A Conservative peer has made the extraordinary claim that he uses friends in the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to track down drivers he spots littering the road and admonish them.
Speaking in the House of Lords today, Lord Selsdon said British families driving 4x4 cars to go skiing in the Alps were among the most prolific vehicle-based litterers.
"They are the ones I've followed occasionally and, for a bit of fun, I've just taken note of their number and occasionally manage - because I have friends with the DVLA - to find their telephone number and I give them a ring," he said.
"I just say, 'I'm sorry I happen to be involved in the political world a bit and it was noticed that at a particular point you did this," added Lord Selsdon, who joined the House of Lords in 1963.
Lord Selsdon, whose real name Malcolm McEacharn Mitchell-Thomson, is also the 3rd Baron of Selsdon and a wine producer in France. He was educated at Winchester College, served in the Royal Navy for two years and has worked for a string of companies, including Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) and the merchant bank Singer & Friedlander.
Lord Selsdon could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for the DVLA categorically denied Lord Selsdon's assertion that he accessed telephone numbers through the agency.
"We take our responsibility to protect information seriously. That is why information is only provided under strict controls to those who are legally entitled to it, such as local authorities and the police."
However, it later issued a second statement saying: "We are writing to Lord Selsdon to ask him for further information. Depending on his reply we will then decide on whether or not it is necessary to conduct a full investigation."
A spokesman for the RAC said Lord Selsdon's comments amounted to a "surprising outburst".
If Lord Selsdon did access information from the DVLA in this way, there may have been a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires organisations such as the DVLA to keep personal information secure.