HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1246-9W
Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the extent to which vehicle excise duty reflects the environmental impact of different models of vehicle. [152069]

Mr. Jamieson

The graduated Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) regime, which was introduced in March 2001, is designed to encourage motorists to choose less polluting vehicles by giving clear signals to them about the environmental impacts of their car purchasing decisions. Its primary aim is to incentivise the purchase of the most fuel-efficient cars, as a way of helping to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from the transport sector. It is also designed to reflect the different emissions of local air pollutants from diesel, petrol and alternatively fuelled cars. As with all taxes, the Government keeps VED under review, and since the introduction of the scheme we have introduced a number of modifications to give greater incentives to those who purchase the most fuel-efficient vehicles. As the Chancellor announced in his Pre-Budget Report in December 2003, the Government is currently considering how the effectiveness of the scheme might be further improved.

Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on the level at which vehicle excise duty is charged. [152070]

Mr. Jamieson

During the last 12 months my department dealt with 265 pieces of correspondence concerning VED from Members of Parliament the public and organisations.

Most of the correspondence dealt with two matters:

  1. (a) enforcement of VED, and
  2. (b) whether existing exemptions from payment of VED might be extended to particular groups of motorists or classes of vehicle.

Very little of this correspondence deals with the level of VED charged. Where it does however, it tends to be by way of suggestions that certain, generally larger vehicles, should be taxed more heavily.

Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on vehicle excise duty. [152071]

Mr. Jamieson

Vehicle Excise Duty is a tax on mechanically propelled vehicles. It raises about £4.5 billion annually and has two purposes in addition to the raising of revenue:

  1. (a) Through the licensing process it ensures checking of insurance and MOT documents, and;
  2. (b) It provides an opportunity to influence vehicle purchase e.g. on environmental and road friendliness grounds.

Cars registered since 1 March 2001 are taxed mostly according to their CO2 emissions, with VED set for the lowest emitting petrol cars at £55, ranging up to £165 for the highest emitting diesel cars. UK lorry rates are related to vehicle weight and configuration and are some of the lowest in Europe.

There are a number of concessionary VED rates and exemptions which are sometimes subject to discussion with the various interest groups. While there will always he room for debate at the margins, the Government believes the balance is broadly right between those paying VED at the normal rate for the vehicle, those paying at concessionary rates and those who are exempt from VED.

We have considerably tightened the enforcement of VED through the "continuous registration" package of measures. By introducing continuous registration and using modern technology, we are improving the accuracy of the register to the benefit of law enforcement and the honest motorist. To deal with short term evasion we have introduced fines for those over a month overdue with relicensing, while tackling those vehicles already outside the system of registration and licensing with enhanced enforcement using wheel clamping and ANPR cameras.

This should enhance the quality of the DVLA vehicle register so assisting the police in the fight against crime, and also assist local authorities track down and enforce costs against those who abandon vehicles.

Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will re-introduce the rolling 25-year rule for exempting vehicles from excise duty; and if he will make a statement. [153366]

Mr. Jamieson

The Chancellor of the Exchequer takes decisions on transport taxation, including vehicle excise duty, on a Budget-by-Budget basis, taking a range of economic, social and environmental factors into consideration. The Government acknowledge the role historic vehicle enthusiasts play in maintaining that part of the country's history and heritage, but need also to recognise the poorer environmental performance of older vehicles. The current exemption for vehicles constructed before 1 January 1973 is designed to strike the right balance between environmental and heritage needs.