HC Deb 03 July 1995 vol 263 cc6-7
5. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures are being taken to combat vehicle excise duty fraud. [30120]

Mr. Norris

The number of evaders penalised and revenue recovered from direct enforcement action has been increased in each of the last 10 years. Last year was the best yet, when £46.5 million was recovered from 458,000 evaders.

Mr. French

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I congratulate him on the progress that has been made but remind him that there is still a great deal to be done. Constituents of mine regularly produce long lists of registration numbers of vehicles which they know to be untaxed. What is even worse is that when they take those lists to the police, they are told that nothing can be done. May I urge my hon. Friend to arrange constructive talks between his Department and the Home Office to ensure that the problem is cracked once and for all?

Mr. Norris

Yes, I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Home Secretary because his point is very serious. We ought to be clear that evasion represents about 4 per cent. of potential revenue. None the less, it is an affront to all those law-abiding motorists who bother to get their VED, and such conduct is quite inexcusable. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks.

Ms Walley

Why has the Minister not understood that it is a matter not only of tax evasion but of road safety? Is there not a close connection between the number of vehicles, especially heavy goods lorries, that are not only untaxed but unlicensed and the number that are uninsured and illegally operated? Indeed, that connection has been highlighted by the report of the traffic commissioners. When will he introduce powers to confiscate heavy goods vehicles, which are contributing to the cause of accidents? The Minister did not even take that into account in answering the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French).

Mr. Norris

In the midst of all that, there was—I suppose—at least one semi-serious point, which I am happy to address.

Mr. Meacher

How patronising!

Mr. Norris

It is difficult not to be patronising when faced with such inane contributions from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and his hon. Friends. The issue of some heavy goods vehicles not being covered by operators' licensing is very serious. I have undertaken, with the illegal operations working party, to look at the whole issue of confiscation. I agree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) to the extent that in some cases confiscation may be the only mechanism capable of deterring those for whom the normal framework of the law is clearly irrelevant.

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