Ask Honest John Question of the Week: Who 'owns' a registration plate?

Dear HonestJohn,

"I have noticed that registration plates are actually owned by the Secretary of State and only merely nominated to vehicles for identification purposes. Surely if a person owns a vehicle but does not own that number plate, any fine which is applied to that number plate should be charged to the owner of the plate which is the Secretary of State, not the vehicle owner who just merely displays the plate?"

- RD

Dear RD,

It is correct to say that the Secretary of State owns all registration plates issued in the UK and the registered keeper of the vehicle has a limited entitlement to display this number.

However, it is important to remember that the registration plate's purpose is to identify the vehicle for the purposes of taxes, insurance and detection in respect of applying road laws, parking and zones with specific regulations such as congestion and low emission restrictions.

A vehicle can be in breach of any applied regulations whether it is fitted with a registration plate or not, but a registration plate on its own could not be guilty of a parking offence or breaching emissions regulations.

In the event of a vehicle being captured by a speed camera exceeding the speed limit for example, a Notice of Intended Prosecution is sent to the registered keeper, who is required to provide the name and address of the driver, whether that is the registered keeper themselves or a third party.

In instances such as these, responsibility lies with the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offence, not necessarily the registered keeper, nor the Secretary of State...

Ask HJ

How much does it cost to keep a number plate on retention?

I have owned a personal number plate for forty plus years, I have had an offer to buy the car but want to keep plate on retention. I believe this will cost £80 and then £20 a year to keep it on retention. Is all this correct?
The fee to retain a number plate is £80 and this entitles you to keep it on retention for 10 years. If you wish to keep the number plate beyond 10 years you need to renew the V778 before the ten year period expires, but there is no charge for this. You can find more information about this on the government's website here:
Answered by David Ross
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