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I can give him the assurance that he seeks. We are talking about a tiny number of people, but the deep truth, as he well knows, is that it is possible for even a tiny number of people to do immense damage, so the challenge for us is how to get the right approach, and the legislation is focused on trying to do that.
Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): I am sure that the Home Secretary is aware of the activities of several organisations, some of which are banned in other countries, that prey principally on young male Muslims? What does he propose to do to monitor and deal with those, and more important, have the Government given some thought to what positive action we might take to engage some of these disaffected young people to turn them away from some of those organisations?
Mr. Clarke: First, I think the measures I announced in my statement will help with some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman describes. Secondly, through the process of the discussions to which I referred earlier today, a conscious and positive effort is taking place to consider how we deal with disaffected young people and communicate more effectively with them.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): The Chancellor's pledge of £10 million to support the survivors and the families of the victims of the London bombings is most welcome and appropriate. I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that had the event taken place abroad, not a penny of this money would be available, because it comes from the criminal injuries compensation scheme, and none of the money is available unless an incident takes place in the UK. Will the Secretary of State therefore reconsider and extend the scheme so that financial support is provided regardless of where the incident takes place? Sadly, the events of last week have shown that terrorism occurs all over the globe, and our support for Britons caught up in such horrific events should also have no boundaries.
First, I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's very personal understanding of these issues, and I appreciate the way in which he put his point. I am ready to consider all these questions, but if we are being candid, there is a real problem. The regime under which compensation is dealt with, for people who die in a series of circumstances and in different ways, is complex and confused. As he rightly says, we have a criminal injuries compensation scheme that deals with issues in this country. There are particular schemes to deal with great natural disasters such as the tsunami, and a different set of issues arise particularly when there is strong public feeling, for example about a train accident. It is important to try to find a more equitable approach to tackling these problems, but to be frank I do not have a good solution to offer at the moment, although I will consider his point carefully.
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Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Yesterday evening, there was some confusion in the House, and I am sorry to say that it was caused by the Secretary of State for Transport. In relation to the Select Committee being set up to deal with the Crossrail Bill, he may inadvertently have given the House inaccurate information when he said that
"if someone comes along with a petition on something different, such as varying the line of the route, no Government or, indeed, the House, would say that the Select Committee should not consider it."[Official Report, 19 July 2005; Vol. 436, c. 1129.]
An instruction to a Select Committee of this type is quite explicit, however. The custom of the House is that such a Select Committee can take petitions only from people with a direct or specific interest in the subject. I would therefore ask not that you make a judgment now, which would be unfair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but that Mr. Speaker makes a considered judgment so that before the matter is taken forward, everyone can be clear about what this Select Committee can or cannot be petitioned on, and what it can or cannot consider.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I understand the hon. Gentleman's point of order and it is certainly not a matter on which I could give a decision now. I am sure that the Select Committee will consider the matter in great detail when it starts its deliberations. As regards Mr. Speaker, he will have seen his comments and will no doubt consider them, too.
Registration numbers are not items of property in their own right, so it is not possible to acquire legal title to them. They are assigned to, and may be withdrawn from, vehicles rather than keepers, by the Secretary of State, as part of the basic registration and licensing process required by law. The registration number is a unique means of identifying a vehicle, primarily for taxation and law enforcement purposes. It is assigned to a vehicle, and it normally remains with that vehicle until it is broken up, destroyed or sent permanently abroad. To meet the widespread interest in personalised and cherished registration numbers, however, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency provides special facilities to allow motorists to acquire and retain the use of particular registration numbers.
The current provisions stifle choice and flexibility for the individual and for business. Purchasers of marks on retention are understandably wary, as the keeper is currently unable to give away rights to the number at the point of sale by detailing a new third party as the grantee. That means that the purchaser of a retained number has no rights to it until he or she assigns that number to a vehicle, despite financial payment already having been passed to the vendor. In addition, the co-operation of the original grantee is required to effect assignment to the purchaser's vehicle. It is also the grantee who retains the right to purchase extensions to the 12-month period of entitlement for holding a number on certificate, even after the sale of a number to a third party. There is clearly potential for considerable loss to the purchaser of a number on certificate should entitlement to a number be lost through the non-co-operation of the grantee, or simply the practical difficulty of locating that person.
Attractive registration numbers can fetch large sums. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Minister would be interested in the registration number DT1probably not, because he might then be assumed to be a Minister at the Department for Trade and Industry rather than a transport Minister. If his middle name were Oliver, he might want a DOT registration. I am sure that both would be extremely expensive. There is, however, a growing business out there. One company trading from an office just outside my Preston constituency, newreg.com, has been hugely successful in building up such a business in a legitimate fashion, but elsewhere there have been several cases of organised criminal activity aimed at acquiring valuable numbers by illegal means.
The transfer and retention facilities must therefore be carefully controlled to cut abuse and protect individuals' interests. Only vehicles that exist and are registered at the DVLA, currently licensed, subject to an annual test and available for inspection may participate. Vehicles that satisfy those requirements are generally easier to identify, so their entitlement to the numbers claimed can be more readily verified. Those measures have proved very effective in limiting the scope for abuse, and they are strongly supported by the police.
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Only the registered keeper of a vehicle may apply to transfer or retain its registration mark. As I said earlier, when a vehicle's registration mark is placed on retention the registered keeper becomes the grantee. The Cherished Numbers Dealers Association has requested the addition of a facility to the retention arrangements, to ease the administrative burden on the companies that make up the association and to improve sales.
Regulations provide that entitlement to a number that is on retention may pass to a third party only on assignment of the number to that person's vehicle via nominee agreement. That arrangement precludes the disposal of a number to a third party who wishes to keep the number on retention. I propose the introduction of an option for third parties to be granted entitlement as soon as the number is placed on hold under the retention facility.
The Bill would aid the industry involved in buying, selling and transferring registration mark rights, with no additional costs to Government. It would amend the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 to simplify the administrative process for selling cherished registration numbers, and would be warmly welcomed by many customers as well as cherished number dealers. The new facilities would allow an improved service at no extra cost to the DVLA or its customers, and would not endanger the accuracy of the record or lead to an increase in fraud. I understand that there has been informal consultation between the DVLA and the CNDA, and that both are strongly in favour of the proposed changes. I commend the Bill to the House.
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