Appeals against parking charges

Part of Parking (Code of Practice) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham 12:45 pm, 23rd November 2018

I will be getting to that point, but it is important to set the context as well.

My first example affects one of my own constituents. I was making a point about the distress that can be caused by these demands, many of which are being issued on a specious basis. I had a constituent in Cheltenham, in a road near Montpellier Terrace, who received a letter demanding that a fine be paid. However, it turned out that the company demanding the money was seeking to claim a parking ticket in respect of land that belonged to the person receiving the ticket. That was an extraordinary situation. In other words, the company had not bothered to check with the Land Registry to find out who owned the land. When I looked into it, it turned out that the parking company had been called in because of a vexatious neighbour dispute. The neighbour had called in the parking company to try to get at his own neighbour. This is a prime example of why we need a sensible system of regulation, to ensure that the system is not misused in that way.

The second example that I want to give, before turning expeditiously to the amendments that Pete Wishart has mentioned, relates to my own situation. Seven years after the event, a parking company wrote to me to suggest that my car, which had long since been sold on, had been wrongly parked. I knew that this area of law was covered by contract law, and that this was way out of time in any event, even if the underlying suggestion was correct. The truth is, I could not remember, because it had happened seven years previously. However, such an episode would be upsetting for people who did not have that knowledge and who would not realise that such a demand was time-barred.

I shall now turn to the new clause and the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, whom I congratulate on bringing forward this brilliant Bill. He is right to have a single point of appeal; that is enormously sensible. There is not a great deal that I want to add to that, other than to say that I hope that the clause will be flexible enough to ensure that there are sufficient resources to deal with these points. The reason I say that is that new clause 1(1) states:

“This section applies if the parking code contains guidance recommending that all parking appeals are dealt with by a single person who is independent of persons providing private parking facilities.”

All I can say is that I hope there will be more than one person, because there are likely to be a great number of appeals. I hope that it will be appropriate for the singular to include the plural. I am sure that that point will be dealt with, but there needs to be more than one person.

I also want to deal with the proposal from my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch about the use by the Secretary of State of “his best endeavour”. I understand the logic behind his proposal, but I respectfully suggest that it is unnecessary in this case. The point has been made that there is a danger of seeing ghosts where none exists, so to speak. The wider point, however, is that, were this provision to be required, it would surely be required in every piece of legislation that this House passes. That would transfer power from this House, where hon. Members can properly hold the Executive to account for allegedly dilatory behaviour, to outside the House because, as my hon. Friend rightly acknowledges, the issue would become justiciable. We could then have a situation where a person could serve a writ suggesting that the Government had not used best endeavours to bring legislation into effect, which would cost a huge amount of time, expense and inconvenience. More importantly, this House would effectively be precluded from discussing it, because it would then be a matter under discussion by the High Court, which would be an unsatisfactory state of affairs.