Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Fifteenth Report


APPENDIX VIII

Memorandum by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions


VEHICLE EXCISE DUTY (IMMOBILISATION, REMOVAL AND DISPOSAL OF VEHICLES) REGULATIONS 1997 (S.I. 1997/2439)

  The Department has been asked by the Committee to submit a Memorandum on two points relating to this Instrument.

    (1)   The effect of regulation 4(1) and (2)(h) is that the Regulations will not apply in relation to a vehicle which is stationary at a time when, having been immobilised or removed, less than 24 hours have elapsed since it was released or removed. In a case where a vehicle which is not immobilised is removed under regulation 9(1)(a) and (3), is it intended that the claimant should be precluded from taking possession of the vehicle under regulation 12 until 24 hours have elapsed since it was removed? If so, explain the justification for this restriction.

  2. No such restriction was intended. Regulation 4 lists the circumstances in which the Regulations are not to apply in relation to a vehicle. These include (paragraph 2(h)) the circumstances where the vehicle is stationary at a time when, having been immobilised or removed under the Regulations, less than 24 hours have elapsed since it was released or removed. The purpose of this exemption is to allow a short period during which a person whose vehicle has been immobilised or removed can take steps to obtain a licence or take the vehicle off the road without the risk of its being clamped or towed away a second time.

  3. Regulation 12 specifies the conditions which have to be satisfied before a person can reclaim a vehicle that has been removed from the road and passed to a custodian. It is possible to argue that a vehicle that had been removed in circumstances where regulation 4(2)(h) did not apply would, at any time that it was stationary during the next 24 hours, become a vehicle in relation to which the circumstances specified in regulation 4(2)(h) applied and therefore a vehicle to which regulation 12 did not apply. In the opinion of the Department this would be an over-literal interpretation which would produce anomalous results. If a vehicle is not a vehicle in relation to which the Regulations have been disapplied by regulation 4 at the time it was removed, it should not be treated as subsequently coming within regulation 4 so as to preclude the owner from reclaiming it at any time. The Department will nevertheless consider whether the Regulations should be clarified so as to remove all scope for such arguments.

    (2)   Given that regulation 6(1)(b)(ii) provides for the release of a vehicle which, at the time it was immobilised, was an exempt vehicle, ought not regulation 17(1)(a)(ii) to have provided for this exemption to be a ground for claiming a refund of charges?

  4. Although it is unlikely that an exempt vehicle would be immobilised because authorised persons are instructed, before taking any action to immobilise or remove a vehicle, to check the vehicle register (which should show whether a vehicle belonged to an exempt tax class), the Regulations do nevertheless cater for the possibility.

  5. Regulation 6(1)(b)(ii) requires a vehicle to be released where an authorised person is satisfied that the vehicle was immobilised in any of the circumstances specified in regulation 4(2) or that the vehicle was at the time it was immobilised an exempt vehicle. The circumstances specified in regulation 4(2) include (sub-paragraph (b)) that the vehicle is an exempt vehicle and a current nil licence is displayed on it. Where it is claimed that the vehicle was immobilised or removed in those circumstances, regulation 17(1)(a)(ii) will apply. Where, however, the vehicle was an exempt vehicle was an exempt vehicle and a nil licence was not displayed on it, the circumstances specified in regulation 4(2) will not be fulfilled and regulation 17(1)(a)(ii) will not apply.

  6. The basis of the distinction is that, if a nil licence is displayed on a vehicle, it will be seen to be exempt, but not if one were not so displayed. Nevertheless if experience shows that there could be hard cases where this distinction would operate unfairly the Department will consider whether the Regulations should be amended accordingly.

25th November 1997


 
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