Regional Flags: Driving Licences and Number Plates

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:25 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 5:25 pm, 19th April 2017

I am coming on to Yorkshire. We have heard from two proud and passionate Cornishmen in the debate, speaking up for their county, as ever; but other parts of the country also have strong identities. I am a proud Yorkshireman and I think nowhere beyond Yorkshire and Cornwall can match that sense of identity. However, I am treading into dangerous territory, and that is partly the point. We would be treading on regional and county identities that are very complicated. I notice that even within the ceremonial county of Cornwall the Isles of Scilly have their own flag, and their population is just over 2,000, with just 600 vehicles registered on the islands. They may want their own flag displayed on their licences, and I am sure that that would apply to many parts of the country. There are strong affiliations and loyalties across our marvellous, united nation.

Building various designs into the card manufacturing process would obviously have an impact on printing and despatch costs for the DVLA and would also have implications for turnaround time. All those points need to be considered as we take the debate forward.

We have regional identities on our number plates. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the registration number is a unique means of identifying a vehicle for taxation, law enforcement and road safety purposes. It has a proper and significant practical implication. It is important that the police are able to quickly identify a vehicle and that witnesses are able to recall registration marks. To that end, the law requires that number plates are clearly and easily readable.

The rules regarding what can be displayed on number plates, including any optional regional flags, are specified in UK law. Those rules simply ensure safety on our roads. They support the police and other enforcement agencies in identifying vehicles to prevent and detect crime, particularly through the use of automatic number plate recognition cameras. With that in mind, the law has to be specific about what information can be shown on a number plate, to minimise and prevent the use of unlawful products.

Currently in the UK only number plates supplied by official registered suppliers can be displayed on a vehicle. Registered number plate suppliers are fully aware of what is allowed to be displayed and must ensure that the number plates they supply meet legal standards and that adequate sales records are maintained. In addition to display of the registration number, the law provides for the voluntary use of specific national identifiers or the display of the EU flag, if people wish it.

The display of the EU flag with the inclusion of a GB identifier is called a europlate. It enables motorists to travel across the EU without the need to display the conventional oval GB—either a sticker or a little banner—to identify the member state in which the vehicle is registered. Currently UK motorists travelling within the EU can display either the europlate or the traditional oval sticker. Vehicles registered in the UK and travelling outside the EU have no choice but to use the oval sticker.

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