HL Deb 13 July 1989 vol 510 cc490-1

7.46 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Bra bazon of Tara) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak to the Northern Ireland order at the same time. These two orders, which are identical in their effect, limit to two the number of disabled vehicles which "recovery vehicles" may recover at any time without ceasing to be recovery vehicles for vehicle taxation purposes.

Recovery vehicles are the specialist breakdown vehicles used to pick up, tow or transport broken-down, disabled or even illegally parked vehicles. They are typified by the roadside recovery service vehicles operated by the AA and the RAC. They benefit from a concessionary rate of vehicle excise duty of £50. The intention behind these orders is that recovery vehicles used to carry more than two vehicles at a time should not enjoy the same benefit but should pay vehicle excise duty at the appropriate HGV rate, which may be up to £3,100 for a 38-tonne gross weight articulated car transporter.

The trade expressed concern at the consultation stage at the lack of a limit on the number of vehicles which could be recovered by a recovery vehicle in the concessionary class. Its concerns stemmed from fears of possible abuse of the class by traders operating car transporters to collect used or disabled vehicles from various locations for repair, re-sale or scrapping. That would clearly not be a recovery service; rather the movement of vehicles as part of a business. Moreover, there was concern that the lack of a limit would encourage overloading.

The department, in view of concerns expressed earlier by the trade, sought the views of the police. They supported the trade's suggestion that the number of vehicles which could be recovered at once be limited to two. The police were concerned to reduce the scope for abuse of the concessionary class. They were content that such a limit would not inhibit prompt clearance of the highway in the event of, for example, a multi-vehicle accident. In those circumstances they would merely request the appropriate number of recovery vehicles. Only a small proportion of recoveries are of this sort.

In practice most recovery vehicles are used to recover no more than one or two vehicles. Most would not be capable of recovering more than two vehicles at a time. A breakdown truck can only suspend-tow one vehicle at a time and the transporter-type vehicle, such as those used by the AA, can carry two small vehicles or carry one and suspend-tow another.

These regulations set the limit at two vehicles in order to ensure that the only vehicles to qualify for the VED concession are those used properly within the scope of the tax class. This is all the more important when seen against exemptions from operator licensing, tachographs and goods vehicles plating and testing for suspend-tow breakdown trucks only. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, as I am sure are other noble Lords, for explaining the two orders. I can assure him that we give them our full support.

I do not wish to be over-critical but perhaps I may make one comment which I have made before. If there is an explanatory note, please may it explain something. I tried to check paragraph 8(1) of Part I of Schedule 3 to the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971 and I could not find it. Fortunately, I noticed some tiny print at the bottom of the order. It stated that the paragraph had been added by the Finance Act 1987, which I was then able to check and learn something about. I hope that in future the Minister will ensure that there is an explanation in the explanatory note. As he has given us an explanation, we can give full support to the orders, but prior to that I should have known very little about the matter.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful for the support which the noble Lord gives to the orders. I shall endeavour to see whether on another occasion we can be more explanatory in the explanatory note.

On Question, Motion agreed to.