Clause 26 - Vehicle excise duty exemption for foreign vehicles

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 16 January 2024.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 26 enables regulations to be made exempting foreign vehicles, or foreign vehicles that meet certain conditions, from vehicle excise duty. In the first instance, the power will be exercised to provide for a three-year exemption in respect of Ukrainian plated and registered vehicles belonging to individuals granted visas under the various visa schemes introduced in relation to the conflict in Ukraine.

As of 27 November, around 193,900 Ukrainians had entered the United Kingdom since the beginning of Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Government understand that a significant number have brought vehicles with Ukrainian number plates with them. Gov.uk guidance states that usually such vehicles must be registered and taxed with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency if the keeper becomes resident or stays longer than six months. However, in advance of making regulations, the Department for Transport has already announced the exemption from VED for individuals in the UK under the family, sponsor and extension Ukrainian visa schemes driving vehicles with Ukrainian number plates.

The clause will ensure that individuals fleeing war in Ukraine who have not yet registered their vehicles in the UK do not face costs and administrative burdens associated with vehicle taxation and registration while they are temporarily in the United Kingdom. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I welcome clause 26, which gives the Government the power to exempt certain foreign vehicles from paying vehicle excise duty. I note the Government’s long overdue plans to regulate for a three-year tax exemption for cars belonging to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK under a visa scheme due to the appalling conflict in their country. I am confident that I speak for all members of the Committee in supporting that change in position, but in reality the intervention has come far too late to prevent many refugees from paying eye-watering bills.

Many Ukrainians have been forced to pay thousands on expensive insurance policies or replacement car parts due to having non-compliant cars, despite the fact that other temporary UK residents, such as overseas students and workers, have had no such problems. Most disturbingly, we have heard examples of refugees who have decided to drive their vehicles back to Ukraine and abandon them in the middle of a war zone to avoid UK registration fees that they cannot afford. The Department for Transport and the Government acted shamefully slowly in addressing the problem, despite the efforts of colleagues from across the House and campaigners to bring it to their attention over the past year.

We welcome the fact that action has been taken and we support clause 26, but I think the Minister should apologise on behalf of the Government to Ukrainian refugees that such a ridiculous situation was allowed to go on for so long.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

The SNP welcomes the clause, but I echo the final comment by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn: why has this taken so long?

I and many others have written to Ministers about the issue in order to make lives easier for people who have come here from Ukraine for safe haven. It is easy to forget the difficulties facing people who are fleeing a war zone and have come for the respite and hospitality that people have displayed—particularly in Scotland, where some 260,000 Ukrainian refugees are being sponsored at the moment. While welcoming this belated measure, I ask that the Government look very carefully at how they can make lives easier across the board for people who are flee war zones such as Ukraine and seek safe haven here.

It is very important that we keep Ukraine in our minds just now. It would be very easy for it to drift off the news agenda or out of our minds, but Ukrainians are still under attack every single day. We must keep them in our minds, in every part of our business.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

Let me attempt to respond to hon. Members’ comments. First, we should be very proud that our country has welcomed over 193,000 Ukrainians fleeing some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable. I completely agree with the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey that we should not let the issue off the agenda or out of our minds. Just last week, the Prime Minister announced additional funding for the Ukrainian Government and people. We should be proud of that.

On clause 26, it is right that we make the experience for Ukrainian people in the United Kingdom as simple as possible. I understand that colleagues would like this measure to have been implemented more quickly, but there are a number of administrative complexities that come with it. That is one of the reasons why the 150 people out of the 193,000 people who have already registered their vehicle cannot be included in this measure, but as I have said, we are providing support in other ways. On that basis, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Robert Largan.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.