Dáil Éireann - Volume 419 - 12 May, 1992

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Registration of Cars.

5. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some car owners who purchase new cars in the latter months of the calendar year have been known to defer registration of the car until the start of the year; if he will outline the way in which this practice is permitted; if he considers that it is an abuse; and if he will outline the steps, if any, he proposes to take to bring this to an end.

83. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment if he will outline the measures taken to ensure that owners of new cars register them promptly, and especially that they are registered in the year of purchase, to ensure that the State is not deprived of revenue to which it is entitled and to ensure that any subsequent [921] purchaser of such cars are not deceived as to its year of manufacture; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

96. Mr. Boylan asked the Minister for the Environment if Circular MT 900 issued by his Department has been withdrawn.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): I propose to take Questions Nos. 5, 83 and 96 together.

The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1991, provide a clear legal framework for the allocation of registration numbers, including year numerals, where vehicles are being registered for the first time. The application of the regulations is a matter for the licensing authorities. Circular MT 900 contains guidelines to assist the authorities in performing this function.

Mr. J. Mitchell: The Minister referred to a circular, MT 900, which forbids the registering in a later year of cars purchased and used during a particular year. I seek the leniency of the Ceann Comhairle to raise this issue at Question Time. Did the Minister see this photograph — which appeared in the Irish Independent of 11 November — of the Taoiseach driving a Jaguar car, which car was subsequently registered in January 1992?

Mr. Smith: I have already explained to the Deputy that the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1991, provides a clear legal framework for the allocation of registration numbers. This is a matter entirely for local authorities. Local authorities have to be absolutely satisfied that they are adhering to the guidelines. While I do not wish to make a precedent, because it is not normal to deal with a specific instance at Question Time, the matter referred to by the Deputy has been the subject of public debate, much of which was entirely unwarranted. The local authority concerned were completely satisfied about [922] the position when the licence was granted. The car had one test drive in November, which was perfectly legitimate, it was then garaged until early in January and——

Mr. Farrelly: The Minister does not believe that for a minute, does he?

Mr. Smith: ——the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, had a car on hire from Mullingar. That is public knowledge.

Mr. Farrelly: No, that is not good enough.

Mr. McCormack: A shocking answer.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I refer the Minister to Circular MT 900, which he mentioned in his original reply. Would he acknowledge that the circular refers to bona fide sales and first registration in the peak month of January? Would he not acknowledge that what the Taoiseach did was an abuse and was a very bad example to the rest of the public?

Mr. Smith: The Deputy seems to misunderstand two important factors: first, that the date of the purchase of the car——

Mr. J. Mitchell: Was 11 November; here is the photograph.

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, there will be no display. Let us hear the Minister's reply.

Mr. Smith: The date of the purchase of the car and the date on which use of the car began are two separate matters in the instance referred to.

Mr. McCormack: Can everybody do that?

Mr. J. Mitchell: Would the Minister not accept that the car was used on 11 November——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Mitchell [923] himself has already admitted that it is wrong to make a display of that kind.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I beg your pardon, a Cheann Comhairle, I do not wish to be disorderly. However, the photograph does help to illustrate my point that the car was used for very effective publicity on 11 November last. It was used and apparently purchased on that day, according to newspaper reports, but it was not registered until January, when it was again seen on television, this time with a “92 D” registration. That matter has been the subject of great scandal throughout the country and the subject of many letters to Members of the Fine Gael Party and, I am sure, to other Deputies.

Mr. Smith: I have already explained to the Deputy that the car had a test drive in November, organised by the garage. The car was not on the road again until January. I know that this is a top priority question for Members of the front bench of the Fine Gael Party as far as questions relating to the Department of the Environment are concerned.

Mr. Boylan: How many people have the power of the Taoiseach?

Mr. Farrelly: Double standards.

Mr. Smith: Fine Gael Members can be absolutely certain that the guidelines——

Mr. Farrelly: Is that what the Government are teaching the people of Ireland — double standards?

Mr. Smith: It is simply that the Deputy does not like the answer.

Mr. Farrelly: Double standards.

An Ceann Comhairle: We are wasting precious time allocated for Priority Questions. I am proceeding to the next question.

[924] Mr. McCormack: Do you like the answer?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: Can the Minister tell the House how many miles were on the mileometer of that car when it was registered in January?

The Taoiseach: Why did the Deputy not check it out?

Mr. Smith: All these matters were checked out throughly by the local authority. This is an unwarranted attack.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 6 has been called.

Mr. Smith: I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.