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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The government took very seriously problems posed by abandoned vehicles, DEFRA minister Lord Whitty told peers.

It had enabled local authorities to remove such vehicles more quickly and giving them wheel-clamping powers. Continuous vehicle registration would be introduced in January next year, and the government would ensure free take-back and treatment for all end-of-life vehicles by January 2007.

Conservative Baroness Byford said London continued to have the highest number of abandoned vehicles, which increased by 84,000 in 2000-01. More worrying, she said, was the situation in Yorskshire and Humber, where the number of abandoned vehicles had increased by 54%, and the eastern region where there had been a 47% increase. How could the police be expected to cope when figures from the Home Office last month reported rural crime had trebled since 1980.

Lord Whitty said rural crime was caused by entirely different social factors. The main reason for the increase in numbers of abandoned cars was the drastic fall in scrap metal prices. For that reason, and because of the non-registration and illegal driving of cars, there had been a significant increase.

'The combination of the greater powers that we have already given local authorities to remove abandoned cars, better co-ordination between authorities and, shortly, continuous registration will place responsibility on owners and give local authorities and police more powers', added the minister.

Scottish Liberal Democrat the Earl of Mar and Kellie said the prices of scrapping a vehicle in his local scrapyard in Alloa was £30 plus the keys. Under the new regulations at least an extra £50 would be required, increasing the likelihood of dumping in the countryside so long as the last user must pay at least £80 - which in the case of a banger, could be more than was paid for the vehicle.

Lord Whitty agreed, saying that not long ago, people paid you for your car, but now the own er must pay them to take it and give them access to it if it was revivible. The economics had changed.

'The end-of-life vehicle directive will also create a further responsiblity and a cost. Continuous registration will require the last registered owners 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 meantime, we have given local authorities more powers', he added.

Labour transport authority Lord Berkeley said most of the abandoned vehicles he saw did not have many wheels, if any, and some had been set on fire. What was the point of allowing local authorities to clamp such cars?, he asked.

Lord Whitty said in some places abandoned cars were in good condition but which the alleged owner is not prepared to remove. Clamping now helped in those cases and when cars were abandoned on private land.

Conservative Lord Marlesford said abandoned cars were merely one particularly objectionable form of litter. Litter was increasing hugely, he said, particularly on trunk roads, which were the responsibility of local authorities, which simply did 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', he asked.

Lord Whitty doubted that because there was a clear demarcation between Highways Agency roads and local authority roads. A local authority was responsible for keeping all its roads clear and in reasonable consition. Statistics indicated that the situation over roadside litter had improved, although it was still a serious problem in some parts of the country.

Hansard 4 Dec 2003: 481 - 484

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