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MoT chaos: Minister Nichola Mallon refuses to be drawn on compensation for hire cars

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has refused to say if compensation will be provided to those affected by cancelled MoT tests to pay for hire cars.

She was also unable to give a time frame as to when the situation will be resolved but said she was taking steps to ensure it would not happen again.

Around 5,000 tests have been cancelled after "signs of cracking" were uncovered in 48 of 55 vehicle lifts at MoT centres across Northern Ireland.

Inspections and repairs are currently being carried out, with Ms Mallon issuing temporary MoT exemptions to affected drivers for a period of four months. Taxi drivers and those with four-year-old cars, however, are not eligible for the temporary certificates but they will be prioritised.

Those who had an appointment cancelled will also be refunded half of the test fee and given a free test.

When questioned if compensation will be paid out to drivers who have to hire a car due to their MoT certificate expiring as a result of a cancelled test, the Infrastructure Minister said she was restricted in what decisions she could make around such payments.

"I have to operate within the legislation and I absolutely understand the disruption that's been caused to people. You mentioned people that are working class and are struggling to make ends meet - that's why I got into politics," she told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"In term of compensation, I have to operate within the legislation - this is public money. I have considered compensation, but what are the parameters? What are the thresholds? What are the criteria? We get into a very difficult area.

"What I have been told is that any such payment would be subject to rules and approvals."

Ms Mallon said she first became aware of the problem last Tuesday night, when she was told of one faulty vehicle lift. On Wednesday, however, she was told 48 lifts had been taken out of operation. She then moved to issue exemptions within 48 hours.

The exemptions, however, does not apply to four-year-old cars, as they have never been issued with an MoT certificate.

"I'm restricted in what I can do for taxi drivers, as they are subject to a PSV licence," she added.

"I have said to officials that I want taxi drivers prioritised, but if there are taxi drivers out there that have had a cancellation and have not been given an urgent appointment, I want them to contact my office."

In order to deal with a backlog in appointments, MoT centres are to be open additional hours and at weekends.

Inspections at centres are not carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Agency, but are outsourced to a private company.

Ms Mallon said she has instructed officials carry out a review into how the situation arose, including a review of the inspection process.

"This is a huge issue for me and I have huge questions around the inspections, the contractor, and as part of the review into how this situation arose, I want to have an absolute review of that contract, because I have a number of serious concerns," she said.

The minister said she could not give a "definitive time frame" as to how long drivers would have to wait for an urgent appointment.

The disruption comes after a huge backlog of tests which saw some motorists given dates after the expiry of their certificate.

Ms Mallon said safety of staff and customers was a priority.

Motorists are advised continue to book tests and to show up for their scheduled appointment until told otherwise.

Belfast Telegraph