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Will the Minister clarify whether there are any financial implications for local authorities? Will the same rules apply to private operators as to local councils that are
responsible for parking enforcement on the public highways? Will she also explain how the system will work without a code of practice? Her Majesty's Opposition agree that there is a need for adjudication-
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member again, but I repeat that he is going wide of the motion. Let me re-emphasise that the motion is very narrow. I understand his concerns, but I am afraid that it is not appropriate to raise them in this debate.
Andrew Rosindell: Thank you for that clarification, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think we are all looking forward to the Minister answering these questions, as only the Minister can reveal what is behind this motion. I look forward to finding that out.
Finally, will the Bill's provisions that apply to wheel-clamping on private land also apply to ticketing, because financial implications are equally evident there? Will the appeals process be applicable to parking tickets as well? The financial implications need to be explained.
Andrew Rosindell: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that anyone watching this debate will wonder why it is that we cannot get to the nub of these questions. I understand the procedures of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the problem is wholly due to the lack of a proper explanation by the Minister at the start of this debate.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. All I have to say to the hon. Member is that although people listening to the debate may not be aware of how narrow the motion is, Members present for the debate should be aware of that-and most are. That is why we are so restricted.
Mr. Vara: I fully appreciate the narrowness of the motion, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I trust that the House will appreciate the vastness of its implications. What we are trying to ascertain from the Minister are the precise details of a measure that will have a huge impact. Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the vastness of its consequences, one of the questions that the Minister must answer is "What are the Government trying to hide with the sparseness of their comments?"
Andrew Rosindell: We are still waiting with bated breath to hear what the Minister will have to say. I am baffled-we are all baffled-as to what the Government are trying to achieve, because we have not been given a proper explanation. Perhaps this constitutes a lesson: if the Government wish to table a motion of this sort, they should at least explain what they are doing.
Mr. Bone: I think my hon. Friend is about to end his speech, but I should say at this point that I am in a dilemma. If the House divides, I shall not be sure how to vote, because I have not heard the Government's argument. Has my hon. Friend any advice for me?
Andrew Rosindell: That is a good question. We shall have to see what the Minister's explanation is before the House decides whether or not to divide. I hope that she will come clean and reveal everything. I should of course have preferred a more reasonable discussion enabling our constituents who are watching the debate to understand the purpose of the motion, but no doubt the Minister will now explain the background so that we can understand a little better.
Important details are hidden behind the motion. The whole issue of wheel-clamping is of great concern to our constituents, and we want financial provision to be made to ensure that the Bill will work effectively. We are all fed up with cowboy clampers. I assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Her Majesty's Opposition will do all that they can to support any sensible measure, practical or financial, to ensure that there is an end to cowboy clamping in our constituencies.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): What a meal the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) has made of the Ways and Means motion. Having said that, however, I should like to make a couple of brief procedural points.
Let me say first that the motion is before us because-yet again-substantial new parts of the Bill were introduced in Committee. Given that this is one of the criminal justice Bills with which we deal every year, it was to be hoped that Ministers would think a little about what they wanted to be in it before publishing it. The motion is before us because they did not, and they have now decided to add a couple of provisions. I do not know the merits of the provisions. I suspect that they are a very good idea-I should certainly like to see proper control of clampers and proper compensation for overseas victims of terrorism-but they should have been in the Bill from the start.
My second procedural point concerns the timing of the motion. The matters involved are still before the Committee, which has yet to report to the House. It is always helpful for the House to be aware of what has been determined in Committee, and, before Report, to deal with the appropriate Ways and Means motion in order to authorise expenditure that is at present entirely hypothetical, because it is based on consideration in Committee of matters that the House as a whole has not yet had an opportunity to discuss.
A Ways and Means motion is not the occasion on which to judge the merits of proposals such as this, far less to ask for details of the operation of a scheme. A Committee stage is the occasion on which that should be done, and the Report stage-if we reach it-will provide an opportunity for Members to have their say and for Ministers to explain the consequences of their proposals.
As you pointed out, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is a very narrow motion whose purpose is to authorise payments if, and only if, the proposals are found to be satisfactory on Report, pass through another place and receive Royal Assent. There is a scrutiny process and we do need to examine the details, but this is not the right time to do that. I have my doubts about the procedure as currently constituted. I do not think that even the
limited consideration that we can give the proposals during the debate makes this an appropriate time to examine them.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). I entirely agree with what he said about the procedure. I think it is generally accepted that dealing with money motions is one of the things that Parliament does very badly. The question of how we spend money is not debated properly. I recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you were in the Chair when I was trying not to deviate from the terms of a Ways and Means motion when we discussed spending £40 billion in one and a half hours.
I had no intention of speaking today, but I was interested to see what the business was. I have the utmost regard for the Minister, but we are discussing spending money, and she has not told us how much is to be spent. If she had told us that it was £50,000 or £5 million-
Mr. Bone: I disagree. I think that Ways and Means motions should always be debated in full. The spending of money is a very important aspect, but I do not think that the fact that we are in a financial mess of unique magnitude makes any difference to the fact that we should always discuss ways and means. However, I do not know how we are to do that without having been given even an estimate of the amount involved, and without knowing whether the Minister is going to tell us more. Perhaps little notes are being passed to her; I do not know.
I do not want to detain the House for long, but I am trying to make a serious point. We know about the principle, which was a matter for the Committee and will be decided on Report. However, we debate Ways and Means motions very rarely. We normally nod them through, saying, "Oh yes, it is all right to spend that amount of money." That is where our Parliament fails and the American House of Representatives, for instance, succeeds.
Given the furore that is undoubtedly going on outside this place today about the importance of Parliament, it is sad that, yet again, the Government have in a sense taken Parliament for granted, and have not given us more detail on a specific Ways and Means motion. The merits of the issue are not important; what is important
is how much we are, or are not, going to spend. When I decide how to vote, or whether to divide the House, I want to be in a position to know that. I have a feeling that if the Minister does not tell us, the Division Bells will ring.
Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): I had not intended to speak either. The other day, however, I received a letter from the Minister about a constituent who has failed to secure compensation as a victim of terrorism, although the Minister acknowledged that he had indeed been a victim of terrorism. Let me say a little about the case, very briefly and, I hope, sticking to the point-
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been in the Chamber when I have drawn attention to the narrowness of the motion and the debate. I understand his concern for his constituent, but I have a feeling that this is not the appropriate time to raise that case.
Dr. Pugh: The point that I wish to raise is slightly procedural, and is also concerned with Government inconsistency. My constituent has been acknowledged by the Minister to be a victim of terrorism, but the Foreign Office has never acknowledged that. He has campaigned-
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am afraid that I must rule the hon. Gentleman out of order. This is a Ways and Means motion. The hon. Gentleman may well have a case on behalf of his constituent that requires answering, but I regret to tell him that this is not the time or the place at which to raise it.
Claire Ward: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to respond to the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) in managing to extend the areas covered by the resolution in order to question many substantive areas of the legislation itself.
We are dealing with a Ways and Means motion, not a money motion. The motion that we are discussing is not, therefore, about the cost of the provisions, but about the charges and payments into the Consolidated Fund.
Claire Ward: I am well aware that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to ensure that there are opportunities to do other things around the House this afternoon, so I shall co-operate completely and give way to him.
"charges in respect of the cost of adjudications"?
May I now be allowed to try to answer some of the specific issues that have been raised? Questions were asked about the details and the costs and charges of this scheme in respect of wheel-clamping. They will be discussed in Committee.
Mr. Vara: The Minister has said there will be a consultation. Can she assure the House that it will not be the usual type of Government consultation, which is a sop to public opinion with decisions already having been made but a consultation taking place for the sake of it? Will she give an assurance that genuine consultation will take place, and that the views of those consulted will be taken into account before decisions are made?
The Private Security Industry Act 2001 places a requirement on individual vehicle immobilisers who operate on private land-questions were asked about the impact on local authorities, but this applies not to local authority land, but to private land-carrying out the clamping of vehicles and the associated activities of towing or impounding. They must hold a licence issued by the Security Industry Authority if they charge a release fee.
Andrew Rosindell: I fully appreciate that the Bill does not apply to local authorities and their land, but does the Minister not accept that it is bound to have a financial impact on local authorities, because the public always go to the local council when there is a parking problem? Even when that takes place on private land, they still go to the council, so this will still have an impact on local authority spending.
Claire Ward: The hon. Gentleman is straying into rather more substantive issues to do with the Bill more generally, and they will, of course, be dealt with in Committee. This measure refers specifically to private land, and the action people might take and who they might approach if their vehicle has been clamped cannot be addressed in respect of it.
Mr. Bone: The excellent Minister is being most helpful, but I must be being extremely thick today. If this is a Ways and Means motion, there must be an estimate of the money, because if there is not, why are we here? I shall need to be told that figure before making up my mind as to whether we should have a Division.
Well, the hon. Gentleman must decide whether he wishes to call a Division, and thereby take a step that his constituents-or mine, for that matter-might decide was simply challenging the substantive issue itself and seeking not to allow the usual procedures to take place that would ensure this important measure makes progress through the House. That is a decision for him. I have said to him that questions of charges and fees will be considered, to some extent, in Committee, and also in consultation. I can only reiterate that this is
a Ways and Means motion and that therefore it is about not the cost of provisions or the finer detail, but the charges and payments.
Andrew Rosindell: I certainly will. The Minister is doing an excellent job in trying to persuade the House not to call a Division on this matter, but does she accept that there is so much concern in the House today because of both the poor explanation at the beginning of the debate and the muddled way in which the Government have handled our discussion and the issue of introducing further motions? There will be another Ways and Means motion in respect of this Bill next week. It seems to me that the whole Bill is more about the forthcoming election than actually achieving results for the British people.
Claire Ward: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that these are important matters, which is why the Government are responding to the views that have been expressed to us by bringing forward these measures. In respect of the resolution that is required for the overseas victims of terrorism scheme, that is a complicated scheme and given that it has been a difficult task, I believe the Government have done all we possibly can to ensure that we bring forward this legislation as soon as possible and in the most appropriate fashion.
Clause 39 of the Bill amends the 2001 Act to provide for vehicle immobilisation businesses to require a licence issued by the SIA in order to carry out these activities. Regulations will specify the conditions that businesses will have to meet in order to qualify for a licence. These will include maximum release charges and other rules governing clamping, towing and impounding.
A Government amendment to the Bill provides for a scheme to be set up so that motorists can appeal to an independent tribunal or adjudicator in respect of release charges. Appeals can be on either the principle of the charge-for example, if the signs were inadequate-or the amount charged, if it exceeds the maximum to be set. The detail of the appeal arrangements and rules will be set out in regulations to be made for the purpose.
The appeal scheme will be funded largely by the vehicle immobilisation industry. The fixed costs of running an appeals system would be met by businesses as part of their business licence fee. It is proposed that vehicle immobilisation businesses will also pay a set sum in respect of the total variable running costs of adjudications, covering costs such as the adjudicator's time and the costs of accommodation for hearings.
Claire Ward: The full details of the costs of the scheme will be considered in Committee. Let me simply say today that we are making provision through the Ways and Means motion to ensure that this procedure can be debated thoroughly in Committee.
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