Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has called on police in England, Wales and Scotland to stop treating Northern Ireland motorists as “foreigners” when stopped at the roadside.
Following the arrival of a new fixed penalty system last month the Road Haulage Association has said that its Northern Ireland-based members who are stopped while travelling through Britain are often made to pay on-the-spot fines as officials are unable to verify their addresses when they produce their driving licences.
Under the new Government scheme police or enforcement officers can require payment if they have grounds to suppose that the driver may not have a permanent UK address.
Normally for a UK driver, showing a driving licence is accepted as evidence, whereupon they can be given additional time to pay, to complain about the fixed penalty or to decide to go to court.
However some Northern Ireland truckers have found that while their counterparts from the rest of the UK are able to have their licence details checked on the spot, this is not available to them when they present their licences to police.
“There is one regulation on fixed penalties in respect of UK drivers but there appears to be two enforcement policies in respect of proof of address,” RHA director of policy Jack Semple said.
Currently licensing of drivers from Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Coleraine while driving licences for the rest of the UK are dealt with by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea, Wales.
“What seems clear is that Northern Ireland drivers are having to provide extra information because the administrative systems for licensing vary between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country,” Mr Semple said.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland-based DVA said: “Currently there are two different licensing systems — one for Northern Ireland that is based in Coleraine and the other for the rest of the UK that is based in Swansea. An anomaly has arisen because these sysems are not compatible.
“Sammy Wilson met with the the minister who is responsible for the Department for Transport in Whitehall last week to discuss finding a resolution as soon as possible. Until a resolution is found the minister has written to his Whitehall counterpart to ask that the police stop treating people in Northern Ireland as foreigners.”
* This article is from the Belfast Telegraph