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The agency responsible for drivers' personal information is proposing to stop dodgy clamping firms getting access to its databases

The Department for Transport wants to update the rules for accessing official vehicle databases after widespread concern that companies that had broken the law were given access to personal information.

A range of public and private sector organisations are able to access the registers held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as long as they can prove they have "reasonable cause" to obtain the information.

Data is used for a variety of purposes, including investigation of cars parked illegally, tracing company assets and identifying vehicles which have been driven off without paying for goods or services. As well as the police, some private sector organisations such as parking companies, car dealerships, and finance firms are given access.

The DVLA is now looking to change the rules governing access. The move follows investigations by Sunday newspapers revealing that a clamping firm whose bosses had served a jail term for extorting money from motorists had been allowed access to the database.

Its consultation, which started on February 16, suggests the rules could be tightened, with one option to allow insurance companies access but to prevent private car parking firms. Another proposal involves increasing the £2.50 fee per enquiry to £6. The DVLA is also looking to introduce a new audit regime for organisations granted access which could involve spot checks on the way information is used, reviews of groups applying for access and cross checking with Companies House.

Roads minister Stephen Ladyman said: "We think it's very important to protect privacy and confidentiality, and I understand why many people have serious concerns about the kinds of organisations that receive information from the vehicle register. The rules were put in place a long time ago, but the time is now right to look again at whether these rules are right for today's circumstances.

"We want a system that protects people from misuse of their personal details, but that enables organisations and individuals with a good reason to identify the keeper of a vehicle to do so."

The consultation closes on March 31, 2006.

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