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(7) After the entry relating to section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—
"RTA section 144AKeeping vehicle which does not meet insurance requirements.Summarily.Level 3 on the standard scale.""
(8) After the entry relating to section 154 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—
"Regulations under RTA section 160 made by virtue of paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 2A.Contravention of provision of regulations (which is declared by regulations to be an offence) prohibiting removal of or interference with immobilisation notice.Summarily.Level 2 on the standard scale.
Regulations under RTA section 160 made by virtue of paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2A.Contravention of provision of regulations (which is declared by regulations to be an offence) prohibiting removal or attempted removal of immobilisation device.Summarily.Level 3 on the standard scale.
Regulations under RTA section 160 made by virtue of paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 2A.Contravention of provision of regulations (which is declared by regulations to be an offence) about display of disabled person's badge.Summarily.Level 3 on the standard scale.
Regulations under RTA section 160 made by virtue of paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 2A.Contravention of provision of regulations (which is declared by regulations to be an offence) prohibiting making of false or misleading declaration to secure lease of vehicle from immobilisation device.(a) Summarily.(b) On indictment.(a) The statutory maximum.(b) 2 years or a fine or both.
Regulations under RTA section 160 made by virtue of paragraph 4 of Schedule 2A.Contravention of provision of regulations (which is declared by regulations to be an offence) prohibiting making of false or misleading declaration to secure possession of vehicle in person's custody.(a) Summarily.(b) On indictment.(a) The statutory maximum.(b) 2 years or a fine or both""

 
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The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 100A, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 122A. There are other amendments in the group to which Members of the Committee will speak in due course.

Uninsured driving is a serious offence. We estimate that there could be 2 million motorists on our roads driving without insurance. The repercussions for those involved in accidents with uninsured motorists are very serious. It costs honest motorists around £30 a year extra on their premiums to meet the costs of uninsured driving. Last year, we announced a package of measures to crack down on uninsured driving following the recommendations of Professor David Greenaway, who carried out a review of motor insurance in the UK. That included, among other measures, a new offence of being the registered keeper of a vehicle which does not have insurance. We have consulted widely on that proposal and it was generally welcomed. Consequently, we are taking this opportunity to introduce amendments to this effect into the Bill today.

Amendment No. 100A therefore introduces a new offence into Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of being the registered keeper of a vehicle the use of which is not insured. Amendment No. 122A inserts a new Schedule 2A into the Road Traffic Act 1988 which will enable the enforcement agency to immobilise vehicles by wheel clamping, and remove and dispose of them on reasonable suspicion that the new offence is being committed. To avoid the offence, registered keepers will need to have either the registration number of their vehicle or the vehicle's owner named in the policy of insurance or security. Identification of offenders will be done from the record, ensuring consistency of approach, and also certainty—if you offend, you will
 
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be penalised. We already have a similar measure on vehicle excise duty, which has contributed to a reduction in evasion from 4.8 per cent to 3.4 per cent. The Committee will welcome those figures; I know that noble Lords will be satisfied only when they are down to 0 per cent, but there has been an improvement with regard to vehicle excise duty evasion. It represents a saving of £77 million per annum and 700,000 fewer untaxed vehicles on the road.

Those vehicles being kept off-road for good reason that have no need for insurance cover will be exempt so long as statutory off-road notice declaration has been made. Other exemptions will apply where the registered keeper has transferred the vehicle to another keeper, or the vehicle has been stolen and the registered keeper has complied with any prescribed requirements. Also excluded from the offence are vehicles currently exempt from the insurance requirements in Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Those include vehicles owned by authorities such as the police, the National Health Service and others.

If the vehicle is neither insured nor formally declared off-road, or if none of the other exemptions apply, the offence will attract a fixed penalty of £100. The offender has 21 days in which to pay the fixed penalty, during which no criminal proceedings can be instituted. The amount of the fixed penalty can be varied by regulation, and regulations can also prescribe a lower amount to be paid if settled promptly. New powers will enable the enforcement authority to enforce effectively from the record. The amendments will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring the Motor Insurers' Information Centre to disclose information to any prescribed person in connection with the enforcement of offences under Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1988, including the new offence of being the registered keeper of a vehicle without insurance.

The scheme will involve the enforcement agency running a regular exercise to compare the vehicles register against the motor insurance database, to identify those vehicles apparently uninsured. We expect the enforcement agency initially to send a warning letter, and if no remedial action is taken the keeper will receive the fixed penalty notice. However, there are a number of persistent evaders who will ignore warning letters and fixed penalty notices. If an evader does not pay a penalty within 21 days, he or she is liable to summary prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. Also, to ensure that we are able to tackle those persistent evaders efficiently and effectively, the new powers in Amendment No. 122A will enable the enforcement agency to clamp and, in appropriate circumstances, dispose of uninsured vehicles. Very similar powers have been introduced for vehicle excise duty evasion and have proved successful. Amendment No. 122A therefore enables regulations to be made so that the enforcement authority can exercise the powers where it reasonably believes that the new offence has been committed, and regardless of whether criminal proceedings have been brought.
 
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The regulations may provide that owners will be able to secure the release of their vehicle before disposal on payment of a fee, and evidence both that the registered keeper will not be guilty of the new offence of having an uninsured vehicle and that the person driving away the vehicle will not himself be guilty of using a vehicle without insurance under Section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. We expect the regulations to enable the keeper to recover his vehicle at no cost if he can show proof that he had, and continues to have, the necessary insurance. The regulations may also provide that a person is guilty of an offence if he interferes with a clamping device or makes a false declaration with a view to securing the release of a vehicle. The penalties on summary conviction are up to £500 for unauthorised interference of a clamping device, or up to £1,000 for removal or attempted removal of such a device. Making a false declaration attracts the statutory maximum fine on summary conviction or, on indictment, two years or a fine or both.

Under regulations, the Motor Insurers' Information Centre may be required to disclose information for the enforcement of offences relating to clamping and disposal of vehicles under the new Schedule 2A. That new measure to tackle insurance evasion will benefit not only the victims of those driving uninsured, but all motorists. I note that Members of the Committee have tabled Amendment No. 159, which has similar aims. However, I hope that they will feel able in the light of my comments to accept my Amendments Nos. 100A and 122A and not move Amendment No. 159. However, I shall wait on that amendment being spoken to. On that basis, I commend Amendment No. 100A to the Committee. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: I tabled Amendment No. 169A, which is in the group. I am grateful for the Minister's explanation of his amendment, and I am sure that all Members of the Committee will support it in principle. My amendment builds on his by seeking to ensure that, when a vehicle excise licence is issued, the MIIC database is checked to ensure that the vehicle or operator really is currently insured. I have to be honest and admit that my amendment was tabled months before his.

Presently, two types of fraud can be readily employed. The first is the good old-fashioned forgery. There is nothing special about an insurance certificate apart from its cost—in some cases, well over £1,000 for a car. The second is to use a certificate that is genuine but no longer valid, perhaps because only one instalment on the payment scheme has been made or the policy has been cancelled for some other reason. The MIIC will surely be informed immediately such a policy is cancelled. If my amendment or something similar were agreed to, it would be very much more difficult to tax a vehicle that was not properly insured.
 
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7.30 pm


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