In 1930 the UK government introduced a law that required every person who used a vehicle on the road to have at least third party personal injury insurance. Today UK law is defined by the The Road Traffic Act which was last modified in 1991.
The Act requires all motorists to be insured against their liability for injuries to others (including passengers) and for damage to other persons property resulting from use of a vehicle on a public road or in other public places. This is called Third Party Insurance. It is an offence to drive your car, or allow others to drive it, without at least Third Party insurance.
The insurance certificate or cover note issued by the insurance company constitutes legal evidence that the vehicle specified on the document is indeed insured. The Law says that an authorised person, such as the police, may require a driver to produce an insurance certificate for inspection. If the driver cannot show the document immediately on request, then the driver will usually be issued a HORT/1 with seven days, as of midnight of the date of issue, to take a valid insurance certificate (and usually other driving documents as well) to a police station of the driver's choice. Failure to produce an insurance certificate is an offence.
Insurance is more expensive in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK. Motorists in the UK are required to display a Vehicle excise duty disc in their car when it is kept or driven on public roads. This helps to ensure that most people have adequate insurance on their vehicles because you are required to produce an insurance certificate when you purchase the disc. However it is a known practice for some people to purchase insurance to gain the certificate and then to cancel the insurance and gain a full refund within the statutory 14 cooling off period