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Vehicle Licences

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 5 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate how many vehicle owners do not have a licence for their vehicle; what his estimate is of the loss of revenue for the last financial year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [116317]

The National Roadside Survey of vehicle excise duty (VED) evasion held in June 2002 showed that there were approximately 1.75 million vehicles evading VED. There are currently over 30 million licensed vehicles.The survey indicated the level of evasion as 4.5 per cent. of revenue due which equates to £193 million in 2002–03. This was offset by £110 million in fines, penalties and relicensing revenue recovered through enforcement activities, which brought 819,000 offenders to book.A range of measures were announced on 22 May to modernise the vehicle registration system. These are designed to improve the accuracy of the vehicle register, help local authorities tackle abandoned vehicles, and reduce vehicle crime as well and reduce VED evasion.We intend to bring forward secondary legislation to implement powers taken in the 2002 Finance Act to ensure that from 1 January 2004 the registered keeper of a vehicle will be liable for licensing the vehicle until it is notified as sold, scrapped, stolen or exported, or unless a current Statutory Off-Road Notification has been declared to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).Under the same powers we will bring forward secondary legislation to provide for a new automatic fixed penalty for those who fail to re-license (tax) on time.The new measures aim to provide greater protection to honest motorists.Starting in January 2004:

Motorists will be legally responsible at all times for re-licensing (taxing) their vehicle.
Those who fail to re-license on time will be liable for a standard penalty of £80. Determined offenders could face a severe fine if taken to court. If the vehicle remains unlicensed, then following the provisions of the Finance Act 2002, DVLA may prosecute and a court may fine the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle a minimum of £1,000 and a maximum of up to 10 times the annual rate of duty. For an HGV this could be up to £25,850.
Offenders will be penalised automatically when their tax-disc expires or Statutory Off-Road Notification lapses.
The level of the standard penalty will be subject to public consultation later this year.

To support these measures:

The DVLA will increase and re-focus its enforcement activities. It will give particular attention to enforcement from the record and increased co-operation with the police.
Already, from 1 February 2003, vehicles can only be licensed (taxed) with a valid V 5 vehicle registration document (logbook) or VII reminder, to ensure that every vehicle has a traceable keeper.
The DVLA will be issuing new-format vehicle registration documents (logbooks) to all law-abiding and, by definition, traceable vehicle keepers from January 2004. All previous vehicle registration documents will be invalid from 31 March 2005.