Schedule 3 - Endorsement: all drivers

Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 25th January 2005.

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Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 10:15 am, 25th January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 30, in schedule 3, page 78, line 32, leave out '77(2)' and insert '77A(2)'.

Photo of Mr Kevin Hughes Mr Kevin Hughes Labour, Doncaster North

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 31 to 33.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

When Bills are drafted, their complexity occasionally leads to minor drafting errors, and such errors occur in schedules 3 and 4 to the Bill. Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 make corrections to schedule 3, which contains legislative amendments enabling endorsement of driving licences rather than counterparts for all offenders. Much of the schedule is concerned with removing all references to the counterpart.

On two occasions—once in paragraph 66 of schedule 3, and once in paragraph 69, both of which amend the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995—reference is made to section 77(2) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Those references should be to section 77A(2). Section 77 of the 1988 Act is omitted by paragraph 52 of schedule 3 as it relates to the system of endorsement based on the counterpart, which is being replaced. Under the new system of endorsement, it is the driving record, not the counterpart, that will be endorsed, and that is provided for in the new section 77A inserted by paragraph 26 of schedule 2.

Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 seek to correct drafting errors in schedule 4 to the Bill. The schedule relates to the law on driving instruction, and the amendments   concern the ongoing conditions of registration for non-disabled persons and disabled driving instructors, which have been incorrectly cross-referenced.

I apologise to members of the Committee for those errors, and I hope that, with that explanation, they will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 31, in schedule 3, page 79, line 39, leave out '77(2)' and insert '77A(2)'.— [Mr. Jamieson.]

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Third schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The Minister says that schedule 3 will not come into operation for some years; I think that he said five or more. However, when it comes into operation, how will the individual driver know what is on his licence? As the Minister said, the licence will effectively be a smartcard containing encrypted information. Unless one has means of de-encrypting such information at home, how will one know, for example, that when a licence is subject to penalty points and sent off to the DVLA, the information is put on the licence accurately?

That is sometimes relevant in the context of totting-up. One cannot be subject to disqualification for 12 points on a licence unless the subsequent offences took place after previous penalties. So it is possible, in certain circumstances, to have 12 points or more on one's licence without being subject to disqualification because of the order in which offences were committed, compared with the order in which the convictions came.

At present, one can look at one's licence and see the information and, if there is a court appearance, one's adviser can look at the licence outside court. However, what will happen in future in relation to the information on the licences? How will people know that information? I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify that.

Later in our scrutiny of the Bill, we will consider whether old driving licences should have to be surrendered. It is implicit in what the Minister has already said that people with old-style driving licences will not have to submit them and exchange them for the brand-new driving licence without a counterpart until that system comes into operation, and that, in the interim, they will not have to change them for the newer licence with the counterpart. I understand that any requirement that there should be a mass return of old licences to the Department will not take effect until schedule 3 is operative.

Photo of John Thurso John Thurso Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland)

If one looks at the use of card technology in the financial services industry, one sees that as the technology has become ever more complex, so the ability of people determined to commit fraud has also become more complex. For example, there is a whole battery of crimes to do with bank cards that did not exist 20 or 30 years ago, and there is sophisticated technology for reading and amending those kinds of cards. Has any risk assessment been   carried out in relation to the new licence that will be issued when the licence with counterpart is dropped? Do the Government intend, between now and the introduction of the new licence, to undertake some sort of risk assessment of the opportunity for fraud or criminal behaviour in respect of such cards?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The hon. Member for Christchurch raised an important issue. The new licence will be a card, and no record will be shown on it. In that respect, it will be similar to a debit or credit card, which shows nothing that one can check. However, one can put a credit or debit card into a machine and enter a PIN code, and it will provide a reading of part or all of one's account. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, one can now do all one's banking by accessing a computer, including finding out detailed information about the bank account, and even paying bills and transferring money from one account to another. I usually find myself transferring money from my account to my son's account, which is one of the hazards of being a parent.

The systems have not been set up yet, but such things should be equally possible with the new licence. We anticipate that there will be secure systems, similar to the current banking systems, where the user has to put in a series of commands to the computer that only he or she knows about, unless they are foolish enough to share them with others; I certainly do not share those commands with my son. There would be careful encryption of the information, so that only the person entitled to it could access it.

That would be one method of accessing the information—the individual interrogating the computer using the appropriate information such as PIN numbers, as for a bank account—but there would still be the facility, if someone had forgotten or lost their record, to write to the Department or to make a telephone call. However, with the telephone call, there would have to be a procedure with a series of checks prior to the information being given out, as for a telephone call to one's bank. It would therefore be perfectly possible for someone to make those checks with the new system.

One downside of the current system is that people lose or misplace their counterparts. I dare say that if I were asked now where my counterpart was, I could find it at home, but I do not instantly know where. I know where my licence is, but I do not instantly know where the counterpart is, and that applies to many people. Proper checks and security will be in place, and people will be able to check, through old as well as new technology, the information on their licence.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Will someone be able to check immediately their licence has been endorsed whether the endorsements that have been put on it by encryption accord with what they were told would happen? We know from, for example, from the tax credits system and many other Government initiatives involving new technology that input operators make an enormous number of errors. If an operator makes an error that results in someone having more   endorsements on their licence than the court ordered or than had been agreed, how will the victim of the error find out about it immediately?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Of course even in the best systems there is always the possibility of human error, and that is true of the present system. Someone could have a record against their name that was incorrect. This measure will allow someone to make an instant check through their computer, by having a telephone conversation or by making a written request for the information. That will allow the person to challenge the information if necessary, as is the case now. Obviously, the DVLA would have to respond to such a challenge.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I am really asking whether there will be written confirmation from the DVLA, in the form of a letter, of what has been put on the licence so that the person can see whether it is correct. Most people proceed on the basis that such procedures have been carried out correctly, but unless the DVLA sends out a notice of what has been encrypted on the licence, the licence holder will not be able to know whether it has been endorsed correctly.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

But of course whenever someone commits an offence, it will attract an endorsement on their licence, and paperwork will go backwards and forwards. Certainly if someone has to make a court appearance, they can be fairly sure that their licence has been endorsed. I suppose that it would be perfectly possible for written confirmation to be sent out when the licence is endorsed. I think that it is intended that someone should receive that. As regards the paperwork, I am not familiar with these things, not having picked up many points on my licence so far, but I think that it is fairly clear to someone if they have picked up points. There will be the ability, first, to have confirmation of that. Secondly, someone can check afterwards whether the endorsement has been put on their licence.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.