Code of Practice for Private Parking - Motion to Regret

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 28 March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Khan of Burnley Lord Khan of Burnley Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 8:15, 28 March 2022

My Lords, the Private Parking Code of Practice has been introduced in an effort to regulate the industry and respond to the evolving threat of rogue operators. This is an objective that I am sure the whole House will support, and I am pleased that steps such as these are being introduced to this end. I am concerned that the Government are, unfortunately, not going far enough. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is right to raise his concerns in today’s debate.

The Minister will be aware that the Government have been obligated to introduce the code as a result of the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019. There is certainly some merit in the code that the Government have brought forward. I am particularly pleased that the code caps the amounts that should be charged for various parking charges. In practice, this will cut most fines at £50 and others at £100. However, it is unclear whether there are loopholes that could be exploited by this limit. There have been recent press reports of individuals receiving multiple separate fines in one day, resulting in a total fine of many thousands of pounds. Can the Minister assure the House that this would not be possible under the new code?

I am also pleased that a new process will be developed that will allow drivers to appeal fines. Although I appreciate that this service will be independent, what mechanisms will Parliament have to evaluate its operation? The code is right to bring forward the possibility of banning rogue companies that act outside the rules. Will the Minister commit to transparency over this? Will he arrange for the department to publicise those who have been banned?

On the issue of clear signage and markings, while this is also welcome, I would appreciate it if the Minister would explain what steps have been taken to ensure that they are accessible for people with disabilities.

Ministers have previously stated that the code was developed in close consultation with private parking experts including consumer and industry groups. Can the Minister elaborate on the findings of that consultation, and whether this will feed into further regulations?

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about the complexities of this area. I thought he talked well about indicators and, in particular, the volume of CCJs and statistical analysis of what has been happening. We welcome the opportunity to debate the code today. I hope the Minister will be able to provide assurances on the issues raised by this House. Regulations to confront rogue parking operators are long overdue, but the Government must go further to hold them to account.