HC Deb 28 March 2003 vol 402 cc456-7W
Mr. Liddell-Grainger

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to give further help to councils in(a) support and (b) funding to remove abandoned vehicles. [105501]

Mr. Meacher

We will be publishing a consultation document later this spring on reducing the statutory notice periods for vehicles abandoned on private land.

We are providing £2.7 million through the Invest to Save budget to enable local authorities to have free on-line access to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) vehicles database. This will enable local authority officers to make immediate decisions about the actual status of apparently abandoned vehicles and thus get them cleared away more quickly. To date out of 239 local that have expressed interest in authorities an joining, 57 have been linked to the database.

Local authorities can now take on DVLA's wheelclamping powers to help them tackle unlicensed vehicles. 5 local authorities now use these powers: the London Boroughs of Croydon and Newham, Southend-on-Sea, Hastings and Middlesbrough. Liverpool, Luton and Doncaster should be taking on the powers during the 2003–04 financial year. Discussions are currently taking place with 12 other local authorities.

Local authorities will be running more Operation Cubits where all the different enforcement agencies cooperate to deal with vehicles that are unlicensed, abandoned or dangerously or illegally parked. To date more than 6,000 abandoned unlicensed vehicles have been targeted as a result of Operation Cubits with over 4,000 vehicles crushed. More operations are planned.

We are progressing reforms to the vehicle registration system to ensure that in future all vehicles can be traced to the correct keeper. Section 19 and schedule 5 of the Finance Act 2002 cover vehicle registration. They seek to help tackle the blight of abandoned vehicles, reduce vehicle crime, reduce tax evasion and benefit the honest motorist by enabling the Secretary of State for Transport to introduce new licensing legislation which will improve the integrity of the vehicle record.

Further legislation through detailed regulations will be necessary to give full force to the provisions in the Finance Act. A Modernising Vehicle Registration Implementation Board has been established to advise on these matters and consists of representatives of the motor industries, motorists' organisations, the insurance industry and the police, as well as officials. We are also consulting widely among the various interests to ensure that no one is unfairly affected by these measures. The intention is to deal with those who commit crimes or abandon vehicles, not to target honest and law abiding motorists.

DTI, who have the lead in implementing the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive, are transferring £25 million per annum to local authorities under the "New Burdens" arrangements, for the years 2003–04, 2004–05, and 2005–06, to meet additional costs which might be incurred in dealing with abandoned vehicles.

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