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General No To Mob Discussion / Re: Chelmsford bus gate: Just one fine decision upheld
« Last post by 2b1ask1 on 07 December, 2018, 08:09:11 AM »
Well all of the aproach roads have signage saying there is a busses only ahead but in each case they are preceding multiple junctions and allow all vehicles to progress as far as the gate anyway for legitimate reasons. at the tunnel ends it is reasonable to consider motorists to have forgotten the signage from so far back. The tunnel ends only have the blue disks and they are hidden amongst the height restrictions and myriad of other signs and advertising. This is a classic bottle trap and if proof were needed even the Google Street View car went through! https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.7363558,0.4681212,3a,75y,90.03h,86.36t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spCKn2wUqRm6crr_9Gu3ldA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
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General No To Mob Discussion / Chelmsford bus gate: Just one fine decision upheld
« Last post by Web Admin on 06 December, 2018, 11:37:43 AM »
Chelmsford bus gate: Just one fine decision upheld


There have been 4,804 appeals against fines for using the bus gate

Just one fine handed out to motorists wrongly using a city's bus gate has been upheld at tribunal, figures show.

Essex County Council has received more than £1.5m from 43,864 penalty charge notices (PCN) for the misuse of the Duke Street bus gate in Chelmsford, since cameras were installed in 2017.

Of the 139 cases which went to tribunal, after the council rejected appeals, a single fine was upheld.

The council said only 0.3% of cases had gone to tribunal.

Forty-eight cases still await a decision, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: "The Bus Gate in Chelmsford is there for a reason. It stops cars using the city centre as a 'rat run', ensures buses run on time and, most importantly, keeps pedestrians safe."

The spokesman said it had been illegal for most vehicles to drive through the Bus Gate since 2011.

Cameras were introduced in May 2017 to try and enforce the ban on any vehicle except buses, motorbikes, cycles and taxis.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-46441219
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General No To Mob Discussion / Parking tickets on private land soar
« Last post by Web Admin on 06 December, 2018, 11:32:46 AM »
Parking tickets on private land soar

23 Nov 2018


Up a fifth in a year

New data suggests that private parking firms are issuing penalties to drivers at the rate of one every five seconds.

Information published by the DVLA shows that in the second quarter of 2018-19 the agency sold 1.71 million sets of vehicle keeper records to car parking management companies.

These records are used to issue drivers with penalty tickets of up to £100 for alleged infringements of parking regulations on private land.

The 1.71 million figure is 20% higher than 1.43 million number sold in the same period a year earlier.

At this rate private parking firms are on course to issue around 6.8 million tickets by the end of the financial year.

Financial year   Number of vehicle keeper records obtained from the DVLA by parking management companies
2018-19   6.8 million (projection)
2017-18   5.65 million
2016-17   4.71 million
2015-16   3.67 million
2014-15   3.06 million
2013-14   2.43 million
2012-13   1.89 million
2011-12   1.57 million
2010-11   1.17 million
2009-10   1.03 million
2008-9   687,000
2007-8   499,000
2006-7   272,000
The news comes as Sir Greg Knight MP’s private members’ bill – Parking (Code of Practice) – is back before the House of Commons.

The proposed legislation, if agreed, will end industry self-regulation and require firms to adhere to a set of rules and regulations that has ministerial approval. An amendment to the bill has been tabled which will also allow ministers to establish a single, independent, appeals service.

The rise in the number of private parking tickets being issued coincides in large part with the ban of clamping on private land brought about by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. This act allowed for private parking companies to pursue the recorded keepers of vehicles for parking infringements when the driver could not be identified.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“The private parking industry never ceases to surprise, or dismay. Just when you think that we must have peaked, the number of tickets keeps going on up.

“Parking should be an inconsequential act with the system working for both drivers and land owners. But yet again we see numbers that suggest the relationship is going badly wrong.

“It is surely inconceivable that 18,000 drivers a day are knowingly setting out to ignore parking rules and attract penalties of up to £100.

“Are thousands of drivers really failing to understand the rules? Or might many be being pursued on the flimsiest of grounds in the hope that they won’t put up a fight? Otherwise, why would half of the cases taken to the appeals service result in cancelled tickets?

“Frankly we think Sir Greg Knight’s private members bill can’t come into law too soon, bringing the era of self-regulation of private parking to a close with firms having to abide by a code of practice signed off by ministers.”

ENDS

Contacts:

Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | philip.gomm@racfoundation.org

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users. The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.

The RAC Foundation is a registered charity, number 1002705.

All the RAC Foundation’s work is available on its website: www.racfoundation.org

https://www.racfoundation.org/media-centre/parking-tickets-on-private-land-soar
4
#135, 136 and 137

From Hansard https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-11-23/debates/005F9F65-57E5-4AD0-B6EC-C26C75A7AAA2/Parking(CodeOfPractice)Bill

==================================


Sir Greg Knight
 
#135 The hon. Member for Warrington South (Faisal Rashid) mentioned one of many cases in which usually pensioners, although not always—some of the cases that have come to my attention have involved pensioners—type one digit of their registration number into the machine incorrectly and the machine does not allow for any correction of the details already entered. The fee is nevertheless paid, but a ticket is issued. So, for many people, parking on private land can be a traumatic and expensive business.

#136 One of the reasons why we need a mandatory code now is that technology is being used to provide evidence. The growing misuse of automatic number plate recognition cameras is a particular worry to me. Cameras ostensibly enable private parking companies to keep a record of exactly how long a motorist has remained in a car park and provide photographic evidence if they exceed the time they have paid for. They say that the camera never lies, but things are not always as they seem.

In one car park at a fast food restaurant in Nottinghamshire that is policed by CCTV, drivers are told they must not enter the car park when the restaurant is closed. However, the signage telling them that is ​located inside the carpark itself, along with the details of the opening times of the restaurant, making it impossible for a motorist to know before they enter the car park whether they will receive a private parking notice.

#137 At another private car park at a fast food outlet in Enfield, a driver was recently issued with a parking charge notice for overstaying. In this case, the motorist visited the restaurant twice in one day. The ANPR cameras recorded her leaving the car park on the first visit and returning for the second. By using the photos the wrong way around, the car park operators tried to charge her a penalty for a period when she was not even in the car park.
5
It seems that the sun may be coming out.
Excellent!
6
About blooming time!

All very positive (if a little long winded to read). No mention though of PPC's using DVLA database for non-parking alleged infringements at airports  etc. such as pausing momentarily to let a passenger hop out at a roundabout rather than getting caught in their bottle trap parking system...
7
 :idea: I suggest, that when an appeal is successful, the parking company should receive a fine equivalent to the one the company tried to impose on the driver, plus compensation for the inconvenience and worry the driver has been put through. Also, if the company takes the case to court and is unsuccessful there, the parking company should not only receive the aforementioned fine, but should also pay all the legal costs and compensation to the driver. Let's see how they get on with that!
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Part 8

 2.05 pm

Gillian Keegan (Chichester) (Con)

I, too, add my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) for all his work on this important Bill and for sticking up for the consumer, consumer rights and the small guy in the street.

Good-quality parking services are a vital element of all our communities. Before coming to this place, I had the enormous privilege of being the cabinet member responsible for parking services at Chichester District Council, where I saw that as a duty to work closely with businesses and the community at large to ensure that we provided good-quality and safe services. I am especially proud that during that time we upgraded all the car parks to include contactless payment and payment by mobile phones. Indeed, we won many awards for our safe car parks in Chichester.

Having proper, well-run parking services supports the wider economy, as it facilitates people to visit our city centres or quaint villages. This is especially true for rural areas where people mostly have to use a car to get to, say, Chichester. Most car park operators are honourable and seek to offer safe, convenient parking facilities, and to make life easier for people who are trying to visit the city, but it is clear that this ambition to provide a genuine service is not uniform, and there is therefore a clear need for this Bill.

One of my constituents recently came to me having been sent a fine for not purchasing a ticket in a private car park. Her car was registered as she entered the car park by CCTV cameras, and the computer system deemed her not to have paid. On appeal, she insisted that she had in fact paid and bought a ticket, but she was getting nowhere. It was her word against theirs, as is often the problem in these situations. A few weeks later, she returned to me triumphant because she had found her purchased ticket and was able to prove her innocence. However, most of us do not keep old parking tickets. Hearing stories like this, it is no surprise that we now see 13 times more fines issued than a decade ago.

I fully welcome this Bill as it will allow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to implement best parking practice across the country and to have an appeals process, as well as improving the management and operational practice of our car parks.

It is also important to look to the future of parking. As well as issuing guidance for common standards and operation, I urge the Minister to consider the impact ​that technology is likely to have on this topic. Personalised parking using number plate recognition technology and differentiated pricing based on peak and off-peak periods are likely to become much more commonplace in future, but we should make sure that they are used to encourage good parking practices and to disincentivise bad ones.

I think it is safe to say that we all support this Bill. I look forward to seeing it in practice and putting an end to the sharp business practice that we have seen increasing in our car parks.

 2.07 pm

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con)

I am very pleased to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) on bringing in this Bill, which is a good dose of common sense in this time of division. He has managed to unify the House. Perhaps we need more such Bills.

The Bill is common sense in so many ways. All of us, as MPs, receive way too many emails, letters and calls from our constituents raising concerns about parking. It makes absolutely no sense for us, in our offices paid for by the public purse, to effectively be as the customer services complaints process for some of the more disreputable car park operators. This Bill will help to avoid all that. Citizens Advice and other bodies are involved in these disputes to far too great an extent, as well. A single code of practice consistently applied means that if we go into a car park at one end of a street, it will have the same standards as the others. I also appreciate the penalty in the form of not having access to DVLA information should there be non-compliance with the code of practice.

My constituents always expect me to support common-sense Bills, and I will do so today.

 2.09 pm

Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con)

Being a neighbour of and sharing a county with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), it is a pleasure to come here to support him and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) on this Bill. This parking issue affects constituents from not only Perth and Kinross, but Clackmannanshire, on the other side of my constituency, who go into Stirling. They, too, have experienced extortionate fines for very small or misunderstood misdemeanours. Importantly, this Bill corrects a wrong that was identified by Citizens Advice Scotland in 2014 in its “It’s Not Fine” report, which set out how private practitioners need to clean up their act. This is now being addressed and it is great to see a national problem having a national solution in this Bill, with the support of Members from across the United Kingdom.

 2.09 pm

Mike Wood

This Bill is important not only in protecting motorists; it is vital to the vitality of our town centres. People who are afraid of high, arbitrary parking penalties do not come into town centres and so do not support local traders, and our high streets miss out. Parking providers have privileged access to DVLA records in order to enforce these charges. That is a privilege, and where providers are abusing their position through excessive charges and making sure that those escalate as a way of ​dissuading people from contesting the charges, despite there being insufficient signage, the provider should lose those privileges, even if they go out of business. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), in bringing forward this vital Bill, has earned the thanks of motorists from around the country. He deserves the thanks of the traders in our town centres who rely on this and he deserves the support of all of us in this House today.

 2.11 pm

Rishi Sunak

It is a pleasure to conclude this outbreak of consensus and unity. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) put it perfectly: of course private landowners and car park operators have the right to manage their land effectively, but that must be done in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner. For the first time, as a result of this Bill, that is exactly what will happen. We have heard so many contributions from Members in all parts of this House about the sharp practices that our constituents have had to endure, and we will now be able to put an end to those nefarious ways of doing business.

So many specific examples have been given that it will be difficult to respond to all of them, but I wanted to touch on a few of the common themes that emerged in Members’ contributions. The issue of surface markings was raised by many Members and I can confirm that the code of practice should look at that, along with signage—the size, the things that should be included on signs and where they are located in car parks. Again, that is a common-sense measure.

Consideration and grace periods was another issue picked up on by many hon. Members. We heard examples of Members and their constituents being taken advantage of. Ensuring there are sensible periods to allow someone to come into a car park, decide whether they want to park and then leave again without charge, and to allow them when they return to be able to pay for their ticket, get to their car and leave are sensible measures that the code of practice will examine.

We heard a lot about the legal status of private penalty charge notices and the confusing nature of private companies using that legal language. I confirm, again, that the code of practice should and will look at that, as well as the language and information that should be included on those private parking notices, as ​we should perhaps call them. This could include the contact details for the parking operator, clear information about the appeals and the challenge process, timescales for payments and the details in relation to the breach of contract, so that no threatening or misleading language can be used in relation to the terms of the situation that the parker has found themselves in.

Fines were a topic raised by many Members. Of course it is sensible that there should be some element of fines, but those should be reasonable. I have heard and taken on board the suggestion from hon. Members about linking them in some way to local authority fine rates, which are already in existence. That idea definitely has merit and we will continue to explore it with the team. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) raised the issue of railway parking. As he knows from his time in the Department, railway parking is governed by separate rail byelaws. Obviously, our constituents are not aware of that, so we are working with the Department for Transport to see whether we can find consistency between the various different regulations.

I hope hon. Members will remain convinced of our commitment to bringing this legislation into force as soon as practicably possible. Of course we all join in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) on his diligent and valiant efforts in this regard. In conclusion, I hope hon. Members can join me in thanking my team. A small team has been working on this incredibly important issue for many months. They have done a fantastic job and I am sure that they will continue to make us proud as we bring this legislation to bear.

 2.14 pm

Sir Greg Knight

With the leave of the House, I once again thank everyone who has taken part. In anticipation of his future help, I thank my noble Friend Lord Hunt of Wirral, who has agreed to take the Bill through the other place.

The message to cowboy parking operators from this Chamber is loud and clear: in future, you play by the rules or you are put out of business. Let us give the Bill our blessing and make parking a much fairer experience.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.
9
Part 7

Kevin Brennan

May I join the long list of Members who have been praising the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) for introducing this Bill? He has had so much praise today that perhaps next Tuesday at the political studies awards, which will be shown on the BBC Parliament channel, he should get an award of his own for introducing this Bill. He will be well supported because I and the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will be there with him at the awards, playing in MP4 and launching our new single “Do you see me?” I turn to the Bill. I was delighted to sponsor—[Interruption.] CDs are available at £5 on Revolver Records.

I was pleased to sponsor this Bill with the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. Why are we here? If we cannot in this place try to ​change things for the better for our constituents, there is little purpose in our being here, and this legislation genuinely will improve the quality of people’s lives. If they no longer have the stress and anxiety of receiving one of these fake notices—which is sometimes what they are—through the post, trying to extort money from them for simply going about their daily business, as anybody should be free to do, we will have done a great service to our constituents.

If the Bill takes out some of the cowboy operators that every Member in this Chamber knows about through their constituency casework, we will have done a great service to our constituents. If it saves hard-pressed constituents a few quid because they have not been fooled—as is sometimes the case—into paying notices unnecessarily, we will have done them a great service. The right hon. Gentleman in particular and other Members who have contributed deserve credit for that. He does deserve some sort of award for bringing the Bill through. I am sure that will make the right hon. Gentleman extremely popular not only, as he already is, with his own constituents—I can say that as he has a very safe Tory seat—but with motorists and constituents across the country.

I am glad that the Bill was strengthened today through the new clause and the amendments that the right hon. Gentleman introduced, and I am sure that when it travels down the Corridor to the other place their Lordships will want to look at it very closely and perhaps consider strengthening it further in co-operation with the Government. But what is most important is that we get it on to the statute book as quickly as possible because it will make a genuine and positive difference.

In Committee, I mentioned some of the bad practices. I am not going to dilate at length—as Mr Speaker might say—on those issues this afternoon, but some companies, such as New Generation Parking, which I mentioned, do not even respond to correspondence from Members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents. In Committee, I expressed the view, which I know the Minister heard, that any code worth its salt would ensure that any company that failed to respond to a letter of concern from a Member of Parliament on behalf of their constituent would be in breach of that code. It should be a basic requirement on any decent company operating any kind of business that it should respond to a reasonable inquiry from a Member of Parliament within a reasonable time.

Sir Greg Knight

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on that point. If a complaint is made about the receipt of a private parking notice, whether by the driver, the registered keeper or the registered keeper’s MP, it should in my view be responded to within 14 days.

Kevin Brennan

I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has put that firmly on the record. He also responded positively in Committee when I intervened on him on this matter. I am sure that the Minister has heard what he said, and I hope that those who are preparing the code will also have heard that viewpoint being expressed here.

Perhaps we need to ponder further on the practice that is now developing of parking companies using technology to enforce these parking notices. I am concerned not only that they are using camera technology but that, ​in more and more cases, anyone who parks on private land—for example, the site of St David’s Hospital in my constituency, where there is no charge but we nevertheless have to register when we park—is required to enter their registration number into a machine in order to be deemed to have parked legally or appropriately there. How is the collection of that data being properly overseen? Who is responsible for ensuring that the personal data that is being collected in the form of our constituents’ registration numbers is being properly and legally processed? Further to that, the companies do not often provide a paper receipt from the machine, and people are expected to provide a mobile telephone number or sometimes an email address in order to get a receipt to prove that they have parked legally. Who is responsible for ensuring that the data being collected in that way is being properly processed?

This issue was brought to me by my constituent, Derek Donovan, who has campaigned heavily on issues relating to parking, and to private parking in particular. He has also pointed out that, even when we are not required to provide a registration number, the parking company can go to the DVLA and ask who the owner of a particular vehicle is. The way in which that information is handed out, and to whom, is not being properly co-ordinated by the DVLA—if indeed it is its responsibility to do that. Only a sample of cases is audited, so we cannot be sure that that data is in all cases being released to responsible people and used responsibly and legally. As a result, Derek Donovan has registered a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the outcome of which could prove pertinent to the passage of the Bill in another place if we hear from the ICO before the Bill goes through its other stages there.


I do not want to go on at length, because we want to ensure that the Bill completes its passage before we end our proceedings today. I reiterate my congratulations to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire and I wish it well for its further passage at the other end of this building.

 1.59 pm

Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan). I am enthusiastic about rising in support of this Bill, not least because I was on the Public Bill Committee on 19 July but, unfortunately, as I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government I did not have the opportunity to speak. I now take the opportunity to put on record my support for the Bill.

I wish the Bill could come into force immediately and, because I know it cannot, I refer my constituents who have issues with privately operated car parks to an excellent article in the Express & Star authored by Peter Madeley in which he sets out the advice from Sarah Garner of DAS Law on how to challenge these charges. There is clearly a difference between a parking charge notice and a penalty charge notice, and it is essential that my constituents understand the difference and are protected from the duplicitous actions of some of these private parking companies, not least because, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) pointed out, these fines can be as much as £100. It is important that we, as a Government and as a Parliament, protect the public from such practices.​
 2.00 pm

Kevin Foster

I am conscious of time, so I will keep my remarks relatively brief. I am delighted to support my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) in securing the Bill’s Third Reading. About 18 months back, the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham P. Jones), who cannot be here today, and I secured a Westminster Hall debate on how the use of DVLA records and ANPR systems allows some of the sharpest cowboys in the parking world to put things out that frighten people and seek to get money from them. In many cases they use sharp practices such as, when a person enters their registration in the machine, the first button they press wakes up the machine, or the weird keyboard does not seem to be working that day, or, unlike local council car parks nearby that use such systems, they accept payment for registrations that are not in the car park, so a person who has actually paid can still get a fine afterwards.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the role of Premier Park in Exeter in supporting this legislation through its management of Marina car park in the middle of Torquay, which has produced a ton of complaints compared with the entirety of Torbay Council’s enforcement operation at 39 car parks and on-street car parking facilities.

This code of practice is overdue, and most of the industry will welcome it. Most of the industry want to manage and run car parks fairly. Most of the industry has nothing to worry about from the Bill, and actually actively supports it because they do not want to be undercut by rogue operators that rely on income generated from fines.

I am conscious of the time and that a few more colleagues would like to say some words in support of this welcome Bill, which I look forward to being enacted as quickly as possible.

 2.02 pm

Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con)

It is a pleasure to support this Bill, a sound piece of legislation sponsored by a sound Member from a sound part of the country. We should get on and pass it without further delay.

This is a serious issue. Some 10,000 people have been in contact with Citizens Advice over the past year in relation to parking fines, which can be traumatic and stressful for people who suddenly receive bailiff notices, threatening letters and other mail. One of the great things about this Bill is its flexibility; it is not a clunky thing that will become outdated as practice changes in the parking industry. Instead, the Bill will allow us to be flexible over time.

My experience demonstrates the need for this legislation. I have had experiences where certain operators have given me unfair fines, perhaps because they have wrongly typed in my car registration, and I have had successful redress and the fines have been dropped. In other cases, where the operators were more like the cowboys mentioned by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), I have not been successful. The Bill will bring coherence to the system and ensure a fair deal for everyone throughout the country.

It is brilliant that the Bill is supported by the industry. Andrew Pester, the chief executive officer of the British Parking Association, agrees that a single code is important to ensure that unscrupulous providers do not undermine ​the parking sector with bad practices. The Bill will allow future Ministers to be able to sort out the issues that other Members have raised, to avoid excessive fines, to avoid the failure to give notices, to avoid excessive legal charges in pursuing those things, to stop the sending of threatening letters to vulnerable people and, above all, to strike off cowboy operators by making it impossible for them to trade.

This is a superb Bill. It is exactly the sort of thing that this House should be doing, and it will be hugely welcomed by constituents. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), who has done this country a service by bringing forward this excellent Bill.
10
Part 6

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)

It is an absolute pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) on finally bringing this madness, quite frankly, to an end with this Bill.

Many right hon. and hon. Members have talked about their constituents’ experiences of receiving unfair parking enforcement notices. I declare an interest because I have experienced the exact same situation. I drove into an underground hotel car park, got my bag out and went into the hotel. A member of the hotel’s staff then told me how much the parking charge was—it was more expensive than the hotel room—but that there was a really good local authority car park around the corner. I took that advice. I got back in my car, drove out and parked in the local authority car park without any problem. However, I received a fine from a parking operator because I had driven in and driven out of the hotel car park five minutes later. I won my appeal, but the hotel company said that it would discipline its member of staff for advising me to park elsewhere. Perhaps that is a private Member’s Bill for another day.

On the border of my constituency, there is a local authority car park. Bizarrely, part of the land is privately owned. People park there because they think they can ​park for free, just as they can for the local authority part. There is no signage on the part that is privately owned and people do get charged. It is an absolute sting.

Sir Greg Knight

My hon. Friend is making a very good point. That is why it is essential that the code of practice has a transaction period that is free. In other words, it would give motorists thinking time between entering a car park and deciding whether or not to stay. In some parts of the country, car parks are situated in conservation areas where, for planning reasons, signage is inside. We need to give motorists time to go in and think, so they can say, “No, this is not for me” and leave without facing a penalty.

Huw Merriman

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are talking about contract law. If people pick up an item in Boots priced £5 but at the till they are charged £10, many people think they can actually get the item for £5. In fact, under the offer and acceptance of contract law, the contract is formed only at the time of execution. Yet when one goes into a car park, one can be charged before executing the transaction. That has to be a breach of contract law.

On the charging mechanism, there is no proper definition for what is a reasonable and proportionate charge. That is of particular interest, because my former chambers sought a legal opinion from the Royal Automobile Club. The feeling was that the legal definition of reasonable and proportionate would be the cost of administering the charge. What was unusual was that the Supreme Court was asked to decide and found that £85 was reasonable and proportionate. The QC, however, felt that it was several times higher.

Perhaps the Minister could commit to guidance on what the charge should be. If that were to follow local authority charging, which outside London would be £60, I would perhaps stray into another area and say that I do not believe £60 is reasonable and proportionate. Local authorities will say that that is the cost because they do not make any profits, but I believe that they do. I believe that local authorities, time and again, use the money they raise from parking to pay for other areas of their spending. They are not supposed to do that. Barnet Borough Council, which was taken to court and lost, freely admitted that it was levying excessive charges to raise money for other services. No other local authority will ever admit that. There is a permitted amount they can spend from parking revenues on measures that enhance the environment. However, that is so wide and woolly that local authorities can effectively charge in any way they want.

James Cartlidge

Has my hon. Friend considered the position of rail companies? Under the Greater Anglia franchise, the rail company owns the car parks. The increase in its charges—I refer not to the fines, but to the cost of parking—is very substantial each year. They are unregulated, and the company has a monopoly. It seems to me that we should at least be considering those who probably have no choice but to pay the cost of parking—not just the fines.

Huw Merriman

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. His link to railways reminds me of another charge that I managed to land myself with—I have an unfortunate ​habit of doing that. In fact, I recently chaired an event with Gyles Brandreth at which a local authority won an award for its great parking policies, so I threw all my offences in—not in the hope that they would be rescinded. Season tickets are another issue for many. Someone buys a season ticket—so a company that has the machines knows that they have bought the season ticket—but if that person is unfortunate and the ticket falls down and is not on display when they close the car door, they will be charged because the ticket was not displayed, despite the fact that they have already purchased it. Again, there is the principle that someone cannot pay twice for the same transaction, but it is not being properly enforced. If my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire comes up with a private Member’s Bill again, there would still be much more to do. We are getting there on the private side of things, but I am afraid that our constituents do not necessarily see the differentiation. Many local authority practices are not working, too.

I will leave time for others to speak, but I could not stand up and talk about parking without mentioning my own parochial issues. There are only 12 local authorities left in the United Kingdom that still require the police to deal with parking matters on their high streets. I have two of those local authorities in my constituency. We have talked about police funding issues and that the police perhaps do not have the resources that they need to do everything, and rightly we have added another thing to their priorities this morning. The police in my constituency have turned around and said, “We are not going to carry on doing this.”

Effectively, if someone overstays in a two-hour parking bay, it is a criminal offence and the police are required to take action. All the money raised goes straight to the Home Office, so there is no local incentive, and the police take the view that they should be doing other things, and I absolutely support them. The local authorities, however, do not want to take this on, so in my constituency there is a parking free-for-all on our high streets. It is so bad that I got Guide Dogs to come down and I walked around, first, blindfolded while being led, then with a cane, and then with a dog. It is absolute chaos for people; motorists are parking on dropped kerbs and on kerbs. Those are criminal offences, of course, but the police are not doing anything at all, not even in areas where local authorities have traffic wardens.

I mention this point even though I know that it will not be this Minister’s responsibility—it will be more for the Department for Transport. The Government have had very successful policies on our environmental causes—small measures that go down incredibly well with the public—but I feel that we are not doing the same with transport. People are absolutely sick and tired of the way that their high streets are being cluttered up. People are acting in an antisocial manner and getting away with it. In my constituency it has got so bad that I find myself taking photos and putting them on social media, which I probably should not do and is probably an offence of some type, but we have got to a point where we really need action.

The frustration for me as an MP is that when I make this point to local authorities, they do not necessarily want to take it on. When I make it to the police, they say they do not have the resources. I make the point about enforcement to the Department for Transport, but enforcement is not occurring either. It is not fair that ​my constituents, just because of where they reside, are under a regime that is completely old hat and which most other authorities have moved on from, and are stuck in this situation.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire. I am sorry to have wandered off into the other spheres of parking, but we should not kid ourselves as a House that this is solved just with regard to the private side of things. On the public and high street side, there is more to do, and our constituents would thank us if we did so.

 1.38 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)

I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) on the progress of this much needed Bill, which I am pleased to support on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition. It is long overdue, as we have heard today, and I thank him personally for his tenacity on this issue. He will be the champion of drivers across the land, because we all know and can all tell very similar tales of constituents who have been clobbered by these sharp practices.

Today we have seen the Commons at its best. We often hear—and our constituents are the first to point this out—“Why can’t you ever agree on any measures? Why can’t you come together in the national interest over X, Y and Z and just come to a common-sense view and get it done?” Today, we have done precisely that, and I genuinely thank the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire, the Minister and the Scottish National party spokesperson, because this is the Commons at its best. We are getting things done for our constituents in every part of the United Kingdom.

There is a need for landowners and private car-park operators to have some control over those who park—no one would disagree with that—but enforcement must be fair, reasonable and proportionate. While many operators act properly—we should always remember that; we only hear about the nightmare cases, but there are operators who operate reasonably—the bad practices that we have discussed today colour people’s views of all parking operators, which is why the Bill is important, as it will provide uniformity in the code of practice and give people certainty about the rules across all private car parks. I have dealt with similar cases to those dealt with by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I have a cross-borough constituency, and will give two examples, one from each borough.

First, there is a small private car park in Denton, the main town in my constituency. It is next to a building that until recently was a bank. A bank customer parked in the car park next to the bank, which she was visiting, only to receive forceful letters and parking charge notices that looked like penalty charge notices a few days later. She had not realised that the car park next to the bank was not linked to it, as there was no signage. She successfully appealed against the charges with the help of my constituency office, but how many people would have been frightened into paying the charge because of the official-looking notice that they received?

Secondly, there is a large retail car park in Stockport. Until recently, it did not charge disabled people who displayed a blue badge. The car park is designed so that the disabled parking bays are closest to the retail units. Unfortunately, the pay-and-display machines are at the ​far end of the car park—it is not possible for the machines to be any further away from the retail facilities, which are near the disabled parking bays. Two minuscule signs were erected at the entrance to the car park. When people drive in they do not see signs that are about the size of the Dispatch Box. Disabled constituents of mine parked, as they always have done, in the disabled bay, did their shopping and drove away, only to receive a parking charge notice a few days later. Again, it is wrong that there was not even a sign on the disabled parking bays, let alone a pay-and-display machine close to those bays. That probably contravenes the Equality Act 2010, along with several other laws.

That is wrong, and that is why I am grateful to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire for introducing the Bill. I hope that it will be seen by the sector as an opportunity to rebuild the shattered trust between car-park operators and the motoring public. Poor signage and sometimes no signage at all, unreasonable rules, exorbitant so-called fines, aggressive and excessive demand for payment and an appeals process that does not work in the interests of consumers constitutes behaviour that needs to be stopped. Having listened to the Minister, for whom I have great respect, I hope that the Secretary of State will take action once he is empowered by the Bill to do so, and, given the assurances from the Minister on Report, I expect that he will.

Similarly, action must be taken to ensure that parking companies are not able to raise the level of fines to mitigate the effects of the levy that will facilitate the scheme. We need to crack down on the bogus procedure whereby they are able to make their fines look official. These are not penalty charge notices; they are nothing of the sort. To frighten vulnerable and elderly people, in particular, into paying unreasonable charges when they do not have to do so is wrong, and something that the Bill seeks to address.

As others have already said, we need to ensure that there is a cap on fines, and that they are appropriate. I strongly agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that they should be at a level similar to the level of fines imposed by the local authority in whose area the car park is located.

It is absolutely right ultimately to deny access to DVLA records to companies that do not properly adhere to the code, and I thank the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire for making clear to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) on Report that the Bill would provide for that. So many of my constituents cannot believe it is right for the DVLA to supply that information to cowboy operators, and it is most welcome that the loophole is to be closed.

As I have said, the right hon. Gentleman will be a hero among the long-suffering driving public. The Bill offers the prospect of a single set of standards that will help to end the confusion created by multiple codes of practice and appeals systems—and in many cases none—and will ultimately be fairer to all drivers. We wish it Godspeed in the other place, and look forward to its becoming law and saving so many drivers throughout the United Kingdom so much heartbreak.

 1.47 pm

Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)

Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise for that slight note of surprise.​
It is a real pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne). He is absolutely right: this is a fantastic opportunity for us all to agree on something. I am sometimes confused with the hon. Gentleman because our constituencies sound rather the same. We are, of course, on different sides of the House, but it is nice to be together on this occasion.

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate and to give my support to this welcome and timely Bill, which I am pleased to see continuing its passage through the House. I am also pleased that it has the support of the British Parking Association and the RAC Foundation. There is clearly consensus on the need for a parking code of practice for private parking providers in an industry that currently lacks regulatory rigour. Sadly, there are three separate codes of practice among the accredited trade associations, with the British Parking Association code stipulating one set of requirements and the International Parking Community another. That inconsistency is inappropriate, and I am delighted that the Bill seeks to address it so comprehensively. That is why it has already sailed through Committee and Report, and why all the clauses were agreed to without Divisions. I am sure that that is testament to the amazingly hard work that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) has put into this extremely well-drafted Bill.

Like other Members across the House, I have received letters and complaints, although I am pleased to say they are not in the same league as the notorious car park in Perth, which I will bear in mind if I ever travel to Perth. My own such parking experience took place in Redditch a long time ago, before I was the MP. I went to Redditch and was caught out by a dodgy parking operator. Hopefully, my constituents in Redditch will be delighted that the Bill will be passed today.

The RAC Foundation expects 6 million tickets to be issued by private parking providers this year alone, up from 4.5 million in the previous year. That highlights the lack of a consistent code of conduct and the lack of clarity. It is also borne out by figures from Citizens Advice, which reports that, last year, it was approached by over 10,000 people to ask for advice on private parking tickets. That is a huge number of people, considering the demand on its services.

I support the Bill and look forward to it progressing swiftly in the other place.

 1.50 pm
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