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Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010

Commentary on Sections

Sections 1 to 3 contain the requirement to hold an operators’ licence and sets out the different types of operators’ licences.  It will be an offence to operate without a licence although there is also provision for exemption from holding a licence.

Under Section 4 any vehicle that is to be used under a licence must be in the lawful possession of the owner, registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 (c.22) and kept in an operating centre in Northern Ireland.  Section 5 provides for the Department to specify the maximum number of vehicles that can be used in a licence.  That number can be greater than those vehicles actually identified under a licence.  The difference between the number of vehicles identified and the maximum authorised is commonly known as “the margin”.  It will be an offence to exceed the maximum.

Section 6 provides for the operating centre to be specified in the licence.  Authorised vehicles should be kept at the operating centre specified on the licence and it will be an offence to do otherwise.

Sections 7 to 11 deal with the application process for licences.  They provide for the information that an applicant will have to furnish in the application and the requirement for the applicant to publish a notice of the application in a newspaper.  They also deal with the process of making an objection to, and representations against, the issue of a licence.

Sections 12 to 15 set out the process for determining applications and the issue of a licence.  Depending on the type of licence applied for, the Department shall consider certain requirements including the good repute, financial standing and professional competence of the applicant [the details of which will be outlined in subsequent regulations] and determine whether the applicant satisfies the particular requirements for the type of licence.  Any objections or representations against the application will be considered as part of the process.  The Department may issue a licence in terms different to those applied for.

Sections 16 to 19 provide for the variation of licences.  They set out the types of variations that can be considered along with the application process including the publication of notices and the process for making objections and representations.

Under Section 20, the Department has the power to attach conditions to a new licence.  The conditions may, in particular, relate to public safety in or around operating centres or may require the licence holder to inform the Department of any event that may affect the licence.  They may also relate to the use of an operating centre and seek to prevent or minimise any adverse effects on the environmental conditions in the area of the centre.  The Department will be able to vary or remove a condition as part of a variation exercise under section 16.  It will be an offence to contravene any condition attached to a licence.

Section 21 provides for the issue of an interim licence, if requested at the time of application, which will remain in force while the application is being determined.  Similarly, under section 22 the Department may make an interim variation to an existing licence that will remain in place while the application is being determined.

Sections 23 to 26 provide for the revocation, suspension and curtailment of operators’ licences and disqualification from holding or obtaining a licence.  The Department can decide to revoke, suspend or curtail a licence for any reasonable cause and other specified grounds as outlined.  Under section 24, a standard licence will be revoked if the holder is no longer of good repute, appropriate financial standing or professionally competent.  Under section 25, the Department may disqualify a person from holding or obtaining an operator’s licence and it will be an offence to apply or obtain a licence while disqualified.  Such decisions will be subject to inquiry, if the licence holder requests, and the revocation, suspension, curtailment or disqualification will not take effect if and while the licence holder appeals to the Upper Tribunal.

Sections 27 to 29 deal with the review of operating centres.  The Department will review, on a regular 5-year basis, the place specified in the licence to determine its continued suitability for use as an operating centre.  It will have the power to either remove the operating centre from the licence or to attach conditions to the licence.

Under section 30 and Schedule 1, the Department will be able to consider an application that involves the transfer of an operating centre.  This may be in the form of an application for a new licence, or for the variation of an existing licence where the proposed operating centre is already specified in another operator’s licence.

Under section 31, the Department will have to consider environmental matters when making determinations on applications for new licences or the variation of existing licences and also when carrying out reviews of operating centres.  Details of the environmental matters that it will consider will be outlined in regulations.

Section 32 provides the Department with the power to hold inquiries when it thinks fit in carrying out any of its functions under the Act.  Section 33 allows the Department to appoint and pay for an assessor to assist in considering any financial questions that arise in carrying out its functions.

Sections 34 and 35 set out the arrangements for the reviews of, and appeals against decisions on operators’ licences.  Under section 34, the Department can review and subsequently vary or revoke a decision it made in relation to an application.  Under section 35, an applicant may appeal to the Upper Tribunal against a decision of the Department, as can a person who had made an objection to an application.

Under section 36 it will be an offence to forge, alter or use a range of documents and plates relating to operator licensing.  It will also be an offence under section 37 to knowingly make a false statement or produce false or misleading material in relation to an application for an operators’ licence.

Sections 38 to 45 set out the provisions on the enforcement of operator licensing.  The Department will have power to enter and inspect certain premises that are being used in connection with the carriage of goods by road and to seize certain documents and to obtain certain information.  It will be an offence to obstruct an authorised officer in the exercise of functions under the Act.  Section 44 and Schedule 2 to the Act provides for the power to detain a vehicle that is being used without an operator’s licence.  They provide for the immobilisation of the vehicle and its contents along with the subsequent return or disposal of both.  Regulations may provide for the procedure for dealing with disputes about the return or disposal of the contents of a vehicle.  It will be an offence to make a false or misleading declaration to secure the return of seized property.

Sections 46 to 51 contain a number of miscellaneous provisions relating to operator licensing.  There will be controls placed on the disclosure of information obtained under the Act.  The Department will be able to charge fees for the processing of operator’s licences and with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel pay grants to persons or bodies as it considers appropriate in connection with any provision or purposes of the Act.

Sections 52 to 55 contain provision for the application of the Act in certain special cases including its application to holding companies and partnerships along with the Crown and to roads within Belfast Harbour and other harbours.

Sections 56 to 61 contain a number of supplementary provisions including powers to make regulations.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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