Mr Matthew Green: When the Minister is talking about the people a council can authorise, will he make it clear that the council cannot authorise its own elected members to issue fixed penalty notices? There appears to be nothing in the Bill that would stop a quality parish council giving the parish council chairman the ability to issue a fixed penalty notice. I hope that that will be ruled out in secondary...
Mr Matthew Green: Are not the only parish and town councils that could take this on those that have employees? Most of the smaller parish councils only employ a clerk to take the minutes four times a year, and are unlikely even to be in a position to think about taking action. Doing so is limited by the size of the council, and that acts as a safeguard.
Mr Matthew Green: It might help if the Minister could confirm my understanding of the situation, which is that when someone allows old cars to pile up in their fields, local authorities already have the power to take enforcement action and to move those vehicles off private land. I believe that the powers have been used in my constituency.
Mr Matthew Green: Does the Minister agree that having an abandoned vehicle removed by the local authority imposes far greater costs than issuing fixed penalty notices for vehicles parked on the road, which local authorities do not remove themselves, but which they want the business running them to remove? The cost on the public purse is much greater with abandoned vehicles.
Mr Matthew Green: On abandoned vehicles, surely it is unlikely that the person will be with them. By definition they are abandoned, so a fixed penalty notice is likely to arrive in the post at the address of the person who is the registered keeper of the vehicle. It will make little difference to the person posting it whether they wear a uniform or not.
Mr Matthew Green: Does the Minister share my concern in relation to the hon. Lady's interpretation of repairing vehicles and selling them and the possibility that arson may occur? I am not sure that many people who are trying to sell or repair their vehicle deliberately set it on fire.
Mr Matthew Green: I am sure that the Minister will agree that in relation to penalties issued under clause 3, that is unlikely to be an issue because the very fact that someone is trying to sell their car on the road means that there must be a way of identifying who is trying to sell it, or they would not have any success selling it.
Mr Matthew Green: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in clause 8, page 8, line 36, leave out subsection (3).
Mr Matthew Green: These are probing amendments and they are not designed to remove the Secretary of State's power to allow councils to spend money on things that they might want to spend money on. I hope that the Minister will put it on the record that he does not envisage fixed penalty notices being used as a means of raising revenue for the council. The intention of such notices is to deal with problems...
Mr Matthew Green: I thank the Minister for his remarks. I am pleased with the assurances that he has given. They address some of the concerns that have been expressed to me about councils using those powers in ways over and above those intended or envisaged by the Government. On the basis of those assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Question proposed, That...
Mr Matthew Green: In general, I share some of the hon. Lady's concerns about fixed penalty notices, but clause 6 relates to offences committed under clauses 3 or 4—such notices will be issued mainly to companies. Presumably, if the company flees the scene, the problem will have been resolved because cars will no longer be parked on the road for sale. I am struggling to see where she is coming from.
Mr Matthew Green: The hon. Lady will be aware, as she was in the Room, that we discussed the level of fine, if it is not a fixed penalty notice, under amendments Nos. 29 and 30. The Minister assured us that the Government were considering increasing the amount from £1,000 to £2,500 where a prosecution is sought rather than a fixed penalty notice issued. We have already covered this.
Mr Matthew Green: It is.
Mr Matthew Green: Does the Minister agree that there can be genuine concerns about fixed penalty notices, especially with regard to social exclusion? However, that is not likely to apply under the clause, which is about people running businesses either repairing or selling cars on the highway. In such circumstances, we are not considering catching a 15-year-old cycling on the pavement and other less...
Mr Matthew Green: We will not support the amendments. We are slightly baffled by them, as they all ask that the local authority ''provide the authorised officer with the means or equipment by which the officer may contact the police directly''. My understanding is that dialling 999 on a mobile phone has the effect of contacting the police directly. I am not aware that local authorities have other means of...
Mr Matthew Green: I beg to move amendment No. 29, in clause 3, page 6, line 2, leave out '3' and insert '4'.
Mr Matthew Green: The purpose of the amendments is to establish how the Government envisage the penalties working for persistent offenders. Some companies persistently leave cars on the road and look on the £100 fixed penalty fines as the cost of doing business. That could be a problem. We have approached the matter by considering the maximum penalty that a court could impose, which is a level 3 fine—a...
Mr Matthew Green: The Minister is nodding and I am glad he has acknowledged that. We envisage a problem in that the courts may not use the maximum fine, which is only £1,000, and that the £2,500 maximum of level 4 may give them more flexibility.
Mr Matthew Green: The Minister has all but responded to my amendment in that intervention. He sounds encouraging, so I shall sit down and let him make his formal response.
Mr Matthew Green: With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.