HC Deb 10 February 1992 vol 203 cc643-4
6. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his Department's estimate of the number of uninsured drivers.

Mr. Chope

In 1989 there were 208,010 convictions in England and Wales for uninsured driving. It is not possible to make a reliable estimate of the total number of offences committed.

Mr. French

Is my hon. Friend aware that the failure of some motorists to have any insurance cover results in higher premiums being paid by other motorists who abide by the law? Does he agree that the compulsory display of insurance discs on vehicle windscreens would help to reduce evasion in this country, as it has done in others?

Mr. Chope

Certainly, driving without insurance is a serious offence and others end up having to pay for the wrong-doers. That is why the Government have increased, by legislation, the maximum penalty from £1,000 to £5,000. The courts can also order disqualification. My hon. Friend's suggestion might result in less evasion, but there are 140,000 convictions each year for failing to display the road fund licence. If we proceed along the lines my hon. Friend suggests we would need the support and encouragement of the insurance industry. I intend to meet representatives of that industry to discuss my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Gregory

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he assure the House that he will have urgent discussions with the Lord Chancellor not only about the derisory fines that magistrates can impose, but about the fact that, in the past two years, many magistrates, not least in York, have never imposed the maximum fine on those who have been caught for not insuring their vehicles? Such an urgent meeting is called for, if we are to have safety on the roads.

Mr. Chope

There are regular meetings between my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and the Magistrates Association. The subject could be brought up at the next meeting.

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