My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am quite happy to be found guilty of being draconian, and I seem to spend my life in Parliament asking for more draconian sentences for a range of offences. I do not mind his describing me in that way, because there are far worse things to be described as when it comes to law and order. I would sooner take the tag of being draconian than the tag of being soft on dealing with crime. However, he makes a perfectly valid point. As ever, his quick and insightful mind is a benefit to the House.
Amendment 1 suggests that when someone is given notice of the cancellation of a parking badge, it should be given in writing. It is simply intended to clarify what is expected of local authorities. Notification can be given in all sorts of forms, but it is important that everybody knows where they are and that there is a clear record that notice was given. If notice is given over the phone, a person who denies they ever received that phone call may well be on strong ground. Notification given in writing, however, is perfectly clear, so we should ensure that that is what happens.
“the written notification must be sent by registered post and signed for by the applicant or someone living at that address.”
Clause 2 concerns the cancellation of parking badges, and states that local authorities “may cancel a badge”. That is perfectly fair and I absolutely agree. However, if a badge has been cancelled by the local authority, but the person concerned denies knowing about that cancellation, we could be in a slightly tricky situation. Who knows whether the clause as currently constituted would be effective? It would therefore be extremely worthwhile to make it clear that written notification
“must be sent by registered post and signed for by the applicant or someone living at that address.”
The notification must be sent by registered post because the person who receives it will have to sign for it and there will be no doubt that they have received it. That would satisfy any test, and certainly a court test. I included
“someone living at that address” because it might be difficult to ensure that the person in receipt of the notification actually signed for it at the door; that may not be possible given the nature of what we are discussing. However, if someone living at that address signs for the letter, we can reasonably expect that the person in question knows that their badge has been cancelled, and subsequent actions can therefore be taken accordingly. If these amendments are not included in the Bill, I fear we may get into needless dispute and argy-bargy about whether someone actually received their notification. It is not unheard of for things to go missing in the post, and given the serious matters under discussion, amendments 1 and 4 will help rather than hinder the situation.
Amendment 2 is to clause 3 on the use of parking badges that are no longer valid—a point my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown rightly tackles in his Bill. I have high hopes that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch will support this amendment as it states that
“it is a defence to the offence in this section if a new valid parking badge has been issued that covers the time the badge was used or if the person being prosecuted has not received notification of the cancellation of the badge in question.”
In some respects that tackles the problem identified by amendments 1 and 4, but in a slightly different way. If somebody has not received or did not know about their cancellation letter, they should not be prosecuted or get into trouble. We should also protect people who are getting a new, valid, parking badge to cover the time in question. It would be pointless to prosecute somebody for using a badge that was no longer valid when a new badge covering the period in question was on its way. I hope my amendment will find favour; I have high hopes that my hon. Friend will be pleased with it as it seems to me the type of amendment that he would table.