need in equal measure Garda checkpoints in those particular areas.
The legislation covers road safety and road haulage. EU rules state there should be places for truck drivers to rest, sleep, eat and wash, and many haulage drivers here experience difficulty in that regard. While I recognise there is talk of change in that regard, when one asks the Minister a question it is ruled out of order because it relates to the NRA. Tired truck drivers on our roads will increase the likelihood of accidents and it is a matter to be addressed.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues again. I hope we can close all the loopholes this time.
I thank Deputies for their support and the recognition of the issues in the Bill. To be fair to the parliamentary counsel staff, they work, like us in many respects, under enormous pressure and, unfortunately, a typographical error caused this issue. The secondary issue, which has become familiar in recent times, that of secondary legislation versus primary legislation, is one with which we collectively need to grapple. As a result, as I stated in response to Deputy Olivia Mitchell, we are looking at the entire spectrum to ensure that there is nothing else we are missing vis-À-vis statutory instruments and implementation of EU law under directives, and to correct any issues there.
I also welcome the fact that the Bill introduces two policy initiatives. The issue of nurses being facilitators in taking a blood or urine sample in a Garda station is a good one. I have always taken the view that there is no legislation in any area passed in this Houses on which we cannot improve in the future and I have no issue with taking opportunities when they arise to do so. The House is of the same view and we are doing that here today to enhance and strengthen the legislation.
A clear message coming from the House, with which I agree, is that it has worked hard collectively to bring in tough, clear legislation. We need enforcement on the other side to ensure it is driven home — no pun intended — and that is happening. We need to maintain this level of enforcement through the expansion and visibility of the traffic corps and the recognition by all that while there is a collective approach to road safety, much of it comes down to personal understanding. People's habits, approach and attitude are changing and that is a good development which we need to reinforce. Equally, many elements within the media have helped to reinforce the message of collective responsibility, and we must understand that we have a responsibility, not alone to ourselves but to all road users.
I happened to see one of the more powerful messages the other evening, the piece with Charlie Bird on "Six One News" at the end of the month, which has been a feature in recent times. It gives a positive message and helps to remind us of road safety. It does not matter what the age of a person killed — obviously, when people are killed it is tragic — but when persons of 17 and 21 years of age are killed, people starting out in life, it is traumatic.
Some are even younger, as Deputy Lynch stated, even 14 years of age, and it brings home to us that there is no second chance in many respects. The moment we go out on to the roads is the moment we must be responsible, think about what we are doing and act responsibility.
Many colleagues have pointed out the arcane nature of the language on some of the issues, and Deputy Olivia Mitchell tabled an amendment in that regard.
I confirm to the House that on the consolidation of the Road Transport Acts dealing with haulage and road passenger transport licences, it is our intention to rewrite and simplify all the passenger transport licensing laws and repeal all the previous Acts and statutory instruments dating back to the 1930s. This will bring all the licensing legislation into one Act and one standard instrument, which we all would welcome. My Department will ensure that this new Act and standard instrument will contain all necessary powers and provisions. Of course, we must meticulously keep all that up to date.
I have some experience of this from when I was Minister of State at the Department of Finance and, with former Minister, Charlie McCreevy, we consolidated all the Tax Acts. I was heavily involved in bringing that Bill through both Houses and I am familiar with the process and the meticulous and tedious nature of the work necessary to bring all these Acts together correctly. It takes time and there is no short-cut. We will do this because it is a process which we all, irrespective of our positions, would want to see completed. The first step, which we have started, is to restate the Road Traffic Acts in a way we can understand them and then we will begin the consolidation process. I am in agreement with everybody in the House that we need to do that.
I thank the House for supporting this legislation in the manner that it has.