Drivers renewing their licences and vehicle registration will be given a four-month grace period on any fee rises in next week's Budget to avoid a rush of applications. But Commissioner for Transport Robert Footman said the measure did not necessarily indicate increases would be introduced. Licence fees and registrations can be paid up to four months in advance. So Mr Footman said people whose licences could be renewed from Budget day, which is Wednesday next week, could renew them at the existing rate until July 5. The new measure applies to vehicle registration, full driving licences and driving instructor's licences. Mr Footman said the measure - also used before last year's Budget - was being continued because it had proved effective. 'People need not rush to the Transport Department's counters to have their licences renewed on speculation that the licence fees may be increased in the coming Budget,' he said. But he stressed the arrangement did not indicate anything about what would be contained in Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung's Budget. 'The arrangement is solely made to deal with the problem of long queues. The contents of the Budget are a separate question on which the department has no information,' he said. A total of 8,800 applications for vehicle registration and driving licences were received in the three days before the announcement of the Budget last year, compared to 54,000 applications during the same period in 2000. Assistant Commissioner for Transport Judy Li Wu Wai-lok said an additional 630 working days had been needed to process the overwhelming number of applications last year. The Legislative Council voted down the Government's proposal in last year's Budget to raise registration and driving licence fees by 10 per cent. A refund was made to affected drivers. At present, the cost of an annual vehicle registration ranges from $1,289 to $11,329, depending on the vehicle's engine size and type. The fee for a full driving licence, including levies, is $900 for 10 years, while a driver instructor's licence is $760. Fees have been frozen since 1991. While welcoming the move, Jackson Ho Yee-tak, president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association, hoped the Government would not increase licence fees in the coming Budget. 'Instead of increasing licence fees, the Government should reduce them by 10 per cent to help drivers undergo the poor economy,' Mr Ho said, adding the reduction could help off-set the recent increase in the mandatory third-party insurance for vehicles.