Vehicles: Insurance — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:14 pm on 4th July 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Conservative 3:14 pm, 4th July 2012

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many uninsured vehicles are in regular use on United Kingdom roads, and what action they are taking to reduce that number.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, 1.2 million vehicles are recorded as being uninsured. Our actions to reduce this are, first, the offence of keeping a vehicle without insurance; and, secondly, allowing insurers access to DVLA driver details on penalty points and disqualifications in order to reduce fraud. The Secretary of State recently hosted a cross-government summit with insurers on measures to reduce the cost of premiums, which would lessen the incentive to drive uninsured.

Photo of Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes Conservative

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that in France all motor vehicles have to carry a pink disc alongside their equivalent of our tax disc, with their insurance details obvious in the windscreens at all times and updated when required by law? Surely this is a simple way of assessment as other members of the public will notice cars that are not carrying a pink disc and any policeman or other enforcement officer passing by will know immediately that a car is not insured.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I thank my noble friend for a very sensible suggestion. However, under the new system of continuous enforcement insurance the vehicle keeper will have to insure the vehicle or declare it to be off the road by means of a Statutory Off Road Notice. If the keeper does neither, a fixed-penalty notice for £100 will be issued. This will strip out the softer evader, leaving a smaller group of more persistent evaders for the police to target on the road. Another little difficulty with my noble friend's suggestion is, of course, that the insurance may have been cancelled due to non-payment of the premiums.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the number of young people who have been found to be driving without insurance has halved in the past three years, which is very welcome, but the very high cost of insurance for young people is proving very difficult for many of them. What discussions are the Government having with the insurance industry to make life a little easier for young drivers?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend makes an extremely important point. On 2 May, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport hosted a cross-government insurance summit with the insurance industry to take stock of the action taken since the Prime Minister's summit in February to reduce the cost of motor insurance. We are working closely with the industry to outline further measures being taken to reduce premiums.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

Will the Minister explain why, while the number of motor accidents has gone down, the number of personal insurance claims has gone up? That means that the cost of insurance has risen substantially. Did the summit that he has just referred to discuss this, what conclusions did it come to and what action has been taken as a result of its conclusions?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we are working with the insurance industry to reduce the level of fraud. We are aware, for instance, that at 76%, the UK has twice the average percentage of whiplash claims as a proportion of personal injury claims. So we are well aware of the problem and we are working on it.

Photo of Lord Mawhinney Lord Mawhinney Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend explain why he believes that the French Government and, I believe, the Irish Government find having insurance discs next to tax discs on the windscreen perfectly acceptable when, presumably, French and Irish people might be subject to the same temptations which he uses as an argument not to have it in this country?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as I gently pointed out to my noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, the problem with an insurance disc is that the insurance may have been cancelled due to non-payment. What is the use of having an insurance disc that can be cancelled?

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

The Minister has not answered the question he was asked. If it works abroad, why can it not work here?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I suggested very good reasons as to why it would not work.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

We also have a much better system, which is continuous enforcement, and we will clamp down on those motorists who do not insure their vehicles.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

Is the Minister aware that many people who come here from other European countries insure their vehicles there, bring them over here and then take them back again to buy very cheap insurance? If anyone has an accident here involving one of those vehicles, the claim is almost impossible to enforce. Is he aware of that and can anything be done about it?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am not aware of the detail of what my noble friend is telling me. However, I will ask my officials about it. I would point out that the number of foreign vehicles operating in the UK is relatively small.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour

My Lords, I believe the Minister said that there has been a summit with the insurance companies and that the Government were working closely with the insurance industry. Will he publish the conclusions of those summit meetings with a checklist of what the Government are doing about it?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord with an update and place a copy in the Library.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat

My Lords, what conversations does the Minister have with other countries within Europe and with those outside to ensure that all the heavy trucks on UK roads are insured?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we cannot use the DVLA database to work out whether a foreign truck is insured. It would be a matter of the truck driver producing his insurance paperwork, but I am not aware that there is a huge problem with commercial vehicles being uninsured. The much more serious problem is their mechanical state.

Photo of Lord Davies of Coity Lord Davies of Coity Labour

My Lords, if there is some improvement as a result of what they do in Ireland and France, why do not we do something that will be an improvement on the current situation?

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I have already explained my position on the insurance disc. I cannot understand why noble Lords find it so difficult to understand. A few weeks ago I went out with Hampshire police and the police officer, using his ANPR equipment, stopped a motorist because she was uninsured. The reason she had no insurance was that it was cancelled because she could not keep up the payments on it.