Fines reveal a million unknown cars

The Guardian

London, April 5:

It has been a remarkable trawl. In only three months, civil servants have found that Britain possesses a million more cars than had been realised. In lock-ups and old garages, flotillas of ancient Cortinas, dodgy Mondeos and rusty Reliant Robins have suddenly come to light.

Britain would truly appear to be a nation of car lovers. It is just that we are not too keen to advertise the fact. Indeed, many of us appear to be anxious to conceal it, for the discovery of the missing million motors has been made only since the Department for Transport began advertising automatic fines for not paying vehicle excise duty. The effect has been to reveal a vast motoring underclass. During the first three months of 2004, more than 10 million cars, vans and motor-cycles were taxed, a startling rise on the first three months of 2003 when only 8.5 million were taxed.

These statistics include 289,000 new vehicles while some of the rest of the increase will include forgetful drivers jolted into action by the threat of a 40-80 sterling pounds fine. But the rest, made up of more than a million motors, represents cars whose drivers had simply chosen to ignore the taxing of their vehicles - until now. Some of these vehicles may have been stored in old lock-ups or gardens, but many others were probably being driven illegally until the DfT decided to toughen up its act. The flushing out of these cars was welcomed by motoring groups, though they warned there are probably still another million illegal drivers on the roads. The discovery of the missing million will be welcomed by the government.