HOME OFFICE – DRIVER INFORMATION – 14 October 2003

[David Heath: … I am worried that the information referred to in the new clause is not limited. The new clause covers any information held under the Road Traffic Act 1988, irrespective of what that information is. It is possible that that Act could be amended at some date in the future to include spurious information that could not properly be disclosed for the purposes of the Schengen information system.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Is it the hon. Gentleman's understanding of the new clause that only bits of driver information shall be disclosed as and when required, or that an entire database shall be fed into the system, to be dipped into as and when the Governments of other countries in Europe decide that it would be convenient for them to do so?

Mr Heath: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The latter must clearly be the case. One of the concerns about the Schengen information system is that it grows exponentially; the database is large, with a huge number of points of access, in terms of both input and output, thereby allowing the grave danger that incorrect information may be held, with the individual citizen having only limited ability to proper recourse.

Dr Lewis: I am new to this legislation, so I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that elucidation. The new clause thus seems to be saying that all the details held about us at DVLA in connection with our driving licences will be available, on tap, to any Government who sign up to the system.

Mr Heath: That is my understanding, but the Minister will be able to confirm the point far better than me.

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[James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire): … The Treasury itself is an institution, not a person. In legislation, we carefully give powers to Ministers and to Secretaries of State. They are people – members of the Government acting on the Government's behalf to introduce orders for our consideration. It seems odd to seek to give power to an institution, to a building. If the legislation has to be related to the Treasury – I will take a lot of convincing that that is so – why does it not specify the Chancellor of the Exchequer or, as I said in Committee, the Prime Minister, who is First Lord of the Treasury? I cannot understand why the Bill should refer to a building.]

Dr Lewis: Since entering this House in 1997, I have never seen a Bill that referred to a ministry, rather than to a Secretary of State. The only explanation that I can think of for the failure to refer to a Secretary of State, or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by his office, is the current state of relations between No. 10 Downing Street and the Exchequer.

[Mr Paice: I cannot deny that the thought crossed my mind, but I am perhaps too nice a person to make such an allegation. [Interruption.] I hear the Government Whip say, "Surely not", and he is probably right. I shall make amends later.]