Clause 17 - Register of Registration Plate Suppliers

Part of Vehicles (Crime) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 9th January 2001.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 12:00 pm, 9th January 2001

This is the first clause that Opposition Members seek to amend; we do so on the strength of our conviction that clause 17 is ambiguous.

I emphasise at the outset that it is not certain that the clause is unsatisfactory. I tried to give an earnest of good intent when considering clause 16 by saying to the Minister that Opposition Members are here to engage with him and his hon. Friends. We do not have a hard-and-fast rule, in advance, that Ministers are wrong about every clause. Even where we seek to amend a clause, we sometimes table probing amendments. If the Minister can assure me that our amendments are unnecessary, my hon. Friends and I will be happy to withdraw them. Alternatively, if we remain uncertain, we may decide not to press them to a vote, but to raise them at a subsequent stage. It is equally conceivable that we shall feel obliged to press them.

I should like to emphasise the purport of amendments Nos. 17 and 18. Amendment No. 17 would require each entry made by a registration plate supplier to be based on a standard form which would be returned to the central authority, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The Minister will be aware that clause 17(2) states:

Each person's entry in the register shall contain such particulars as may be prescribed.

It is one thing to have different charges for applications to be registered, depending on the size of a business and what reasonable people may be inclined to estimate as the capacity of a business to pay, but another to require different information from different operators, depending on their size or the assessment in advance that a member of the central authority may make. That would be potentially invidious. I hope that the Committee agrees that the information that the registration plate supplier is expected to provide to the central authority about itself is based on a standard requirement. It should be expected to say who the supplier is and from where it trades and to name the directors. It might be obliged to provide information about its turnover or its clients, subject to requirements of commercial confidentiality. I assume that it is intended that the information should be standard.

The difficulty is that that is not in the clause. It states:

Each person's entry in the register shall contain such particulars as may be prescribed.

From that, we are expected to deduce that the particulars to be prescribed will be prescribed in regulations, but I am not sure. The Minister and those who guide him will detect that my brow is furrowed on the point. There are genuine beads of sweat on it, in eager anticipation of a satisfactory and reassuring response from the Minister and those who guide him. I am uncertain whether the matter is to be subject to regulation.

The Minister will be aware—although he was spared the experience of attending Second Reading—that in that debate I flagged up, as did a number of right. and hon. Members, the fact that many clauses provide effectively for legislation via regulations. I think that I said that nine or 10 clauses—or perhaps even 17—referred to and provided for legislation via regulations. Clause 17 does not say that the particulars should be prescribed in regulations, but presumably that is what the Government intend. It would be helpful if the Minister explained the intention and, in particular, confirmed that the information expected from the would-be registered registration plate supplier would be a uniform set of particulars, as between one business and another?