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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I apologise for adding a United Kingdom dimension to the Question. Is the noble Lord aware that the price of scrapping a vehicle at my local scrapyard in Alloa is 30 plus the keys? Does he agree that under the new regulations at least an extra 50 will be required? Does he further agree that the likelihood of dumping in the countryside, whether in England or Scotland, will

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increase so long as the last user must pay at least 80, which, in the case of a banger, may be more than was originally paid for the vehicle?

Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords. Not long ago, people paid you for your car, but now you must pay them to take it and give them access to it if it is revivible. The economics have changed. The end-of-life vehicle directive will also create a further responsibility and a cost. Continuous registration will require the last registered owner to take that responsibility, and, from 2007, the responsibility will be on the producer. We have a two-stage programme to deal with the fundamentals of the problem. In the mean time, we have given local authorities more powers.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, most abandoned vehicles that I come across do not have many wheels, if any, and some have been set on fire. What is the point of allowing local authorities to clamp such cars?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the back streets that my noble friend frequents are perhaps not a great case in point. Such powers would be somewhat belated there. Nevertheless, in some places there are abandoned cars in perfectly good condition but which the alleged owner is not prepared to remove. Under previous regulations, we had very little leverage in such situations. Clamping helps in those cases and when cars are abandoned on private land.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that abandoned cars are merely one particularly objectionable form of litter? Litter is increasing hugely on our roads, particularly on trunk roads, which are the responsibility of local authorities, which simply do not do their job. Would it not be simple for the Highways Agency to clear up the roads that local authorities have failed to clear up and send them the bill?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I doubt it, as there is a clear demarcation between Highways Agency roads and local authority roads. A local authority is responsible for keeping all its roads clear and in reasonable condition. Although the noble Lord has been concerned about the issue for some time, statistics indicate that roadside litter has improved—though it is still a serious problem is some parts of the country. I am not sure that the problem could be dealt with under the powers to deal with abandoned cars, although strictly speaking they are litter, too.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the SORN regulations have been in place for some time. How many prosecutions have been initiated under them?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is a very good question. I shall write to the noble Earl. Although the SORN regulations are helpful where there are records, they are not particularly helpful in cases where a car is

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not registered. That is why continuous registration and placing responsibility on the last known, reported and registered owner are an important improvement.

Lord Monson: My Lords, further to the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, approximately what proportion of abandoned cars have been stolen by yobs and set on fire for fun? Lincolnshire is full of such burnt-out wrecks.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot give an overall figure. Most abandoned cars are faintly serviceable and therefore not burnt out. I am afraid that information on the number of wheels on such cars is beyond my statistical records.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, tracing the previous owner of an abandoned vehicle, making him liable, as the law says, and extracting money from him to remove the vehicle and have it destroyed is likely to be costlier than disposing of the vehicle in the first place and likely to lead to an unreasonable delay. How do the Government intend to handle that dilemma?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, tracing the previous owner does not stop a local authority removing a car and disposing of it after the due notice period. Much of the cost of that would be met under the system of continuous registration by the previous registered owner. We cannot have a situation where the last traceable owner says, "I sold it in a pub and it is no longer my responsibility". The fact that the alleged new owner had not registered the car can no longer be used as an excuse by the previous owner.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, the Minister said that the owners of abandoned vehicles were not prepared to remove them. What, then, is the point of clamping them?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in certain circumstances, it is clear that an abandoned car is worth something and that at some point, therefore, the owner will return to collect it. The authorities will have to use their discretion in deciding whether to tow away a car or clamp it. It will depend on their view of the nature of the offence and the value of the car. If the owner wants it back, he will have to pay the unclamping fee and a fine.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, what happens when a vehicle has apparently been abandoned but yet has current vehicle excise duty?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is still an abandoned car, but it is taxed. If the car has a tax disc, there will be a record of the owner, who will be liable.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, are the Government considering altering the current situation whereby, if a car is abandoned on private land, particularly farming

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land, the cost of removal lies with the landowner, whereas if one is abandoned in a street it is a local authority matter?

Lord Whitty: In some respects, my Lords, in that we have recently consulted on reducing, from 15 days to five, the period of notice to landowners in which they might object to a local authority going on to the land to remove a car itself. Although there has been opposition to the reduction, most local authorities are in favour of it, as are some landowners. We will decide whether to proceed with it very shortly.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, who is liable if a car has been stolen and then considered abandoned? If the police have been notified of the theft, who is responsible?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, if the police have been notified of the theft, the owner would not be responsible so long as the theft was reported prior to the car being found abandoned.

Carers: Rights and Entitlements

3.20 p.m.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I remind your Lordships that today is carers' rights day.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that carers are aware of their rights and entitlements.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, the Government are pleased to be supporting Carers UK in promoting carers' rights day 2003. My honourable friends the Ministers for community and for disabled people will be launching this year's event this evening.

As my noble friend knows, the Government, working with the public, voluntary and private sectors, have made major improvements to carers' entitlements and knowledge of their rights. Carers' rights day will help to ensure that even more carers receive the support available to them in the demanding work that they do.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and am happy to acknowledge the huge progress that has been made for carers in recent years. However, my noble friend will know that, in spite of two Acts of Parliament, most carers are still unaware of their right to an assessment of their community care needs and that, therefore, too many of them are not getting one.

Does my noble friend think that it would be helpful to review the performance assessment framework that local authorities use, to see whether we are measuring the right outcomes for carers? The key seems to be to

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change the behaviour and attitudes of local authorities, especially social services departments, so that they recognise what carers need.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that there are still problems and that more must be done. Work is in hand in my department to develop a measure of carers' assessments and their outcomes, so that it can be used to monitor a council's performance. Discussions are in progress with the Social Care Institute for Excellence to develop a good practice component to assessments on the Department of Health carers' website.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, one of the few bright spots in the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill were the amendments secured by the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, regarding assessments for carers, when the person for whom they cared left hospital. Does the Minister's response mean that those assessments will also be included in the performance assessment that he outlined? Those rights came into effect this October, and it will be important to monitor and assess them.


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