Lord Selsdon said he occasionally noted the number plates of British cars when abroad if he spotted litter being thrown, before calling up his friends at the DVLA.
The peer claimed the DVLA would then use the details to find the telephone numbers of offenders before handing them over. Lord Selsdon said he would then call those he had seen littering, presumably to issue a strongly-worded rebuke.
The peer's actions appear to be in breach of data protection laws – the Data Protection Act requires organisations to keep the personal information they are processing secure and to have controls on making sure such information is not inappropriately accessed.
Lord Selsdon told the Lords he found British families travelling in large 4x4s to go skiing in the Alps were the worst-behaved on the international scene when it came to dropping rubbish out of cars. He said: "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 DVL(A) – to find their telephone and I give them a ring."
Lord Selsdon made the remarks as peers debated a Bill proposed by Tory Lord Marlesford, which would introduce fines for anyone caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle. The legislation was given an unopposed second reading and will now go in to committee stage
A spokeswoman for the DVLA said: "Information is only provided under strict controls to those who are legally entitled to it."
A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said: "We expect any organisation handling personal information to have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that access to people's details is strictly controlled."
The DVLA added: "We are writing to Lord Selsdon to ask him for further information. Depending on his reply, we will decide on whether or not it is necessary to conduct a full investigation."