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Driving Licences

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Legislation that was laid before Parliament by the previous administration on 11 November 1996 and came into effect in January 1997 unintentionally exempted certain drivers from paying a fee for certain short term medical driving licences (that is licences which are restricted on account of the holder's medical condition). However the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) continued to charge such a fee. Corrective action is now being taken by the DVLA.Until the age of 70 medical licence holders receive free renewals of their short period licences. This ensures that they are not at a financial disadvantage to those whose licences are not required to be renewed until they reach the age of 70. However, at 70 and every three years thereafter, non-medical licence holders must pay a renewal fee. The policy has always been that, in the interests of equity, medical licence holders should also be subject to this fee except that in cases where licences are granted for periods of less than three years they should not have to pay fees at intervals shorter than three years.Between 1991 (when the over 70 renewal fee was introduced) and 1997, this is what the legislation was understood to have required and this is what happened. Regrettably the Regulations which were laid before Parliament on 11 November 1996 and came into force on 1 January 1997 changed the drafting of the relevant provision to the effect that medical licence holders were exempt from paying the three-yearly renewal charge at and after 70. This was not the intention. Although the policy was to charge these applicants a fee, and the DVLA operating instructions continued to reflect this, the legislation no longer provided for it. Unfortunately, it was not picked up at the time and consequently medical licence holders continued to be charged.This was compounded in 1998 when the legislation was amended in respect of drivers of buses and lorries holding short period medical licences to bring it into line with the changes which took effect in 1997.Consequently the DVLA will be refunding fees as appropriate, with interest. The fees to be refunded vary according to the number of licences renewed during the period and the value of payments made. Licences were generally for a three-year period but some shorter term ones were issued. It is possible that some drivers paid a renewal fee up to three times during the period. The cost of car licences varied between £6 and £8.50 and lorry and bus licences between £26 and £32.50 during the period.

DVLA deeply regrets this matter and Ministers have insisted that measures are taken to refund those involved and to minimise the risk of this problem happening again. Now that the Agency has identified the problem it is taking action to identify all those drivers affected and will refund the payments made. Drivers affected need not take any action as payable orders will be automatically issued to them by the end of June.

There will inevitably be some drivers affected who have moved and not notified the DVLA of their change of address and some drivers who are now deceased. To handle these cases, DVLA has put in place a free helpline which such drivers or their next of kin can contact for advice on what they need to do to obtain payment. The helpline number is 0800 5877 664.