There has been a considerable improvement over the past year, and I am satisfied that the staff at the centre are doing all in their power to ensure that this trend continues. Life will be much easier when the task of transferring the particulars of all vehicles to the cornputerised record is completed early in 1978.
As the Minister who has to answer all the letters from hon. Members, I have every incentive in seeking to ensure that the improvement, which I have discussed, carries on. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the entire House that I leave no stone unturned in my efforts to improve matters at Swansea. I assure the hon. Gentleman seriously that the staff there have made considerable strides. Indeed, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the Automobile Association recently commented very favourably on the improvement in performance at the centre.
Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be speedy action, particularly in putting the earlier registration letters on to the computer? There are problems with local police in establishing ownership of vehicles in a number of cases. Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that if earlier registrations could go on to the computer fairly early it might help in all these cases?
I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. We are now dealing with the registration numbers from D backwards—that is 1965—and the last 31 million cars in the country, out of a total of 19 million cars, will be on the central computer record by early 1978. That will give us a complete record, and there will be far less possibility of mistakes and errors than has been the case in the past.
Will the Minister consider the problem that arises if a person buys a car and pays for the car and the licence on one cheque, after which the garage goes bust? To get its£50 the vehicle licensing centre at Swansea then chases the person who bought the car, rather than waiting patiently as a creditor of the garage. Why is this so?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the centre has to wait some time until it can prove what is the situation on the ground floor. It is not entirely clear what the situation is immediately. But I shall write to the hon. Gentleman if he is still dissatisfied with the previous explanation that I gave him.
The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I did not say that I was satisfied. I have said plainly that I think there has been an improvement over the past few months. It is not merely myself who is saying that; it is the AA as well. The hon. Gentleman should not forget that.
I would not at the moment support the idea of a general review. It would be right to consider whether one is necessary when the full transfer to computerised records has been completed at the beginning of next year. I shall then look at the whole situation to see whether it is right to go on in the general direction in which we have gone so far.