FTA pushing O-licensing over the line

Posted on: Thursday, 4 November 2010 by Toby Carroll in categories Media and campaigns, Northern Ireland

FTA were in the grand surroundings of the Stomont estate on Monday, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, to further push the issues affecting operators in the run up to the Assembly elections in May 2011.

The introduction of O-licensing

Top of the list for FTA, and of great concern to logistics companies across Northern Ireland, is the future of plans to introduce an operator licensing regime across the industry. FTA has been pushing for this change, which would radically improve the poor international reputation of Northern Ireland logistics by ensuring all companies moving freight were working to a good standard, for many years. Progress seemed to be made with the passing of a new law in January 2010, committing the Government to getting this scheme up and running.

However, since the Bill received Royal Assent 9 months ago, the trail has gone cold. For the scheme to get up and running, it needs five sets of secondary legislation to be passed, which would govern some of the fine detail of the scheme. In the 9 months since, the Department has produced almost nothing to show it is serious about getting this much-needed scheme up and running.

Frustration at lack of O-licensing progress

It was clear from conversations with MLAs across the political spectrum on Monday that many of them, particularly those serving on the relevant Assembly Committee which oversaw the original legislation, appear to be as frustrated as the industry with the lack of progress. Both Environment Committee deputy chair Patsy McGlone of the SDLP, and his DUP Committee colleague Trevor Clarke expressed their amazement to FTA that they went away from the Committee for a year in late 2009 only to come back and find that no progress had been made. Together with the support of Sinn Fein MLAs such as Willie Clarke and Environment Committee chair Cathal Boylan, and numerous others from all parties, it is hoped that FTA is building a sufficiently forceful political cross-party alliance to help push the implementation of O-licensing in Northern Ireland through the Departmental roadblocks currently in its way.

Issues affecting Northern Ireland logistics

There are a number of other issues affecting logistics in Northern Ireland, on which FTA help a number of discussions. These ranged from the need to appoint a clear and visible independent traffic regulator (which sparked a lively joust with Trevor Clarke about the need for such a regulator, and what it should be set up to achieve), on similar lines to the GB Traffic Commissioners, the key infrastructure projects that should survive the likely projects cull following the Comprehensive Spending Review, and the impact of fuel duty on the competitiveness of Northern Ireland businesses.

The latter was of particular interest to Sinn Fein’s Jennifer McCann, and Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP. Dr McDonnell is also an MP in Westminster; and so is almost uniquely placed to raise logistics issues in both legislatures.

Encouraging the Northern Ireland supply chain to flourish

It is clear that those making policy decisions in Northern Ireland have a very open ear for logistics issues, and FTA looks forward to working with them as next year’s elections approach, to getting the right policy frameworks in place to allow the Northern Ireland supply chain to flourish.

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