The Secretary of State is allowed to charge local authorities a fee for disclosing information to them but local authorities do not have the same luxury of being able to charge a fee, so it is a one-way power. Given that the disclosure of information is bilateral, will the Minister confirm that I have read the clause correctly and say whether she would consider giving local authorities the ability to charge a fee as well?
The clause will allow the Secretary of State in England and Welsh Ministers in respect of the scheme in Wales to request information about a charging scheme or a proposed scheme from the authority developing it.
As the Government are removing the Secretary of States approval role, we still want to ensure that central Government have appropriate access to information about local authorities use of their road-user charging powers. We are already working with authorities that are developing proposals for road pricing and we hope that that relationship will continue. However, it may be necessary for the appropriate national authority to request information beyond what is made available informally. This provision states clearly that the information should be that which the authority already has or can reasonably be expected to acquire. Therefore, we think that this should impose no extra cost on a properly run scheme. The Governments intention is to be able to access information about how a scheme works, to ensure, for example, interoperability of systems and technology or to understand the effectiveness of different approaches.
With regard to the ability of the Secretary of State to charge a reasonable fee for supplying information, the main reason for including this in the Bill is so that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency can recover its costs in supplying information that charging authorities will need to enforce their schemes. That is an ongoing operational cost and we have made it very clear that any charge would cover only the costs of supplying the information.