Drivers to contest French road law

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The Independent Online
THE French road haulage federation is challenging the legality of the new points driving licence which provoked the recent 10-day revolt by lorry drivers.

The case, put before the Council of State by the National Federation of Road Transporters, is based on a technicality. According to the original text of the law passed by parliament in July 1989, the decrees putting the law into force had to be published before 1 January this year. However, after the government of Edith Cresson decided to delay its application by six months until 1 July, the decrees were not published in the government's Journal Officiel until last month.

The anomaly was spotted by a lawyer in the eastern French town of Epinal who was looking at the implications of the new points, or endorsements, system for a client who had been caught speeding. The legal aspects were then discussed in an issue of a French lawyers' journal, La Gazette du Palais, published last week.

If the federation's challenge is upheld, it will mean that the licence law cannot be enforced until parliament meets again in the autumn. This would be humiliating for the government, which has struggled to enforce the new system despite the 10 days of roadblocks which paralysed France's main roads until last Wednesday.

The federation backed the drivers' action last week by calling for a complete halt to road transport. The drivers' employers, whom the federation represents, have agreed to tighter safety regulations and improved working conditions to accommodate the new law.

The government resisted the temptation to delay the introduction of the law still further, when the truck drivers started their protest, arguing that it would be irresponsible to do so, since 1 July was the start of the summer holiday season and the worst time for accidents. The purpose of the law, similar to endorsement systems in Britain and elsewhere, is to reduce France's nearly 10,000 road deaths every year.

PARIS (Reuter) - President Francois Mitterrand saluted the French armed forces' growing role in peace-keeping and humanitarian aid across the world yesterday in a message on the eve of France's national day.