The home secretary has lifted Data Protection Act restrictions to allow the police to use pictures of car number plates collected through London’s congestion charging scheme in their anti-terrorism work.

Police minister Tom McNulty told MPs that home secretary Jacqui Smith had signed a certificate exempting Transport for London – which runs the congestion charging scheme – and the Metropolitan Police from certain provisions of the 1998 act.

The change would allow bulk, real-time transfer to the police of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) data from the cameras used to record cars entering or leaving the central London congestion charging zone.

McNulty said: “The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police believes that it is necessary due to the enduring, vehicle-borne terrorist threat to London.”

The Met Police would be required to report annually to the Information Commissioner “so that he can satisfy himself that the personal data processed under the certificate is required for the purposes of safeguarding national security”, the minister said.

The home secretary is set to examine an interim report on the data transfer from the police and will review the exemption certificate in three months’ time.

McNulty added: “In the coming months, proposals will be developed and discussed across government to ensure that bulk ANPR data sharing with the police is subject to a robust regulatory regime which ensures reasonable transparency and scrutiny.”

The home secretary’s action follows the inclusion of a series of measures to increase government data sharing powers in prime minister Gordon Brown in his draft legislative programme.