I beg to move, That the clause be now read a Second time.
I welcome the broad thrust of the Bill, not least in the context of my time in local government. When we wanted to do something to support retailers at Christmas or some other event, we found that altering parking charges in a local authority car park or other location required a formal consultation, although the likelihood of someone writing to us to say “I would like to pay more to park my car” was virtually nil. When I was both the cabinet member for economic regeneration and the deputy leader of a council, we were spending thousands of pounds to achieve next to nothing. In some cases, we would find that we were not able to do what we wanted to do.
My new clause is intended to probe the views of the Bill’s promoter, my hon. Friend David Tredinnick, and those of my hon. Friend the Minister, with whom, when we occupied our respective posts in adjoining local authorities, I had exchanges for many years on everything from regeneration plans to council tax. It is a pleasure to see him in the Chamber today, and I look forward to hearing his comments later.
The current consultation procedures are intended to protect motorists and town centres from higher charges, but I wanted to make it clear beyond doubt that the Bill’s aim was to make it easier to reduce parking charges rather than making it easier to increase them. The Bill will certainly be helpful to Torbay. Each year, we have winter charges and standard charges. Standard charges apply throughout the summer and are slightly higher than the discounted winter rates, because in winter large car parks near a beach are unlikely to be particularly full. We do have some hardy swimmers, though, and there is usually a large event every Boxing day in both Torquay and Paignton. I see the Minister nodding: he is welcome to join us for a nice refreshing dip on a Boxing day morning. The requirement is to get one’s hair wet, to show that one has really gone into the water.