Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill [Money]
Owen Paterson (Shadow Minister, Transport; North Shropshire, Conservative)
Here we are, with the money resolution before us and astonishingly significant levels of public expenditure being implied. The Minister, in a written answer last week, gave his estimate of the cost as £80 million, with 230 additional staff at the Department for Transport, and that is without including advertising or additional equipment. The Bill would bring into the registration scheme 3 million additional vehicles and 500,000 new vehicles per annum. That is hugely disproportionate to the problem that we are addressing, when we already have 12 existing pieces of legislation.
The measures would be a colossal burden on a Government agency that is struggling. Last year, 2,193,000 owners failed to pay vehicle excise duty. That raised the revenue forgone from £129 million the year before to £217 million. We know that 1 million speeding fines were not paid last year, because the owners could not be traced. Pertinent to this Bill is the fact that the number of unlicensed motorcycles leapt 152 per cent., from 275,000 to 694,000. As the money resolution would also authorise the payment of
"any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act",
there are clear and major implications for expenditure above the £80 million that the Minister has already mentioned.
In a written answer last week, the Minister told my hon. Friend Andrew Selous that 2.5 per cent. of the vehicles on the DVLA database cannot be traced. Out of 33 million vehicles, that is 825,000. We have a major problem with uninsured vehicles—there are 1.1 million on our roads. In another written answer last week, the Minister said that no formal assessment has yet been made of the impact of delayed and postponed programmes in the agencies within his remit, but he did say that the Bill would be likely to have an adverse impact on other DVLA IT programmes and hence on the quality of service to the public. Alarmingly, he said that it is likely that one of the projects that would be rescheduled would be the delivery of continuous insurance enforcement. The cost today of enforcement for uninsured drivers is £30 per legitimate policy, so the Bill would entail a huge new hidden cost under paragraph (2) of the money resolution.
The Minister has received representations from rural interests, farming organisations, motorcycle racing and motorcycle sports organisations, all expressing reservations about the Bill and all concerned about the extra costs implied by the money resolution. He has not had any discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State for Scotland or the First Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. One assumes that there are significant cost implications in those areas.
All that cost and huge effort could be for a craze that may be on the way out. The Motor Cycle Industry Association says that in 2005, 144,905 units of motorcycles with engines of less than 50cc were imported from China. In February this year, we imported 672 units. On an annual basis, that is a drop of 94 per cent.
The Bill is going nowhere—