Minister Mark Durkan 'failing the wedding car industry'
A Stormont minister has been accused of driving Northern Ireland's wedding car industry into the ground.
Environment chief Mark H Durkan has pledged to meet the firms after refusing to introduce an opt-out from licensing laws available in the rest of the UK.
Two years ago the Law Commission in the UK recommended that wedding and funeral cars should continue to enjoy exemption from licensing regulations.
At Question Time in the Assembly, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson told the minister: "You have completely and utterly failed the wedding car industry, and, much further than that, you have disappointed many brides and grooms.
"Quite simply, you have driven the wedding car business out of business, particularly when it comes to the use of vintage cars."
He asked: "Will you agree, yet again, to meet me and the industry to see whether we can hammer out a solution and a settlement of the issue?"
East Antrim member Mr Dickson said the minister had promised "he would be light touch" on regulations on the use of vintage vehicles, many of which are driven only a number of times a year.
Mr Durkan first of all joked that his personal experience of wedding cars "has been a negative one". He then criticised Mr Dickson saying: "He must be dying to get into the press with something. I know that it has been a quiet four or five years for the member."
The Environment Minister also argued: "A lot of exemptions in the legislation have been introduced for wedding car drivers. They are classed as class C taxis."
He quipped: "Indeed, some of them are very classy when you have Rolls-Royces, Jaguars and what not.
"I do, though, agree that there are still concerns. For example, part-time wedding car drivers who might drive 20 days a year in their profession are expected to undertake continuous professional development or training as well as pay the full price of a licence.
"I said earlier that this legislation will be due a review. It was passed in 2008, and it is a sad indictment of the Assembly that the regulations are being implemented only now. I imagine that the review will commence as soon as this summer.
"I think that wedding cars will be looked at, especially as we do not have to reinvent the wheel: we can just look at other jurisdictions and see how they dealt with this matter."
He added: "I do not accept that I have failed; I think that I have succeeded where others have failed in getting this through.
"I will be the first to put my hand up... and say that this is not perfect. However, I will work with members and with the industry to get it as close to perfect as it can be."