§ 12. Mr. Jessel
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of cars using the roads he estimates to be unlicensed.
§ Mr. Jessel
Why cannot the Minister tell us the figures now? He has had the result of the survey for several weeks. Surely, even if the figure is still as low as 5 per cent., it means that one car in 20 using the roads is unlicensed, with a loss of £30 million or £40 million of revenue a year. That is grossly unfair to the majority of law-abiding motorists who pay the £50 road tax. What will the Government do about this?
§ Mr. Horam
I think that they may well amount to slightly more than 5 per cent., but I stress that the figures are only preliminary. I said on 7th February that a campaign of second reminders was being carried out to ensure that people paid their vehicle excise duty. We shall certainly look at the effectiveness of that as well as the survey.
§ Mr. Rooker
Is not the obvious answer to this problem to scrap the system of taxation? My hon. Friend is pussyfooting around with campaigns. Since the revenue is not spent on the roads anyway, the real answer surely is to scrap the system and put the cost on petrol—
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
What thought has the Minister given to increasing the duties of traffic wardens to empower them to act aginst licence evaders?
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
If we are to have a system of licensing, why not give it teeth? Why not increase the penalties, with mandatory disqualification for one year where a motorist goes for more than four weeks without a licence?
§ Mr. Norman Fowler
Is not my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr McNair-Wilson) correct? Is the Minister aware that because of Government policy there are now fewer than 1,500 traffic wardens in London, when the Commissioner puts the need at 4,000? Given that the Government are quite obviously now losing millions of pounds a year, does he not agree that there is an overwhelming case for strengthening the traffic warden system?
§ Mr. Horam
I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of increasing the number of public employees. This is yet another area where what the Conservatives say on one aspect of public policy conflicts with what they are saying generally. However, I shall look at all reasonable suggestions for saving public money in this area. Clearly, people who pay their excise duty in the lawful way, as the vast majority do, have the right to feel that the rest of the 423 revenue should be collected as expeditiously as possible.
§ Mr. Sainsbury
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be of assistance to hon. Members if they are aware that there seem to be two versions of the Order Paper in circulation, in which Questions are differently numbered.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that we are working under exceptional conditions. The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) has the Old Testament version, and I am working from the New Testament.