Vehicles of Historic Interest: MOT Exemptions

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 21st September 2020.

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Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP 3:00 pm, 21st September 2020

6. Mr Harvey asked the Minister for Infrastructure when she will bring legislation to the Assembly to implement MOT exemptions for vehicles of historic interest. (AQO 699/17-22)

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I announced on 2 July that I intended to introduce the exemption of vehicles of historic interest from periodic roadworthiness testing in Northern Ireland. The exemption will align Northern Ireland legislation with that in GB and will apply to vehicles that were first registered at least 40 years ago, are no longer in production and have not been significantly modified. The exemption will not apply to vehicles that are still in public service.

I advise the Member that the draft regulations required to introduce the exemption recently received legal clearance and were laid in the Assembly on 18 September 2020. They are subject to the Assembly's statutory period that applies under the negative resolution procedure. It is anticipated that they will come into force on 12 October. I know how passionate the Member is. He has been an active campaigner on the issue on behalf of the vintage vehicle community. I hope that this news and this success make him happy.

Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP

I thank the Minister not only for her kind words but for her positive consideration of the scheme and for bringing it to its implementation stage. I hope that I have plagued you in a pleasant manner; even though it was a regular occurrence, we never managed to fall out.

Minister, do you agree that historical vehicle owners deserve credit for their mostly unrecognised charitable work? They put hours into their vehicles while raising huge sums of money for charities. I convey thanks and appreciation on behalf of all the enthusiasts whom I have lobbied for.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his kind words. This was not an issue that was particularly on my radar until I took up this post, but you very kindly and very actively made sure that it was on my radar; I thank you for that. You showed me up close the great work of the historical vehicle community, particularly the work that it does for charities. It does so without seeking recognition, but we have a responsibility to acknowledge and recognise the many groups and communities across Northern Ireland that make a huge contribution quietly but hugely effectively.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I may call you "Mr Happy Harry".

Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin

Will the Minister provide us with an update on whether the Department is exploring biannual testing for certain vehicles, as happens in the Twenty-six Counties?

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Member will know that I advised the Committee that I was keen to explore that. I have asked my officials to move to a call for evidence. We hope that that will be completed by the end of this year, after which I will be able to take stock and decide on next steps.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Minister for her announcement. It will help in a very small way the current situation with regard to the MOT backlog.

As the Minister will be aware, temporary exemption certificates (TECs) are no longer being issued for four-year-old cars. As a result, I have been contacted by many constituents struggling to get through to the booking line to get an MOT secured. What is being done to ensure that that is ended and people are able to get their MOT booked?

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

That has been an issue. We have seen a huge increase in the number of calls to the booking centre. Currently, vehicle test bookings can be made only through the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) call centre. Customers have been experiencing difficulties in getting through, and, for that, I apologise. To mitigate the issue and the general high volume of calls being handled by call agents, the DVA is introducing a call-messaging service to redirect calls to nidirect. Capita has also agreed in principle to extend its opening hours by an additional two hours from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm from Monday through to Wednesday to provide additional capacity. Those measures are to be implemented from Wednesday 23 September.

To further alleviate pressure on the Capita call centre, the DVA will continue to engage directly with the haulage industry, particularly operators with large fleets, to facilitate bookings at local test centres, where possible. Members should encourage their constituents to check the status of their vehicle online. They should go to — if I remember it correctly — to see the status of their vehicle. A number of vehicles have been given temporary exemption certificates and have no need to go for an MOT, so I encourage Members to direct their constituents to that website.