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Driver And Vehicle Licensing Centre

Volume 959: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what are the latest figures for the annual cost of the Swansea Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre; how many people are employed at the centre; and what were the equivalent figures under the previous non-centralised system.

The estimated cost of running the centralised licensing system in 1978–79 is £49·3 million at November 1977 prices; the old system by now might have cost about £47 million. There are 5,100 staff at the DVLC and 2,100 in local offices. There were about 5,800 staff employed in local authority local taxation offices in 1972–73 before the change-over. Since then the number both of drivers and vehicles has increased by some 20 per cent.

How does the Minister justify the Secretary of State's statement that the scrapping of the vehicle licence will cut the costs of Swansea? Will we not still be required to have a registration document which we will have to renew annually? Will we not still have to show Swansea a current MOT certificate each year and an insurance certificate? Bearing all that in mind, how will this move cut the costs of Swansea?

It will do so quite simply. We are cutting out all the handling costs involved in processing well over £800 million, which has to be collected, and the problem of rebates and repayments of different kinds. All that will be cut out, and the saving, as my right hon. Friend has said, will be roughly £20 million. I am surprised that the Conservative Party in particular should be opposing a reduction in bureaucracy and a simplification which can lead only to the improvement of the service offered to the consumer, as well as to a further increase in the efficiency of government.

Will not the Minister agree that much of the cost problem to do with Swansea is the result of the sort of computers which are being used there and which are soon to be replaced? Will he give his Department's view about the future purchase of a replacement computer and say whether the best one for the job can be purchased whether it is British or foreign?

I simply do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The problems which have arisen at Swansea over the last three or four years have been transitional, arising from running in a new system. That is why, in reply to a question at the end of the last Session, I was able to say that there had been a massive improvement in the efficiency with which the centre has handled consumer complaints.