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The Government have introduced comprehensive measures to tackle vehicle abandonment—including tightening and stepping up enforcement of the vehicle licensing system and ensuring swifter removal of abandoned vehicles. From January 2007, owners of end-of-life vehicles will be able to hand them over to authorised treatment facilities free of charge.
Why does this country insist on the end-of-life owner disposing of a vehicle, even free of charge, when often the vehicle was taken over when it had little value, now has no value and the owner might be quite poor? Why not do as other European Union countries do—place a duty upon manufacturers to meet the cost of disposal?
It is our intention to put that arrangement in place in 2007. At present, there is a responsibility on the final owner of an end-of-life vehicle to deal with it responsibly. The irresponsible abandonment of vehicles has posed problems for some local authorities, but we are applying a range of measures—including the introduction of continuous registration from January 2005.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the number of abandoned vehicles is a major problem and may worsen until 2007? It is easy to get rid of a vehicle's scrap metal at the end of its life but cars have some nasty components, with no sensible answers to their recycling or reuse.
My hon. Friend is right that there is an issue around the de-polluting of vehicles, which involves skills and facilities that vehicle dismantlers are increasingly able to offer. That is being tightened up in the regulations. We are by no means complacent about the period between now and 2007. Other issues, such as the price of scrap, influence the volume of abandoned vehicles; recent scrap prices mean that vehicle dismantlers are interested in taking vehicles free of charge.
Many of my constituents must have a car to get to work, and they tend to be old cars owned by poorly paid people. Are not the Government terribly complacent in not insisting that manufacturers pay the cost of vehicle disposal much earlier, which the Government could have done under the current regulations, instead of leaving it until 2007 or beyond.
The new measure, which we much support, is a big change to manufacturers' responsibilities—but the necessary facilities must be put in place to ensure a network of dismantlers. We have negotiated with the car industry the issue of marque responsibility and there is also the matter of how to deal with orphan vehicles whose manufacturers no longer exist. A range of complexities is involved, which will take time to resolve. I share the right hon. Gentleman's desire to see the scheme up and running as soon and effectively as possible, disposing of end-of-life vehicles in an environmentally sensible and sound way.