I want assurances from the Minister that nothing in the clause will lead to the Secretary of State or any Department releasing or passing on any part of a driver's record. Does he envisage the power being used to assist a foreign Government who have no reciprocal arrangement with us? Does he imagine that the clause will be used to supply information to them as a one-way process? Will it be used only where there is an intergovernmental agreement?
The clause will enable the DVLA and its counterpart in Northern Ireland, the DVLANI, to disclose information regarding driver licensing and vehicle registration to overseas counterparts. That statutory authority will enable the UK to ratify the treaty on European vehicle registration and driver licensing information systems known, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware, as EUCARIS. It was signed by the UK, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands on 29 June 2000.
The treaty is designed to facilitate the exchange of information on driver licensing and vehicle registration to reduce cross-border crime and improve road safety. Disclosure of the licensing and registration information will make it much more difficult for criminals to reregister stolen vehicles or commit other vehicle-related offences and to obtain British driving licences to which they have no entitlement. We want to ratify the measure in our law because we want the treaty to come into effect. The relationships with various countries will gradually build up and we will have more comprehensive information. I shall get hold of something intelligible on the subject of what the DVLA can disclose and pass that information on to the Committee.
As I understand it, the arrangement is bilateral and only there for those countries with which we have such agreements. The right hon. Gentleman can see the huge advantage of such an exchange throughout the European Union, because that is where most of the inter-country traffic comes from. The arrangement will have a huge benefit because it does not affect law-abiding people, only those who try to slip around the law.
Does the provision deal with protection from data being leaked by foreign organisations? As I understand it, the rationale is that, because the DVLA is registered as a data controller, it could pass such data on to foreign organisations. What protection does the British driver have against the misuse of information, in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK, by a foreign body that has been given information by the DVLA?
The Minister listed the original signatories to the agreement. It is significant that France, Spain, Italy and Germany—the big boys in European road transport—were not included. When does he expect to enter into agreements with those countries so that we can get access to information from them about their vehicles and their drivers?
Germany was one of the original signatories.
Any country with which we exchange such information must have tight systems for the release of that information. That is part of the agreement we are making within the European Union and, in a small way, it cracks down on some of the inter-border crime. The principles in the Data Protection Act will be transferred to other countries to ensure that information which we do not want released is not improperly released to third parties.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 38 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Before I call the next amendment, I will try and focus minds on the situation. We have had several Divisions. We also lost an hour due to Divisions on the Floor of the House, so we have had some exercise. I know there is a wish to leave Thursday's two sittings for the new clauses and to complete the main part of the Bill—the clauses and schedules—today. If the Committee feels we could do that by 6 o'clock, I will not adjourn for a tea break. If the Committee is not happy with that, I will adjourn for a tea break at 5.30 pm and we will have to come back. I am trying to be helpful. Is there a feeling we can finish by 6 o'clock?
That is very helpful. Obviously, for the sake of 10 minutes or quarter of an hour, I hope we will not have to adjourn for an hour and a half, but I am conscious of the fact, as you will have seen this afternoon, that the debates on individual issues sometimes take longer because of the responses, or lack of them, that we get. There is no guarantee that we will finish by 6 o'clock, although we might if all goes well, but hopefully we will do so within a reasonable period thereafter.
Let us see how we go. We will try and work to that. I understand exactly what the hon. Gentleman says. I have made it quite clear that if the Committee wants a tea break and a dinner break and to go on until midnight, it is fully entitled to do so, since I have no wish to curtail the debate. We will work on that basis.