Continuous Insurance Enforcement, bureaucracy and big government

In these times of austerity it must be reassuring for the likes of Ed Miliband and his band of big state, champagne Fabians to see that this (supposedly) cost cutting government continues to generate work for itself in order to cause inconvenience to law abiding car owners.

The latest example is the recent change to insurance requirements for those car owners who choose to keep their taxed vehicles off the public highway, known as Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE).

If for example a driver has a car he uses on, say, a seasonal basis – such as a soft-top or classic car – and the vehicle is properly taxed, the law has been changed to force the driver to keep that vehicle insured.  Whereas common sense would dictate that if a properly taxed vehicle is off the road for a period of time there should be no need to have motor insurance for it, the government has decided otherwise.  The thinking behind it is to reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road.  The reality is that this could turn otherwise law abiding motorists an even larger cash cow and significantly increase the bureaucratic overhead required to monitor and enforce the new law, at taxpayer expense naturally.

Drivers who wish to keep their vehicles off the public highway for a period of time often don’t bother with the trouble of completing a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) and sending back their tax disc for a refund of unused duty.  That means the Treasury benefit from a bit of extra money and there is less bureaucratic work required of civil servants.  Now however they must complete a SORN and return the tax disc, or they must by law pay insurance premiums even though their vehicle is off the highway and not an accident risk to anyone.  Not having insurance on such a vehicle because it is plainly unnecessary is no longer acceptable.

What the government has done is not only counterproductive, it also undermines case law dating back to 1777 that enshrine the fundamental principle of insurance cover.  It is ably explained by Tony Bridgland writing in Insurance Age magazine:

In 1777, a ship was due to sail from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Under her insurance, it was warranted that she would make the voyage in convoy. But she was late in arriving at the assembly point, and the convoy sailed without her and she sailed alone.

This meant that, because the warranty was not satisfied, the insurers carried no risk.

In Tyrie v Fletcher, Mansfield ruled that the premium should be returned. In short, they could not charge for a risk they had not run.

This became one of the main principles of modern insurance, and still is.

So what we have is an example of hyperactive, interfering government tearing up long standing insurance and legal principles so that motorists are being charged for a risk they are not running.  True, they can avoid this, but only by declaring their vehicle off the road and claiming back their unused duty, then at more inconveience to themselves, having to present at the Post Office (assuming it hasn’t closed down) with all documentation to get a new tax disc later – not even being able to make use of the online mechanisms to get the disc.  As the sole commentator to the piece observes:

If you are a crim who thinks nothing of risking a £200 fine, 6 points and the car being scrapped when you take it on the road, the risk of a further £100 fine through the post is not going to get you quaking in your boots, is it?

The only people being put out and paying extra to service the administration of this change are the law abiding.  The people the government claim they are targeting will continue their law breaking regardless, in all probability not even having tax in the first place let alone insurance (and in many cases not even having a licence) and on the rare occasions they are caught will take the slap on the wrist as the price of doing business and carry on as if nothing has happened.  The answer is our money being spent on police traffic patrols instead of cash generating speed cameras.  Speed cameras don’t identify dangerous vehicles, dangerous drivers, or catch those without licences, tax or insurance.

And we wonder why we end up with ever more laws, pay ever more in tax and have ever less to show for it.  Be sure of one thing, if big government claims to have the answer then it is a bloody stupid question.

13 Responses to “Continuous Insurance Enforcement, bureaucracy and big government”

  1. 1 permanentexpat 14/07/2011 at 1:27 pm

    Colour me surprised!

  2. 2 Uncle Badger 14/07/2011 at 1:40 pm

    I’m glad you picked this one up, AM. It’s been troubling me since the announcement and the enormity was brought home when I received the reminder that my Thieving Bastards Tax was due… I’m sorry, I may have meant to type ‘RFL’; (or whatever they call the scam these days).

    I find this entire area troubling. I accept the need for compulsory insurance. I agree that there are far too many uninsured vehicles n the road. But I think car insurance is an absolute rip-off and having it mandated by the gummint simply adds to the numbers given a licence to print money.

    Both habitually and philosophically I resist government provision of just about anything, but I have often wondered whether, as the government make us have third party insurance by law, it should, in turn, offer an affordable means of acquiring it – perhaps as part of the vehicle licensing scheme.

    Open to all the usual problems of government ‘services’., I know, but the current system is wretched.

  3. 3 The Gray Monk 14/07/2011 at 3:13 pm

    It is only there to ensure that the civil service can hire another 20,000 parasites to prey on the taxpayers…

  4. 4 Derek 14/07/2011 at 4:02 pm

    I you do not want to get caught out, simply SORN the vehicle. Guaranteed to keep you out of trouble, and work for the morons to do. Pity it’s us that ultimately pays. Scum.

    SORN was by many seen to be a way of permanently applying tax to all vehicles – on road or off, in pieces in a garage or loft, or not, as to SORN a vehicle was intended to be charged for. That’s another bucket of worms that could resurface. Getting a refund on unclaimed insured periods is not worth while. But is for unused road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty).

    If insurance was not necessary, then each individual would be obliged to cough up for damages caused. Responsible people would ensure they caused no damage, and those who are not, would find themselves in clink, skint, or running around just as they do today. The insurance companies make fortunes and are linked closely to the banking syndicates, hence, insurance for ‘anything’ is available – teeth, pets, raining on your wedding day – anything.

    Insurance was once describe to me as; Something needed by a person who could not afford that which they have, own or desire. Insurance is not used by some – those who have sufficient wealth to replace what may be lost or damaged without affecting their financial bank. Very nice – maybe.

    Once things become greater than any individual can afford, like the recovery of a sinking ship and cargo or collapsed structure, then we are into a whole different game.

    Ever tried getting Royal Mail to cough up after losing ‘insured’ goods? It’s a joke.

  5. 5 Delphius 14/07/2011 at 10:59 pm

    In theory, continuous insurance was supposed to lower premiums because there would be fewer “risky” uninsured drivers on the road.That’s in an ideal world, but of course the world most of us live in is far from ideal.

    In practice, it gifts the insurance companies with customers that have to insure their vehicles by law, so with customers having no other option, the insurance companies can charge whatever they want and we still have to cough up.

    Hence the recent 20 percent or more price hike.

    If the government want a minimum level of continuous insurance, then it should be incorporated into the tax disc, petrol duty, vehicle licensing or whatever at a minimal cost (after all the risk and cost would be spread across many, many motorists so the costs should be small).

  6. 6 Patrick Harris 14/07/2011 at 11:10 pm

    There is , officially, no such animal as a “car owner” you are merely the “registered Keeper” (have a look at your registration document – it used to be called the “owners log book”).
    As you are not the legal “owner” the authorities do not have to resort to the law courts in order to confiscate your car.
    As insurance becomes ever more expensive more and more “registered
    keepers” are going to have to say good-bye to the motor.
    Houses will be next, No, then why has the Land Registry been abolished?

  7. 7 woodsy42 15/07/2011 at 12:33 am

    If you have a classic car it becomes even sillier, as well as annoying, because to sorn it you have to send back the free road tax disk for a refund of nothing, then have all the palaver of retaxing it when it goes back on the road after the winter.
    I made some comments on it some weeks ago, here:

  8. 8 Derek 15/07/2011 at 8:40 am

    That’s correct Patrick. As registered ‘keeper’ we are only allowed on the roads at the behest of the ‘owner’, being the DVLA. This we consent to when signing the V5C. From then on it is their property to do as they like with if we default on their conditions which we ‘consented’ to.

    They own the network, everything that is on it, and make us pay for the ‘privelege’ of using it and them. The current returns from all forms of taxation on road vehicles in one year (including that paid on insurance, servicing and parts) would pay for a complete duplication of the existing road system. ‘Road Tax’ soon lost its allocated title when less than all of it got spent on the ‘roads’.

    The end game would appear to price everyone off the roads unless you bought a new vehicle every year, with deep pockets to boot. But people power seems to be a stumbling block.

    France is proposing to stop two wheeled vehicles over a certain age from entering cities to cut down on emissions. That age is anything built before 2004. I don’t call that ‘old’, and banning something that helps reduce congestion on the roads should be encouraged. No logic in stupidity, and stupidity grown from greed.

  9. 9 Rick Hamilton 15/07/2011 at 12:59 pm

    The sheer boneheaded stupidity of British regulations only comes home when you live in a better run country, in my case Japan.
    Here, compulsory insurance is required to renew your registration every 2 years at the time of the MoT test. You get a sticker on the windscreen so every car is insured (third party only) which means anyone can drive it and the police can see immediately who’s not insured. You take out fully comprehensive cover separately. If you don’t use the car at all – say a classic being rebuilt for a couple of years – you just deregister it until you’re ready and of course you don’t need the insurance.
    As for the stupid British driving licence, why on earth do you need a plastic card AND a bit of paper? is it beyond the wit of man to put all the data on the photocard?
    If the UK looked carefully at other countries’ methods it could do a lot of things far, far better. But that probably isn’t the intention.
    Don’t even get me started on the NHS……………..

  10. 10 Dead Dog Bounce 15/07/2011 at 1:48 pm

    Presumably, what they intend to do is match the database of licence plates with the database of insured vehicles, and the police (or whoever) will simply run each plate through to spot un-insured cars.

    Another unforseen issue here is, what about people who don’t own private car parking? You can’t fill in a SORN if the vehicle is parked on the road, but equally, you CAN choose not to drive (and therefore need to insure it).

  11. 11 jameshigham 15/07/2011 at 2:46 pm

    Whereas common sense would dictate that if a properly taxed vehicle is off the road for a period of time there should be no need to have motor insurance for it, the government has decided otherwise.

    Pure PCism of the worst sort.

  12. 12 Steve 17/07/2011 at 6:45 pm

    Only an idiot would not insure his summer MX5 (or whatever) in the winter. The thing can get stolen after all.

    All the beat bobbies and PCSOs in the land know where dodgy cars are parked, but have a hell of a time catching them when they’re not parked. Its a great idea (till all the beat bobbies and PCSOs get sacked of course).

  13. 13 edwin denton 15/08/2012 at 3:36 pm

    DVLA have admitted to me that due to the vast number of transactions some declared SORNs will not be captured by them .A form V983 is sent to the Keeper stating that a Sorn has not been made and asking for an explanation. Should you receive a V983 my experience shows that you should challenge DVLAs assertion by asking for a copy of the V14.Act quickly as refunds of tax are as you know only for complete remaining. months.More importantly whilst the DVLA records indicate that no SORN has been declared the Keeper may be liable for fines under the Continuous Insurance Enforcement Law which started mid 2012

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