Clause 47

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 18 Ebrill 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Disclosure to foreign authorities of licensing and registration information

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment No. 87, in clause 47, page 53, line 30, leave out from ‘outside the United Kingdom' and insert

‘that has ratified the Treaty on European Vehicle and Driving Licence Information System'.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 72, in clause 47, page 53, line 40, leave out ‘outside the United Kingdom' and insert

‘that has ratified the Treaty on European Vehicle and Driving Licence Information System.'.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Our amendments are simple. They would limit the countries to which information can be divulged under the clause to those that have signed up to the European vehicle and driving licence information system treaty. As was said in another place, the clause appears to be drafted extremely widely. If its purpose is to allow ratification of the EUCARIS treaty, we have no objection. It is sensible that there is an exchange of information. We debated foreign vehicles and drivers and think that the treaty is a sensible measure. However, it is interesting that significant countries such as France, Italy and Spain have not signed the treaty yet. There are serious questions why the clause is so broad. Subsection (2)(b) states that information will be available to

“the authorities of any country or territory outside the United Kingdom with responsibility under the law of that country”.

That goes a lot wider than a requirement to sign up to the treaty, of which we approve.

We must also consider the circumstances that would justify the disclosure of information. To which departments in a foreign authority would information be disclosed? Are there reciprocal relationships with the country involved? What are the legal systems of the countries to which we might be giving information? What is the exact purpose for which information is being disclosed in each case? British drivers would like  clear answers to those questions and an assurance of the intent of the foreign authorities that will receive information.

We frequently find our constituents tangled up in the Data Protection Act 1998. Where will they stand if information is given to a number of foreign authorities to which we are not bound by treaty? How can we ensure that the information is not then passed on from that country to a third country? We approve of the sensible exchange of information between European countries that have signed the treaty and will use it with that intention, but the clause as it stands is drafted too widely. We have serious concerns about why the information is being sought by some countries and what will happen to it.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport 5:15, 18 Ebrill 2006

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to push what is clearly a probing amendment to a vote. The amendment would give rise to some strange anomalies. As he said, EUCARIS has so far been ratified only by the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. We have not ratified it yet and will be able to do so only after the Bill has been passed.

The hon. Gentleman himself pointed out that the French have not ratified the treaty, so if we were to limit the exchange of information to countries within EUCARIS we would not be able to exchange information with the French authorities. My constituents in Kent are keen to move towards a system by which we can take enforcement action alongside the French authorities. It is in all our interests to have a slightly wider scope than EUCARIS. I understand that there is a significant problem with stolen vehicles being imported from Japan, which is outside the EUCARIS treaty. We need to be able to exchange information with the Japanese authorities to try to get to grips with the situation; that is in our interests and in theirs.

The hon. Gentleman clearly does not want information about British citizens to be released to countries that would have less stringent requirements in respect of data protection, for example. I can give him the absolute assurance that before engaging in a relationship with any foreign authority to exchange information about British citizens, the DVLA would first ensure that that country’s standards, its data protection legislation, the security of its systems and its procedure were at least a match for ours. However, in respect of our partners in the European Union and the key countries with which we would want to be able to exchange information, I have no doubt that we can come to arrangements that enable us to be confident that the information we provide is being properly treated, so that we can act accordingly.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Can the Minister tell us which countries he is thinking of that are currently outside the European treaty? He mentioned Japan, but are there other countries?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

The key one is Japan, but any wealthy country where vehicles might be stolen and where there might be a trade in importing them is potentially a country with which we would want to have a  relationship. We may need such a relationship with the United States in future, for example, but Japan is the most obvious country in the short term. I understand that Australia and New Zealand are countries with which it would be appropriate for us to have such relationships.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I now understand the clause better and I am satisfied with the Minister’s explanation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.