All 1 Lindsay Hoyle contributions to the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Fri 2nd Feb 2018
Parking (Code of Practice) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading: House of Commons

Parking (Code of Practice) Bill

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons
Friday 2nd February 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I take up this theme? The Bill is really saying to cowboy operators, “‘Get Back’. You will no longer have a ‘Ticket to Ride’. And if you do not follow the statutory code of practice, it will be a case, for your business, of ‘Hello, Goodbye.’”

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle)
- Hansard - -

Order. May I suggest that we all want to be “Homeward Bound”?

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think all this just goes to show how much in harmony the members of MP4 are on these issues.

This is a particularly useful Bill, which I strongly support. I believe that it is absolutely necessary. Private parking companies have become a curse in so many of our communities, and they are out of control in so many areas. They are a blight on communities, harassing motorists and driving tourists away from many towns and city centres. The city of Perth is plagued by these cowboys. I have received more complaints about one car park in Kinnoull Street than about any other issue in my constituency. That car park is operated by the John Wayne of all the cowboys, the appalling and loathed Smart Parking, a company that blights communities throughout Scotland, including Inverness, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry). It distributes fines like confetti, and its so-called smart technology seems almost designed to frustrate motorists and harvest fines from them.

Another company in my constituency, UKPCS in St Catherine’s Retail Park in Perth, has even managed to outdo Smart Parking. One part of this free car park is ringed with signs saying that anybody who parks there who has the temerity to leave that zone and access facilities in other parts of the retail park will be fined up to £100, and people’s privacy is being invaded by car park attendants taking photographs of unsuspecting customers to prove this crime. This is the level of harassment our constituents are now having to put up with on a daily basis at the hands of these cowboys, and it has to come to an end.

The sheer scale of their preying on our constituents is almost industrial in its operation and organisation. A private parking ticket is now being issued every 4.5 seconds, the equivalent of 13 per minute. The RAC estimates that the total value of illegitimate parking tickets issued by private companies in a single year could be as much as £100 million. These parking cowboys know they are on to a good thing, and they know what to do now is build parking ticket charges into their business models in order to increase their profits at the expense of our constituents. This Bill will hopefully signal the beginning of the end of the parking cowboys.

Self-regulation has obviously failed dramatically. The British Parking Association is as much use as a multi-storey car park in the middle of Gobi desert. The parking cowboys hide behind BPA membership to give a veneer of legitimacy. Every time I take up issues with Smart Parking, it just comes back to me and says, “We’re members of the BPA so it should be all right.”

What do our constituents think? Some 93% of participants in an RAC survey think a Bill aimed at tackling the issue is a good idea, so the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire is on to something here; 84% want fines to be proportionate to the contravention; 74% want fines capped; and 81% of motorists want a national standard on signs. The good news for the right hon. Gentleman is that 78% want a parking regulator that enforces good practice.

We have heard some of the things that should be included; I will make a couple of pitches, and I hope to serve on the Bill Committee to pursue them. When people receive PCNs, their rights should be included on them. Too often the parking cowboys dress them up as fines; they are not fines. They are not even effectively legally enforceable; what they are is a statement to say that the recipient has somehow breached the terms and conditions of using that private land, and if the parking company were to pursue them, it would have to go to the civil court and prove that they broke those terms and conditions.

I make a plea, too, on the use of debt collection agencies, which has to end. They are grossly invasive, threatening and meant to intimidate people into paying. I have seen some appalling examples of the use of debt collection agencies and how they increase the intensity of their threats and intimidation. I have had constituents who have had 10 threatening letters, which increase to the point where I almost think they are going to be taken out and shot at dawn, such is the level of their threats.

The National Motorists Action Group has also found an unsavoury profitable collusion between private parking companies and debt collection agencies. It is right that PPCs should expect settlement and that they write letters, but local authorities do not use private collection agencies, so if it is good enough for the statutory sector it should be good enough for the private sector, too.

I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) about DVLA access. I believe parking operators should have to prove they are entitled to get DVLA access. I know that is not being considered, but I would like it to be. Parking operators should meet a test to show they are a responsible parking operator in order to get DVLA access, but if there are any examples of bad practice, DVLA access must be removed. I like the AA’s suggestions and ideas about monitoring hotspots through postcodes, and if something peculiar and particular is going on, as in Perth, the private operator has an obligation to resolve it and, if it is not resolved to our satisfaction, they lose access to the DVLA. That is a straightforward suggestion.

I am also grateful that this will cover the whole of the United Kingdom, so that areas like mine are covered. My constituency has been particularly blighted by the parking cowboys and hopefully this will mark the beginning of their twilight months.

In my experience, people are happy to pay for their parking, and an arrangement that ensures that parking on private land is properly charged and any transgressions are proportionately tackled is the way forward. Surely it is not beyond our wit to design such an arrangement.