Clause 39

Part of Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 18th April 2006.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:30 pm, 18th April 2006

I welcome you back to the Chair, Sir Nicholas, and I trust that I can say on behalf of the Committee that I hope that you had a good and restful recess as well.

Our next subject is a series of clauses on driving instructors and driver training. Amendment No. 97, which I and my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) tabled, deals with the power to make available information on people who provide courses and give instruction. The amendments selected with it, to schedule 5 and clause 41, are all to the same effect, which is to prevent the Secretary of State or the Minister taking powers to disclose the personal details of those persons who are registered.

I guess that the Minister will say that the powers are necessary for transparency and so on. However, many members of the Committee will have been briefed by the Driving Instructors Association, which represents more than 13,000 driving instructors and is consulted regularly by the Department for Transport, the Driving Standards Agency, the Driver Vehicle Testing Agency, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the  Vehicle and Operator Services Agency. It is a member also of the Department for Transport’s advisory group on testing and training. Therefore, it is interesting to hear what the DIA has to say.

The DIA is quite concerned that unless the amendments are accepted we will single out driving instructors and deprive them of some of the normal rights to privacy that are afforded to other citizens under the Data Protection Act 1998. It claims—and based on our research, we would agree—that it can find no parallel in statute to the draconian use of such mandatory disclosure of personal information. I wonder whether, when the Minister responds, he will be able to satisfy us that he has used such disclosure elsewhere.

It is a concern that a huge amount of information would be requested. For instance, the DIA believes—again, it is a concern that I share—that there would be some clear human rights implications, and certainly under article 8 of the European convention on the right to respect for private and family life. If the amendments are not accepted, much of that privacy will be affected. Therefore, the Secretary of State’s statement that the Bill is compatible with the convention on human rights must be challenged.

The Government set out in their road safety strategy, “Tomorrow’s Roads—Safer for Everyone” the objective of ensuring that performance and other information was made available to the public to “empower customers” and to

“encourage intelligent use of driving instruction”.

The message, therefore, is that that could have been more easily achieved by aiming for voluntary consent rather than including in the Bill the need to disclose such personal information. The information commissioner has said that it would have been possible to look for a voluntary disclosure of the information on certificates rather than statutory disclosure.

Our amendment would give back some protection to the driving instructors. I know that a number of them are concerned that the enforced publication of their home addresses may result in a substantial invasion of their privacy. As many as 98 of the UK driving school businesses are sole traders or franchises. In both cases they are either based at their home address or their home address will be published under the Bill. Therefore, they might be worried about being contacted by people wishing to get information out of them unreasonably by extortion or to steal their vehicles, which is a ready concern. Publishing such information is unnecessary. The fact that someone has attained the necessary qualifications is all that needs to be published on a certificate; there is no need for the extra disclosure.