300,000 cars lost from the records

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MORE THAN 300,000 cars are "missing" from official records, according to new research, which also indicates that unlicensed vehicles are costing the Treasury millions of pounds each year.

As many as 309,000 of the 2.3 million cars registered in 1989 were unaccounted for by the end of 1997, the marketing information company, Taylor Nelson Sofres Automotive, revealed.

Some of the cars could have been scrapped, but others may have been stolen or be in use while unlicensed, it said. "The majority of these will of course have been scrapped but others may be on dealers' forecourts, others still may have been stolen, while there will be some which are being used while unlicensed," said a Taylor Nelson Sofres spokesman.

The Department of Transport has no idea precisely how many cars there are in Britain. One of the main reasons for this, say the researchers, is that many drivers do not bother to notify the Driver & VehicleLicensing Agency when their cars are scrapped.

The research also found that according to government data for 1998 there were about 935,000 unlicensed vehicles. The loss of the tax disc payments costs the Exchequer around pounds 147m a year.