Stephen Hammond is Member of Parliament for Wimbledon and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. Follow Stephen on Twitter.
One of the great things about serving as a minister in the Department for Transport is that you can help millions of people in a number of simple but important everyday matters. Rarely have I been as keenly aware of this fact than during a meeting I attended at the European Council last week.
On the agenda were proposals that, when originally mooted in the Autumn, would have meant British caravan and trailer owners were forced to put their vehicles through MoT tests, while classic and historic vehicle owners faced having their vehicles taken off the road if they had been modified – even if only slightly, for example with a new indicator.
Aside from the fact that these plans were unnecessary, it also quickly became clear that they were going to be extremely expensive – hitting the British Taxpayer with a £1billion bill over five years in test fees and lost time.
Happily, I am able to record a positive outcome from the meeting. Following months of close working with like-minded countries and meetings with concerned vehicle owners, we’ve been able to persuade EU Transport Ministers to agree a number of changes to the original proposals which mean small businesses and other motorists will not be forced to have their trailers and caravans subjected to mandatory MoT testing.
Equally, we have secured consensus on a far less prescriptive approach for historic and modified vehicles. UK testers and regulators will be able to continue using their expert judgement in allowing vehicles with higher spec modifications to pass MoTs as long as they are safe. And historic vehicles will continue to be exempt from MoT testing if they were registered before 1960.
Meanwhile, the new-look proposals will come at a fraction of the cost to the taxpayer – probably around £18 million.
We are not there yet and there is no room for complacency: the changes now need to be reviewed by the European Parliament prior to a final agreement. But there is no doubt that huge progress has been made and we find ourselves in a much better position than when the proposals were originally tabled earlier in the year. And what is equally certain is that I will be lobbying the European Parliament strongly to ensure these changes are delivered in the final directive.
During 13 years under Labour, British people simply didn’t have the protection that they ought to from the British Government when EU plans were not up to the mark. But with Conservative values at the heart of the current Government, they can be sure that, when it comes defending British interests in Europe, Ministers will look after them – and their wallets. And what better time to remember that than at this joyous – but inevitably expensive – time of year.