What you've heard is true, the DVLA have announced that the paper driving licence counterpart is to be scrapped. This has been on the cards for a while, as you've probably read, but they met with some resistance, particularly from the fleet industry. We've been told that the date of abolition is, unlike previous announcements, firm so there is no going back now.
You may be asking what difference the counterpart makes and how this development affects you, and hopefully I can help shed some light on that.
What is the counterpart?
You've got one, even though you might not have noticed it previously. The counterpart comes alongside the photocard when you receive your driving licence. Officially it acts as your driving licence in the event that you don't have a photocard; for example you usually would need to present the counterpart when you are trying to have a lost card replaced.
The counterpart also acts as a physical record of sorts, containing addresses and other information relevant to the driver. It is because of this information that the counterpart is important for things like insurance, vehicle hire, and pretty much anything that would require a drivers information to be looked up by a third-party.
What's the problem?
As mentioned the counterpart is used as a reference for businesses to check driver details. The vast majority of opposition the counterpart abolition has had has been from the businesses that reply on the access to information. Car hire companies, fleet companies that need to keep an eye on their drivers, etc, they all need the paper counterpart.
At the moment the DVLA are developing something to replace this need, but as it stands there is no real way to replace the counterpart for the companies that reply on its information. You can see why they are worried about this.
Why are they doing it?
The official line is to cut red tape. DVLA have called the counterpart an "unnecessary burden", and so it makes send to eliminate it like it has done recently with the tax disc, and soon will be doing with number plate certificates. Reducing on the physical pieces of paper in favour of digital records has become DVLAs thing.
When will this take effect?
June 8th, 2015. From this point the counterpart will no longer be valid and all future applicants will be issued with a photocard only.
What do I have to do?
It is advised that everyone destroys their counterpart as of the 8th of June. I'm not sure why this is important - perhaps just to avoid confusion of trying to use them in the future? I guess it comes down to the prerogative of the individual, but know that they'll be no new ones being issued so eventually they be dwindled.
But I don't have a photocard, what do I do?
If you received your driving licence before 1998 you may only have the counterpart. In which case you get to be exempt from the counterpart cult. You do not have to apply for a photocard and most importantly YOU DO NOT DESTROY THE PAPER COUNTERPART. Of course, when you next renew you receive a photocard instead of another counterpart.
How can I check my driving licence information?
This much has been covered by the DVLA. A free View Driving Licence service has already been introduced last year and allows all GB licence holders to check the information that would usually be covered on the counterpart. Things like addresses, driving qualifications, penalty points, etc can all be checked on the internet. On top of this the service is free and is available 24/7.
What if a third-party needs to see the counterpart?
At the moment the plan is to introduce a new service called "Share Driving Licence" that allows drivers to send their information to a third-party. This would, in theory, fully replace the function of the counterpart and would allow employers, hire companies and others to check your information. DVLA assures us that this will be entirely safe and only those you have given permission to access the information may see it.
Unfortunately this is only a work in-progress and has yet to be put online. As per usual DVLA plans to release a public Beta version down the line with the expectation of it being ironed out and put online before the counterpart is benched for good. That is the hope anyway.