Thursday, 5 November 2009
Question 9: To ask the Minister for Transport his views on the Farrelly report into the issuing of road transport haulage operators' licences by his Department; when he will publish the promised legislation to enhance the regulatory regime governing the future issuance of road transport operator licences in view of the case in which an alleged drug trafficker applied for and received a licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39554/09]
I initiated a general review into the criteria for granting road transport licences in April 2009 in the aftermath of the drug case referred to by the Deputy. Mr. Jimmy Farrelly was engaged to review all aspects of the decision to award the licence and, having regard to that review, to examine and to make recommendations on the procedures for processing applications for licences and the legislative framework.
Mr. Farrelly's report made a number of recommendations to strengthen legislation, as well as proposals on improving procedural and processing matters. I have since published the Farrelly report and an accompanying action plan for the implementation of its recommendations on my Department's website.
Many of the recommendations have now been fully implemented and others have been progressed substantially. In addition, legal advice was sought and received on the current regulations as many of the legal, and constitutional issues around the criteria for granting licences, have proven difficult and complex. Legal advice recommended strengthening of compliance with EU law in this area and advised that new regulations would be required to achieve this.
I have the Farrelly report here and it is shocking. The Garda did not check for past convictions when granting a HGV licence and awarded a licence to a notorious drug dealer. It was an appalling situation. Has it been remedied? Is the new regulation in effect? Does that mean people with convictions for murder, manslaughter, drug trafficking and sexual offences will not be allowed a licence for such a vehicle?
On foot of that, have we checked to see if we have missed any other grants of licences like this? My colleagues, Deputies Rabbitte and Costello, repeatedly asked for information on this matter in this House and were stymied. The situation was allowed to continue until the Government was finally forced to take action thanks to this valuable report.
The Deputy has the sequence of events incorrect, I commissioned the Farrelly report on foot of the specific case raised. All of the matters that arose as a result of that case have been dealt with. The first statutory instrument that I put in place means that anyone convicted in the past five years would have to give up his licence. Four people have been contacted in that regard and if they have not handed up their licences by the end of next week, the Garda will take action against them. All of the recommendations in the report are being acted upon. Many are complete, but a Bill on foot of this report will be introduced next year.