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Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: In this evening's debate, no hon. Member on either side of the House has disputed that

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the existing system is riddled with anomalies, that it is out of date, and that it has great difficulty in coping with new vehicles that arrive on the scene and with technological changes. I have described some examples that give rise to those difficulties. My proposals are major, simplifying measures. They will make it a great deal easier for the trade, for users of the vehicles and for the Vehicle Certification Agency. They will reduce the classes of vehicles by more than 90 per cent.

Of course, no reform is painless and any group of users of vehicles affected by any increases are bound to argue against them, but I answered those points in my introductory remarks. The additional points raised in the debate cover a specific group of amendments which will arise later in the debate, so they will be covered. I am disappointed that the Labour party is persisting, apparently, with a number of amendments that continue and take forward local authority privileges. I have already shown that, under its proposals, some of the vehicles that it wants to be exempt will face full duty if used in a mode on a Monday, but complete exemption if used with a slight adaptation on a Tuesday. That cannot be right. It invites evasion and, administratively, it is unworkable.

I will, however, answer the points raised by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) because the police vehicle issue may not arise again. I assure him that the definition used for police purposes is common in transport legislation--it is used, for instance, in the Severn Bridge Tolls Act 1965. It will not give rise to litigation or ambiguity of the sort that he fears.

I confirm to the hon. Gentleman that leased vehicles will be covered if they are leased for more than a month, but commandeered vehicles will not be covered and the owner will not be able to claim exemption, unless the vehicles are commandeered for whole months at a time. In answer to the point about unmarked police surveillance vehicles, they will benefit from the exemption, but, for obvious reasons, they will display a tax disc, as if vehicle excise duty had been paid. As we are taking forward a definition that is used in other legislation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the clause, as drafted, is sound.

Question put , That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided : Ayes 208, Noes 297.

Division No. 54] [8.07 pm


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Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Banks, Tony

Barnes, Harry

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

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Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D N

Canavan, Dennis

Cann, Jamie

Chisholm, Malcolm

Church, Judith

Clapham, Michael

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Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cohen, Harry

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Cousins, Jim

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Denham, John

Dixon, Don

Donohoe, Brian H

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foulkes, George

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A

Golding, Mrs Llin

Graham, Thomas

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Harman, Ms Harriet

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Kate

Home Robertson, John

Hoon, Geoffrey

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hutton, John

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jamieson, David

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)

Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Keen, Alan

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)

Khabra, Piara S

Kilfoyle, Peter

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Liddell, Mrs Helen

Livingstone, Ken

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

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