Drivers of illegal foreign cars face police crackdown

A police officer stops a suspected unregistered car Image copyright PA

People breaking the law by driving unregistered vehicles from abroad are being targeted in a pilot scheme involving six police forces.

The police will use information held by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and obtained by UK Border Force about foreign cars on the UK's roads.

It is thought the problem costs the Treasury some £60m a year in lost car tax.

Offenders will have their cars seized and face prosecution.

The six police forces taking part are Thames Valley, Hampshire, West Midlands, and Northamptonshire, West Mercia and Staffordshire.

The crackdown on unregistered foreign cars follows a campaign from UK motoring organisations, which have raised concerns that the drivers are getting away with not paying vehicle excise duty.

When a vehicle is brought into the UK, its owner must register it with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency within six months.

'Danger on our roads'

But according to figures from the UK Border Force - which records the details of cars as they enter and leave the country and then passes these details on to HMRC - about 350,000 overstayed the six-month exemption period between 2010 and 2013.

In the past, the DVLA has relied purely on information from the police and the public to identify unregistered cars from overseas.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The DVLA, HMRC and six police forces will link up to enforce the crackdown on illegal foreign cars

Now they will be able to access information held by HMRC and pass it on to the police. It is the first time such information has been shared.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "These vehicles are a danger on our roads and the government is determined to crack down on foreign drivers who deliberately refuse to register and license their vehicles.

"We will use all of the information available to us to make sure we take tough action where necessary to keep our roads safe."

Police will be able to seize and impound any illegal foreign vehicles they find. The registered keeper will have to pay a £200 release fee and a £160 surety fee to get the vehicle back.

The DVLA will also issue a demand for the road tax owed on the vehicle, and go to court if the owner fails to pay.

The RAC, which publicly called on the government in July to take action to deal with the problem, has welcomed the move.

The organisation's head of external affairs Pete Williams said: "This announcement is good news for all law-abiding British motorists who have rightly felt aggrieved that foreign-registered vehicles are allowed to get away with not paying Vehicle Excise Duty after being in the country for more than six months."

He added that the crackdown might also enable the DVLA to identify unregistered foreign cars being driven without a valid MoT.

The pilot scheme starts in November and will run until February next year.

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