Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY 2001
340. Would it be possible to share in more detail
the evidence you have on that specific point with the Committee?
(Mr Newey) Do you mean now?
341. In writing.
(Mr Newey) I can send that to the Committee.
342. Are the numbers of checks you do rising?
I cannot carry in my head the number of vehicles there are on
the road and therefore it is difficult for me to estimate what
percentage that 16,000 checks really represents.
(Mr Newey) With UK based vehicles we reckon to see
on average a vehicle (HGV) every five years,
if you take the total fleet size. The difficulty with foreign
vehicles is actually having accurate statistics showing how many
are on our roads at any time. A UK vehicle will be on the road
all the time, a foreign vehicle will only be there for a small
proportion of the year, so trying to get some proportionality
into the figures is quite difficult, but it is our objective to
treat foreign vehicles in the same way we would treat our own.
If we are doing random checks obviously they get stopped randomly.
Increasingly the Inspectorate is doing targeted checks which rely
to some extent on intelligence.
343. When you said that Customs & Excise
look at red diesel and you look at other things, it set alarm
bells ringing. Are you convinced that every offending vehicle
from a non-British source is being apprehended? It is not falling
between two stools and different Agencies?
(Mr Newey) It would not fall between two stools for
that purpose. In terms of whether I can say every vehicle which
is doing something illegal would get caught, I cannot say that
obviously because the level of checks clearly means that some
would get through whatever, and we would have to put in an enormous
amount of resource to check everything. We are increasingly targeting
our efforts and, for example, the Dutch authorities tell us about
operators they believe are becoming more illegal and companies
we ought to have a look at, and we increasingly do that. We are
trying to filter out the ones which we think are most at risk
344. Do you think there is some justification
for British road hauliers making these comments?
(Mr Newey) It is very difficult to say.
345. Have you noticed any difference in the
amount of fuel being carried by those vehicles you are stopping?
(Mr Newey) There is very little evidence of that,
I have to say.
346. So your own instinct would be that there
is no hard evidence that would back this story up?
(Mr Newey) No. The main benefit foreign hauliers get
is that they buy cheaper fuel overseas and they continue their
journey in the UK and can often complete a journey and get back
before they have to buy any more fuel. That is their main advantage.
347. Mr Bennett, this question of enforcement,
in a large proportion of car crime in terms of parking offences
and speeding offences the fines are not collected because it is
difficult to track down the addresses. How satisfied are you that
the addresses on the majority of people's driving licences are
(Mr Bennett) Accuracy is one of our key issues around
enforcement of all kinds. One of the things we do is regularly
check the level of accuracy of the driver data base, in fact the
data base on the whole. On enforcement, we have been running at
about 4.1 per cent for VED evasion and we are down in 1999 to
3.9 per cent, so we are confident that the constant attention
to putting in punitive measures, if you like, on inaccuracy is
yielding a greater accuracy and we are collecting more enforcement
348. You are collecting more enforcement. Other
people are able to collect more enforcement because of the information
you give them which is accurate, is that it?
(Mr Bennett) Both. We are supplying information to
a wide range of people, primarily the police who are using the
information for criminal prosecutions of all kinds. But we are
also using it ourselves when it comes to VED based on reports
coming from the police and traffic wardens and pursuing those
through to completion, very often without a court settlement,
but taking a large numbersomething like 300,000to
court each year and prosecuting accordingly.
349. So for somewhere like Manchester City Council,
for instance, and its parking provisions, it is getting more accurate
information from you as to the addresses of people who are committing
(Mr Bennett) I would hope it is getting more and more
accurate. Whether it happens specifically in Manchester is difficult
to say but in overall terms we are confident that accuracy is
improving. We are taking significant stepsas you are probably
aware, the wheel-clamping initiative has helped with the public
approach to this and indeed stops evasion
350. That stops evasion of VED, yes, but what
about the rest of the fines which have to be collected?
(Mr Bennett) The point I was making about Vehicle
Excise Duty is that any time you are putting that through, you
are checking the validity of the record, so it is quite an important
point. You are talking about drivers however.
(Mr Bennett) The drivers prosecution side we do not
do, that is done by the police and also by VI.
352. But it is dependent on your records.
(Mr Bennett) It is dependent on our records, absolutely.
353. How accurate are your records? Do you do
a sample of records and check the address on the driving licence
against the address people are living at?
(Mr Bennett) Yes, we do a sample regularly of a representative
number of drivers, check the details against the base file. That
is where that figure comes from, so we know the last time we did
that exercise it was 2.1. It is not accurate enough, we could
always make it more accurate, and that is our thrust.
354. How do you establish that someone lives
at the address mentioned on the driving licence?
(Mr Bennett) We cannot do that directly, we can only
do it against a declaration, but it will ultimately come through
once the police deal with the case.
355. You have just given us some figures from
which you are claiming the performance is improving, what I want
to know is how you do that sample.
(Mr Bennett) We can only do that against data, so
we will check the data on the driving licence against the data
on our data base. We cannot validate that everyone lives where
they say they live, that would be a difficult thing to do.
356. So people can actually live at an address
which is advantageous as far as their insurance policy is concerned,
but also is advantageous in that when fines are sent to their
address for parking offences and for some road driving offences
they are not known at that address. Is that right?
(Mr Bennett) It is possible we cannot trace them back
to an address, of course. It is very difficult to tie down an
individual to an address. We depend really on self-notification.
357. The enforcement of a substantial amount
of the fines process is dependent on that, is it not? If we go
increasingly to fines being based on registration numbers for
speeding offences, it will become even more crucial, will it not?
(Mr Bennett) The accuracy of the address, yes.
358. You are not doing any checking up yourself,
you are simply relying on other people for that?
(Mr Bennett) Yes. There is a new initiative on the
name and address file to centralise all changes to the name and
address files, but most of that is based upon a self-declaration
of an individual as to where they have now moved. Short of visiting
each address and checking out the detail, it would be very difficult,
and of course you are only looking at the vehicle keeper on the
359. So most students who move away from home
to an area where the insurance policy would go up are unlikely
to declare to you they have changed their address?
(Mr Bennett) There is a problem, of course, with notification
of change of address. We cannot legislate for that but what we
are doing is picking up the vehicle side of things from our point
of view, the driver inaccuracies tend to be picked up through
the normal channels of investigation, the police and so on.
6 Note by Witness: The equivalent figure for PSVs
is three years. Back