HC Deb 20 April 1998 vol 310 cc523-4W
Mr. Heppell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what statutory authority is provided to what bodies and under what circumstances to tow away abandoned cars. [38745]

Mr. Michael

The legislative provisions governing the removal of vehicles are contained in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 and the Disposal of Vehicle Regulations 1986. Under the 1986 Regulations, the police have powers to remove vehicles abandoned without lawful authority which are left in breach of local traffic regulation orders or left where they are causing an obstruction or likely to cause a danger.

Where vehicles are not illegally parked but otherwise appear to be abandoned, the responsibility for removing and ultimately disposing of them rests with local authorities. They have a duty under the 1978 Act to remove any vehicle abandoned on the highway without legal authority and must follow the procedures laid down in the 1986 Regulations before doing so.

The Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations 1986 provides that seven days' prior notice must be given of a local authority's intention to remove such a vehicle which, in their opinion, is in such a condition that it ought to be destroyed. However, a 21 days' notice period must be given where an abandoned vehicle does not appear to be in a condition meriting its destruction. These safeguards are intended to protect owners against a local authority prematurely assuming a vehicle is abandoned and having it towed away for scrap. They also ensure that local authorities do not have to go through the unnecessary procedure of removing and storing vehicles that may not have been abandoned.