Clause 43

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

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Registration plates

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

Again, we do not have any great disagreement with this clause, but I should like the Minister to declare what constitutes a legal number plate, what qualifies as a number plate and what marks are allowed. There has been much press controversy about European Union flags being allowed, but not Union jacks and crosses of St. George—relevant to next week. What constitutes a legal number plate? Will the Minister have any discretion over this matter, or will it become entirely a Commission responsibility?

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

I have no doubt that the Chairman is interested in all parts of the Bill.

All technical matters—the typeface, colour, dimensions, spacing and so on—to do with the appearance of number plates are set out in a British standard, and I would be happy to make that information available to the hon. Gentleman. I am not certain about who decides whether an EU flag or some other symbol can be on a number plate, but I shall write to the Committee and give chapter and verse on who has responsibility for that.

To my horror, I discovered that some people like to hang gimmick number plates on their bedroom wall. I have absolutely no idea why anybody would want a gimmick number plate under any circumstances or why they would want to display it, but apparently there is some trade in such things. I suspect the truth is that people have a number plate that conforms to the British standard when they have their MOT test, but replace it immediately afterwards with a gimmick number plate that uses different typefaces and spacing and therefore spells something.

The purpose of the clause is to insist that in future when people buy a gimmick number plate it is clearly marked as such and therefore cannot be used as a substitute for a real one when the person thinks nobody is watching. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about flags and other markings.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Opposition Whip (Commons)

We have all seen gimmicky number plates, which are becoming more prevalent. I noted four in the past month: L4RRY, B4RRY, D3GSY and S3XY—or Larry, Barry, Degsy and Sexy. As the Minister says, people use different typefaces, put in a black dot for the screw and turn numbers into letters. It brings a certain amount of pleasure and amusement to quite a few people, but I would not dream of having such a number plate, as it would be more likely to attract the attention of the police or someone else like that. What will the Minister do about people who have such number plates? Will the police be empowered to stop them? Will traffic wardens be empowered to report them? What measures will be taken?

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

The police already have powers to stop individuals who have changed their number plate in such a way that it no longer conforms to the standard. I would not for one second want to discourage people from having personalised number plates. Indeed, the DVLA makes a good deal of money for the taxpayer from auctioning them, and if anybody named Mr. Singh or Dr. Singh is listening to our debate, I can tell them that the forthcoming DVLA auction will include the number plate 51NGH and various extensions of that. I hope that it will raise a great deal of money for the British taxpayer.

However, the numbers must look like numbers, and the spacing needs to be such that it is clear which part of the plate is numbers and which part is letters. If anybody has played around with their number plate in such a way as to make it difficult to read, or if it is in any way not obvious what the original number plate was, the police should take enforcement action against them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.