§ 6. Mr. Teddy Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he plans to take to curb the evasion of vehicle licence duty; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Michael Spicer)
The evasion rate is now 4 per cent. As a result of recent strong action, the number of offenders prosecuted or dealt with by out-of-court settlements was 9 per cent. up on the previous year and over 60 per cent. higher than in 1982. Further steps to deter evaders are being taken this year.
§ Mr. Taylor
The rate of evasion is quite alarming. It amounts to almost £100 million every year. As it is unreasonable to expect the police to chase up that evasion when they have so much on their plate, has the time not come to consider putting the costs of vehicle excise duty on to the price of petrol?
§ Mr. Spicer
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) that the evasion rate of 4 per cent. is still too high. He is quite correct to say that the tax evaded amounts to £100 million. My hon. Friend asked whether we should abolish vehicle excise duty. By taking up the plan which he suggests, 38p would be added to the price of a gallon of petrol. Therefore, the Government have no present plans to abolish VED.
§ Mr. Anderson
May I remind the Minister that on 24 October last year—I refer to column 489 of the Official Report—the Secretary of State, when he was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, informed me that he would draw to the attention of the Minister of Transport the fact that an additional 300 staff in the DVLC would, as he put it, produce the maximum net revenue from enforcement, and that in October last year that increase in staff was being seriously considered. Does the right hon. Gentleman not have a unique opportunity now, since his transformation, to do something positive about that and to save the public money?
§ Mr. Spicer
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has just informed me that he is looking forward to visiting, at the earliest possible opportunity, the DVLC. This year we have already appointed 75 extra personnel for enforcement.
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels
I hack up what my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) said. Surely my hon. Friend agrees that 38p seems an incredibly high additional sum to be put on the price of a gallon of petrol. The police are disturbed from carrying out their normal duties by having to check licences, far too many of which are out of date. An amount of £100 million is involved. Will my hon. Friend reconsider the matter and place in the Library the exact breakdown of how he calculates the sum of 38p?
§ Mr. Spicer
My hon. Friend does not like the fact that it would involve an extra 38p. However, the figure has been well established. If I can provide further details about how the computation has been made, I shall do so.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my predecessor as the Member of Parliament for Newham, North-West was a great campaigner against road fund licence fraud until, unfortunately, he was caught out? I believe that a Guinness bottle label was placed where the excise licence should have been. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the underground car park below the House of Commons a large number of cars do not bear current tax discs? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!") Nothing unlawful is being done, but a number of hon. Members are using the car park as a long-term car park. Does the hon. Gentleman not feel that those hon. Members should pay a road fund licence also?