HC Deb 10 December 2003 vol 415 cc517-8W
Hugh Bayley

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on how many occasions in the last full year for which figures are available the DVLA initiated court proceedings against people who were believed not have paid vehicle excise duty; on how many occasions the DVLA(a) withdrew proceedings and (b) lost a case in court because the vehicle keeper showed that he or she had paid VED; how much the DVLA estimates such proceedings cost the taxpayer; what steps the DVLA will take to improve its administration procedures to avoid the commencement of this type of unnecessary proceedings; and if he will make a statement. [140883]

Mr. Jamieson

During the year 2002–03, a total of 231,149 prosecutions were taken by DVLA against people who were believed not to have paid vehicle excise duty.

Proceedings were withdrawn on 18,255 occasions and 1,303 cases were unsuccessful at court. Cases are withdrawn for a variety of reasons, but less than 1 per cent. are as a result of a licence being in force at the time.

DVLA estimates that the cost of taking each case to court is £45 and requests this amount at every successful prosecution. Last year the agency was awarded £9.4 million in costs by the courts.

DVLA already takes every opportunity to avoid unnecessary court action. In most cases of alleged unlicensed use of a vehicle, a letter is sent to the registered keeper offering to settle the matter out of court. This also provides the opportunity to produce evidence that vehicle excise duty has already been paid. In addition, procedures have recently been introduced to barcode the licensing transaction at Post Offices. This allows DVLA's records to be updated within three days of the application, thus reducing the risk of inappropriate enforcement action.

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