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Park Home Residents: Legal Protection

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:36 am on 1st October 2019.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 9:36 am, 1st October 2019

I am saying that I am not in favour of the fit and proper person test proposed by the Government. The alternative suggestion—I was going to refer to it, but I will now do so directly—is that the British Holiday & Home Parks Association, which is basically a trade body, should be given responsibility for introducing some policing in this area. The right hon. Gentleman will know that, as a result of the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, rogue parking operators are no longer able to get access to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency database unless they belong to the British Parking Association, an organisation that ensures high standards in the parking industry.

Similarly, we could have a situation where an organisation such as the BHHPA was able to enforce the fit and proper person requirements through its membership code, so that it would not admit into its membership organisations that fell below those standards. That might be a much more direct way of addressing this issue, rather than going down the route of the fit and proper person test. Which of those 74 companies to which I referred would be regarded as an unfit and improper company because of one director? This is a complex area, but the main point I would make is that the fit and proper person test is not the panacea that some people are suggesting it is.

In my capacity as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on park homes, I am well aware of the laid-back attitude of many local authorities in discharging their responsibilities to park home residents. I have received lots of information from members of the public, including information on operators: the Elmstead Residential Park in Andover, Lakeview Residential Park in Romford and others frequently referred to in Private Eye. There are serious continuing problems. We will hear about some of them during this debate. Successive governments have engaged in window-dressing gestures rather than taking effective action against the rogue operators.

The fit and proper person test may be just such an additional issue. I hope that the Minister, in his response to the debate, will be able to set out the Government stall in respect of what the Government will do to force local authorities to meet their statutory obligations, and to protect the many thousands of park home residents looking for a strong lead in this area. It is recognised that there are a large number of reputable park home operators, but there are still rogues operating in this industry.