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 recognise that we are moving into a place where the old rules will cease to apply, and we can determine more as we wish, but I will come to my right hon. Friend’s point.

The law changed in 2009 to allow the voluntary display of either the European flag or UK national flags, so we have choice in the area of number plates. Motorists can choose between the Union flag, the cross of St George, the saltire or the red dragon of Wales on their number plates. The display of a national flag or the EU flag is a matter of personal choice; nobody is compelled to decide one way or the other.

We have strong regional and national identities within our United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall highlighted the recognition of Cornwall, but that applies to many other parts of our country. It is fantastic that we have such a diverse and unique cultural mix in our different nations and parts of our nations, in which people take great pride. I am certainly a proud Yorkshireman, particularly when it comes to cricketing matters.

Any proposals to allow a wide range of flags or regional identifiers to be displayed on number plates have to take into account the wishes of wide groups in other parts of our countries. Choosing the regional identifier would be complicated. We would also have to ensure that it worked from a law enforcement perspective. So there are practical implications, road safety implications and law enforcement implications, and it is a brave person who treads too far into the area of regional identity.

I entirely recognise the strong desire to reflect the pride that we feel in our different parts of the United Kingdom. We are at the start of a process. I am not saying either yes or no; we are simply at too early a stage in this process to decide. However, I recognise that there are opportunities. I regard this debate as the start of our national conversation about what we would like to have on our driving licences and on our number plates. I also recognise that technology presents opportunities to personalise and to print, but I have also tried to explain that there are some significant practical implications from a DVLA perspective and from a law enforcement agency perspective. There are cost implications as well.

I recognise the proud and passionate pleas from our Cornish colleagues, and I have great sympathy with them. I also recognise that we will receive messages from all parts of our country and I hope that everybody will contribute as we decide what our licences and number plates look like, as we leave the EU and have the freedom to make our own decisions.