I am in error because I should clearly have asked my hon. Friend to join the Committee. He would have made a major contribution. One of the privileges of introducing a private Member’s Bill is that one has some influence over the membership of the Committee, and it is good to see my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris, who served on the Committee, sitting behind the Treasury Bench. The Committee examined the Bill with some care.
At the end of Second Reading, I said:
“I can say in all honesty that this modest two-clause Bill will improve the quality of life in every city and town in this country. I am…grateful for the Government’s support.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 617, c. 1195.]
I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend Mr Jones, who is my neighbour across the A5, Watling Street. No doubt he will have some remarks to make. As the Opposition spokesman, Andy Slaughter, will know, the Labour party supported the Bill in Committee, and I hope that we continue to have his support today.
This is a simple Bill. In fact, my hon. Friend Mr Chope, who is not known as a great friend of private Members’ legislation, whispered in my ear one day—being a very educated man and a classical scholar, perhaps—that this is a de minimis Bill, which I interpreted as meaning that there is very little in it. I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, and my hon. Friends that that was the point of this Bill. I was No. 5 on the list, and, having decided to run with this issue, I felt it had to be a simple Bill that appealed to all parts of the House. I did not want it to attract controversy and encourage colleagues to speak for a very long time and perhaps impede its progress.
You may recall, Mr Speaker, that, in an impromptu remark on Second Reading, I described this as a Santa Claus Bill, as we were in the run-up to Christmas. The first and perhaps most important provision of this Bill is that it allows councils to reduce parking charges without giving 21 days’ notice in their local newspaper or in the media. It is increasingly important that councils have flexibility, and I will explain why in a moment. The second part of the Bill is to force councils to consult on increasing charges, but it does not affect the charges themselves.
Let me just refer to Santa Claus again. I was somewhat stunned when I went into the shop in the House in the run-up to Christmas and found a tree decoration of Father Christmas holding the Santa Act 2016. Clearly, I had been able to inspire somebody in the House authorities to produce this Christmas decoration, but it was a little premature in that the decoration referred to an Act. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that, as a slightly superstitious Member, I would not conceive of putting such a decoration on a tree until my Bill had been enacted.