HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1185-8

(" . After section 45(2)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 there is inserted— (c) for the issue and display of a test date disc, where it is found on such examination that the requirements mentioned in subsection (1) above are complied with.

(2A) In this section, a "test date disc" means disc similar in size and shape to a licence issued according to regulations made under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 and containing the following particulars—

  1. (a) the registered number of the vehicle assigned under section 23 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994;
  2. (b) the date until which the test certificate is valid; and
  3. (c) the serial number of the test certificate.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 326.

These amendments concern MoT test certificates that are required to verify that motor vehicles are roadworthy. Noble Lords will be aware that it is a requirement to have and if necessary produce, a test certificate. There is no requirement to display the certificate or even carry it in the vehicle. It is, however, interesting to note that goods vehicle trailers do have to display a test date certificate similar in size and design to a vehicle excise licence.

Any noble Lord having two or more cars will know how easy it is unwittingly to "run out" of MoT on a car. Moreover, when borrowing a car, one has to assume it has a current certificate. My understanding is that the Minister is making good progress towards electronically handling MoT records at DVLA. If he follows this route, stolen certificates will become less of a problem and the actual certificate would become superfluous, were a test date disc available. This would require primary legislation and this Bill presents a good opportunity for it. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 327 which is in this group. It is an enabling amendment. I understand that where parking fines are outstanding, after a period local authorities often cease to chase the offender for payment, because it is too expensive administratively to take the offender to court.

However, we are now in the age of information technology. I understand that if the police need to check the registered keeper of a vehicle, they can do so in a matter of minutes using information technology.

Therefore, it should not be difficult for local authorities and other authorities which issue parking fines to pass information on unpaid fines to the DVLA, so that when someone applies for the renewal of his excise licence, should he have one or more outstanding fines against him, they can be collected at the same time and passed through to the authority concerned, thereby reducing the costs of the local residents and increasing the local authority's revenue.

As a general rule, people have 28 days to pay a fine. Therefore, the regulations would have to provide that any fines collected would have to be at least 28 days old. One should also allow a number of days for the local authority to transmit the information to the DVLA. I would suggest either a further 14 days—which is, to my mind, ample—or 28 days.

It is not unknown for someone to come to his vehicle, find a parking ticket, screw it up and throw it in the gutter. He then fails to reply to follow-ups from the local authority and eventually gets away with it.

The inconsiderate "parker" is likely to be the inconsiderate driver. Inconsiderate drivers should be brought up short, because very often they are the ones who cause accidents. Even with my inadequate drafting, I hope that the Minister will look kindly upon my amendment.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Earl's amendments would require an MoT disc to be displayed alongside the road tax disc. That would not add a great deal but it may cause significant additional problems. As he hinted, we are going down a different road in terms of checking one document for others.

The idea of having an MoT disc has been discussed before but in order to get a tax disc for a car older than three years, one has to produce a valid MoT certificate. The noble Earl may be aware that there is now something of a market in forged MoT certificates. I suspect that the same would apply to forged MoT discs. That is moving in the opposite direction from that in which he would wish to go.

We are going down the road of computerising the whole MoT network and fitting that in with an electronic relicensing system. So we are registering and computerising all the 19,000 MoT testing stations and putting them on a central database which will be accessible to all the enforcement authorities, including the police. That will enable them to ascertain whether or not a vehicle has a valid MoT test certificate. In addition, that will feed in to the broader process of electronic relicensing so that the whole licensing system will be accessible. We hope to see the first beneficial effects of that measure by about the end of 2002. That is the way we are going, rather than having a paper disc on the face of the car.

I do not object to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, because of its drafting but because of administrative difficulties. VED licences are currently issued by 4,500 post offices and 40 DVLA local offices. Each of those would need to have access to every parking authority's own records.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I quite appreciate that relicensing can be done at the local post office. But the forms advising one of the licence fee and when it is due are sent out by the DVLA. Any outstanding fines could be included on the form and collected at the post office at the same time.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Lord interrupted me slightly prematurely because the significant point is not the number of DVLA and post office outlets or the fact that the form comes from the DVLA. The problem is that the fines are levied by a large number of parking authorities, some decriminalised and some not, and no central record is kept of outstanding parking fines. One would have to create a central record of parking fines before this proposal could possibly operate. That does not exist at present. We have to rely, theoretically at least, on telephone links to all the parking authorities, or all the likely parking authorities. That would have substantial resource and cost implications. It would cost quite a lot of money for the parking authorities to have a centralised national database. Without that, there is no way that this proposal could work administratively. In view of that problem, I ask the noble Lord not to pursue his amendment.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I said that the local authority which sets the fine after a period would pass the information through to the DVLA. It is not for the DVLA to get in touch with all the local authorities. After 28 days, or whatever time is given for the payment of the fine and a reasonable period after that for administrative reasons, that information could be passed through and it could be passed through electronically. Modern technology brings these things in very nicely.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Lord's amendment does not impose a requirement on the parking authority to pass on that information to the DVLA. Without that, that would not occur.

There is another concern which is that it is another incentive for anyone who has a parking fine outstanding not to relicense his vehicle. We already have a big enough problem with unlicensed, and therefore uninsured, drivers and those drivers are likely to be the same sort of people who avoid paying the fines. Therefore, the proposal would have a cumulatively negative effect on criminal and uninsured driving and I do not think that it would be appropriate.

7.15 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for an extremely satisfactory answer, which was probably better than accepting my amendment. Some of his arguments were rather weak. My car has plenty of tax on it but, unfortunately, no MoT. I shall address that at the weekend.

Noble Lords


Earl Attlee

My Lords, it is safely on a farm and no offence is committed. The Minister has not addressed the problem of unwittingly using a vehicle that has run out of an MoT or borrowing someone's car which does not have an MoT.

The Minister should have another look at my noble friend's amendment. Electronic vehicle licensing should, in due course make his proposal feasible, although it may not be feasible at the moment. In the future it should be possible to put a flag on the record at the DVLA to say that there is an outstanding fine on that vehicle and, therefore, a licence should not be granted until that it is paid. But in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 326 to 329B not moved.]

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 329C: After Clause 258, insert the following new clause—