Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:45 am on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 9:45 am, 3rd February 2017

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. To be clear, I absolutely welcome the thrust of the Bill, as I have said on a couple of occasions, and making it easier to reduce car parking charges by having two separate systems. The Bill removes the need for formal adverts in local newspapers and reduces the length of consultation periods when prices are being reduced, but I tabled the new clause to probe whether that is the Bill’s definitive intention. I do not note any specific wording stating that the Bill is purely about decreasing parking charges. I accept that that is absolutely the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth, and I look forward to the Minister confirming that that is the Government’s intention, but I felt that it was appropriate to explore the matter further. I had hoped to see specific mention made of reducing charges, and I will consider withdrawing my new clause based on the commentary I hear today, but it is right to explore whether the Bill is purely about decreasing car parking charges.

A decrease in charges could perhaps be used to encourage people to attend special events. Classic examples of when many councils may decide to use such measures are Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Many councils have a policy of not enforcing standard parking charges on certain days of the year, but that is legally a bit messy. People should pay in theory but may see a sign saying, “We are not enforcing the rules today.” The Bill would allow that sort of thing and allow discounts on particular days or for particular events. The other classic examples are Christmas day and Boxing day. Both are easily included in orders about off-street parking, but that is more difficult with moveable feasts. I fully accept that councils should not draw up exhaustive lists of every single event or every day on which they may want to take 50p off car parking or make it free for an hour or two. As I have said, I welcome the thrust of the Bill, but I want it to be clear that it is only about creating a system to make it easier to reduce, not increase, car parking charges.

The Bill is worthwhile and I am delighted to see it making progress. It is about reducing burdens, reducing bureaucracy and ensuring that money is not spent on pointless consultations—something that I will mention in the not too distant future when discussing my Bill—but I want its intention to be clear. That is why I tabled the new clause, which I hope will provide the basis for some debate, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments. Again, I stress that I absolutely welcome the Bill, making it easier to reduce car parking charges for particular events, but that is not explicit in the Bill.

Our legislation and debates should be clear. Someone sat in the Gallery or watching at home should be able to understand our exact intention from reading the Bill and when we make provisions. If I go down the Dog and Duck tonight and say, “Someone is thinking of making provisions about something under legislation,” the response would be, “What on earth are you talking about?” not, “Oh yes. They’re talking about offering a discount deal in the car park the next time there is an event.” That is why it is appropriate to explore the Bill in more depth on the Floor of the House and to suggest this new clause. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply and to deciding whether to press the new clause to a vote.

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