|Vehicles (Crime) Bill
Mr. Clarke: As we were saying before our proceedings began, fashion is not one of my fortes, and neither is geography. I was having trouble with my belly button, rather than my trousers.
Mr. Bercow: We love the Minister none the less. I have not scrutinised it, and have no desire to do so, but there appears to be nothing wrong with his belly button.
Mr. Clarke: Yes, indeedand I am not hiding an insect in it either.
The Chairman: Let us return to the Bill.
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Member for Lichfield is correct in thinking that we are developing the co-operation that he mentioned. The European Union motor insurance directive to which I referred will put in place a legal framework within which it can be achieved. That is one of the many examples of the benefits to this country of European Union membership, which would be jeopardised if the hon. Member for Buckingham were to have his way.
I need to clarify my answer to the question about whether all insurance companies are members of the database; I was almost right, but not exactly right. All insurance companies are obliged to keep information pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1988. The clause would oblige such persons to disclose information to the police, so any insurance company not linked to the database must still comply with the clause. The police will have complete information that reflects the data available from all insurance companies.
Mrs. Gilroy: I have written to the Minister on this subject, and I would be grateful if he could clarify for me in writing the position of those who self-insure. Some concerns have been expressed as to whether and how that will fall within the ambit of the Bill.
Mr. Clarke: I will clarify the matter for my hon. Friend in writing.
Mr. Fabricant: Will the Minister clarify the answer he gave to my earlier question? He said that every insurance company was obliged to keep its own record and that those records must be available to the police.
Does he mean the bulk database? If a driver were insured with a smaller insurance company that kept its own database, the police proactive interrogation of the bulk database would still come up negative. That would require the insurance company to give the police information some days later, perhaps of a written rather than an electronic nature, putting the driver to some inconvenience. Does the Minister understand the difference between the two possibilities?
Mr. Clarke: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. However, I can best answer it by reading out the wording of the clause:
that is the Act that requires the information to be kept
The Bill goes on to state that regulations may
Mr. Fabricant: For the sake of clarity, will the Minister explain whether the Police Information Technology Organisation, rather than any third party, will maintain the bulk database? It may just be my ignorance, but people reading Hansard may ask the same question.
Mr. Clarke: The bulk database is maintained by the insurance industry itself. PITO, which is controlled by police forces in conjunction with the Home Office, and whose governing board is made up of nominees from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and various other bodies, will get the information from the insurance database. From there, it can be made available to individual police forces.
Mr. Fabricant: I am grateful to the Minister for persevering, but I am still unclear as to why subsection (1) provides the answer to my initial question. If PITO does not operate the bulk database, how do we know that the information maintained by the insurance companies in one big database contains all the information to be found on the smaller databases of all the individual companies?
Mr. Clarke: The information kept by the insurance companies is the information that they are required to keep by the Road Traffic Act 1988, so we know exactly what information every company keeps. The motor insurance industry database collects all that information together from all insurance companies in the way specified by law. The clause states that PITO can get access to that information. I am sorry if I am being unclear; if it would help the hon. Gentleman, I will pursue the matter in correspondence.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mrs. Gilroy) asked about self-insurance. The current definition of ``relevant information'' in subsection (3) does not properly cover the point that she raises, which she has also raised in correspondence. That is partly why I was ready earlier to state that we were willing to consider the process again before Report, to get our definitions exactly right. That applies to the points raised by the hon. Member for Lichfield, too. There are points of substance on which we need to check that our wording is correct, which is why we are ready to introduce amendments on Report.
I hope that after those assurances, the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the amendment.
Mr. Bercow: Yes, I am happy to do so, as I was pleased by the Minister's response, and, especially, by his commitment to come back to us on the question of specificity before Report. I assume that that means that some correspondence will take place between usor at least that there will be a letter from him on the subject, which I can copy for my hon. Friends. On the strength of what he said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 35 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 18 January 2001|