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Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I put my name to the amendment on the basis that this is a vehicle crime Bill. However, from my reading of it, the Bill appears to concentrate on the theft of motor cars. Motor cycles and trailers are not properly covered, a point to which I shall return later. I support the noble Viscount.

Viscount Astor: I am rather worried about the amendment. I quite understand the concern of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about large trailers that are pulled by large trucks and are worth large sums of money. They are valuable and if they are stolen it is a considerable problem. However, I do not believe that the provision should be extended to any trailer or caravan, as suggested by the amendment.

I have a trailer at home that I use to take rubbish to the local council tip. If someone offered me £20 for it, I would probably sell it on the spot. It is worth nothing.

Viscount Simon: In the noble Viscount's example, the trailer is not being stolen. He is offering it for sale.

Viscount Astor: But if such trailers were included in the Bill, all the rules and regulations under Clause 1(2) would apply. It is patently silly for such trailers to be included in the Bill. It is patently silly that old caravans should be included. They do not have identifiable numbers. How would you know where one has come from? I imagine that large trailers pulled by trucks have on them the maker's number, but that is probably not a nationally recognised number. The trailer may have been made in this country or it may have been made on the Continent, whether inside or outside the EU. While I sympathise with the noble Viscount about large trucks, to extend the Bill in the way suggested would be wrong and would not make sense.

At Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Cope raised the issue of number plates on caravans and trailers which the Minister did not address when he replied to the debate. I ask him to address it today, as we are discussing trailers. As we know, number plates fall off the back of trailers. If Members of the Committee are as bad as I am at backing up their trailer, they will usually back it into something and one of the letters of the number plate will fall off. Trailers need lights, indicators and a legible number plate.

At Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Cope was concerned that there should be no restriction on number plates so that if one owned a trailer one could go into a garage or shop selling number plates and buy a number plate for one's trailer. One would not want to be in the position of being unable to use the trailer. The Minister did not address that point. It would be

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helpful if he could use this opportunity to do so. However, I cannot support the amendment as what it proposes goes far too wide.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Amendment No. 1 would bring trailers and caravans within the scope of Part I of the Bill. Part I is primarily concerned with preventing ringing, where the identity of a stolen vehicle is disguised with that of a written-off vehicle and an insurance fraud takes place. We have had representations from the police to suggest that there are serious problems, but they are ones which mainly apply to motor vehicles. We have not had the same representations from the police to suggest that the same problem applies to trailers and caravans.

As Members of the Committee will know, this part of the Bill introduces regulations. We feel that the regulations are more than adequate to tackle the problem of ringing and insurance fraud. However, we do not wish to impose an undue burden on business by widening the scope of the Bill to areas where, frankly, there does not appear to be a problem, or certainly not a problem of a significant size or order. We have not consulted the police or industry about the inclusion of trailers and caravans and we would not wish to introduce regulations until we had undertaken a full consultation exercise.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked about number plates on trailers. I apologise for the fact that my noble friend Lord Whitty did not cover the point at Second Reading. What I can say to the noble Viscount is that legislation on motor vehicles as regards the regulations will also apply to trailers. I recognise that this may disappoint the noble Viscount, but that is how the legislation will work.

Viscount Astor: I rise to speak briefly in order to enable the Minister to gather a little more information. It would be helpful if he could explain what would happen if I had a trailer which needed a new number plate. What steps would I have to take? Would I need to show the registration documents relating to my car? How is this to work?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not sure that I can answer that point. Primary legislation is already in place to enable registration to extend to trailers. In this Bill we shall make some adjustments to ensure that the new provisions regarding vehicle registration plates can be extended to trailer registration plates. That probably means that the noble Viscount might well have to follow procedures similar to those followed in regard to motor vehicles.

I should like to reflect on the point put by the noble Viscount. I am not sure that I have been able to provide him with an adequate response this evening. Perhaps he will allow me to take the point away and return at a later stage.

Viscount Simon: Unlike the Minister, who said that he had not consulted the police, I have consulted the police. It was on their advice that I have put forward

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the proposal that trailers should be included. Furthermore, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that caravans should be included here.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that no identification numbers are used on the component parts. A considerable number of large trailers now have microscopic identity numbers painted on to various component parts, along the lines of a VIN number. If they are retrieved, they can be identified as having come from a certain truck. The noble Viscount also said that his £20 trailer is fairly irrelevant. However, how does one separate small trailers from large trailers? The law cannot cover one type of trailer, but ignore other types. Furthermore, for a number of people, if even a small trailer towed on the back of their car was stolen, they would be very unhappy, as would the owners of caravans.

I thank my noble friend for his response. I shall study what he has said and I hope that we shall be able to have further discussions to see whether this matter should be pursued at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Registers of motor salvage operators]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 2, line 7, leave out subsection (2) and insert--

"(2) The register shall be in such form as any requirements may prescribe."

The noble Viscount said: This short and simple amendment seeks to remove the local authority's discretion to add to the contents of the register for its area. The register will therefore be produced in a centrally prescribed format. We believe this to be important in order to prevent over-zealous local authorities from increasing the burdens on small businesses. Furthermore, it will avoid confusion in the interchange of data between local authorities and other agencies, including the police and central government.

This will be an entirely new area of regulation. It seems sensible to provide that, throughout the country, the same rules will be applied. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The effect of this amendment would be to impose a common format for the register for all local authorities. We do not think that that will be necessary. Local authorities keep many records and it may be that they would like to make this register consistent with others so that they will be easily recognised and understood by their employees. In addition, they may be able to make use of information being kept for other purposes and include a reference to that in the register, rather than repeating the content.

It is true that we may feel that it would be useful for all local authorities to keep some parts of the register in the same format, in particular if those parts contain information which would be shared with other agencies. That is why we have included a provision to allow the Secretary of State to prescribe certain

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requirements. We shall discuss the format of the registers with local authorities and, in conjunction with the Local Government Association, we shall provide joint guidance. We feel that this will help to ensure that the format of the registers will not vary widely between local authorities.

I hope that this meets the intention behind the noble Viscount's amendment and that he will feel able to withdraw it. We have in place provisions to enable us to get to grips with any variations that might otherwise occur.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. I shall consider carefully what he has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 2, leave out line 34 and insert--

"fees as are necessary to recover the costs of inspection only"

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 3, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 6, 7, 34, 36 and 37. All these amendments relate to fees and what is "reasonable". We all know that what is reasonable for one person might not be reasonable for another. Amendment No. 3 seeks to tighten the legislation here by stating:

    "fees as are necessary to recover the costs of inspection only".

Unless such a form of words is included, the opportunity for other costs to be added would be too great. All of us know that in these stringent times, local authorities tend to charge what they can. What they regard as "reasonable" may on occasion be what will satisfy their budgets. The amendment seeks to introduce an element of transparency which is not present in the Bill. Amendment No. 4 seeks to achieve the same end in subsection (10).

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 introduce the same form of tightening of the language in Clause 3(1)(b) and (2)(a) by introducing where relevant the words,

    "necessary to recover the costs of processing ... the application".

Similar to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, these amendments seek to ring-fence the fees so that they remain reasonable.

Amendments Nos. 34, 36 and 37 relate to Clauses 18 and 19 of the Bill concerning the imposition of requirements as regards registration plates. Again, the amendments seek to narrow down the definition to ensure that the costs recovered relate only to the request.

All the amendments pursue the general principle of ensuring that charges are restricted to cover exactly what they are supposed to cover and are not extended to other areas. Furthermore, they should remain "reasonable" and reflect the amount of work undertaken. We believe that the test of reasonableness is not merely to state that aim, but to define much more clearly what the charges will be for. I beg to move.

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