Vehicles (Crime) Bill

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Mr. Bercow: Of what?

Mr. Clarke: Inter-modal travellers—as the jargon takes it. We must consider how to enable people better to change between car and train or whatever. One of our major CCTV awards was to London Underground for the purpose of putting secured car parks in at underground stations in the London region so that people would drive to the car park near them, leave their car securely and then travel on the tube rather than drive into the centre of London. The hon. Member for Buckingham referred to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. He and I have a strong professional relationship. We meet on a regular basis to discuss such issues because we believe that creating secured car parks where people feel confident to leave their cars or bikes will make it possible to pursue the integrated transport initiatives for which my hon. Friend is responsible. Secured car parks are an important element of that, but we have to do a great deal in rolling out the programme.

In fundamental terms, we are sympathetic to the points made by the hon. Member for Eastleigh. We wish to promote an overall policy of developing the secured car park programme for all the reasons that I have stated and which he mentioned. We welcome further thoughts and discussions on that.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of consumer legislation, which is a difficult matter. I have discussed it with some of the industries concerned. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that I and my colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry are currently in discussion about re-examining the role of consumer legislation in that area. It is not an easy matter; the question of where accountability falls is not straightforward. Nor is it absolutely clear that there would be crime reduction benefits in that, though there may well be benefits to individual consumers in parking their cars. We are ready to discuss those questions.

I will give way to hon. Members who have points to raise before I sit down. For the sake of clarity, the clause deals only with registration, and not with the various other aspects that we have discussed, and that are important to the approach. I make no criticism of the hon. Member for Eastleigh, because he has raised the debate in an important way, but the registration provision will not in itself achieve the process that we have described. The burdens on business, the question of a regulatory impact assessment, and the question of fees, which the hon. Members for Buckingham and for Lichfield raised, are important aspects of any scheme. That is why we have not formally consulted on regulation of car park operators with either business or local authorities, which would be a substantial regulatory burden.

Our approach so far, guided by the vehicle crime reduction action team, has been not to legislate in this area but to roll out a voluntary programme and provide encouragement and resources. That is why I will ask the hon. Member for Eastleigh to withdraw the motion, but before I sit down, I give way to the hon. Member for Lichfield.

Mr. Fabricant: I understand the Minister's plan to make the scheme voluntary, but, as he will be aware, few people outside the Committee know about the ACPO scheme administered by the AA. Until the debate, I was unaware of it myself. Does he agree that more—indeed some—publicity should be given to the scheme?

Mr. Clarke: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point. Among car park operators and local government, there is substantial awareness of the secured car parks scheme. I have secure car parks in my constituency. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any in his. We measure which police authorities have a good number of secured car parks and which car parks are doing well—each has a target—with a view to discussing with local and police authorities what can be done. That is the reason for the seminars that I mentioned. We have run a substantial vehicle crime publicity programme—of which the hon. Member for Lichfield may be aware—urging people to use secure car parks. I say without irony that I am sorry that that has not come to his attention. It is always the case that more publicity would be beneficial, and I would accept that rebuke, but nevertheless I believe that we have done significantly more than his question implies.

Mr. Fabricant: I may have been unclear. The Minister says—rightly, I am sure—that local authorities are aware of the scheme, and he touched on the issue of individual citizens being aware. Surely if there were a recognised symbol for such secure car parks, and that symbol were recognised by the populace as a whole, there would be far greater pressure on the municipal authorities to which he referred, as well as on private operators and those who run car parks at railway stations and airports to qualify for that symbol. There is no kitemark, as it were, for the standard.

Mr. Clarke: There is a symbol, but I accept that the hon. Gentleman does not know it. I am inspired by this exchange.

Mr. Bercow: What a sad anorak.

Mr. Clarke: If I am a sad anorak, how much more so is the hon. Member for Lichfield? I am ready to write to all hon. Members to set out details of the scheme, so that they are familiar with the situation, and can see what they can do to raise the issues in their constituencies.

Mr. Chidgey: The Minister has given us the benefit of a detailed explanation of the Government's science, but I would be grateful for his response to two or three points. He told us that the Government were active in a programme of working together with the interested parties. He hopes to see results from that programme. I believe that the Minister said that 825 car parks were now classified as secure, but we are talking about approximately 10,000 car parks. It may be that only 22 per cent., rather than 25 per cent., of vehicle crime is committed in car parks, but that is still a major factor in vehicle crime. I look to the Minister to give me more information about the programme. How many of the car parks are municipal car parks that can benefit from funding from the Home Office CCTV schemes? How quickly are they reacting? What is the overall programme? How many car parks do the Government envisage will become secure over a reasonable period? I appreciate that the Minister may have to write to me on those issues, but they are important. It is easy to say blandly, ``We are on the case''—so to speak. This is a serious problem and there is a huge mountain still to climb.

The Minister mentioned that he was working with his colleagues in the DTI on amendments to consumer law. I am grateful for that. It would be not unreasonable to place a burden—if it is to be called that—on a commercial enterprise and require it to offer a proper service to customers rather than for customers to assume that they are getting a service when all that has happened is that the car park has been given a licence. I look forward to the Minister's response.

Mr. Clarke: On the latter point, we will certainly report to the House when we have proposals to make. On the consumer legislation point, I say only that there are serious issues of concern about how to make it work, which the hon. Gentleman, from his experience, will understand. They are not easy to resolve so I do not suggest that an immediate resolution is possible.

We are not bland about the programme; in fact, we are extremely energetic, which is why we held the seminars that I described. We do not have a specific target, although ACPO has suggested that we should aim for 2,000 car parks in Britain having secured status over a period of time. I do not want to hide the problem that the hon. Gentleman has raised, which I addressed in my remarks. There is a real issue with some serious car park owners about how to make the investment required to make secured car park status happen. We are ready to help with the CCTV costs with substantial amounts of money, but taking it more widely is a serious issue. The suggestion that I offered in response to the hon. Member for Lichfield is a good one. I encourage Members of Parliament to take a role in their own constituencies to promote secured car parks.

I hope that the hon. Member for Eastleigh may be prepared to withdraw the motion.

Mr. Chidgey: I am grateful to the Minister for taking his usual careful time to develop the arguments that we have made in the new clause. It is encouraging, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 3

Relief of small motor salvage operatorsfrom excessive expense and bookkeeping, etc.

    ``(1) Where a person who carries on the business of a motor salvage operator has a turnover from the activities that are specified in section 1(2) of less than £1,000,000 per annum, the maximum fee that a local authority may determine under section 3(1)(b) shall be calculated on a sliding scale from—

    (a) turnover less than £100,000 per annum: maximum fee that may be determined £20, to

    (b) turnover less than £1,000,000 per annum: maximum fee that may be determined £200.

    (2) Where a person who carries on the business of a motor salvage operator purchases:

    (a) a part of a motor vehicle for less than £20, or

    (b) five or more parts together for less than £100,

    he shall not be obliged by such regulations as may be made under section 7(1) to keep a record of the description of the part or parts (save that the part in question has been marked with a vehicle identification number under the provisions of regulation 67(3) of the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986).

    (3) Where a person who carries on the business of a motor salvage operator purchases for less than £100 a motor vehicle whose engine and chassis or frame are over 10 years old, he shall not be obliged by such regulations as may be made under section 8(1) to notify the destruction of the motor vehicle.

    (4) Where a person carries on the business of a motor salvage operator in whole or part on domestic premises, the right of a constable to enter and inspect premises under section 9(1) shall not extend to the domestic premises.''.—[Mr. Chidgey.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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