European Scrutiny Committee Contents


8 Roadworthiness of vehicles

(a)

(34131)

12786/12

+ ADDs 1-3

COM(12) 380

(b)

(34138)

12803/12

+ ADDs 1-3

COM(12) 381

(c)

(34139)

12809/12

+ ADDs 1-4

COM(12) 382


Draft Regulation on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers and repealing Directive 2009/40/EC



Draft Directive amending Council Directive 1999/37/EC on the registration documents for vehicles



Draft Regulation on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles circulating in the Union and repealing Directive 2000/30/EC

Legal baseArticle 91; co-decision; QMV
DepartmentTransport
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 12 December 2012
Previous Committee ReportsHC 86-xv (2012-13), chapter 1 (17 October 2012) and HC 86-xvi (2012-13), chapter 10 (24 October 2012)
Discussion in Council20 December 2012
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information awaited, but waiver granted under paragraph 3(b) of the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution in respect of document (a)

Background

8.1 The current EU regime sets minimum standards for roadworthiness testing across the EU. Before a vehicle is allowed to be put on the market, it has to fulfil all the relevant type or individual approval requirements guaranteeing an optimal level of safety and environmental standards. Every Member State has the obligation to register for the first time any vehicle that has EU type-approval on the basis of a "Certificate of Conformity" issued by the vehicle manufacturer. This registration is the official authorisation for the use on public roads and enforces the different introduction dates of different vehicles' requirements. Following this, cars on the road have to be regularly submitted for periodic roadworthiness tests. The aim of these tests is to ensure that such cars remain roadworthy, safe and do not pose any danger to the driver and other road users. Cars are therefore checked for compliance with certain requirements, such as those for safety and environmental protection, as well as for retrofitting requirements.

8.2 The Commission proposed this new package of measures dealing with roadworthiness of motor vehicles and trailers. It would move beyond the current regime by seeking to ensure a vehicle maintains compliance with its original specification throughout its life in respect of safety elements and environmental protection. The two draft Regulations and the draft Directive in the package would replace existing Directives already transposed into domestic legislation. The Commission's primary aim was to harmonise vehicle testing throughout the EU to reduce fatalities, injuries and harmful emissions. The package aimed to facilitate the market in second hand vehicles by easing the movement of used vehicles between Member States and to reduce fraud in the second hand car market.

8.3 Broadly the Commission aimed to:

  • widen the scope of vehicles that are to be tested;
  • increase the frequency at which vehicles are tested (for those Member States that require tests every two years);
  • ensure vehicles and their components comply with original manufacturers' specifications;
  • ensure higher standards for vehicle testers and test equipment;
  • facilitate interchange of information on vehicle inspection between Member States; and
  • reduce mileage fraud on used vehicles.

8.4 When we considered these proposals in October we recommended that the House submit a Reasoned Opinion on document (a) to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, pursuant to Article 6 of Protocol (No 2) on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality. We also noted that, whilst an issue of a criminal offence of odometer fraud had been resolved satisfactorily, other important issues remained, with regard particularly to the potentially onerous burdens for government, businesses and motorists. So we asked to hear, before considering these proposals further, about:

  • developments in working group discussions that might mitigate potential burdens; and
  • the Government's own assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposals.

8.5 We heard subsequently that:

  • it had proved impossible to hold a debate on our proposed Reasoned Opinion before the Protocol deadline of 22 October;
  • nevertheless, the Government would make use of our views in negotiation of the proposals;
  • it thought our work on the subsidiarity implications of the proposals was comprehensive, targeted and effective and it was essential that the Commission, other Member States and MEPs were made aware of it; and
  • the Government intended to challenge strongly provisions that imply costs for government, the public or industry and that this was the position it was taking during the ongoing negotiations.

8.6 We rescinded our decision to refer the Reasoned Opinion for debate, but decided to send it ourselves to the Presidents of the three EU institutions concerned. We reminded the Government that, before we would consider these proposals further, we wanted to hear about:

  • developments in working group discussions that might mitigate potential burdens; and
  • the Government's own assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposals.

Meanwhile the documents remained under scrutiny.[29]

The Minister's letter

8.7 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Stephen Hammond), writes now about developments in negotiation of the draft Regulation on period testing, document (a). (He tells us that the other two proposals have not yet been discussed.) He comments that the pace of the discussions in the working group dealing with the periodic testing proposal has been extremely fast — the Presidency's ambition to reach a general approach at 20 December Transport Council has been the driver for the rapid consideration at working group meetings.

8.8 The Minister says that:

  • the issue of high costs of the package has been a major concern for the UK and many other Member States;
  • at the early working group meetings it became clear that the Commission's impact assessment for the package was not sufficient to justify the draft Regulation, as it is not possible to tie the benefits of a particular intervention to the costs incurred;
  • this criticism was reinforced by a number of Ministers when the package was the subject of an orientation debate at the Transport Council on 29 October; and
  • in addition to heavy criticism of the impact assessment and its cost/benefit analysis, there was a widespread view from Ministers that a Regulation was not appropriate and that Directives should be the legal instrument deployed.

He adds that the analysis and views in our draft Reasoned Opinion, which aligned with Reasoned Opinions from other Member States, added significant weight to the concerns of the UK.

8.9 The Minister continues that since the October Transport Council meeting there have been extensive changes made by the working group to the periodic testing proposal:

  • the working group changed the legal form from a Regulation to a Directive — two Member States and the Commission have a reservation on this change and all other Member States support;
  • a key point is that the revised text, now a Directive, leaves Member States with far greater discretion than the original Regulation; and
  • this may allay some concerns that existed in respect of subsidiarity.

8.10 The Minister says that, for the UK, the key changes being taken forward are:

  • the change in legal form from Regulation to Directive;
  • redefinition of a roadworthiness test as a safety and environmental test, rather than a type approval compliance test (as now, safety critical components would still have compliance obligations);
  • 01 trailers (below 750 kgs) and 02 trailers (between 750 kgs and 3,500 kgs) are removed from the scope of periodic testing;
  • the requirement to de-register dangerous vehicles is replaced with an alternative;
  • changes to the definition of Historic Vehicles;
  • most T5 tractors (used in forestry and agriculture) can be exempted by Member States from periodic testing;
  • some testing equipment is no longer mandatory (alternatives are permitted);
  • there is a more flexible approach to ongoing training of testers;
  • for the purpose of re-registering a vehicle in another Member State there is an obligation to recognise a valid periodic test from the original state of registration;
  • there is more flexibility in being able to use electronic devices to conduct tests (this may reduce the cost of testing slightly, but has not been assessed); and
  • Member States would be allowed to exempt vehicles from testing if they are used exclusively on small remote islands — the Scottish Government raised this as a concern as there is currently such an exemption for some small islands in Scotland.

He comments that:

  • there would be no dilution in the standards of periodic roadworthiness testing in the UK as result of the changes made at the working group meetings; and
  • detailed changes that will allow wider deployment of scan tool equipment for a wider range of tests are likely to provide a modest improvement in standards and has the potential to reduce costs.

The Minister encloses a table, which we annexe, outlining the financial impact of these changes to periodic testing, comparing the original Commission proposal with the revised working group text.

8.11 The Minister concludes by saying that:

  • considerable progress has been made on the periodic testing proposal, document (a), and the text is now greatly improved;
  • many concessions have been gained and if a general approach is possible at the forthcoming Transport Council it would be sensible for the Government to protect these by indicating its support;
  • negotiations, however, are ongoing on some issues, including consideration of implementing acts or an alternative to mandate a five-yearly review to ensure technical changes are regularly reviewed;
  • the Government is continuing to work closely with other Member States on these remaining issues, but it is possible that some may not be resolved until the Council itself;
  • although the Government expects that the proposed general approach will be in a form that it would be content to support, he appreciates that we may not be ready to lift the scrutiny reserve on the proposal while the outcome of these further negotiations is unknown; and
  • he therefore would like us to indicate that we are content for the Government to support a general approach, pending completion of scrutiny at a later date, provided that an acceptable deal can be achieved at the Transport Council.

Conclusion

8.12 We are grateful to the Minister for this account of where matters stand in relation to the periodic testing proposal, document (a), and note the significant improvements that are now achievable. So we are content to agree, in terms of paragraph 3(b) of the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution of 17 November 1998, that the Government may, if an acceptable deal can be secured, support a general approach on the proposal at the December Transport Council. Meanwhile the document remains under scrutiny pending a report from the Minister of further developments.

8.13 As for the other two proposals, we note that there has been little discussion of them yet and they too remain under scrutiny pending further information from the Minister.


29   See headnote. Back


 
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