Monday 20 March 2017
[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]
Car Insurance: Young People
[Relevant documents: Oral and written evidence taken before the Petitions and Transport Committees on the cost of car insurance for young people, HC 940.]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petition 166847 relating to the cost of car insurance for young people.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I start by thanking Rhys Parker, the young man who started this petition, and the many thousands of people who have since signed it. It concerns the high cost of car insurance premiums for young drivers. The cost of car insurance for young people has in recent years risen to very high levels—so much so, that it can have the effect of leaving those unable to afford initial insurance premiums hampered or even excluded from owning and driving a car. That in turn excludes them from many aspects of life, including work and education opportunities. For instance, one in five jobs advertised requires a driving licence and 63% of people need a car to get to work.
I have had the honour of seeing my two sons learn to drive. Both passed within a few months of turning 17, as did I, although that was some time ago. In fact, I realised today that it is almost 33 years to the very week since I passed my driving test. I understand that obtaining a driving licence is very much a rite of passage for many young people today, and I suspect it always will be. It is a further key step along the way for young people’s growing independence. It is part of growing up and making their way in the world. That is particularly true in rural areas, such as my constituency of St Austell and Newquay. I fear that high premiums can be a contributory factor to the drain of the young from our rural areas, where a licence to drive and access to a car are vital to getting around, due to the lack of public transport.
The challenge with the huge cost of insurance for young drivers is complex, and there are no quick and easy solutions. All the many considerations should be carefully reviewed, not only to reduce premiums, but to reduce the toll of death and injury among too many of our novice drivers. The focus of this debate should not just be on the high premiums charged, nor should it be an attempt to introduce a capped pricing system; rather, we should focus on dealing with the reasons why policies cost so much.
My hon. Friend is making some excellent points. I got around being a young driver by not getting my driving licence until I was much older—I managed to beat him on that. I wonder whether his approach of dealing with the causes of this issue will overcome that difficulty and tension between the risks and the accidents that occur in this age group and the premiums that are naturally charged.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He makes the precise point that I will be making, which is that the cost of insurance is based on risk. The reason the cost of insurance for young people is so high is that the risk is so much higher. Rather than imposing an artificial cap, we instead need to look at why that risk is so high and work to reduce it, as premiums will then naturally come down.
I am afraid I cannot support capping premiums, which would defy the logic of risk that the insurer is taking. Insurers assess those risks from many sources and charge a premium accordingly. It is a competitive industry, and any attempt to cap the price that insurers charge would surely simply result in other groups having to pay more than they should. It would also fail to deal with the cause, which is that novice drivers have a far worse accident record than any other group. One in five young drivers has an accident within the first six months after passing their test. Indeed, I was one of them. They are 10 times more likely to make a claim. That speaks of a systemic failure of our current tuition and test procedures, which I have come to understand is at the heart of this issue. Put simply, the current system teaches young people how to pass a test, rather than how to be a safe and competent driver. If we want to deal with the fruit of high premiums, we must deal with the root cause. Capping premiums will not stop the accidents.
This is a very important debate, especially for my constituents, who live in a similarly rural area to that of my hon. Friend. Does he acknowledge that black box technology in young people’s cars is a much better way of altering driver behaviour in the long term than the current driving test?
Later in my speech, I will talk about telematics and some of the available technology. My response to my hon. Friend is that I think we need both. Yes, we need to embrace technology and use it as much as possible to help people to be safe on the roads, but I am also of the view that we can do better with the current testing regime in helping people at that very initial stage to be safer on the roads.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the 21st-century driving conditions that my four children, his children and all the young people in our rural constituencies face on the roads mean that we need a different approach? Lessons on night-time driving and motorway driving are not obligatory. Many countries, including New Zealand, Australia and France, run a probationary period, for example, which is something that could be looked at and learned from.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point that I will come to later. I think the current testing regime needs to be more robust and more comprehensive to address the many different aspects of driving, rather than just having the very narrow test we have currently. We teach young people to pass the test. We do not equip them to deal them with the many different experiences of driving on roads in the UK today.
Before my hon. Friend moves on, I am intrigued and interested to hear about the various different safety regimes for new drivers, but what we are discussing in today’s debate is the cost of premiums for young drivers. Does he not agree that one of the reasons why they are so expensive is that insurance companies keep putting them up? The rates are not as open and competitive as some of us would like them to be. The companies obviously want to carry on making profits and perhaps pass on the costs of expensive whiplash claims to premium holders, whether they are young or old.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am certainly not here to defend every insurance company or the premiums they quote to young people or anyone else. I am sure there is always room to do better and drive down those costs. We could talk about the insurance premium tax, which has perhaps contributed to the cost. Young people are unfairly penalised on that count because of the high premiums. We need to be realistic: this is about insurance companies assessing risk and charging according to that.
To put the matter into perspective, a typical insurance premium for a teenager is £2,000, which comes out at just over £5 a day. I am sure that many Members in the Chamber today have very nice vehicles. Would they give their car to a 17-year-old for 24 hours to drive however they chose in return for £5? I do not think many of us would do that. Although £2,000 is a very large amount of money for someone who is 17 or 18 years old—we acknowledge that—we also understand that for that money they are getting insurance cover not only for the vehicle, but for any third-party damage or injury that they may cause.
I am following the logic of the hon. Gentleman’s argument, which is that insurance costs are related not only to the experience of the driver, but to their age. We have been moving the age of responsibility up in lots of areas, such as for buying cigarettes, so would he agree with increasing the age at which someone can get a full licence from 17 to 18?
I personally am not of that view. If fact, if we look across the world, other countries allow young people to learn to drive at much younger ages. I certainly would not look to reduce the age. However, I think we need to give our young 17 and 18-year-olds more tuition and better experience, so that they become more capable drivers much quicker. That is where I would focus the attention, rather than increasing the age. If we increase the age, they will still be new drivers at whatever age they begin to drive.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way; he is doing well with so many interventions. I want to reassure all the young drivers or potential young drivers who might be following this debate that although hon. Members would perhaps not lend them their nice, or not-so-nice, cars for £5 a day, having seen some of my hon. Friends driving, I probably would not lend them my car for £5 a day either.
I am grateful for that point.
Some young would-be drivers, overwhelmed at the potentially unobtainable cost of car ownership, including, but especially, insurance, are tempted to simply flout the law and proceed to drive without insurance and at times even without a licence, which is a totally unacceptable and dangerous solution. That has disastrous consequences for them and for other road users. The fallout can be death, serious injury or a criminal record, and, with motoring prosecutions now a part of their profile, it makes it even more expensive to start the process towards a driving insurance premium. It also has the effect of pushing up insurance costs for law-abiding, properly insured drivers. There is genuine concern about the cost of insurance for young drivers from many quarters, not just from novice drivers. There is concern about the impact on other outcomes and about excluding the young from a societal norm: the freedom to own and run a car. The high costs of entry might also feed into other problems in society: isolation, alienation and perhaps even a sense of failure for young people. We therefore need to take the matter seriously.
However, it is important to consider why the premiums are so high. The Government’s response to the petition stated:
“The Government is aware that the cost of motor insurance can be high for new drivers and understands the concerns that have been expressed about this. The average cost of motor insurance for the 17-22 age group was estimated to be £1277 as at January 2016”.
In my experience and from talking to many people, the cost is often much higher than that. It is important to bear in mind that motor insurers have to provide unlimited cover against the risk of personal injury to third parties and cover of up to £1 million for property damage. They use a wide range of criteria to assess the potential risk that a driver poses, which include the age of the applicant, the type of vehicle being driven, the area where the applicant lives and his or her driving experience.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Northern Ireland our premiums are 11% higher and that we do not have the same caps on injury claims? We need those to be introduced; we do not need Northern Ireland to be left behind so that we are outside the system.
We also have the restricted plate: instead of an L-plate, an R-plate is put on so that the driver cannot go more than 45 mph. Despite putting all those things in place, we still have the higher premiums, and we may be about to leave Northern Ireland out.
I am grateful for that intervention. I was not aware of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. I certainly bow to his knowledge in this area. He has made his points well.
Although the Government cannot intervene directly in the setting of premiums, they can help to establish a situation in which young and newly qualified drivers are better equipped for a life of independent driving. Accordingly, the Government have taken forward a programme of measures to strengthen the way in which people learn to drive and are tested, and to provide opportunities for additional training for newly qualified drivers.
We have also engaged insurers in the process so that they can have confidence that additional measures will make a real difference that can be rewarded. We are focusing our efforts on encouraging learner drivers to do more practice and to practise in a wider range of driving conditions; on ensuring that the driving test assesses the skills needed for today’s roads and vehicles and those of the future; and on identifying the most promising behavioural, educational and technological interventions that can reduce young driver casualties.
The Government’s road safety statement, published in December 2015, announced a £2 million research programme to identify the best possible interventions for learner and novice drivers. The road safety statement also conveyed the Government’s wider commitment to addressing concerns about motor insurance premiums for all drivers. It states:
“We will support innovation in the motoring insurance market so premiums become more responsive to safer driver behaviour and vehicle choice. This could include extending the ‘reward based’ insurance approach pioneered through young driver telematics products to the wider motoring community and fleets.”
In essence, insurance premiums reflect the risk of the potential claim both in terms of the number of claims and the cost of each claim. Claims from young drivers are typically four times higher than the average. The statistics are startling and throw into perspective why insurance costs are so high.
Research for the RAC Foundation showed that although teenage drivers make up only 1.5% of full licence holders, they are involved in 12% of accidents where someone is killed or seriously hurt. One in five newly qualified drivers will have an accident within six months of passing their test.
The European Commission notes that in developed countries traffic accidents are the main cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds; the fatality rate for drivers in that age group is twice as high as that of more experienced drivers. Further, for every young driver killed in a crash, an average of 1.3 other people also die as passengers or other road users. Young drivers with passengers have greatly increased chances of being involved in serious and fatal accidents owing to factors such as peer pressure and over-confidence. Accidents involving young drivers are often caused by loss of control or speeding and are more likely to happen at night.
We must not lose sight of the fact that behind the high insurance premiums are these heartbreaking statistics—lives lost, life-limiting injuries and heartbroken families and friends. The issue is not only or even primarily about money; the real cost of young drivers is the lives lost and the families in mourning. Premiums can be prohibitively expensive, but of even greater concern to us should be the cause: novice drivers are much more likely to be involved in fatal accidents.
More must be done to address the reasons behind the high premiums and reduce the high accident rate among inexperienced drivers compared with the rest of the driving community. There are many avenues to explore in improving the accident toll and also valid ways of reducing premiums, including improved training and tuition, extending advertising and education around the perils and risks for young drivers, legislation to further penalise poor driving, and compulsory professional tuition. Manufacturers’ innovations and new technologies will also play an increasing role.
There are various ways in which novice drivers can reduce insurance premiums. For instance, Pass Plus is a practical training course that takes at least six hours and helps drivers to improve their skills and drive more safely. It can be taken at any time, although it should be most useful to new drivers in the year after passing their test. However, a more thorough overhaul is due, which I will come to later.
Another option to ease premiums is the addition of a named—usually older—driver with a clean licence and good accident-free record, who may make occasional use of the car and can reduce the overall premium. That is very different from the illegal practice known as “fronting”, where a low-risk driver fronts as the main user of the car when in fact it is predominantly used by the inexperienced driver.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way on that point. The consideration about whether what is involved is fronting or a useful tool to lower premiums often takes place after a collision. That is when the insurance company—in my view, unfairly and narrowly—looks at the circumstances. If it comes to the view that the person is fronting or has been fraudulent it cancels the policy and treats it as if it never existed. Insurance companies do not want it to be used as a mechanism to reduce premiums; they are trying to catch people out.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. There are many pitfalls to the issue of fronting. The insurance industry should do more to address that issue at the beginning, rather than wait until there is a claim. Companies happily take the premiums before they address the problem. There is more that can be done to ensure that, when older drivers are put on policies, it is proper and legitimate.
Some insurers now offer telematics policies and fit a GPS-enabled transmitter to the car; I believe that smartphone app options are also available. Drivers under 21 who take out such a policy and have the appropriate equipment fitted are typically offered a 25% discount on the initial premiums. Such policies can also further reduce renewal premiums, as there is a record of where, when and how the car has been driven. High-risk driving behaviours are recorded by the technology and can cause renewal premiums to rise, whereas sensible driving can lead to a significant reduction in premiums.
One insurer, Marmalade, which operates a telematic policy, saw a dramatic improvement in the accident rates of novice drivers. On average, one in five new drivers makes a claim in the first six months, but with monitoring equipment in place, that number improved to one in 16—an outstanding and significant improvement. Telematics policies have been growing in number. In 2009, there were about 12,000, but the technology has become more widely known and continues to fall in price, making the policies more attractive: the number has risen quickly to more than 750,000 today.
Dash-cam technology can also be used to improve driving and can lead to a fall in the insurance price. Some insurers now offer lower costs—typically 10% lower —provided that a camera is fitted and is always activated when driving. That footage is made available should there be a claim. That irrefutable evidence can be very helpful, given that young drivers are sometimes blamed and bullied at the roadside for collisions that are not actually their fault, and there is often a presumption that the less experienced driver is at fault. Dash cams also have the effect of improving driving behaviour, as the driver knows there is a record of how the car has been driven.
Some households enter into a written agreement with the novice driver, in which behaviours such as careful, legal and considerate use of the car are set out. Both parties sign the agreement, which, although not legally binding, offers a clearly set out explanation and brings focus, consideration and thought to the very real responsibilities of driving safely. An example template can be found on the website brake.org.
As helpful and welcome as many of those things are, they fail to address the underlying issue. It is time for us to look at our system for obtaining a licence to drive. It is my view that in this country we teach people to pass the test, rather than educate and train them to become safe and competent drivers. Rhys Parker, the instigator of this petition, said to members of the Petitions Committee:
“if young people are so dangerous that the only way to get them to drive safely is forcing them to pay £200 for an advanced driving test, why don’t we just make the driving test better?”
I agree. I think he has a point.
The driving licence was first introduced in 1903, but there was no test requirement. The test was introduced in 1935, and although there have been some changes along the way, such as the introduction of the theory test in the mid-’90s, little has changed. In that time, vehicle technology has changed, cars have become much faster and we have gone from fewer than 1 million cars on our roads to more than 30 million.
The driving scene in our country has changed completely. I believe we need a better, more rigorous and comprehensive system of training and testing that is fit for our age and our roads. I suggest that passing the driving test should be seen not as a one-off, but as a process. Under what has become known as a graduated driving test, new drivers would have restrictions placed on their driving. For example, they would not be able to drive at night or on motorways, or carry more than one passenger, until they received further tuition, gained more experience and further proved their ability to drive.
I thank my hon. Friend for the powerful points he is making. Will he consider the fact that some young people in our isolated rural areas need that access? Headway, a brain injury charity, spoke to me about the problem it has with carers. For a young person paid the minimum wage, a huge premium is a tough barrier that can prevent them from following a career they wish to pursue.
My hon. Friend makes a good point; she represents a rural area similar to mine. As I said at the beginning, that can be a real issue. For a young person in a rural area who needs a car to get to work, get a job or access further education, the cost of insurance can be a real issue. My two young sons passed their test quite young, and we had to work with them to find the money for the insurance. It is a real issue, and we need to tackle it at source by looking at the risk, rather than artificially managing it.
Two issues arise from what I said earlier about the R-plate, which limits people to 45 mph for the first six months: first, the issue of not driving on motorways faster than 45 mph, which causes problems; and secondly, the fact that no one is taught how to drive at night. As the hon. Gentleman said, people need special training so they learn those things before they pass their test.
I am grateful for that point.
I return to the main issue of the debate. Despite all that has been said about changing their behaviour, could young people not legitimately say that when they pay their very large insurance premiums when they first start to drive, they are paying into the Motor Insurers’ Bureau for uninsured drivers? Young people have said to me, “Why should I pay for people who behave badly? Why shouldn’t people who behave well have put money aside to try to reduce premiums in rural areas?” Why are young people compelled to pay for the mistakes of people who insist on breaking our laws?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Our young people are penalised for the fact that lots of people behave irresponsibly and even illegally.
I am not saying that nothing can be done to address the issue of premiums. As I said earlier, there are ways in which the industry can drive down those costs and be more competitive, but I am still of the view that the only way we are going to address this issue in the long term is to deal with the cause: the fact that far too many young people who go out to drive having just passed their tests have accidents. Sadly, too many of them die or get lifelong injuries. What drives me to wanting to improve the situation is the need to make our roads safer for our young drivers. That will result in driving down premiums, but I am as focused on saving lives as on saving money.
As we look to the future, we must balance any action with an acknowledgment that, overall, we drive on some of the safest roads in the world. Technology will rapidly come to our aid and help us to be safer on the road, but in the meantime we must close the gap on the high accident rates of novice drivers—not just so we can reduce premiums, but so we can save lives.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for his comments, and I agree with the basic points that he made. I will focus on some of the issues he mentioned and perhaps refer to one or two other issues that are relevant.
The first point, and one that we should all accept, is that this petition is extremely important. It not only draws attention to an issue that is of great concern to many young people and their parents, but suggests a remedy, which is important. Even if the remedy is problematic, the petition suggests what to do about the problem, rather than just enunciating it. Figures have been presented to us. The cost of premiums for young people is currently between £1,450 and £7,000. There is clearly a massive problem there. That has resulted in a number of things. Some young people who need to drive are not driving. They are people who need to get to college, to work and to get on with their lives. That problem affects not solely those living in a rural area; it can affect people living in other sorts of areas as well.
The problem can also lead to people fronting—an illegal practice in which an older person, perhaps a parent, applies for the insurance and acquires it, but in reality it is for the young person. It can also result in young people driving uninsured, which is dangerous and illegal and should not happen. When we look at the extent of the problem, we need to think about all those aspects of it.
The problem is serious and may be escalating, particularly as we have been told that the cost of motor insurance may increase. It is not a new problem. In 2009 the then Select Committee on Transport conducted a report on novice drivers. This was identified as one of the issues then. At that time, the Committee suggested a number of ways in which to address it, including a different way of looking at the driving test, better training, more publicity campaigns and graduated licensing. Since then, the same sorts of suggestions have been made, but not very much has been done to change the situation, except perhaps for the development of telematics, which could be a game-changer. I will come back to that.
Successive Transport Select Committees have looked at the issue. I have already mentioned the 2009 report on novice drivers, but more recently the Transport Committee has looked at other aspects of the issue. It looked at the cost of motor insurance in 2011 and included in that investigation the high cost of such insurance for young people. In 2014, we looked at safety issues. In 2016, we looked at road traffic law enforcement, which related to many of the safety issues that are highly relevant to the risk attached to driving by young people. Therefore, the issue is not new. We have to ask why, as the issue was identified so long ago and is so well documented, so little has been done to address it. I hope that the petition will help to change that situation and lead to further action.
As has been pointed out, when justifying the very high premiums for young people insurers point to the higher risk that they pose. When we look at the statistics for casualties on the roads, we perhaps see some of what the insurers mean. We keep being told that we have a good road safety record. That is true in the sense that fewer people are being killed and seriously injured on our roads, but the stark figures make us register that there is still much too much unnecessary loss of life and too many often life-changing serious injuries are inflicted on people. In 2015, the last year for which we have figures, 1,730 people were killed on our roads and 22,144 were seriously injured. Those are very serious figures, even if they were higher in previous years, as they were.
When we look at what is happening in relation to young people, however, the figures are startling. We have already heard some. There are different ways of putting them. One way causes lots of shock waves. It is when we say that nearly half of 18 to 24-year-olds crash within six months of passing their driving test; and 18 to 25-year-olds, who represent 7% of licence holders, are involved in 25% of road deaths. Those figures are shocking and something has to be done.
The insurers say, “High risk, so high premiums.” We argue about that, and we are right to challenge the insurers about some of their figures, and how they assess risk and produce premiums, often with little competition in the sector. That, however, brings us on to the perhaps bigger issue of risk to human life, which is writ large in relation to young people.
What are the reasons for that higher risk and what can be done about them? Overconfidence in young people may be one reason—they may feel that having a licence and a car is to do with becoming an adult, perhaps leading to overconfidence, in particular among young males, and that can affect driving. Carrying passengers may also be a reason for that higher risk. Sixteen to 17-year-olds carrying passengers are four times more likely to die in a crash than those not carrying them. That figure must make us all sit back.
The fatal four reasons for death and injuries on the road—the major reasons for accidents and deaths on the roads accepted by the police—are speed and driving too quickly, drink and drug-driving, not wearing seatbelts, and driving when distracted, such as when using mobile telephones, although there are other distractions, too. Action is needed in all those areas. Better training is necessary, as are a reassessment of the driving test, which is being looked at again and is highly relevant, and educational and public awareness programmes.
One factor has developed since the time of that earlier Transport Committee inquiry: the growth of telematics-based insurance, which is insurance where premiums are related to the nature of the driving skills, rather than simply to the age of the person. There are 75,000 telematics-based insurance policies. Perhaps it is connected with the idea of graduated licences, where new drivers—they are mainly young but not always—are not able to drive exactly when they want, with as many passengers as they want, at all times of day or night, until they have had more experience. Telematics looking at driver behaviour, together with the idea of graduated driving licences, could be a solution to the problem, together with better training and better awareness of safety.
I will give one word of warning in relation to costs coming down. Insurers tell us that their premiums are based on the level of risk assessed. The assumption is that, were some of the level of risk to be reduced, the premiums would automatically come down. That does not always happen. In the past, such as with soft-tissue injury, insurers said that, if certain measures were enacted, the premiums would come down; the measures were enacted, but the premiums have not come down. The insurers have now produced a different reason; they say insurance tax is a reason for the costs not coming down. So a word of warning: insurers may say, “Lessen the risk and the premiums will come down,” but they might not do it. However, we are looking here at life and at lessening risk. All those issues must be taken seriously into account and acted on, so that we do not spend a lot more years having further debates, in which we repeat what was said here, say how correct it was and how it is still correct, but nothing has been done in the meantime. I hope that we have action.
I congratulate Rhys Parker and the petitioners on putting the e-petition together to ensure that the issue is ongoing. Action has to be about improving safety, saving lives, preventing serious injuries and ensuring that insurers face up to their responsibilities and keep their promises.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I echo the words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), who chairs the Transport Committee, of which I am a member, and congratulate the lead petitioner and all the people who signed the petition.
I represent a rural constituency of 200 square miles, where the car is an essential way of life, particularly for the young, for whom getting out and engaging has never been more important, given the advent of social media and their ability to communicate while on their own in their bedrooms. It is vital that we do everything we can to let them get out and about and interact with the world around them. That is more important now than it was when I was young. We talk in this place, rightly, about social mobility. In rural environments where people’s ability to access public transport, let alone pay for it, is somewhat restricted by the loss of bus services and other difficulties, it is hugely important for our young people to be able to go out to work, earn money and get a foot on the ladder, because without that ability, they may be held back and not climb the ladder.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on leading off this debate. We ended up in a discussion about whether tests have become easier. As we get older, we tend to slip into the mode of saying, “It was much harder in my day.” When I learned to drive and took my test, I did not have to reverse into a space—I found that to be a drawback when I moved to London—and I was not required to sit a written exam, as our young people are, so I might argue that tests have actually got harder. I remember being asked by my examiner what green meant at a traffic light. If the test has got harder than that, things are getting better.
I shall focus on the need for the insurance market and perhaps the Government, through incentives, to ensure that premiums are based on specific risk rather than a specific class, which is how young people are currently grouped.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech—I hope that I can contribute to this debate—but premiums actually are not based solely on risk. It used to be the case, a while ago, that young men paid higher premiums than young women. Of course, we were told that that was discriminatory, but it actually reflected risk—that is what the statistics said. Sadly, a lot of young women’s premiums had to rise to ensure that everything was fair and equal. I do not think that premiums are always based on risk—other things sometimes come into play.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right—I wholeheartedly agree. The Transport Committee and the Petitions Committee met jointly to hear evidence. We heard from the head of research at the RAC, who said that
“insurance costs are based on four main things: the cost of the vehicle; the likelihood of theft; the cost of available claims generally, if you were to make a claim; and the risk of the individual.”
It is absolutely clear that, on average, 17-year-old boys present twice the risk of 17-year-old girls, yet no price differential at all is offered. As my hon. Friend mentioned, there was such a differential, but prices had to be equalised as a result of the gender directive. Of course, in life, prices tend to go up rather than down. To a certain extent, she makes a point that I wanted to make—we should look at individuals’ performance risk and price insurance comparatively. In the United States of America, where the insurance market is much more tightly regulated, there is a requirement to look at specific risk rather than a class. Will the Minister consider whether the time is right to look at this issue from a regulatory perspective?
A 17-year-old new driver is 40% more likely to have an accident than an 18-year-old, yet I dare say that premiums do not fall by 40% in that year, because there is a tendency to look just at age. I received information from one of the telematics companies that seems to suggest that, by the time people reach 29, men and women present the same risk, and the curve drops dramatically.
At the moment, pricing is measured crudely for young people. Insurers tend to look at young people as students who live at home, drive small cars and have no driving experience, and therefore make no allowance for their performance. That is why telematics is such an exciting concept. The advent of telematics means that, rather than putting in place a cap that does not bear any relation to risk, insurers can reward good drivers and penalise people who do not drive so safely. With more telematics in place, 1,000 accidents involving death or serious injuries would be averted, so I dare to suggest that the cost to the Government would reduce. Telematics have developed to such an extent that the software can talk to emergency services to warn them of an event. We all know that early response to an emergency can save lives and, if we are crude about it, money, including for the state.
I would be interested to hear from the Minister about what we can all do and what the Government can do to incentivise the development of telematics. Given the cost savings that I mentioned, is there a case for insurance premium tax to be reduced for drivers who use telematics? VAT is charged on the box that is required to use telematics, which reduces the cost benefits, so, again, could some exemption be made as far as that is concerned?
The insurers’ discount rate was changed from 2.5% to minus 0.7%. Although that happened after the petition was started, the petitioners would maintain that their insurance premiums were high enough as they were. Unfortunately for the Transport Committee, that change was a live issue for insurers when we heard evidence. I am pleased that the Government have decided to look again at that rate, but we made the point to representatives of the insurers and the Association of British Insurers that their attempt to state that the change would cause young people’s insurance premiums to double was rather crude given that they did not seem to have research to bear that out. Actually, I do not believe they have provided the research that they promised to the Committee. We should perhaps always go hard on insurers and work hard to ensure that the evidence for the claims that they put out—they always say they are based on evidence, yet we do not see that evidence—is in the public domain, so that pricing for young people is demonstrably linked to the risk that they pose as individuals.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to speak in this debate. Members have already made excellent contributions, and I feel like I am stepping into an expert field, given that there are so many people present who work on established Committees that have looked at this issue in detail. I shall focus first on the importance of this issue in rural areas, which has been well covered, and then give a specific example from my own constituency of a fantastic initiative that Governments could learn from.
The rural aspect of this issue is particularly important. As we have heard from most Members, we live in beautiful constituencies. It is good that we have not all tried to claim that ours is the most beautiful, as often happens when we talk about—[Interruption.] There we go—“It’s mine!”; “Mine!”; “I’m Spartacus!” Apologies, Sir Roger, for starting that and for any claims that may follow, but the most beautiful is clearly mine.
The very beauty of the geography presents several challenges. If someone in a rural area gets a job, a training opportunity or whatever positive outcome young people now seek after school, it is more likely to involve travel over a longer distance, and those areas generally struggle when it comes to public transport, so having a car is more of a necessity than ever. With that comes an increased danger. People can come and drive in my beautiful constituency, but good luck in getting up to certain speeds. Young people in particular are getting themselves killed or injured because suddenly there are open roads in front of them. There is a particular threat associated with the beautiful geography we all so enjoy. When it comes to accessing a car at a reasonable price, because of the cost of insurance, more and more people are having to buy very poor quality cars, as all the money goes on insurance. Therefore, when they have an accident, they are more vulnerable than they might have been, had the cost of insurance allowed more of their investment in driving to go into the vehicle rather than to the insurers.
That is the backdrop. The road death and casualty figures are depressing and stark, as is the detail behind them and how many of those impacted are young people who have suddenly learned to pass the test. I remember a scare I had as a young driver, let out for one of the first times in my mum’s Citroën AX, going across the hill road between Innerleithen and Heriot, thinking I could now drive, when of course I was still learning—we are all still learning. I nearly came off at a corner because of my inexperience. I got lucky: it was luck that saved me from being part of a statistic. Young, inexperienced drivers and open roads are a dangerous combination. This is an area where Government must be proactive in seeking solutions. It is great to hear some of the suggestions that have come forward today.
Let me turn to a specific area in my constituency. On Saturday 21 May last year, I was invited to attend a young drivers event at Charterhall near Duns. I went along, as we do—“That looks interesting; yes, I’ll happily go and do that”—and found a phenomenal set-up, where the police, working with local car dealerships and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, were taking out young drivers from the age of 14. I will say a bit more about that, but what drove them to do that was the loss of life: how do we stop young people getting in a car, thinking—as I did—that they can drive and then putting themselves and others at risk? One way is to try to demystify driving to some extent, by starting people younger.
These were young drivers, aged 14 and up, being put in a car with a highly qualified instructor to learn in an off-road environment—it was on private land—on a day’s course. I was so enthused by this, and the next day they said, “How old are your kids, Calum?” and I said, “My eldest, Eleanor, is 14.” “Why don’t you bring her tomorrow?” I thought, “Oh, I don’t know if Eleanor will do that. Is that cool? Her dad’s an MP; it’s quite a daunting thing if you’re 14. She might think, ‘Do I really want to go and try that? I can’t learn until I’m 17 anyway’.” But, fair play, Eleanor said, “I’d love to do that.” We came back and spent the whole Sunday there, and at the end of the day, she drove me—still with the instructor—around this disused road.
We usually get lots of declarations of interest from people who are farmers, and many farmers will know—we are talking about a moveable object on private land—how young or old they were when they first started helping around the farm, but what a fantastic idea: start people experiencing driving early, so that once they are 17 and get their provisional and then sit and pass their test, it is not as big a deal. They do not feel the need to go on a road and hammer it or show off in front of their friends; they have de-risked it.
I saw that project in action, and my daughter Eleanor, who is now 15, experienced it. What a fantastic initiative. Since then I have been working with the key people involved. I want to mention them, first because the Government may want to reach out and have a look at what they are doing, but they also deserve phenomenal credit. Andy McLean, the local area commander for the police in the Scottish borders, is a driving force for it. The police see added benefits, because suddenly they are working with and sitting alongside a young person in a car, not trying to catch them out. Local bobbies on the beat are not quite as prevalent as they once were, so the scheme enables them to build relationships and trust in a different way. However, the programme could not happen without the support of a certain John Cleland. I do know if any hon. Members know John Cleland, but they should google him and look at what a phenomenal driver he was, and still is. He was a British touring car championship winner twice—and he was robbed a third time, as he says; there are fantastic videos on that.
John has put a lot of personal effort and even money into getting the programme up and running, working with the Institute of Advanced Motorists. The next step was to apply for funding through Transport Scotland—there is a devolved powers element involved—and we are now taking that initial piece of work and building it into a broader programme. The Scottish Qualifications Authority is looking at putting together a package for schools, and headteachers in the borders have been approached to ensure that there is time in the curriculum for young people to come and do that. In the months ahead—the next session is in April—young people from across the borders will come again to Charterhall. Volvo is stepping up, with fantastic sponsorship in terms of cars, but the money from Transport Scotland was critical. We are trying to take what is clearly a fantastic idea and put it into something more credible and bigger.
I commend the programme to the Government and hon. Friends and Members, who should look at such a programme, because it is exactly the type of thing that all Members have referenced. How do we make driving safer? If we make it safer, premiums will come down—and, above all, we will save lives, which is what it is all about. I would be happy to provide the Minister with more details and to invite Ministers to visit—the Scottish Transport Minister will be coming to one of the upcoming sessions. If we can make some headway, the scheme can be replicated, and it absolutely will make a difference.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, in this important debate. While I disagree with capping fees, it is immensely important that we look at how the insurance industry treats our young drivers, because as I said when I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), it is not treating them fairly. A lot of things have come into play since the gender directive. We all remember the adverts with pink ladies and all the rest of it, where young ladies and women could get car insurance that reflected the risks they were likely to encounter, and surely that is what insurance should be about.
As the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) said, we have all been young drivers. We were all pretty young and stupid then, and we learnt to drive as we went along. I am certain that every single one of us had a few near-misses or skirmishes with gate posts—there were none of the reversing sensors that we may have now. As the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) said, this has been going on for a very long time. There is nothing new in young people being more likely to make mistakes and slip-ups.
May I say that I have the best and most beautiful constituency? But I think I also have the worst roads. Previously, roads certainly did not have the craters—they are not potholes—we have in Hertfordshire and many other parts of the country. Road maintenance must be part of this. Road markings are often poor or obliterated, lighting is often poor and vegetation is often not cut back. That is all part of the picture for young and inexperienced drivers. If a road hazard sign has been defaced or is not visible because of vegetation, that is no help to a young, inexperienced driver.
Insurance companies are getting away with murder. We have not mentioned the fact that there are criminals who ram the back of cars—and who better to target than a young person in a scruffy old car? There are people who cry wolf about injuries that they certainly did not experience. All that has been factored in and spread across premiums. All of us have been in the position where our driving was a little rockier than it might have been. Perhaps now we should accept that insurance should spread across the whole age group, and that is where I find sympathy with the direction of the petition.
I am worried that this is a social mobility issue as much as anything else. In constituencies such as mine, where the average house price is more than £550,000 and where £1,200 does not rent an awful lot of property, young people who want to leave home or get jobs are priced further out. The golden rule is: the nearer the train station—which has wonderful links to London—the more expensive the rental. As a result, if young people—this is up to age 25—leave home, perhaps when they are in relationships, they are forced further and further away. The majority of my economically active constituents will go to London; there is a huge amount of churn in my constituency. People who are less economically advantaged commute in from areas where rents are less expensive, to do some of the key jobs of such constituencies, on a lower pay grade. So there is the perverse situation where people with less in their pocket, who live in areas where car theft is potentially more likely, are penalised for coming to do care work or other essential jobs in my constituency, because they have to drive in from further away. The whole picture needs to be taken into account by the insurance industry.
It seems unfair that, because of the high rents in areas such as mine, young drivers who have to rent in a less salubrious place than they might like—I am sure we all want to live in a nice area—should then have that weighted in their car insurance, because of the actions of those who come into that area and decide to deface, take or wreck their car, or use it for a criminal purpose. I do not believe that the insurance companies play a fair game. That is why the drift of the petition is extremely important.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent point, but is she worried, as I am, that where people live is not the only factor in the situation? The additional premiums force young people to buy older cars, and if they do that, they are generally buying cars that are less safe.
My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point, but for many young people the price of the car is the least of their worries. A fairly reasonable little runaround can be had for less than £1,000, which is about 50% of the cost of insuring the thing. They buy older cars because they have to, but unfortunately those may not have all the gizmos that make them safer or easier to drive, such as the reverse parking sensors that I mentioned. Those are beyond the wildest dreams of many young people, without—this is the thrust of my comments—the bank of mum and dad. I am a bank of mum and dad, as I am sure are many of the right hon. and hon. Members taking part in the debate.
My son is 21—and probably will not thank me for mentioning him in the debate. We bought him his car and paid the insurance premiums. We helped him with petrol when he was 18 and studying for his A-levels, because I did not want him to worry about whether he could pay for his car, and I wanted him to get to places safely. I have four children, who are all grown up now, but, particularly in the case of my daughters, I did not want them to be at the mercy of a bus that might not turn up if they had been to entertainment away from where we live.
Many a parent has such a dilemma. Often, perversely, the safest way for young people to get home at night is to drive. Buses often do not run into the rural areas, of which there are some in my constituency. Let us be reasonable: if young people are out, at 20, a 10 o’clock curfew is not going to happen, is it? That is what makes me say that insurance premiums should be spread between all of us. Parents want our young people to get home. We want people to be able to rent a property or a room further out. To bring the argument back to my 21-year-old son, he has gone on to a higher level apprenticeship, and he could not have got access to it, up in Macclesfield, if he could not drive. It is vital—otherwise, many people would not be able to take up opportunities such as apprenticeships or other work that they wanted to do. Mention has been made of carers working in rural environments; such opportunities are not open to young people if premiums are so high.
Eighty-six per cent. of St Albans residents have access to a car or van, which is above the county average, and 89% of residents aged over 17 have a full driving licence. The roads in my area are incredibly congested. Therefore, not only is there competition to get to the jobs and to live in areas that people can afford but they are dicing with the M25 and the M1, some of the biggest and most difficult stretches of motorway in the country. Some of the comments that have been made in the debate about expanding people’s driving experience are hugely important.
I am concerned that, as with many aspects of life, if someone’s parents can afford it, they will be able to afford to be mobile and live somewhere affordable. The children of those parents will have opportunities that other young people do not have. Perversely, although in areas such as mine there is a deficit of blue-collar workers —there is no trouble in finding a job in St Albans, which has almost zero unemployment if a young person wants to work in such industries as caring or hospitality—people in those jobs probably do not live in St Albans. The point I am making is for young people everywhere, because not everyone has access to the bank of mum and dad.
This a question of whether we are truly interested in equality—in this case, equality of opportunity. The insurance companies are having a merry game of it. I know that this debate is about young people and not elderly people, but, believe me, there are a lot of bashed up cars in Waitrose car parks as a result of people suddenly taking on the delights of an automatic car, because they are rather elderly and their hip or knee does not want to press a clutch any more. I can say that because my eldest son works in Waitrose, and it is amazing how often it happens. I am sure that many people will have seen similar things. The elderly are driving for far longer than they would have years ago. They, too, are forced into it by a lack of bus services and so on, but in many cases people who go over to an automatic car have problems with the premiums.
We accept that there are times in our lives when a bump and a dink are more likely to happen. I would like a more pragmatic approach from the insurance companies. They need to be more accountable and to justify the way premiums work. It is disgraceful to just accept a set of statistics that says, “If a person is a young driver, they’re more likely to have an accident; therefore, we’ll just price certain young people out of being mobile.” I would not want to think that young people can be in the privileged position of being free to go where they want only if they happen to have a bank of mum and dad. We should all be concerned about that, because there will be huge parts of the country where young people will probably drive without insurance, and that is the worst possible thing for everybody.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to speak in the debate.
I must declare an interest as a 25-year-old driver who has just renewed his car insurance. It was not as bad as I thought it would be, which is good to report. I do not expect any hon. Members present today to lend me their car, for any amount of money, but the fact that 185,000 people signed the petition shows how much of an issue insurance is for young people. I grew up in and represent a rural area and I know how important cars are to enable young people to get around for work, leisure and social life. In rural Aberdeenshire, much of that takes place in Aberdeen, and people need a car to get there. I used to have to walk for 40 minutes to get the bus before I could drive, so this is a real issue.
The increased use of cars in every aspect of young people’s lives does increase risk. However, like any other age group, young people are not all the same; there are good drivers and bad drivers. Obviously, the statistics show that young people are more likely to have an accident, but as the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) mentioned, using black boxes to measure the driving ability of individuals is so important. The son of one of my members of staff has just passed his driving test and has a black box in his car; he refuses to let his mum use the car because she puts the bad driving statistics up. It is important to say that not all bad drivers are young drivers and not all novice drivers are young drivers, although the cost of insurance tends to go down once somebody reaches 25.
Car insurance costs rose by 102% from 1994 to 2011; as has been mentioned, that is in no small part due to whiplash claims, which now add approximately 20% to each policy. That is particularly damaging to young people—96% of young drivers now think they are being priced off the road. The issue is further compounded by the increase in the standard rate of insurance premium tax from 10% to 12% from June, which will hit individuals with the highest insurance premiums hardest: young people and those living in high-crime areas. That, along with a whole lot of other things, is hurting people.
It has been said that millennials—my generation—will probably be the first generation who are worse off than those who came before them. We have to look at that as a whole when it comes to premiums for young drivers. Obviously, many jobs require individuals to be able to drive; I would not be able to do my job if I could not drive. Being able to drive can still be the difference between successfully securing a job and failing to secure one.
As has been said, the issue is fundamentally about social mobility. Making longer distance travel easier for those without access to quick, regular or close-by public transport could increase their chances of employment. Another problem that young people face, particularly in rural areas, is sometimes having to wait up to five months to get a driving test. As hon. Members will imagine, that increases their frustration and also means that they have to spend more money on taking top-up tests.
I would like to see powers in this area devolved so that they can be better tailored to rural areas in Scotland and Scottish drivers. I learned to drive when I was 16 in a field with my grandpa, who is a farmer and a former Member; unfortunately, it did not help me to pass my test first time. However, I thought what my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) said about 14 year-olds being taught how to drive in school was interesting. I was taught how to cycle in school time—I did my cycling proficiency test in primary school; I do not know how many other hon. Members did that—so I thought that idea was interesting and should be considered more widely.
I have disagreed with some points that have been made, such as preventing younger people from driving at night. Where I come from in the north-east of Scotland—
It is dark all the time.
It is dark all the time—absolutely. In winter, it gets light after 8 o’clock in the morning and gets dark at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Not driving at night would be a real issue and prevent a lot of young people from working.
The constituency that I represent, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, has the second highest number of road deaths in the UK, for which there are a number of reasons. Councils, the police, the fire service and the Scottish ambulance service in Grampian run a programme called “Safe Drive Stay Alive”. It has been going for 11 or 12 years; it was certainly on when I was at school. It brings local schools together and shows them a presentation that, to be honest, is pretty horrific. It has graphic images of car accidents, speeches from people who have lost loved ones and speeches from people who have been paralysed by car accidents.
The programme has a huge impact on young drivers, and to some extent I think it is effective in scaring young people into realising that, when they are learning to drive and when they pass their test, they are in charge of a machine that can quite easily kill somebody. It is important to emphasise that learning how to pass a test is not the same as learning how to drive; I am still learning how to drive to some extent.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman on curfews. The analysis seems to show that telematics companies that put curfew penalties in place were causing more dangerous driving, because young people were trying to get back in time. I applaud the move to give people hours on top—almost pay-as-you-go—as a reward for good driving, rather than curfews or things like that.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. When I was at school, I had friends who were involved in serious car accidents, and somebody a couple of years above me was killed in a car accident. It is so important that, when educating young people, we strongly emphasise that driving is an incredibly important part of life, but that they need to take it seriously, be careful and show respect to other road users.
There are some other issues that do not pertain to young people. As one who comes from a rural area, I find Sunday drivers coming out to the country from Aberdeen incredibly frustrating. When people do not know how to drive on country roads it is incredibly dangerous; there can be really sharp bends, tractors or sheep on the roads. The issue is not all about young people; we need to look at this much more widely and consider all the options.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), and I congratulate the Petitions Committee and the Transport Committee on their work in bringing the debate. I also congratulate all hon. Members on the contributions they have made.
The petition that gave rise to the debate raises so many important issues about the astronomical prices of car insurance premiums for 18 to 25-year-olds. Those premiums have been shooting up while wages have often stagnated for people in that age group and their overall cost of living has increased—a point made ably by the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main).
The debate also takes place against a background of changes in the way many young people look at questions of their own personal mobility. The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay mentioned driving being a “rite of passage”; I am not so sure that that is the case for all young people these days. Driving is one of a range of different options that they see for getting about, and looking at things in that way is not necessarily a bad thing; there are some journeys for which the use of a car is not the most appropriate. I guess that hefty insurance premiums are at least one of the factors that has encouraged some of those changes of attitude. That said, I am certainly not arguing that there is nothing to worry about.
As many hon. Members have said, the different options on how to get about are not equal everywhere; they are greater in urban areas than in rural ones. For many young people, access to a car is not only about the ability to have a social life—it can make the difference as to whether they can get to college or to a job. Indeed, if we look at the data map for this petition, we see that many of the 180,000 signatories were from outside major cities, with a particular concentration, interestingly, in the north-west of England. No doubt many of the signatories to the petition feel that they cannot overcome the huge barrier of big insurance premiums that prevents them from accessing a social life, employment and education.
The idea that it is easy to get about without a car in towns is sometimes overstated. It is often thought to be easiest in London. In many ways, that is true; many of us look with great envy at the state of public transport in the city. The way that buses are regulated and operate in London is something many of us aspire to. Who knows—if the Bus Services Bill finds its way through the House without amendment, we may get nearer to that situation. However, when the Petitions Committee and Transport Committee took oral evidence on this petition, they heard that many young people—even in London—feel they have to rely on cars to get to work. Some 22% of 17 to 34-year-olds travel to work in London by car and feel they need to do so.
It is right that we address this issue. The Petitions Committee and the Transport Committee heard some really interesting evidence from a whole range of quarters about the different ways in which it can be addressed. For example, the Wheels 2 Work scheme showed some really imaginative thinking about how young people’s personal mobility can be increased, often by the use of two-wheel transport—not simply bicycles, but electric bikes, motorcycles and scooters—as well as four-wheel transport. It is doing some imaginative work on that, to provide young people with access to that kind of mobility.
Although I agree with the hon. Gentleman and congratulate Wheels 2 Work on its excellent work, that project is quite sparse and gives wheels for only six months. One in six people say they need a car for an apprenticeship, which often lasts for two years, so the two things do not marry up. Although the project is good, it is not overly practical, particularly in rural areas.
The hon. Lady is right. Indeed, one of the points that Wheels 2 Work made when it gave evidence was that if the project is going to make a major difference, it needs a lot more backing so that it can both offer longevity of access to transport and reach different corners of the country. I simply raised it to say that such schemes are part of the picture and are things we need to think about.
The issue of prohibitively high insurance premiums for cars remains. A number of hon. Members today made important points about how, whether or not a cap on insurance premiums is the right way to go—the majority who mentioned it came out against—there is a need, at the very least, for greater transparency in the insurance industry about the way premiums are put together, the calculations that lead to different kinds of premium across different classes of driver and the impact of insurance premium taxes. We need that greater transparency at a policy level, but perhaps insurance companies and brokers should also think about it at the individual level, so that individual car owners and drivers can find out why a premium shot up from one year to the next and what increased risk was identified at that time.
Be that as it may, the insurance industry will still come back to the point—it has come up several times today, and rightly so—that, statistically, young drivers are much more likely to be involved in road incidents than those over the age of 25. As we know, the statistics are particularly stark among young men. There is, in truth, no silver bullet to tackle that issue. It needs to be tackled on a whole range of fronts and looked at in a rounded-out way. That is why many of us have felt for some time that there needs to be a proper Green Paper on young drivers and their safety, looking at the options for the future.
If we go back to March 2013, the headline of a Department for Transport press release stated:
“Government to overhaul young driver rules in bid to improve safety and cut insurance costs: Green paper on improving the safety and reducing risks to young drivers launched.”
Four years later, we are still waiting to see that Green Paper to explore the options for improving the safety of newly qualified drivers. We have never seen the result of that launch. At the end of that year, pursuant to a question I asked, the then Secretary of State for Transport explained that his Department was still
“wrestling with how to make things safer while not unduly restricting the freedom of our young people…We are finding this a difficult balance, with passionate voices on both sides. We will issue a paper when we have considered this further.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2013; Vol. 572, c. 629W.]
Four years on, despite calls from road safety campaigners and the insurance industry, the Government appear to have stopped considering the issue, and there is still no sign of that Green Paper on young drivers. If the Government really wish to do something about this critical concern, one of the core issues with the cost of car insurance for 18 to 25-year-olds, I ask the Minister again: is there going to be a Green Paper on the safety of young drivers? If so, when can we expect to see it? If not, why not? It seems an obvious thing that the Government should be doing.
What kind of thing could the Green Paper address? Telematics or in-car black boxes have come up several times in the debate. They can enable insurers to assess real-time data on an individual’s driving behaviour and charge more accurate risk-based premiums. As we have heard, in some cases new drivers can see their premiums fall by a fifth or more as a result of telematics. Anything that can enable responsible young drivers to be charged fairer prices for their insurance and bring down the number of road incidents has to be a good thing.
Black boxes are not, of course, necessarily a cost-free option. Nick Moger, the founder and chairman of Marmalade, a car insurance company specifically targeting young and learner drivers, explained in his written evidence to the joint Petitions and Transport Committee inquiry that black boxes are currently subject to VAT, which pushes up costs for insurers and young drivers. The question must arise of whether it is appropriate to remove VAT on technology that can prevent or at least reduce road incidents and save lives.
[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]
The other issue that comes up is of course that telematics can often be fitted most reliably to new cars—cars that young people are often unable to afford, unless, as the hon. Member for St Albans said, they have access to a well capitalised bank of mum and dad. Telematics as a solution, or at least as a contribution to a solution, to reduce insurance premiums is not necessarily one that is available equally to all new young drivers, so it could be part of the package but not the whole package.
This week, the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is in Committee; it had its Second Reading a couple of weeks ago. A number of us are serving on the Committee and looking at the Bill. The Bill itself looks at other things that could have a major impact by, we hope, reducing the number of young people involved in incidents on our roads, making our roads safer and perhaps reducing the cost of premiums. The Bill looks at how the insurance treatment of automated vehicles could change in the future. We already know that the use of technology to assist drivers can have a big impact in promoting road safety and reducing the risk of incidents. I am thinking of things such as autonomous emergency braking and so on. However, we are now looking to a future that not only involves those driver assistance mechanisms, but in which the ability to be in a car and travel from A to B may not depend even on having a driving licence in the form that we know it. The car itself—the vehicle itself—could be doing the driving for some or all of the journey. That has huge potential to improve safety, but again it is really important that the insurance consequences are got right. The Bill looks at how that can be done, and it is hoped that, if the Bill gets it right, that could contribute to falling insurance premiums as safety increases through automated vehicles. If we get it wrong, it could be another way of insurance premiums rising.
There are other things that a Green Paper could address if the Government produced one. The question of graduated licensing has come up again today. That involves looking at how and when new drivers or young new drivers can drive, having passed their test. There could be restrictions on the times of day when they could do so or on the number of passengers they could have in the car with them. It is not an easy question, and there are real concerns about what it could lead to, such as unreasonable curfews on young drivers. What if a graduated licensing scheme leads to a young driver being forbidden to travel at night and they work in a bar in a rural area? The wrong sort of graduated licensing scheme could restrict opportunities and be quite unfair.
The hon. Gentleman is making some excellent points. My other concern about that proposal is this. We encourage people to car share, but if, for example, students were forced to drive their own cars individually instead of getting into a car with a group of other students to go off to college for lectures or whatever they were going to do, we would be increasing the number of cars on the road, which in areas such as mine is the last thing anyone wants.
The hon. Lady is right: all aspects of graduated licensing need to be considered. A menu of different kinds of graduated licensing could be brought in. I will say this, though. Although it is right to be aware of the drawbacks of the different kinds, it is also the case that, in a number of other countries, the introduction of different forms of graduated licensing has promoted road safety and reduced the prevalence of new drivers and, in particular, young drivers being involved in incidents. That is why many safety organisations, the insurance industry and, indeed, research from the Government’s own Transport Research Laboratory have said that it needs to be considered seriously.
We are back to why we need a Green Paper. A Green Paper is just that. It is not a blueprint or a set of specific proposals; it is a discussion document that lays out the kinds of option that need to be looked at and the kinds of area where Government action may be necessary, and puts that out to consultation. Given that the insurance industry, road safety campaigners and so many others have been calling for this for years and given that the Government themselves felt in 2013 that producing a Green Paper was the right thing to do, I simply do not see why we are still waiting for one to be published.
On road safety, there have been important initiatives in relation to the practical driving test: the greater focus on independent driving, including the use of sat-nav, as well as time spent on high-speed roads other than motorways. Anything that allows examiners to make a better assessment of a candidate’s ability to drive on all types of road is important. All those things should be able to reduce the number of casualties and collisions on our roads.
The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay was right in one of the first things he said: all too often, the driving test tests a driver’s ability to pass the test, rather than their ability to drive. That is why we can be much more imaginative about how the driving test is developed. Part of that goes back to whether graduated licensing could come into it. It also raises questions about whether speed awareness can be incorporated more into the process of learning to drive, and whether the concept of appropriate speed, as well as the concept of speed limits, could form part of it.
Of course, hon. Members have also been right to say that, beyond the question of the test itself and learning for the test, there can be all sorts of other initiatives in relation to early driving to promote the idea that, when a young person gets their provisional licence, that will not necessarily be the first time they have sat in the driving seat of a car and been able to get some experience. I was really interested to hear about the early drive courses that take place up in Duns and the involvement of John Cleland. It is interesting that they are taking place in Duns: Charterhall was of course the circuit where one of the most famous racing drivers of all time, Jim Clark, learned his craft. I am absolutely convinced that that kind of early drive course can help.
At the other end of the scale is the “Safe Drive Stay Alive” initiative talked about by the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson), who speaks for the Scottish National party. I have seen the work of “Safe Drive Stay Alive” and the impact of the really graphic way in which it portrays what happens if we lose a loved one in a road incident—the impact that that can have on young people in schools. Again, it is right that we support something that can contribute to reducing the number of incidents.
This issue has to be tackled on so many different fronts. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) was right to draw attention to the Transport Committee’s work on enforcement, because part of the picture is ensuring that the regulations that we have are properly enforced. It is very difficult to reconcile proper enforcement, on which the Transport Committee has done some really important work, with the cuts in the number of traffic police; they have been cut by about one third outside London. If we want to make our roads safer, part of that is about the way we train our drivers, part of it is about the way they are examined and part of it is about the technology available in motor vehicles, but a vital part of it is how we enforce the laws that are there. Frankly, the cuts we have seen in traffic policing are incompatible with that.
Another thing that is part of the equation and that we need to bear in mind is the question of road safety targets. If I am right that the strategy we need to employ to make our roads safer involves different agencies—examiners, local authorities, the police, the insurance industry and many others—is it not time that we have shared responsibility for making our roads safer? In other parts of the world and international bodies that we are part of, road safety targets are seen as something should be supported. We used to have road safety targets in this country until they were abolished by the coalition Government. They played an important role in focusing minds, and contributed indirectly to the fall in the number of people killed or seriously injured as recorded in the casualty statistics that we had in this country—those statistics are now sadly starting to level-off and there are worrying signs that they are starting to go in the other direction.
This has been a constructive debate and some important points have been made. There is no silver bullet. In conclusion, the elements that could help to address the issues we have talked about today are as follows. In the insurance industry, we could see far greater transparency at both policy level and the individual level. On the governmental level, it is time we had a Green Paper on young drivers so that Government can have a rounded look at what is required. That could, and should, include the potential of telematics and graduated driver licensing for improving safety on our roads and reducing incidents among young people. It is important that we get the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill right to ensure that it leads to the reduction of premiums for automated vehicles, and not the opposite. It is important that we look imaginatively at improvements to the driving test and at ways of educating young drivers before they have their provisional licence and in post-test learning. We need to ensure that the right numbers of traffic police are there to enforce the laws we have, and it is time that we brought back road safety targets so that we can have a vision for zero being killed or seriously injured on our roads. Other countries have piloted and pioneered “Vision Zero” and there is no reason why we should not have it as well. Bringing in road safety targets is a direct way in which we can contribute to a strategy for achieving that vision.
I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for opening this debate on the important subject of the cost of car insurance for young people. I also thank all hon. Members for the very good debate we have had this afternoon.
I reassure hon. Members that we take the cost of car insurance for young people—indeed, for all motorists—very seriously. Ultimately, the issue is about road safety and recognising that many people lose their lives or are seriously injured on our roads each year and that behind each statistic there is a shattered life and a shattered family. This is not just about numbers, but about people.
I congratulate the original petitioner, Rhys Michael Parker, who described his own experience of finding motor insurance costly to obtain as a novice driver. I recognise that, like Mr Parker, many young people use their cars to access work, education, caring responsibilities or even just the fun of social activities.
I remember receiving my driving licence—that moment might be 33 years ago to the week for my hon. Friend, but it is almost 36 years ago to the week for me; I took a moment to work that out. Getting a driving licence is a fantastic moment of opportunity in someone’s life and that is why we are committed to bearing down on the cost of car insurance for young drivers. In order to do so, the Government have identified the root causes of high insurance premiums and they are addressing them, as I will discuss.
The first root cause is the alarming rate at which fraudulent, minor and exaggerated whiplash claims have increased in the UK. The scale of the problem is highlighted by the fact that 90% of recent personal injury claims relating to road traffic collisions were labelled as whiplash or soft tissue injuries to the neck and back. The magnitude of costs that insurers inherit from whiplash claims are then often passed on to their consumers through higher insurance premiums. To tackle the issue, we recently introduced the Prisons and Courts Bill to Parliament; it is having its Second Reading today and includes measures to cut fraudulent, minor and exaggerated whiplash claims. That will generate estimated savings to insurers of around £1 billion per year. In this debate, colleagues have said that savings are not always passed on. We expect insurers to fully pass those savings on to motorists through lower premiums. The point was well made by colleagues. I am pleased to inform the House that three leading insurers have already committed to do that.
I would now like to address another of the root causes: the high levels of risk associated with younger drivers. Colleagues have highlighted the well-known fact that younger drivers are over-represented in road collisions. Car drivers aged 17 to 24 are four times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers aged 25 or over. That is a terrible statistic and we should not in any way be complacent about it. Higher levels of risk associated with younger drivers have resulted in higher insurance premiums. While we do have some of the safest roads in the world in the UK, we are determined to make them safer; addressing the cost of car insurance is one additional factor spurring everybody on.
I have been asked about a Green Paper, but frankly it has been overtaken by events. We have no intention of publishing a Green Paper because we published the British road safety statement in December 2015. It included proposals aimed at younger drivers—indeed, all drivers—for making our roads safer, such as improving the safety of young and novice drivers both before and after they take their test. It includes our intention to commission a £2 million research programme to test the effectiveness of a range of technological solutions and educational and behavioural measures, including telematics, to improve the safety of young and novice drivers. Those interventions will be designed with careful consideration of behavioural change.
It might be helpful if I explain a bit more about how telematics policies work and play an important role in helping young drivers to access lower insurance premiums. Telematics is a key part of the future and I strongly support the expansion of telematics products in the marketplace. Telematics devices allow information on driving styles and behaviours—such as speed, braking, acceleration and where and when the vehicle is being driven—to be monitored and considered alongside the traditional risk factors that insurance companies consider, such as the driver’s age, to set premiums that are more tailored to the risk of the driver than traditional motor insurance policies.
We are seeing an increasing take-up of telematics. The technology is increasingly being chosen by young drivers as a way of ensuring that their premiums are lower. In March 2016, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association reported that there were 455,000 live telematics policies in the UK—up 40% in just two years. However, that needs to be put into the context of how many policies there are in the marketplace to show how much progress we need to make to encourage their wider use. We are not in any way complacent, but I recognise that young people benefit from telematics.
A number of organisations have lobbied me about the insurance premium tax rate exemption for young drivers with telematics policies. It is important to stress that IPT is a tax on the insurer, and there is no guarantee that it will be passed on to the customer. I also have to say that taxation is a matter for Treasury colleagues.
We are focusing our efforts on a number of other measures to ensure that younger people are fit and safe to drive. We encourage learners to do more on-road, pre-test practice and to practise in a wider range of conditions. As has been mentioned, we have recently consulted on allowing learner drivers on to motorways—with an approved driving instructor, of course—and we are analysing the results. That is very important given that people can go along at a low speed and then suddenly encounter what can be very difficult driving conditions. It can be pretty scary, although it is worth noting that the strategic road network in this country is the safest it has ever been.
We are ensuring that driving tests assess the skills needed for safe, independent driving and are raising standards across the driver and rider training industries. Importantly, we are looking at changing driving tests, which evolve continually. We have been trialling more free-flow driving and using fewer set pieces. Notwithstanding the parking issue that my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) mentioned, we are looking to remove some set pieces so that people have more understanding and experience of free-flow driving and are more road-savvy. That will include taking instructions from a sat-nav during the test. We are trying to make the test more reactive to current technology and the benefits that it can bring.
We are also looking to identify innovative applications, such as augmented and virtual reality, to improve drivers’ hazard perception—that is, the skills required to correctly assess a situation. That could mean using technology from the games industry to complement the existing on-road practice and the testing regime. We are always looking at finding ways to get people better prepared for the marvellous freedom ticket that is their licence.
I agree that looking at ways in which the test can evolve and exposing the person taking the test to the greater range of experiences that they face when driving are important. However, could I take the Minister back to graduated licensing? A focus of the call for a Green Paper was that the pros and cons of graduated licensing need to be weighed up and a decision made. If the Minister has turned his face against the idea of a Green Paper, does that mean that the Government have completely rejected the possibility of looking at graduated driving licences, or are they still prepared to look at it, but want to do it differently?
We have been considering the idea of graduated driving licences but I am not inclined to support them, because we want to strike the right balance in respect of freedom for young drivers. As we have discussed, many people need their vehicles, particularly in rural areas; rather than imposing post-test restrictions on novice drivers, our efforts are all about improving driver training and testing so that people are better able to benefit from a driving licence.
I am not looking to introduce a graduated driving licence system in the UK. We have heard from colleagues how that might impact on people who live in darkness for part of the year as they perhaps seek to get to shift work early. All those factors have impacted on and led to our decision not to go down the route of a graduated driving licence.
I note what the Minister said about the need for better training. Does that extend to training after people have passed their driving test?
Yes. I am very keen to encourage people to do more learning. We continually learn as drivers and get better continually at assessing risk. I highlight the Pass Plus scheme, which colleagues have mentioned. Pass Plus has six modules, which broaden the range of driving skills that people need. It covers driving in town, in all weathers, on rural roads, driving at night, driving on dual carriageways and driving on motorways. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency issues people with a certificate to say that they have been through the course. That can often be used to access lower insurance premiums, so yes, I entirely agree with the principle.
A number of factors demonstrate that we are committed to improving the safety of all road users and especially those who are at greater risk, such as young drivers. I very much like the road safety training highlighted by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr). I am aware of other schemes around the country. He offered me a visit—well, he lives in a very nice part of the world and I like the idea of visiting, so if he lets me know, that might be a possibility. To make a cheeky comment, I like finding ways to show that our two fine countries are stronger together. I am very keen to take ideas from all parts of the world, not just all parts of the UK, if they can make our roads safer. I am aware of comparable schemes—including in London, again with links into motorsport—that are all aimed at younger drivers, and I recognise the importance of those.
We are seeking to improve the safety of all road users and especially younger drivers, who are more vulnerable and at risk of being in a collision. Nine out of 10 road collisions have an element of human error, so if we can cut the amount of human error, it will have a huge impact on road safety. I therefore agree with the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) about the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which is an important Bill that we have to get right for the future. The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles will be profound, but the set of changes is also profound. The Bill is in Committee now.
We are seeking to lower the risk by making progress in ensuring that people are better able to drive and, through that, they will pay less for their insurance premium. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle asked about the discount rate, which has to be considered in the pricing of insurance. I am aware that the recent change in the discount rate and the likely impact on the insurance industry were discussed in some depth in the evidence session last month. I am therefore keen to set out the Government’s reasons for the change and a number of actions being taken as a priority.
The Ministry of Justice leads on this issue, but let me explain: the discount rate is used to convert a compensation award made to an injured person for future losses into a present value lump sum payment, which reflects the return that the person could expect to earn if investing the lump sum today. Last month, the Lord Chancellor notified the market of a change in the discount rate from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. She made it clear that the decision was made in accordance with national law, given her legal duty to consider only the impact on injured parties. The decision was made following a Ministry of Justice public consultation in 2012, the report of an expert panel in 2015 and the responses of statutory consultees, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Government Actuary. The review process has been lengthy and extremely thorough, reflecting the complexity of the subject matter and the importance that is placed on the decision.
We recognise that the change is likely to have an impact on the insurance industry, resulting in a knock-on effect on some consumers but I must stress that, under law, the Lord Chancellor cannot consider the impact on defendants such as the insurance industry, only the impact on the injured party. I also stress that any effect of the change in the discount rate on the cost of insurance premiums, including car insurance premiums for young drivers, is a matter for insurers to consider.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that point. Does he agree that more could perhaps be done to incentivise the payment of compensation awards annually rather than as lump sums, so that the risk of return would effectively remain with the insurer, which would then pay out? My understanding is that the legal profession is keener on lump sums; I believe it is said that lump sums mean greater fees for lawyers. As a former lawyer, I cannot believe that any lawyer would be guilty of thinking of themselves in such an instance, but perhaps we could do more to encourage a move away from lump sum payments of compensation.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Notwithstanding the element of fees in the legal profession, I would expect the insurance and legal professions to sit down and work that out for themselves. What is insurance for? The point of it is that it is collective pooled risk in case something bad happens in our lives. How that is met is for the insurance companies to work out. We have a competitive and innovative sector, which I am sure will be listening to this debate, including to my hon. Friend’s suggestion.
As a Government, we remain determined to address any knock-on effect on consumers caused by the change, which is why we will launch a consultation before Easter to review the framework under which the new rate was set, to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer chaired a roundtable late last month with representatives from the insurance industry to launch discussion on the consultation.
Colleagues have mentioned the importance of driving licences in rural areas due to the difficulty of accessing public transport mechanisms. I recognise that as someone whose constituency, although not rural, certainly has some rural parts. We must ensure that other forms of transport are viable alternatives to motorcars for young people, particularly in rural areas. It is not easy. We understand the importance of affordable, accessible transport and recognise the extra pressures placed on local authorities throughout the country to provide those services, particularly as the lower the population density, the harder it can be for local authorities to do so.
That is why, during the spending review period, my Department will provide more than £1.5 billion to local authorities through the integrated transport block, which will provide capital investment in small transport improvement projects. It will also provide significant road maintenance budgets, which relates to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main). If her constituency is like mine, she will receive more correspondence on potholes than on any other transport issue.
The integrated transport block investment scheme reflects the Government’s belief that local authorities are best placed to decide where investment should go in response to the needs of local communities. It is a local decision to solve a local problem. There are numerous examples of Government-funded road transport schemes throughout the country, such as voluntary car schemes. We have mentioned the Wheels 2 Work scheme and how it could help, although it has its limitations, and we have a £25 million community minibus fund, to name a few initiatives. Such initiatives are helping young people to access work, education and so on. The Government recognise the need for investment in alternative modes of transport, alongside a commitment to road safety and to bearing down on car insurance premiums for young drivers.
To return to some of the questions asked, my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay mentioned the driving test and how it is evolving. I do not think the question is about making it harder. He might be interested to know that, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the first-time pass rate for the 2015-16 financial year was 47.5%. It is not that high. People are not looking at the driving test and thinking, “Easy; piece of cake.” More people fail first time than pass. It is a question of making the driving test more realistic and improving training before they get to it and after, as we discussed previously.
I take the point that the Minister is making. I was saying not necessarily that I think that the test is too easy, but that people are coached to pass the test rather than taught to drive well. He is making a point about the test being more comprehensive; that is where we need to go.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to clarify that he was not asking for the test to be made easier; that is absolutely correct.
Colleagues from Northern Ireland, who are no longer in their place, made contributions. This is an entirely devolved matter in Northern Ireland, and my responsibilities do not extend there.
We heard from colleagues about the insurance market and how benefits can be passed on. It is important that we see all the signs of a good, thriving, competitive market, including people shopping around and competition on price and service. We do see that, but we also see inertia. From April this year, changes to the Financial Conduct Authority rules will require insurers to disclose last year’s premium to the policyholder at the point of renewal, which should incentivise shopping around. The randomised controlled trials certainly showed that that prompted up to 18% more people to switch provider or negotiate a lower premium. It would be wise of me to consider following that example, rather than trying to renew on the very last day, as I did this year, only to find an enormous hike in my premium, unlike the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
The issue of targets has been raised; it is raised frequently. I have no desire to reintroduce targets. They can help in other countries, as they have helped in our past, but the Government’s clear determination to make progress on road safety is evident in the road safety statement that we published, the initiative in the autumn statement to channel funding into the 50 least safe stretches of road in our country and the changes that we made to the penalties for mobile phone use, which came into effect this month. By the way, that is most important; we know that 60% of people killed or seriously injured in an incident involving a mobile phone are younger drivers. This is about cultural change, and we are seeking it with the penalty change.
I will not consider reintroducing targets. If targets were the right answer to policy, then policy making would become remarkably simple, which I do not think it is. Frankly—to make a political point, which has not been done in this debate—if targets were the answer to everything, Gordon Brown would have left us a very well-governed country, which I do not think he did. Policy is a little more complicated than targets.
At the heart of this debate is the potential cap on insurance premiums. It is a long-standing principle that insurers set their premiums according to their assessment of the risks involved, notwithstanding my hon. Friends’ point about gender.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend mentioned that. Is there any opportunity for us to consider the gender directive? If we are truly interpreting risk, suddenly hiking premiums for young women seems unfair.
Not right now, but who knows where the future will take us? We have some idea, but the detail will still need to be filled in. Opportunities will certainly arise and that may well be one of them.
I want us to get to the point where individuals are assessed according to their risk and where the Government do all we can to de-risk driving and incentivise safe driving. Motor insurers use a wide range of criteria to assess the potential risk associated with a quotation, including the age and driving experience of the applicant, the type of vehicle and where it is kept. The level of premiums is a commercial matter for individual insurers, because they use their own funds to underwrite the policies they issue. It is critical that the insurance industry takes such decisions for itself; the Government should not seek to control that market. However, I confirm to all who signed the petition, and to Mr Parker, its originator, that I am extremely sympathetic to their point. I hope that the explanations of our actions that I have given demonstrate our commitment to making progress.
I realise that the Minister is probably reaching the end of his speech, but there is one thing that I would like to ask him. I do not doubt the sincerity of his desire to improve the situation. Does he see a role for the Government—I appreciate that it would not be his Department—in introducing more formal qualifications to the school curriculum that could help to improve skills and create the outcome that we all desire?
It is important to capture people young and to instil road savviness among younger people. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson) mentioned doing his cycling proficiency test at primary school. That scheme is now called Bikeability—we have Bikeability Plus, too—and it is thriving. We have protected its budget throughout this Parliament because it plays a critical role. The education of younger people in this area is important in making progress.
We have had a very positive debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay for introducing it, and to all hon. Members for their contributions to our stimulating discussion. I recognise that the cost of car insurance is important to young people. We are tackling fraudulent whiplash claims and making our roads safer for all drivers, including younger drivers. The motor market, including the motor insurance market, is among the most competitive markets in the UK. I trust that the insurers themselves have strong incentives to innovate and to deliver products targeted at younger drivers at a price that they can afford.
We are not at all complacent about this. We will continue to look at what we can do to address the cost of car insurance for younger drivers head on. It is right to tackle the issue by reducing risk. The Government are doing what we can to help our younger people to get about and get on.
I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to this very positive and constructive debate. I again thank Rhys Parker and all those who signed the petition for bringing the matter before us today.
Let me summarise by mentioning some highlights of the debate. I was encouraged to hear a number of hon. Members say that this is a matter of social mobility and that there is a real need to help young people to be able to afford to drive, because of the benefits it brings. I was also very pleased by the number of Members who highlighted the importance of this matter in rural areas, because not being able to afford to drive affects young people in rural areas most severely. We need insurance companies to treat young people fairly. There is a case for greater transparency in the premiums charged to young drivers, and for companies to behave more responsibly.
As the Minister said, what we all want to see is young people being kept safe on the roads. We want them to be able to drive and to have access to insurance that they can afford, but we want that to happen in a way that keeps them safe and that sees the number of tragic accidents among young people reduced. I was encouraged by the Minister’s response and I encourage him to continue to keep the issues, particularly the driving test, under review. It has been a positive debate and I thank all Members who contributed.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petition 166847 relating to the cost of car insurance for young people.