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MOT Tests

Volume 535: debated on Thursday 10 November 2011

3. What assessment she has made of the safety implications of changing the frequency of MOT tests for road vehicles. (79679)

8. What assessment she has made of the safety implications of changing the frequency of MOT tests for road vehicles. (79686)

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will answer this question together with number 7.

In April 2011 the Department published the results of independent research commissioned to examine how vehicle defects affect accident rates, and to consider the potential road safety impact of changing the frequency of the MOT. Copies of the publication have been placed in the Library.

May I just very gently say to the Secretary of State that I think the grouping is between 3 and 8, rather than 7? But I think we know what we are talking about.

May I welcome the Secretary of State to her new role? It is a fantastic opportunity for her to think again about this proposal. The MOT Trade Forum estimates that 2,200 vehicles a day fail their MOT with defects that are regarded as dangerous and would make vehicles unroadworthy—half a million vehicles a year that would be unroadworthy and dangerous to the public. Will she think again about this very strange set of proposals?

I appreciate both the correction from you Mr Speaker—I do not usually get my numbers wrong—and the very genuine and balanced way in which the hon. Gentleman puts his question. It is important that we have a balanced and informed debate about any changes to the MOT, and, as he will be aware, we in this country go further with our MOT than is required under EU legislation, so the proposal was looked at as part of the red tape challenge. I am considering all the issues, however, and we expect to make an announcement soon about the timing and scope of the review.

I, too, welcome the Minister to her new post. In 2008, the Tories in opposition criticised Labour plans to reduce the frequency of MOTs, and, when the then Government dropped the policy because of the increased risk of death and many more serious accidents, a then shadow Minister said that he was glad that the policy had been

“consigned to the dustbin of history.”

So why try to recycle it now?

We in this Government are looking across the board to see what we can do to get rid of unnecessary red tape and regulation, and the MOT review came up as a result of that, but, as I just said to her hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), it is important that we have an informed and balanced debate. I am considering all those points; I met the Motorists Forum yesterday; and I expect to make an announcement soon about the timing and scope of the review.

I join in the welcome given by the House to the Secretary of State. Before she throws in the towel on this excellent proposal, will she reflect on the fact that most of those bleating about it outside the House have a vested interest and want the law kept as it is so that it generates more income for them? Will she also remind herself and the House that 97% of road accidents are caused by human error, not by vehicle defect?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Approximately 3% of accidents are a result of vehicle defects, and he is also right that many of the representations against the review have come from those whose businesses would be affected by it. I have been very clear, however, and as a new Secretary of State it is right that I consider all the points that have been made. I will make an announcement shortly.

Before the election, an Opposition MP wrote:

“I share your concern about the potential implications of moving to the European standard of roadworthiness testing. It seems to me that the road safety and environmental costs of moving from annual to biannual testing, and extending the initial period from three to four years, may far outweigh the predicted costs savings.”

Given that the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne) is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will the Secretary of State hold discussions with him in order to avoid the Government making a fundamental mistake on changes to MOT testing?

I do not think I can add anything further about my approach to looking at this area, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer across the portfolio of transport that I now look after, and I will continue to do so.

May I add my welcome to the Secretary of State? Although she is new to the job, does she recognise that motorists and many thousands of people employed by the motoring industry have already waited more than a year while Ministers have dithered over the proposal, and that they will still be in the dark after this exchange? Let us be clear: this out-of-touch plan would allow 800,000 more dangerous-to-drive vehicles to stay on the roads for up to a year longer. Will she listen to motoring organisations, such as the AA and the RAC, and ditch the plan, which could lead to more accidents and higher costs and burdens for the responsible majority of motorists?

If we are ever going to get policies right, we need to go through the right process for developing them. As has been said in the House, the hon. Gentleman’s Government looked at this area—

He says they rejected it but, ultimately, they considered this area, too. I met the AA and, indeed, the RAC Foundation yesterday, because they are part of the motorists’ forum we have established. There was a helpful exchange and, as I have said to him, I will make an announcement once I am satisfied I know what the scope of the review should be.