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.