It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey, not least because you are a midlands Member of Parliament and have a long length of service. The Bill is particularly relevant to you given your experience as deputy leader of Sandwell Borough Council between 1997 and 2000 and then your later experience as Chair of the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills between 2010 and 2015. Although you cannot comment on the Bill today in your capacity as the Chair, I like to think you will feel comfortable with what we are doing today and that it would, indeed, have helped—and will help—Sandwell Borough Council and that it would certainly be seen as beneficial by the Committee you used to chair.
As a preamble, when I summed up at the end of the debate on Second Reading, I said:
“I have always tried to keep in the back of my mind that our job as Members of Parliament is to improve the quality of life of the people we represent. Having listened to today’s debate, I can say in all honesty that this modest two-clause Bill”— three, with a technical clause—
“will improve the quality of life in every city and town in this country. I am most grateful for the Government’s support.”—[Official Report,
To the Labour Front-Bench team, I am grateful for the Opposition’s support. I understand, Mr Bailey, that they will not be speaking today, but I have had discussions with them before this and I am grateful that they have been amenable to supporting the Bill.
I referred to every town and every city in this country. For greater accuracy, I asked the Library to look out the number of settlements we have that would be affected by this Bill. According to the 2011 census, we have in this country 56 cities, 696 towns with a population of 5,000 or larger and 1,590 settlements with a population of 1,000 to 5,000. This shows the scale of the places where the Bill can have an impact.
It is significant for me, as a Back Bencher, to bring a private Member’s Bill to a Public Bill Committee that can have an impact not just on one area of the country. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall has a very special place here because she has taken through two or three private Member’s Bills, and it is a great comfort to have her here as an expert. She has done so much for the fishing community with her private Member’s Bills, which were specific to that community in Cornwall, which she has defended so well in her time in this place. When this Bill becomes law, as I hope it will, it will affect every village in England that has parking restrictions. The scope of the Bill includes Wales, but it will not apply in Wales for technical reasons.
The value of UK retail sales in 2015 was £339 billion. That will provide jobs for 3.3 million employees by 2017 in approximately 287,000 outlets. The major challenge to high streets in this day and age is internet competition. One of the reasons why the Bill is important for local communities of all sizes is that it will enable councils to fight back against internet competition as part of their armoury. The Bill will give the Government power to streamline the procedures local authorities must follow to reduce parking charges. It will provide a power for local authorities to consult local businesses and residents when increasing parking charges.
On Second Reading in late November, on the spur of the moment, I described this as a “Santa Claus” Bill, because it had the capacity for councils to reduce parking charges at a stroke before Christmas when they want to increase the demand for services in a local area. I will explain in a moment the difference between where we would be after the Bill and where we are now. This clearly caught the imagination of the House authorities. For greater accuracy, I have brought something along. They decided to produce a Christmas decoration that had on it, “Santa Act 2016”. I gather they were hot bestsellers. I have to tell the Committee—