Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by the Department for Transport (MMS 42D)


  This letter provides further information following the Secretary of State's appearance before the Transport Committee on 15 January 2003.

  1.  In response to a request from Mr Stringer (Q654), I attach a note on the Department's current vehicle excise duty enforcement initiatives (Annex A).

  2.  The Secretary of State also agreed to provide the Committee with details of the revenue support that the Government provides local authorities (Q 659). Total revenue grant to be distributed to English Local Authorities in 2003-04 amounts to £43.9 billion. In addition to the block funding allocated by formula, further revenue support is provided to local authorities for transport in the form of fuel duty rebate, urban and rural bus grant and other small revenue measures.

  3.  In addition you sent two requests via e-mail to the Department. The first requested results from the new model in the format of Figure 13, page 27 of the Background Analysis to the 10-Year Plan. This contained six sets of data: the baseline, "with-plan", and four illustrative scenarios. Our baseline and "with-plan" figures were supplied to the Committee in the paper on the National Transport Model on 15 January. We have not undertaken the additional illustrative scenarios, and, given other demands on the modelling team, are not able to divert resources away from review work to provide this information. However, if comparable tests are undertaken as part of future review work then we would be happy to share these with the Committee.

  4.  The second e-mail, on 27 January, sought clarification on the levels of congestion estimated for 2000 from the old and new models. As the Secretary of State's statement to Parliament on 17 December made clear, traffic levels in 2000 were higher than previously thought at the time of the 10-Year Plan. As the note submitted to the Committee on 15 January shows, there is considerable variation in traffic (and congestion) across the country. The new model estimates that for London, and in smaller urban areas, 2000 congestion was higher than estimated in the published 10-Year Plan. But for other areas and averaged across the network, modelled congestion in 2000 was lower. The essential issue is that our forecasts indicate that returning congestion to 2000 levels is now more challenging than expected at the time of the 10-Year Plan, for two reasons. First, our forecast of traffic growth is greater than in July 2000, which in turn gives a higher rate of congestion growth than previously forecast. Second, although measures in the plan will deliver significant reductions in projected levels of congestion, these may not be sufficient to secure a return to 2000 levels, as we now estimate them to have been.

  5.  Finally, you should note that, further to the paper we supplied to the Committee on 15 January, we have put a slightly expanded paper on the new National Transport model onto the Departmental website. This contains the underlying forecasts by mode consistent with the traffic and congestion figures published in the 10-Year Plan Progress Report.

25 February 2003

Annex A


  1.  The Committee sought information on the Department for Transport's efforts to pursue untaxed and therefore uninsured and unroadworthy vehicles. Dealing with unlicensed vehicles is the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). It is tackling the problem of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) evasion in a number of ways:

  2.  Police and traffic wardens report unlicensed vehicles as part of their day to day duties. Last year DVLA received some 2 million reports. These reports are processed at each of DVLA's 40 Local Offices. This enforcement activity resulted in 799,800 offenders being brought to book in 2001-02, bringing in £110 million to the Exchequer from fines, penalties and relicensing revenue.

  3.  In August 1997, the Agency launched its wheelclamping scheme to clamp and impound unlicensed vehicles. The scheme is undertaken by contractors, Vinci Park Services Ltd. To date since the wheelclamping scheme was launched, over 108,000 unlicensed vehicles have been wheelclamped, and of these 55,000 have been disposed of by crushing, (almost 50% of vehicles wheelclamped are left unclaimed). In addition the scheme has encouraged 607,000 motorists to voluntarily relicence their vehicles recovering some £80 million.

  4.  In April 2001, Newham Borough Council undertook a pilot scheme using DVLA's powers to clamp and impound untaxed cars as agents of the Secretary of State. During the 12 month trial it wheelclamped over 2,000 vehicles, with over 1,000 vehicles released on payment of fees. Most of the remaining vehicles were disposed of mainly by crushing. Newham found that by using these powers wholeheartedly it saw a reduction in the evasion rate locally from 20% to around 5%. It also saw the numbers of abandoned vehicles in the borough drop by about 10%, which was against the national trend.

  5.  The Secretary of State's announcement on 10 April 2002 on Abandoned Vehicles empowered local authorities to take on DVLA's wheelclamping powers to clamp and impound unlicensed vehicles. Other Councils that have now taken on those powers are Wandsworth, Croydon, Lewisham, Southend on Sea, Hastings, Middlesborough, and Cleveland & Redcar. Discussions are on-going with a number of other authorities. Empowering local authorities will help to bring permanent clamping operations to parts of the country not served by the current wheelclamping contract.

  6.  The proposals already announced to modernise the vehicle registration and licensing system include proposals to increase the level of enforcement of VED to underpin the modernisation initiative. One element of this is increase the level of wheelclamping, and set up permanent pounds in areas not currently served. These would include Devon, Cornwall, Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex, Kent, East Anglia, South Wales, North Wales, Lancashire and the North of Scotland. Only by increasing the size of the current scheme, and empowering local authorities will we have a truly national scheme for wheelclamping VED evaders.

  7.  The announcement on Abandoned Cars on 10 April also proposed making information on registered keepers available to local authorities using web-based technology by 2002-03. The work was piloted by Camden and Hastings councils in September 2002. National roll-out began in October and is expected to be complete by March 2004.

  8.  DVLA is involved in partnerships with other public sector bodies in Operation Cubit. This is a cross-cutting initiative originally devised with Kent Fire Brigade, Kent Police, Kent County Council and the Borough Councils to target abandoned and unlicensed vehicles. DVLA's involvement is to clamp, remove and dispose of any vehicles targeted in the operations. Successful operations have been undertaken in the Medway Towns, Swanley, Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Folkestone and Thanet areas of the county. In addition, Cubit style operations have been held in Hastings, Brighton, Cleveland, Liverpool, Basildon, Stoke-on-Trent, Telford, Bexley, and Havering. Further Operations are planned.

  9.  In February 2001 DVLA undertook a trial of a freephone hotline for members of the public to report apparently unlicensed vehicles. The trial was in the Hertfordshire area. Their Luton Local Office ran the trial and local campaigns in the area advertised the availability of the service. The trial proved to be successful and popular, and proposals are being formulated to roll out the scheme nationally.

  10.  In 2001-02 29 VED publicity campaigns were held in various parts of the country. The campaigns raised the profile of DVLA's wheelclamping and ANPR systems throughout the targeted areas and received extensive media publicity. During this period almost 158,000 motorists heeded the warnings of the publicity and voluntarily relicensed their vehicles, bringing in £13.5 million, which would otherwise have been lost. In that year 26,000 unlicensed vehicles were wheelclamped and of these 12,000 were disposed of by crushing.

  11.  The DVLA's Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) system, which uses digital technology to detect unlicensed vehicles, was launched on 11 October 2001. The system is portable and can be deployed quickly on any type of road. It is type approved by the Home Office and is used to target vehicles on the move. Offenders are prosecuted on the basis of camera evidence. This complements other schemes, which concentrate more on stationary vehicles.

  12.  DVLA provides databases of unlicensed vehicles (either national or regional) to police forces for use on their ANPR systems. It also provides a database of vehicles with no current keeper. 44 forces receive these databases. DVLA is also involved in a trial with nine Police Force areas in support of Project Laser, which is a scheme by ACPO to utilise ANPR equipment to deny criminals the use of the roads. The Home Office is in discussion with the Treasury on this.

  13.  The Vehicle Keepership Scheme is jointly endorsed by Assistant Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and DVLA. The scheme combines the reporting of registration offences with that of VED offences and simplifies police procedures. Thirty six forces are currently involved or have expressed an interest as part of a phased roll out.

  14.  DVLA and Sussex Police are undertaking a pilot, which will electronically identify unlicensed vehicles, caught via police speed cameras and transmit information direct to DVLA Local Office for enforcement action. If successful, the scope for increasing VED enforcement is quite substantial.

  15.  DVLA is working with local authority parking attendants to target unlicensed vehicles in council car parks. Currently 140 local authorities are involved with over 35,500 unlicensed vehicles being reported. This initiative has encouraged over 30% of those motorists to voluntarily relicence their vehicles. DVLA is developing the scheme further to roll it out nation wide.

  16.  A very successful Enforcement Conference was hosted at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire on 23 October 2002. This was the first of its kind and the delegates included ACPO rank police officers, Chief Fire Officers and local authority Directors. Its theme was "Working Together—Driving Down Vehicle Crime" and looked at initiatives to deal with the problem of the motoring underclass, ie those that drive unlicensed, uninsured and unroadworthy vehicles. The keynote address was given by the Roads Minister, David Jamieson. Other speakers included Professor Gloria Laycock of the Jill Dando Institute, and representatives from the Dutch registration authority, police, Newham, and DVLA. It looked at current initiatives, proposals for the future and best practice. It was very well received by all delegates, and plans are in hand for another conference in November this year.

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