Motor Vehicles (Duties and Licences) Bill 2015: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan.

I am pleased to open the debate on the Motor Vehicles (Duties and Licences) Bill 2015. In the light of the importance of the haulage industry to our export-led growth and to ensure Ireland remains competitive, it was announced in budget 2016 that the rates of commercial motor tax on larger goods vehicles would be reduced. The main purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to these reductions. The reductions, which will apply to all goods vehicles with an unladen weight exceeding 4,000 kg, will take effect for vehicle licences with a commencement date of 1 January 2016 or later.

The current structure for goods vehicles has 20 rate bands, ranging from the lowest rate of €92 for electric vehicles to €5,195 annually for the heaviest goods vehicles. As well as the reduction in rates for all goods vehicles, the rate structure is being simplified. From January there will be only five bands of motor tax, ranging from the current level of €92 per annum for electric goods vehicles to a top rate of €900 per annum for all goods vehicles in excess of 12,000 kg. The reductions are tapered from a reduction of €4,295 for the heaviest goods vehicle band to a reduction of €43 annually for vehicles weighing between 4,001 kg and 5,000 kg. There are no changes to the lowest two bands, which remain at €333 and €420, respectively.

The change will benefit the owners of some 29,000 goods vehicles. The higher rates that apply in Ireland by comparison to those in the United Kingdom, with the introduction of road user charging in that jurisdiction, have cause a distortion and led to comparatively higher costs for Irish-based hauliers. The changes provided for in the Bill go some way toward redressing the imbalance.

This is an interim measure pending the replacement of the current basis of taxation for goods vehicles, which is unladen weight. The system is out of line with the basis of taxation in other countries. Replacing it with a fairer system of calculation based on gross design vehicle weight is under consideration.

There are no changes to motor tax rates for any other category of vehicle. The total cost of the reductions is estimated at €43 million annually.

The Bill also contains further amendments to the legislation relating to goods vehicles. On 21 October 2015, a little over a week after the announcement of the budget reductions, a Court of Appeal judgment stated the practice of weighing an articulated vehicle on the basis of the heaviest unladen trailer was not adequately provided for in law and that only the mechanically propelled element of the vehicle - what is commonly referred to as the tractor unit - was liable for motor tax.

The judgment further provided that such vehicles, of which there are more than 10,600 in the fleet, fall to be taxed under paragraph 14D of the Schedule to the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952. This is the rate for non-agricultural tractors which attract an annual rate of €333. Prior to the judgment, paragraph 15 of the Schedule in question which contains the rates for goods vehicles applied.

Following receipt of the of the judgment, the necessary technical adjustments to charge motor tax on such vehicles at the tractor rate of €333 have now been made to the national vehicle and driver file. Rigid goods vehicles continue to pay tax at the goods rate and are not impacted by the Court of Appeal judgment. The judgment states that if it is the view of the Oireachtas that the owners of such tractors should pay an excise duty based on the weight of the trailer being hauled by the tractor, new legislation will be required to make that intention clear. On that basis, the Bill in question contains not only provisions to give effect to the rate changes announced in the budget but also provisions to bring articulated goods vehicles back within the scope of paragraph 15 of the 1952 Act, the goods category. This is an equitable approach as it means that all goods vehicles, articulated or not, will be treated in the same way for motor tax purposes.

The Bill is relatively short and contains six sections. Section 1 sets out the definitions contained in the Bill.

Section 2 provides for the new rates for goods vehicles to apply to motor tax dates with a commencement of 1 January 2016 or thereafter. Section 1 of the 1952 Act provides for duties of excise to be charged, levied and paid on mechanically propelled vehicles being used in a public place. Section 3 inserts a new subsection in section 1 of the 1952 Act to provide that, in the case of goods vehicles, a mechanically propelled vehicle means the vehicle inclusive of the additions provided for in the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) (Amendment) Act 1960. The current additions contained in the 1960 Act refer to a body, a part, a fitting or a receptacle. Later sections will provide for semi-trailers which are the drawn components of articulated trucks and trailers to be included as additions.

Section 4(1) excludes tractor units from the non-agricultural tractor category and provides in paragraph 5 of Part 1 of the Schedule to the 1952 Act, which is the goods category, for the unladen weight of goods vehicles to include the additions provided in the Act of 1960. Section 4(2) provides for the new rates for goods vehicles announced in the budget. Section 4(3) provides for the insertion of relevant definitions in the Schedule to the 1952 Act and deletes a subparagraph that is no longer of relevance.

Section 5(1) inserts definitions in section 1 of the 1960 Act that are relevant to the amendments being made to that Act. Section 5(2) provides for semi-trailers and trailers to be included as additions in the 1960 Act. Section 5(3) provides for semi-trailers and trailers to be included as additions in the enforcement provisions of the 1960 Act. Section 6 provides for the Short Title.

This is a short Bill with the purpose of giving permanent legal standing to the decreases in motor tax announced in budget 2016. The additional amendments are intended to bring articulated goods vehicles back into the category under which they had been taxed prior to the Court of Appeal judgment. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State and the Bill she has brought before us. The judgment was that articulated goods vehicles fell to be taxed at the non-agricultural tractor rate of €333 annually. That might have been how our learned lordships interpreted the law, but the economics of it are that articulated vehicles use lots of roads. They have a high PCU value, whereby one translates the value of a truck into the equivalent number of cars.

The laden weight of a truck accounts for all of the non-weather maintenance costs of a motorway. If a motorway were used only by cars, no maintenance would be needed. There is a rational economic case to be made that these trucks should be taxed on foot of these factors.

The explanatory memorandum which the Minister of State has circulated states that according to the judgment, there is no statutory basis for the practice of weighing a vehicle with a trailer. The economic basis is that the weight of the vehicle and trailer is what we must reimburse in our roads budget. This should include the weight of the truck and the weight of the load. There are weighbridges outside most large factories in the country. Regardless of whether there is a statutory basis, people want to know the weight of what goes into the factory and the weight of what comes out. This has a very sound basis in economics. We need to relate this, in turn, to the number of vehicles in use.

The so-called juggernaut problem is redefined, as the number of axles a vehicle has can make a substantial difference to its track cost. A relatively small vehicle with a small number of axles could be doing quite a lot of damage, while a large vehicle with a much larger number of axles could be doing relatively little damage. This must be scientifically worked out. Undoubtedly, what is on the trailer contributes to the road track cost with regard to the PCU value to which I referred and the infrastructure cost. When the trailer is laden this is also part of the bill.

What is being attempted is correct. Not that we foresaw what would be the result of the court case but we brought to the attention of the former Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, that changing the basis of the taxation of heavy goods vehicles should have been on the cards for a while. This is because the issue is not the unladen weight of the vehicle, which has been traditionally used as the basis for the taxation of heavy goods vehicles, but the laden weight per axle and this includes, as the Minister of State said, any trailer. We cannot allow these to go free or to be taxed at a low rate.

The timing is paradoxical, because on the night of the budget when the reductions were announced, many people in the haulage industry were very pleased with what had happened. In restating it in the Bill, the Minister of State will surely have their support. They were very pleased that the gap between their vehicles and vehicles from Northern Ireland was closed by what was done in the budget. Section 4(2) provides for those rates as announced in the budget and this will be welcome.

The Minister of State said the practice of weighing an articulated vehicle with the heaviest unladen trailer was not adequately provided for in law. It is part of the cost and it is very sensible. We want to reward vehicles which do not damage the highway and charge people for the highway cost of having them on those routes. It is important to do this.

We are building up a haulage industry. As the Minister of State said, it was at a disadvantage compared to the Northern Ireland hauliers. Firms which decide not to use hauliers also bear these costs. What the Government is trying to do via the budget would improve the competitiveness of every company in the country because companies would get a better deal either in respect of their in-house fleets or from the people they hire. That is why the measure has been warmly welcomed.

The Minister of State has also said later sections will provide for semi-trailers, which are the drawn components of articulated trucks and trailers, to be included as additions. They add to the cost because of the space they take up and the impact they have on the infrastructure.

I will read through the Bill before Committee Stage but, as matters stand, I am of the view it is the correct response to the High Court decision.

It was correct to implement the budget decision, which was widely welcomed at the time. With the case against the proposed scheme coming soon after the Legislature had gone out of its way to help the sector, it might have been felt that there is no gratitude for doing the right thing in public life. This remedies the issue and it will be welcomed. I compliment the Minister of State on the Bill.

I welcome the Minister of State. As the previous speaker noted, the legislation has been necessary since budget night to ensure the very welcome reduction in tax on motor vehicles of up to €4,000 for some haulage contractors. It is a heavy reduction that was welcomed on the night by the haulage contractors. The court ruling of 21 October 2015 dealt with the method by which motor tax rates are calculated for articulated vehicles. That was traditionally done by referencing the combined weight of the tractor cab and trailer and the court ruled that the trailers could not be regarded as falling within the definition of the mechanically propelled vehicle. Accordingly, legislation was necessary, as the Minister of State and the previous speaker noted, to comply with the court ruling. Interim adjustments were made by the national vehicle and driver file and put in place by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport when this was first noted. Legislation is necessary to both restore the prejudgment definitions and taxation systems for articulated vehicles and also to give effect to the budget changes announced on the night.

As I stated, there were very welcome changes introduced. Every facet of society in the previous five years saw spending cuts imposed and various taxes implemented. Relieving taxes in one area is welcome and we have had a year packed with legislation aimed at addressing long-established cuts. They had been in place for five years really and people expected something back. This is one action we must take to make it right for the haulage industry and to comply with the court ruling.

As we are discussing vehicle registration, section 4(2) deals with electrically-propelled vehicles. The Bill makes provision for a €92 rate in respect of these vehicles. We will be considering electric cars in future. This week the Conference of Parties, COP 21, is ongoing and we had a climate change Bill in the House week. Only 222 electric cars were sold in Ireland last year. One way of incentivising people to buy electric cars would be to reduce tax further or incentivise the first year of purchase with a tax exemption initiative. In other European countries such as Sweden thousands of electric cars are sold every year. Ireland is really down at the bottom, with only 222 cars sold in 2014 and a very small number the year before. I read that from next year the ESB intends to impose charges in respect of people charging cars in public areas. When one parks one's car in order to do so, a parking charge must also be paid. We must examine such issues if we are serious about promoting electric cars and reducing CO2 emissions.

We do not often get the opportunity to speak about the taxing of cars, etc. One suggestion is to link fuel purchased to tax paid, leading to polluters paying more but the person who leaves the car in the driveway, not adding to CO2 emissions, pays less. People currently pay less for diesel fuel, but we saw what happened with the Volkswagen scandal. Diesel cars have been found to give out more pollutants than petrol cars. By 2010, the design of petrol cars had improved but the on-road emissions from diesel cars can be 20 times higher than lab results indicate, so we were getting false information. Perhaps some of our legislation is based on false legislation elsewhere. This is a matter which we should consider. Some other European countries and the European Commission have noted that the dieselisation of a nation's car fleet leads to costs in terms of hospitalisations, reduced quality of life, lost time at work and premature death. I know we tax our diesel cars in the same way as petrol cars so it is something to consider, along with the link to a road fuel tax.

We know that gardaí spend time stopping people to inspect tax discs and bringing some of them to court. Those people might emerge from court and go back on the road without paying a fine. There are police and courts costs but many fines are not collected. If tax was linked to fuel, it would streamline the car taxation process, relieving gardaí and the courts from that burden. In addition, there would be 50% fewer cases in the courts, which would also relieve pressure on the court system. The taxation system would also be grounded with an awareness of environmental harm, making a push with transport systems towards greater environmental responsibility. It is something to look consider, although not in the context of this Bill. We are discussing taxation and how to tax cars; the issue will emerge again but this is just to put down a marker. Everybody at COP 21 in Paris is discussing climate change and it would be remiss of me not to say that there should be some changes in this area. I welcome the changes in the Bill that come on foot of the budget and the court case from October.

Senator David Norris has five minutes.

I welcome the Minister of State. Five minutes will be quite sufficient.

This legislation comes about partly to comply with a court judgment and it is welcome that there will be a reduction in the tax levied on these vehicles because that will put us on a slightly more level playing field in Ireland in the context of the major transport industry. One of the complaints of the trucking lobby is that fees must be paid on the Continent for travelling through countries. We have nothing like that here, however; therefore, the field is not level at all. We are at a serious disadvantage compared with the other European countries. When this came in, our negotiators were apparently asleep on the job because they failed completely, for example, to negotiate corridors from Dublin to Donegal. That aspect was left out.

There are various costs here and putting Irish transport companies on a more level playing field by reducing tax is a good step. I will take up another subject that was glanced at by Senator Cáit Keane, although I do not quite know her view on it. It is the question of taxation of private motor cars. I had this argument with a former Deputy, Mr. John Gormley, when he was Minister. In accordance with Green Party policy, it should be the case that the polluter pays. In other words, the motor vehicle is not taxed. Rather, the tax obtains in respect of the petrol or diesel because it is these which pollute the atmosphere. I speak with some feeling on this and might as well declare an interest. I have an old motoring car and it is very lovely. It is a Jaguar XJ6 sports car with a 3.5 litre engine. It cost me €5,000, but I have to pay well over €2,000 in tax for it every year. If I combine that with insurance costs, I almost reach the value of the car before I put it on the road at all. Most of that car tax does not go anywhere near servicing the requirements of road users. It is used by the central Government for other Exchequer purposes. I would very much like to see a situation where the tax on large-engine cars would be reduced in parallel with the value of the car. My car's value is approximately €1,000 or €1,500.

Perhaps it might soon be taxed as a vintage car.

No, I am afraid that will be another ten years or so. It will be finished by then or I will be finished. Perhaps I might be using a driverless car at that stage. They are one of those wonderful electric vehicles that can be programmed.

I heard on the wireless that Volvo would cover people for accidents, an issue that someone had raised. I think that is pretty good. I would use a driverless car if I was covered for accidents.

There is a lack of logic. There is always a temptation within the Department of Finance to claw in as much money as possible but in a democratic republic we should look for some degree of fairness. In terms of climate change and what is happening in Paris as we speak, we must think in terms of the amount of pollution. I rarely use my car. I drive it down here, which is a mile or so from my house, and I take it to the cathedral on Sunday and then to the club for lunch and that is it - full stop. I make about two forays to County Laois every year and take the car. I will probably give that up fairly soon because I do not understand the new motorways at all. It seems to be a festoon of roundabouts between Maryborough and Mountrath and I have simply not the slightest clue where I am. I miss all the old wonderful landmarks. As I am on this little foray, I note how sad I am that we no longer go around that bend in the road in Tipperary and get that wonderful, dramatic view of the Rock of Cashel. Motorists are deprived by missing out on these glorious aspects of the countryside.

I welcome the Bill, but I wish the Minister of State would take back to the Cabinet a little protest from me to the effect that there is a degree of unfairness in the extraordinarily high rates of tax on old cars. Something should be brought in that does not fix the tax at the moment a large car is bought and keep it there until the vehicle is taken to the scrap yard. It means that old cars will be scrapped and there will be very few of them left. It is a waste. I put these few matters as suggestions to the Minister.

I thank the Senator for his foray.

I welcome the Minister of State. I will be brief.

The Bill is very welcome and it has come as a surprise to the Irish Road Haulage Association. It could not have come at a better time. Hauliers have been on their knees for the longest time due to the spiralling cost of fuel and toll charges, maintenance of vehicles and insurance. I have spoken on their behalf on numerous occasions. The issue was the fact that we were not in line with the tax rates in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. I am glad to say some hauliers will now enjoy savings of up to €4,200 per year. Nobody benefited more in the recent budget.

I agree with Senator David Norris to a large degree in respect of the tax on older vehicles. He is paying €2,000 tax on a car worth €1,000. I was involved in a Commencement debate earlier on a similar matter - the spiralling cost of car insurance. I gave two examples, one of a man aged 73 with a little Ford Fiesta worth €1,000 whose insurance is €880 and another of a young lad with a 2002 Audi worth €2,000 which he needs to go to college and for which the insurance company billed him this year for €2,648, or €648 more than the value of the actual car.

I welcome the Bill. It will certainly improve the cost of doing business in Ireland.

I welcome the Minister of State. The Motor Vehicles (Duties and Licences) Bill 2015 is required for two main reasons - first, to give full effect to changes to motor tax rates applying to commercial goods vehicles announced in the recent budget and, second, to deal with issues raised in a Court of Appeal judgment which deemed the taxing of articulated vehicles to be without a proper legal basis. The changes announced in the budget apply to all commercial goods vehicles and will reduce the rate of motor tax for approximately 28,000 vehicles in Ireland. The reductions are tapered from a reduction of €4,295 for the heaviest goods vehicle band to a reduction of €43 per annum for vehicles weighing between 4,001 kg and 5,000 kg. The rate structure is also being simplified and will comprise of five bands of motor tax ranging from €92 for electric goods vehicles up to €900 annually for vehicles weighing over 12,000 kg. Have we considered what the tax on driverless cars in future will be? Will we even be around when that happens?

There were no changes to motor tax rates for any other type of vehicle. The changes announced in the budget were given temporary effect by way of a financial resolution on budget night. The resolution would expire after four months if legislation were not introduced. A Court of Appeal judgment on 21 October 2015 in DPP v. Perennial Freight questioned the method by which motor tax rates were calculated for articulated vehicles. This has traditionally been done by referencing a combined weight of the tractor, cab and trailer but the court ruled that trailers cannot be regarded as falling within the definition of "mechanically-propelled vehicles". Accordingly, such vehicles now fall to be treated at the haulage tractor rate and the annual rate is €333. As the ruling is that no articulated vehicles fall within the goods vehicle category, these vehicles cannot have the new rates applied to them from January as only rigid trucks can now be taxed as goods vehicles. Amending legislation is required to exclude the vehicles from the haulage tractor category to allow them to be classified under the goods category.

I welcome the news for Irish road hauliers. I live on the Border and I know there are many businesses that have vehicles which traverse it on a daily basis. Those businesses could not compete with their Northern counterparts or hauliers from Great Britain who were coming in and receiving jobs local people could not compete for due to tax reasons. The hauliers campaigned vigorously for many years and the Government listened to them. They are now more competitive with their Northern Ireland compatriots and with Great Britain. All hauliers should welcome the Bill. I encourage the implementation of the legislation as soon as possible.

The Minister of State is very welcome. The Bill is very technical and necessary. I take the opportunity to raise a couple of issues on the overall tax system for vehicles as a whole. We must ask why gardaí are even monitoring whether people pay their motor tax. In reality, checkpoints are a leftover from the 1920s and they are rarely seen in other European countries anymore. This is partly due to our experience during the Troubles I believe. Surely, toll roads and CCTV can be used to monitor tax compliance. Why do we need to use vital Garda resources to monitor tax, which is a civil matter? Do people think gardaí signed up to stand at the side of the road to check tax discs on car windscreens? I think not. The United Kingdom has done away with tax discs completely after 93 years. They had tax discs for 93 years but last year they did away with them and moved to an electronic system, which is much more sensible. Rather than the visual check the tax disc made possible, the UK authorities now use number plate recognition cameras to see if a vehicle has been taxed. Since the system was introduced, the UK authorities have raised 50% more cases against untaxed cars. It is clear that a Garda at a checkpoint is not able to check as many cars as a camera on a motorway. Our system appears and is antiquated. Is it possible to look at ways to modernise it?

All of this should be done online now. The availability of technology means there is little reason for tax discs to be sent in the post. More importantly, gardaí should not have to physically stand at the side of the road to check tax matters. It should be possible for such checks to be done by means of automated cameras, as is the case in other EU countries. We need to think about freeing up Garda resources to tackle rural crime, which is a big problem. We are making expensive tax collectors of gardaí by making them stand at the side of the road.

I would like to go beyond that. We should look at collecting tax in a much more efficient manner. In most countries, there is either motor tax or toll roads but not both. I think it is nonsensical that for some reason we have both motor tax and toll roads. Why do we need a massive system of motor tax administration that involves motor tax offices, Garda monitoring, sending out tax discs, court appearances, filling out forms in Garda stations and so on? There has to be a better way.

I am impressed by the system used in Switzerland, to take one example. I did not know until I discovered it recently that there are no toll roads in that country. Anyone who wants to use a Swiss motorway must buy a vignette, or sticker, which costs approximately €40 a year and can be purchased at any petrol station. All foreign visitors to Switzerland must purchase one also. Fines of approximately €200 are imposed in cases of non-compliance. If we have foreign cars using the roads, surely they should pay €40 based on the Swiss model. Such a contribution would bring more money into our coffers and help to reduce costs for Irish motorists. Does the Minister of State have any views on this? Could the Government undertake a cost-benefit analysis of such a system of fair usage? I do not expect that to be done tomorrow, but I believe it should be possible for such an analysis to be done. The very idea of toll roads is a dated one. Like the turnpikes of the 19th century, some of the modern-day tolls merely serve to slow people on their journeys. We should consider the Swiss model.

The Revenue Commissioners collect income tax, the universal social charge, capital gains tax and corporation tax. Local authorities collect commercial rates, business improvement tax, district taxes and levies and the non-principal private residence tax. The motor taxation office collects motor tax. An Post collects television and dog licence fees. I am not sure whether the dog licence is still around. I cannot believe it is worthwhile. The Private Residential Tenancies Board collects the residential landlord tax. In France, for example, rates are collected with electricity bills. In addition, people who do not have television sets must opt out of the licensing system rather than opting in. Perhaps we should examine the French system, because it seems to be much more efficient. This matter needs much more discussion. There is so much potential. I have mentioned some innovative ideas in the area of motor tax and taxation in general. It is possible for us as a nation to take care of them. If we were to do so, I think we would benefit from it as a whole.

I remind the House that we are scheduled to complete all Stages of the Bill by 5.45 p.m.

I will be very brief. I thank all the Senators who contributed to the debate. I will respond to the most pertinent of the wide-ranging and interesting contributions made, which give rise to much thought.

I assure Senator Sean D. Barrett that it is recognised that unladen weight is not a satisfactory basis for motor tax. It is open to manipulation and it is out of line with the basis of taxation of commercial vehicles in other countries, which is generally based on gross design vehicle weight. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has established an interdepartmental working group to consider issues relating to the Irish haulage industry. In addition to the reduction in motor tax that has just been announced, the haulage industry is seeking a change in the basis of taxation from unladen to gross design vehicle weight and the introduction of road user charging. The group issued a consultation paper late last year to canvass the views of hauliers and other stakeholders on the options for reform of the commercial vehicle motor tax regime. Following consideration of these submissions, the group is to furnish a report containing recommendations on the future structure of commercial tax to the Ministers for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Finance, and the Environment, Community and Local Government. Any changes to the current structure will be considered in that context. It will be necessary to make amendments to primary legislation and technical modifications to the national vehicle and driver file. The likely date for implementation is from January 2018. The working group is also considering the feasibility of establishing and operating a road user charging system here. Given the technological requirements required to underpin a charging system, its introduction is a medium-term to long-term objective.

I note the comments made about electric vehicles. In budget 2013, a new band of €120 was introduced for electric vehicles with zero emissions. The rate for pre-2008 electric vehicles was reduced at the same time from €157 to €120.

I also note what was said about the polluter pays principle. There are no plans to replace the current system of motor tax with an additional tax on motor fuel. Motor tax receipts for 2014 were in the order of €1.159 billion. Maintenance of the tax base would require an increase in fuel excise rates of at least 20 cent per litre, which would have direct negative impacts on the rate of inflation and on economic competitiveness. Goods vehicles and other high-usage and high-mileage vehicles such as public service vehicles and buses would have higher costs under a pay-as-you-drive system. There would be other distributional effects, including on those with longer distances to commute. A significant increase in fuel duty would lead to an increase in cross-Border fuel purchasing, which would further depress the tax base and require a compensatory adjustment, either through further increases in fuel prices or elsewhere in the tax system, to make up the shortfall. The potential for an increase in fuel laundering is also clear. The benefits of a fuel-based tax would have to be weighed against these issues and many others before the change that has been proposed could be contemplated. In recognition of the lower average motor tax that is paid in respect of vehicles taxed on the basis of carbon dioxide emissions by comparison with pre-2008 vehicles, differential increases have been applied in recent budgets with a view to rebalancing the tax base while retaining the environmental incentive to purchase more environmentally friendly vehicles. The percentage increase in motor tax for passenger vehicles taxed on engine capacity was 7.5% in budgets of 2012 and 2013. This compares with average increases of 25.5% in budget 2012 and 19.8% in budget 2013 for vehicles taxed on the basis of carbon dioxide emissions. Any future changes to motor tax rates will be considered in the context of future budgets.

I note Senator Feargal Quinn's comments about the abolition of tax discs. Enforcement of motor tax, insurance and roadworthiness obligations and the instruments used to facilitate enforcement measures, including the application of number plate recognition technology, are matters for An Garda Síochána. Any change in the requirement to display on vehicle windscreens the discs mentioned by the Senator would need to be considered in the context of the application of number plate technology by An Garda Síochána generally in order to ensure adequate enforcement levels are maintained. The abolition of the paper tax disc in the United Kingdom since the beginning of October 2014 was enabled by greater use of automatic number plate recognition in that jurisdiction, which allows the authorities there to pursue the non-payment of tax. There are no plans currently to implement a similar proposal here. I will pass on the issues raised by the Senator to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

I put it to Senator Feargal Quinn that it should be taken into account that the number of toll points in Ireland is quite limited and they are largely concentrated in the east. That would bring its own issues also.

I think I have addressed most of the issues raised. I thank Senators for their co-operation.

Question put and agreed to.