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I mentioned the example of the company that Edmund King suggested made a lot of money out of ticketing. Will the Minister respond on the issue of road parking companies that are not members of the British Parking Association but are able to get information about a vehicle—for example, the address of a commercial vehicle on the side of a van parked in a private car park—or to gain access to lists of customers’ details in a private car park? In those circumstances, the ticketing organisation could pursue the keeper without having gone through the DVLA. As I understand it, that could be done

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perfectly legally, but it could be threatening if money is demanded quickly in order to avoid the bailiffs coming round.

Will the Minister talk more about contract law and consumer protection? She made much in Committee of the fact that consumer protection law was already in place, but we made the case that that did not provide adequate protection for motorists. Will she therefore comment on the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and explain whether she feels it needs to be strengthened or whether further information needs to be given to the public about its provisions?

Let me make some specific points about the amendments in the group. New clause 15 would ensure that anyone issuing a penalty ticket must be registered with an accredited trade association, that all ticketers were currently members of the British Parking Association who must abide by the trade association’s code of practice, which is agreed, in turn, with the DVLA. The new clause also means that tickets placed on the vehicle or those issued later through the use of ANPR—automatic number plate recognition—would be subject to an independent appeals procedure. This would ensure that the maximum fines on private land are the same as for those on public roads and that the same terms and conditions, the same right of appeal and the same prompt payment discount would apply. This has widespread support. The RAC and the AA have recently conducted a populist poll of 12,000 people, of whom 98% thought that there should be some form of licensing for ticketers. That shows that there is clear and overwhelming public support for this new clause, so I hope the Minister will think again and support it.

Will the Minister clarify some points about the other amendments in the group? We welcome Government amendment 21, which came out of the evidence given to the Committee by Patrick Troy of the British Parking Association and Edmund King of the AA. The Opposition took the view that the drafting of the clause dealing with a fixed barrier was ambiguous. I am glad that the Government have recognised the issue raised by the Opposition and have sought to amend the provisions. I know, however, that the BPA still has some doubts about the new wording, as it fails specifically to mention wheel-clamping.

Government amendment 76 passes liability from the car hire company to the person who has hired the car where appropriate. Will the Minister comment on the fact that she is making it easier to transfer keeper liability in those circumstances? Has she given any thought to the circumstances where, for example, a motorist takes their car to a garage and the garage parks it on someone else’s private land? In that case, can the liability be passed back to the garage? As currently drafted, keeper liability means that the individual car owner would be liable as the keeper, even though the actions were carried out by the garage.

Amendments 39 to 54 are technical, but will the Minister explain why she wants to move from the term “relevant contract” to “relevant obligation” in the wording of the affected clauses?

9.15 pm

Government amendment 59 deals with the issue of keeper liability. I understand that it relates to the use of ANPR and would allow a ticket to be sent to the keeper

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after the parking infringement has taken place. Let us suppose that a disabled person is dropped at an airport where there is a 15-minute limit for use of a parking space. Because of the nature of the disability, it takes up to 30 minutes for the car to be unpacked and moved away. What redress is open to the disabled person? If a ticketing regime were in operation, the person issuing the ticket would presumably be allowed to exercise some discretion on the basis of the disability, but an ANPR system would merely register that the car had entered the parking space at a certain time and left at a certain time, and a ticket would automatically be issued.

There has been a real failure to address issues involving disability, which we discussed at length in Committee. It is a great shame that the impact assessment still fails to acknowledge or deal with the equality issues raised by parking bays and the time that people are allowed in which to park. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the example that I have given.

I understand that the latest definition of car hire is not included in Government amendment 78. According to the hire car associations, specifying a six-month time limit is a rather old-fashioned approach, and it would be better to reflect modern leasing practices, which often involve a much longer period than six months. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that as well. As for Government amendment 62, why do the Government need the power to change the definition of “relevant land”?

I look forward to hearing from the Minister that she has had an opportunity to think again about the Bill’s failure to deal with the issue of ticketing and introduce a fair, independent system of appeal to deal with the problem of rogue ticketers, which I believe will come back to haunt the Government.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone): As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) pointed out, we had a long debate in Committee on issues such as ticketing and clamping. Before I reply to her specific questions, let me remind the House what was said by many of the people she cited when we announced that we were going to ban wheel-clamping on private land. Edmund King, president of the AA, said:

“An outright ban on wheelclamping on private land is a victory for justice and common sense.”

The hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) said:

“I just want to say that this part of the Bill is fantastic and that the Home Secretary has my full support for it.”—[Official Report, 1 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 210.]

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We are extremely pleased that the government has decided to deal with the scourge of clamping and towing on private land, as a matter of urgency.”

The AA said in a press release:

“It is a momentous decision to prepare new legislation to end this scourge that has blighted the name of parking control in private parking areas for so long.”

I quoted those comments partly to remind Opposition Members that what they proposed to do was license the companies concerned—in fact, individuals have been licensed, which clearly has not worked according to the

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tales told by almost every Member in the House about those whose cars have been clamped and from whom money has been more or less extorted—and also to remind them that the system that we propose was wanted by Members on both sides of the House. The issue now is how to ensure that we can implement it. Licensing clamping businesses, as suggested by the Opposition, was not the answer.

We have discussed the “what ifs”—all the issues that might arise—and the potential problems if rogue clampers became rogue ticketers. In Scotland clamping was banned in 1992, very successfully. On deciding to consider the option of banning, the first thing I did was ask my officials to inquire what the repercussions and difficulties had been in Scotland, such as whether the use of barriers had been impossible and whether there were rogue clampers. I looked into those matters in 2010, which was after 18 years, and my officials came back and said there had been just a handful of letters about any problems in all that time.

Jeremy Corbyn: The hon. Lady will have received correspondence from the Aberdeen Park Maintenance Company, which manages a private road in my constituency. It has an effective, low-cost system of controls and a minimal level of clamping. Under this legislation, however, it will not be allowed to do any clamping at all. Instead it will have to install expensive barriers and employ staff. That will cost everyone, including council and social housing tenants, a great deal of money. I realise this is a somewhat anomalous argument, but in every city there are private and unadopted roads where such issues will arise, and I would be grateful if she would share her thoughts and say what response she will give to this company.

Lynne Featherstone: I am sure such issues will arise across the land. The way to deal with them will be through either ticketing or barriers. However, it is also possible—although this is not required—for a local authority to take over responsibility for that land and issue tickets. Such matters can be addressed in that way, therefore. I cannot give a specific response on every circumstance that might arise across the land, but in Scotland the answer was barriers or ticketing; it was not particularly complicated.

We will carefully watch how things pan out, but our proposal is our best effort to get the balance right and to make sure that we proceed without the burdens of regulating everything in the land and instead let the parking industry look after itself so there is no cost to the taxpayer if ticketing is taken forward. An appeals process will also be put in place, and I shall address the detail of that shortly.

I listened carefully to the comments of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, and I think we are all trying to achieve the same outcome, but we just believe that we can get there in different ways. The best way in which I can respond to new clause 15 is by reference to the Government amendments in this group, which address ticketing issues.

The Government amendments propose a number of changes to schedule 4, which makes provision for vehicle keepers to be held liable for unpaid parking charges in

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certain circumstances. The amendments, many of which are of a drafting or technical nature, seek to clarify the effect of the provisions in order to reduce the potential for them to be misunderstood either deliberately or inadvertently by motorists, vehicle keepers and those responsible for parking restrictions and enforcement on private land.

In Committee, the hon. Lady argued for the introduction of a statutory scheme for the regulation of parking on private land which was the same as the one we are discussing now. The Opposition were particularly concerned for there to be statutory provision in respect of signage at car parks and appeals rights. That theme is again picked up in new clause 15.

Diana Johnson: I want the Minister to set out very clearly that the Government amendments do not provide for an independent appeals process, but are instead limited to keeper liability in very specific circumstances. They therefore do not provide proper and adequate independent appeals for anyone who receives a ticket.

Lynne Featherstone: For any land that is properly signed and under lawful authority, people will be protected by either consumer law or the appeals process that will be set up by the British Parking Association. If the hon. Lady lets me pursue my argument, I think that some of her questions will be answered.

I made it clear that parking enforcement was properly a matter for existing contract and consumer protection law, backed up by self-regulation by the parking industry. That remains the Government’s position—that is clear. However, we have looked again at the provisions in schedule 4 to see whether they include adequate safeguards for motorists and vehicle keepers, and the amendments strengthen those in two ways.

First, on appeal rights and keeper liability, I fully agree with the hon. Lady that there should be appropriate safeguards for motorists, including access to an appeals body for drivers or vehicle keepers to challenge parking charges where they believe they have been wrongly or unfairly imposed. Amendment 59 makes it clear that the notice to the driver or the keeper of a vehicle must set out the arrangements for the resolution of disputes or complaints. We have asked the parking sector, led by the British Parking Association, to establish an independent appeals body, funded by the parking industry and free to consumers, to cover tickets issued by members of the BPA or another accredited trade association. We have also made it clear that we will not bring the keeper liability provisions in schedule 4 into force unless and until the sector establishes, financially supports and agrees to abide by the decisions of an independent challenge body. Unlike the hon. Lady, we do not see a need to constitute this appeals body in legislation. We believe that effective self-regulation by the parking industry is the right way forward, wherever possible, rather than relying on a governmental regulatory approach.

Diana Johnson: I am interested in what the Minister is saying. However, self-regulation for wheel-clamping clearly did not work and we are ending up in a similar position in this area. By providing self-regulation, we will find that the good ticketing and parking companies will be members of the BPA but the organisations that

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are just going to intimidate and impose excessive charges through ticketing notices on vehicles will not be covered by the appeals process.

Lynne Featherstone: Intimidation is against the law. I would say to any motorist intimidated by a rogue ticketer that they should report it immediately to the police.

Secondly, on signage, amendment 61 sets out a reserve power to prescribe requirements on the display, content and location of signs at car parks and other relevant land. I say a “reserve power” because parking providers will be able to access DVLA keeper data, and therefore benefit from the keeper liability provisions, only if they abide by the British Parking Association’s code of practice on signage. We do not consider that regulation on signage will be necessary and we would want to introduce statutory rules on signage only if there was clear evidence that the BPA code was not living up to the job. I would be more than happy to read out to the hon. Lady the BPA code on signage, but it is quite long. Suffice it to say, it is big, clear and exactly what one would want in terms of proper parking signage. If that was not the case, we would keep an eye on the situation, but we do not want to introduce statutory rules about signage automatically because we believe that the BPA code will work.

The third significant change introduced by these amendments is to extend the application of the keeper liability regime to circumstances where an obligation to pay a parking charge arises as a result of parking on land without permission, which is to say in the context of a trespass or other tort. This change will help to address the concerns expressed by tenant associations and others about their ability to tackle unauthorised parking in communal parking areas once the ban on wheel-clamping comes into force. We have also made it clear in relation to vehicle hire companies that liability for any parking charges during the period of hire will rest with the hirer of the vehicle once the vehicle hire company provides a copy of the relevant documentation to the creditor. Again that reflects the position for on-road parking contraventions.

Finally, the amendments will allow for the use of CCTV or automatic number plate recognition technology, as well as the physical ticketing of vehicles, in order to manage parking on relevant land. Taken together, these amendments to schedule 4 will ensure that parking providers and other landowners will have an effective means of enforcing unpaid parking charges which are, at the same time, fair to the motorist and vehicle keepers.

On the concerns expressed about rogue ticketers, the Government are fully committed to monitoring the effect of the ban on vehicle immobilisation and removal and the associated keeper liability provisions in schedule 4.

9.30 pm

I have cited the case of Scotland, where such things did not happen in anything like the way described by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, but if there is evidence that we need to take further steps when the new arrangements are in place, we will do so. We recognise that some may attempt to extort money through rogue ticketing, but the evidence from Scotland is that that has not been a significant problem. Rogue ticketers, by definition, will not have access to the DVLA database, so will not be able to pursue the vehicle keeper. All they

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will be able to do is issue a ticket and hope the recipient pays up, which is quite a different level from the intimidation and extortion that exists through the bad practices of rogue wheel-clampers.

Ticketers will not be able to possess the car and prevent the person from getting away from the place where the car was parked. That is a different level of intimidation and threat to that experienced by those targeted by wheel-clampers who were out to extort money unfairly. No longer will motorists have their cars held hostage, which was clearly the main reason why the unscrupulous clampers were able to levy excessive charges. We believe that the measures we are introducing in the Bill, together with existing consumer protection laws, are sufficient to deal with issues such as rogue ticketing, inadequate signage and excessive charges.

Let me deal briefly with Government amendment 21 to clause 54, which responds to an issue raised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North in Committee. The hon. Lady referred to the concerns expressed by the British Parking Association about the effect of subsection (3) of the clause. The provision is intended to permit the continued use of barriers as a legitimate means of parking control and enforcement once the ban on wheel-clamping comes into force. As I said many times in Committee, it is not our intention that the presence of a barrier should, in itself, confer lawful authority for the wheel-clamping of a vehicle. It is clear, however, that subsection (3) as drafted has been read as providing such authority. The Government amendment puts the matter beyond doubt. A landowner will not be committing the clause 54 offence in circumstances where a fixed barrier, present at the time when a vehicle was parked on the land in question, restricts the movement of the vehicle, but that does not mean that the landowner will be able to resort to wheel-clamping or towing away in those circumstances. I trust that the amendment makes the position crystal clear.

Diana Johnson: Let us be clear. Are we saying that if someone receives a ticket in a private car park and there is a barrier that restricts the car from being driven away, that is completely legitimate? Is the Minister saying that a vehicle can still be immobilised by a barrier being put down at the front of the car park, with a ticket being issued, so that the car cannot move away? Is that correct?

Lynne Featherstone: The presence of the barrier means that the owner has either expressly or implicitly consented to pay the parking charges, which must be clearly labelled under either consumer protection law or the new laws under the keeper liability or BPA rules. If he or she has paid the charge, the barrier will be lifted and they can leave the car park. They must pay the charge for the barrier to be lifted, like a normal car park. That is what happens in a normal car park—when I go shopping, that is what happens. One complies.

Diana Johnson: The point I am trying to make to the Minister is that some rogue landowners will put down barriers to immobilise vehicles but will put a ticket for, say, £500 on the car, saying, “Pay the £500 and we will take the barrier up.” That is the issue. I am concerned not about legitimate parking organisations that are members of the BPA, but about those rogue companies that are out to make a fast buck.

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Lynne Featherstone: That has not been the experience in Scotland. I would say to motorists, first, that they should not enter unless the signage is clear and they know what they are doing, and, secondly, that if that were to happen, they should call the police. [ Interruption. ] I was about to say that I hope, in the light of the reassurance I have provided in respect of appeal rights and signage, that the hon. Lady will feel able to withdraw her new clause and support the Government’s amendments, but I am not sure that the timing is entirely appropriate.

The hon. Lady asked about the six-month limit for hired cars and she made a good point that we are happy to consider further. She also asked about the effect of consumer protection legislation on ticketing. Where the terms and conditions on which land may be used for parking are displayed on a prominent sign at the entrance to the land, existing consumer protection legislation applies. Such legislation protects consumers from misleading information and unfair contract terms. That deals with the point about the £500 ticket the hon. Lady mentioned, which would, under that protection, clearly be an unfair contract term. For example, where signs for motorists in a car park are misleading or where other misleading or deceptive information is given, such as the use of tickets that look like local authority tickets, there may be a breach of consumer protection regulations. If so, local authority trading standards services and the Office of Fair Trading can take enforcement action.

Where there is no prominent sign setting out the terms and conditions according to which the land may be used, there is no protection, as I have said, and the motorist should not park there as he or she is probably trespassing. However, that may not always be clear and it may be that a car park provider could be accused of making a misleading omission under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 if they fail to provide information that no parking is allowed. Maximum penalties under the regulations are a £5,000 fine on summary conviction—that is in a magistrates court—or a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both, on conviction or indictment in a Crown court. Furthermore, companies can pursue motorists for a parking fee only when they have the motorist’s contact details, and the DVLA will provide those details only to companies that are registered with an accredited trade association. I have seen no evidence that contract law and consumer protection are defective in any way in that regard.

Let me return to the issue of extortionate fees and barriers, which the hon. Lady mentioned. If she was asking whether the exemption for barriers in clause 54(3) means that a landowner will still be able to charge extortionate fees to let motorists out of a car park where there is a barrier, the answer is no because, as I have said, subsection (3)(a) requires that

“there is express or implied consent by the driver of the vehicle to restricting its movement by a fixed barrier”.

Secondly, in order to establish a contract as a basis for payment, the terms for parking have to be clearly displayed. We consider that if a landowner demanded a fee for the vehicle’s release without that basis, he would be committing an offence under subsection (1).

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): I know that the hon. Lady’s heart is in the right place and that we are trying to achieve something good with this Bill, but it is

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riddled with holes and exemptions. I foresee a scenario in which a person gets a ticket from one of these companies and the DVLA then provides that person’s address to the ticketing company, which then applies for a bailiff’s warrant in a distant court, and a bailiff then turns up and takes the person’s car. With the best will in the world, ringing up trading standards or the police will not help. If these companies cannot get you one way they will get you another way, and bailiffs’ warrants on vehicles will be in use.

Lynne Featherstone: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that, but he is wrong. A rogue ticketer who is not a member of an accredited trade association or the British Parking Association would not be able to access the information from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

Stephen Pound: It is not rogue; it is the norm.

Lynne Featherstone: It is not the norm. This is about making parking work for everyone. We are changing what was an appalling blot on the landscape. There is probably not an MP in the House who has not written to me or the Minister who previously held my position with terrible tales of rogue clamping. At the very worst, if the hon. Lady—sorry, the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I have forgotten my point now; it is lost to posterity.

Anyway, I hope that I have answered the points raised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North. We are trying to do the right thing; we are removing a scourge. The measures have been welcomed by motoring organisations and people across the land. There is nothing as popular as the measures, as a result of people’s experiences of being clamped in unfair circumstances. I hope that the hon. Lady will feel able to withdraw her new clause and support the Government amendments. I fear that she may not, but I live in hope.


Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I rise briefly to support new clause 15, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). In over 14 years as Member of Parliament for Exeter, I cannot recall a local grievance that has caused as many constituents to complain to me or seek my help as have done about the behaviour of private car park operators over the last 18 months or so. Constituents have been fined while going to buy a ticket; fined despite buying and displaying a ticket; and fined despite the fact that the ticket machine was broken at the time and the driver had left a note to that effect on his windscreen. One car park at Exeter airport, which has 24-hour digital recording of the cars going in and out, has fined motorists for using the car park to turn around in, or for driving in and out of it by mistake.

The vast majority of cases concern people who have been fined, not clamped. The common grievance is the sense of summary injustice and the lack of any right of proper appeal. In some cases, when I have intervened, the companies concerned have reduced or even waived the fines. My local newspaper, the Express & Echo, has also taken up individual cases and sought to name and shame the rogue operators, but no system of justice should have to depend on the intervention of an MP or a local newspaper. I wholeheartedly agree with the excellent editorial in The Times today that warned that

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the Bill threatens to make a bad situation worse. We need a proper right of appeal, and I am afraid that the appeal process outlined by the Minister, which will be on a voluntary basis, will not reassure my constituents.

Lynne Featherstone: Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would allow wheel-clamping on private land to continue?

Mr Bradshaw: No. I am making the same point that other Members have made: if we ban wheel-clamping, the danger is in the unforeseen consequences. As I hope that the hon. Lady will appreciate from her experience as a Minister, there is always a danger of moving the problem elsewhere. We are already seeing that happen in towns and cities such as mine. Her approach of a voluntary appeals process is wholly inadequate, given the problem out there; it certainly will not reassure my constituents who have suffered rogue fines.

I completely support the requirements in the new clause for any organisation enforcing a parking charge to be a member of an accredited association; for all parking signage to be clear; and for fine limits to be set at similar levels to maximum on-street parking fines. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North will push the new clause to a vote, and that hon. Members will support her.

Guy Opperman: I used to be one of the Automobile Association’s retained counsels. That is not necessarily a recommendation, but it is a past fact that I must acknowledge. I am no longer one of its retained counsels, and I am no longer a wheel-clamping specialist, but I was the counsel who represented Mrs Marina Vine. On 6 March 1997, she went to Langthorne hospital in Leytonstone. She was suffering from ulcerative colitis, and effectively she was being tested for a type of cancer. She left hospital, and on her way home, she felt violently sick. She pulled over to the side of the road, went on to what turned out to be private land, and was violently sick approximately 15 yards away from her car, just around a corner from it. In the time that intervened before her return—approximately three to four minutes—her car was wheel-clamped. She literally had to beg the clamper to release her car, but they would not do so unless she paid £105.

9.45 pm

Everyone in the House, whether they have been here for as little as 18 months, as I have been, or for longer, understands that there is a significant problem with wheel-clamping which, it is fair to say, the previous Government attempted to address—no one disputes that. It is right that we should change the law to try to reform it, but I wish to stress one point. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) has tabled new clause 15, which seeks to make it a criminal offence to issue an excessive parking charge. I do not intend any disrespect to the hon. Lady, but section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006, which was introduced by the previous Government, the Theft Act 1968 and other measures that deal with obtaining property by deception apply in circumstances in which someone commits an offence without lawful authority—effectively dishonestly—and requires a driver or anyone in possession of a vehicle to pay a parking charge in relation to a contract to park that vehicle.

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Effectively, those people take money from someone in circumstances in which they have no lawful authority to do so. I have no objection to reforming or tightening up the law in relation to wheel-clamping, but the new clause alleges that it creates a new criminal offence, when that is manifestly not the case.

Mr Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): Does my hon. Friend have any sympathy with the small company that has a piece of land in front of its office for its staff to park on, only for a member of the public to abuse that car park and park inappropriately and selfishly? The company lacks the ability to enforce provisions on its own land in front of its own building.

Guy Opperman: Everyone would have sympathy with those circumstances. We have all, in the process of representing our constituents, encountered wheel-clamping cases that are to the detriment of the industry itself and the previous measures that applied.

I am mindful that other Members wish to speak on an important provision, so I shall merely make the point that new clause 15 adds nothing whatsoever to the existing criminal law. As much as I support the efforts of The Times and various organisations, what we have is sufficient.


Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I am conscious, after the previous debate in which we discussed DNA, civil liberties and serious crime, that this may appear to be a mundane matter. However, as we have heard this evening and on other occasions, it is a source of great concern to our constituents up and down the country. I am pleased that it will be addressed in the Bill.

I very much support, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) said a few moments ago, the introduction of a ban on wheel-clamping. As the Minister pointed out, a ban has been successful for 19 years in Scotland, and it is high time that such a provision was introduced in England and Wales. However, I very much wish to echo the concerns outlined by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) that we may be shifting the problem elsewhere.

The protections that motorists enjoy as consumers differ enormously, depending on whether they park on local authority-controlled land or on privately controlled land. Under the local authority system, which is covered extensively by legislation, as we have heard, there is an appeals process that is laid down in legislation, and there is a reasonable level of fining. If someone transgresses, or apparently transgresses, the rules in a council car park, they are issued with a penalty notice of about £50, which is reduced to half that amount if it is paid within 28 days. Some two thirds of people who appeal to local authority car-park operators are successful, because they can demonstrate that they did indeed buy a ticket, which perhaps fell off the dashboard, or they can give another legitimate reason for their appeal.

That contrasts significantly with the situation of people who park on privately available public car parks and those operated by rogue car park operators. I have had one of those in my constituency. I know from raising the issue in a Westminster Hall debate that many other hon. Members have had similar problems. People, often elderly and vulnerable, receive a threatening letter in the

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post demanding payment, sometimes of £70 or even more. Within a couple of weeks that demand is hyped up to perhaps double the amount. There are then threats to send in the bailiffs and threats to destroy credit ratings. Even people whom we would not describe as vulnerable get very concerned, understandably, that their credit rating might be affected, and they end up paying the so-called fine—it is not, of course, a criminal penalty—because they simply want the problem to go away.

Earlier in the Session I introduced a private Member’s Bill on the very issue of consumer protection in relation to private car parks. Of course my Bill is rapidly going the way of the vast majority of private Members’ Bills. In it I proposed that local authorities should have the ability to license the operation of private car parks, in the same way as they license publicans or taxis. That would allow a responsive approach through the democratic system at a local level. However, I accept that my Bill is unlikely to find its way on to the statute book.

I hear what the Minister says with regard to self-regulation through the British Parking Association. I have met the chief executive of that organisation on a number of occasions. My assessment of its operation has been that the pilots that it has run so far have not been overly successful. It tends to be the responsible companies that are involved in such schemes, and the irresponsible ones that, understandably, are not.

I recognise that we have enough regulation on the statute book, and that the self-regulation route is the best way to go. However, if we are to go down the self-regulation route, I note that the legislation has provision for reserve powers to have the matter reviewed. I seek an assurance from the Minister that when the British Parking Association and perhaps other accredited organisations introduce an independent system of appeals, that is reviewed in a timely manner. If, as I suspect—I hope I am wrong— self-regulation does not work, those reserve powers will have to be used.

Diana Johnson: We have had an interesting debate re-examining the issue. Having listened to the Minister explaining the provisions that she is seeking to introduce by means of amendments to the Bill, and having heard her explanation of clause 54(3), I am even more concerned that companies that wish to get round the law, operate in an intimidating way and issue excessive parking tickets will see this as an opportunity to go ahead. Under clause 54(3) putting down a barrier in effect immobilises a vehicle, so I am particularly concerned about the Minister’s response on that.

The impact assessment sets out that when issued with a ticket, 74% of people will pay up, so it is well worth rogue ticketing companies putting tickets on vehicles and getting those 74% of people to pay up. They do not have to worry about dealing with the 26% who might appeal from the keeper liability angle.

I am keen to test the opinion of the House on new clause 15. In terms of rogue wheel-clampers, I think that motorists are going to be out of the frying pan and into the fire and that the rogue companies will run riot. The problem will not be solved and I think that we will be back here another day.

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Guy Opperman: Does the hon. Lady not accept that the Theft Act 1968, consumer protection legislation or, more particularly, the Fraud Act 2006 apply in exactly the same way as new clause 15?

Diana Johnson: Unfortunately, none of those Acts has ever been used to deal with wheel-clamping problems. I assume that the hon. Gentleman thinks that they could be used where people have obtained excessive amounts of money by wheel-clamping and immobilising a vehicle. However, our new clause has the support of the AA, the RAC and the British Parking Association. Furthermore, given the views expressed by 98% of the 12,000 people polled on this issue, I think that we are on the side of motorists and the British public, and I certainly wish to push the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 230, Noes 301.

Division No. 358]

[9.56 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr David Hamilton and

Graham Jones

NOES

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.

(Monmouth)

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Green, Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Macleod, Mary

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Bill Wiggin and

Mr Philip Dunne

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Oct 2011 : Column 141

10 Oct 2011 : Column 142

10 Oct 2011 : Column 143

10 Oct 2011 : Column 144

10.10 pm

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Mr Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Clause 54

Offence of immobilising etc. vehicles

Amendment made: 21, page 38, leave out lines 14 to 18 and insert—

‘(3) But, where the restriction of the movement of the vehicle is by means of a fixed barrier and the barrier was present (whether or not lowered into place or otherwise restricting movement) when the vehicle was parked, any express or implied consent (whether or not legally binding) of the driver of the vehicle to the restriction is, for the purposes of subsection (1), lawful authority for the restriction.’.—(James Duddridge.)

Clause 56

Recovery of unpaid parking charges

Amendment made: 76, page 39, line 11, leave out from ‘keeper’ to ‘has’ in line 12 and insert

‘or hirer of a vehicle in certain circumstances)’.

—(James Duddridge.)

Schedule 4

Recovery of unpaid parking charges

Amendments made: 39, page 113, line 11, leave out ‘a relevant contract’ and insert

‘virtue of a relevant obligation’.

Amendment 40, page 113, line 14, leave out

‘or have only been partly paid’

and insert ‘in full’.

Amendment 41, page 113, line 22, leave out ‘claim’ and insert ‘recover’.

Amendment 42, page 113, line 24, leave out from ‘service”’ to end of line 25 and insert

‘means—

(a) in the case of the keeper, an address which is either—

(i) an address at which documents relating to civil proceedings could properly be served on the person concerned under Civil Procedure Rules; or

(ii) the keeper’s registered address (if there is one); or

(b) in the case of the driver, an address at which the driver for the time being resides or can conveniently be contacted;’.

Amendment 43, page 113, line 30, at end insert—

‘“notice to driver” means a notice given in accordance with paragraph 6A;

“notice to keeper” means a notice given in accordance with paragraph 6B or 6C (as the case may be);’.

10 Oct 2011 : Column 145

Amendment 44, page 113, line 31, leave out from ‘charge”’ to end of line 33 and insert—

‘—

(a) in the case of a relevant obligation arising under the terms of a relevant contract, means a sum in the nature of a fee or charge, and(b) in the case of a relevant obligation arising as a result of a trespass or other tort, means a sum in the nature of damages,

however the sum in question is described;’.

Amendment 45, page 113, line 33, at end insert—

‘“registered address” means, in relation to the keeper of a registered vehicle, the address described in paragraph 7(3)(b) (as provided by the Secretary of State in response to the application for the keeper’s details required by paragraph 7);’.

Amendment 46, page 113, line 39, after ‘on the’ insert ‘relevant’.

Amendment 47, page 114, line 3, at end insert—

‘“relevant obligation” means—

(a) an obligation arising under the terms of a relevant contract; or(b) an obligation arising, in any circumstances where there is no relevant contract, as a result of a trespass or other tort committed by parking the vehicle on the relevant land;’.

Amendment 48, page 114, leave out lines 4 to 6.

Amendment 49, page 114, line 8, at end insert—

‘(2) The reference in the definition of “parking charge” to a sum in the nature of damages is to a sum of which adequate notice was given to drivers of vehicles (when the vehicle was parked on the relevant land).

(3) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) “adequate notice” means notice given by—

(a) the display of one or more notices in accordance with any applicable requirements prescribed in regulations under paragraph 7A for, or for purposes including, the purposes of sub-paragraph (2); or

(b) where no such requirements apply, the display of one or more notices which—

(i) specify the sum as the charge for unauthorised parking; and

(ii) are adequate to bring the charge to the notice of drivers who park vehicles on the relevant land.’.

Amendment 50, page 114, line 40, leave out ‘claim payment of’ and insert ‘recover’.

Amendment 51, page 114, line 42, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) to (6) and insert—

‘(2) The right under this paragraph applies only if—

(a) the conditions specified in paragraphs 5, 6, 7 and 7A (so far as applicable) are met; and

(b) the vehicle was not a stolen vehicle at the beginning of the period of parking to which the unpaid parking charges relate.

(3) For the purposes of the condition in sub-paragraph (2)(b), the vehicle is to be presumed not to be a stolen vehicle at the material time, unless the contrary is proved.

(4) The right under this paragraph may only be exercised after the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the notice to keeper is given.’.

Amendment 52, page 115, line 17, leave out ‘claimed’ and insert ‘recovered’.

Amendment 53, page 115, line 18, leave out

‘the driver under paragraph 6(2)(d) less’

and insert

‘keeper under paragraph 6B(2)(c) or (d) or, as the case may be, 6C(2)(d) (less’.

10 Oct 2011 : Column 146

Amendment 54, page 115, line 20, leave out ‘notice is given’ and insert ‘time so specified)’.

Amendment 77, page 115, line 23, at end insert—

‘(9) The right under this paragraph is subject to paragraph 7B (which provides for the right not to apply in certain circumstances in the case of a hire car).’.

Amendment 55, page 115, line 26, leave out from ‘vehicle’ to ‘but’ in line 28 and insert

‘the requirement to pay the unpaid parking charges;’.

Amendment 56, page 115, line 29, leave out ‘enforce those terms’ and insert

‘take steps to enforce that requirement’.

Amendment 57, page 115, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—

‘(2) Sub-paragraph (1)(b) ceases to apply if (at any time after the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the notice to keeper is given) the creditor begins proceedings to recover the unpaid parking charges from the keeper.’.

Amendment 58, page 115, line 34, leave out sub-paragraph (3).

Amendment 59, page 115, line 38, leave out paragraph 6 and insert—

‘6 (1) The second condition is that the creditor (or a person acting for or on behalf of the creditor)—

(a) has given a notice to driver in accordance with paragraph 6A, followed by a notice to keeper in accordance with paragraph 6B; or

(b) has given a notice to keeper in accordance with paragraph 6C.

(2) If a notice to driver has been given, any subsequent notice to keeper must be given in accordance with paragraph 6B.

6A (1) A notice which is to be relied on as a notice to driver for the purposes of paragraph 6(1)(a) is given in accordance with this paragraph if the following requirements are met.

(2) The notice must—

(a) specify the vehicle, the relevant land on which it was parked and the period of parking to which the notice relates;

(b) inform the driver of the requirement to pay parking charges in respect of the specified period of parking and describe those charges, the circumstances in which the requirement arose (including the means by which it was brought to the attention of drivers) and the other facts that made those charges payable;

(c) inform the driver that the parking charges relating to the specified period of parking have not been paid in full and specify the total amount of the unpaid parking charges relating to that period, as at a time which is—

(i) specified in the notice; and

(ii) no later than the time specified under paragraph (f);

(d) inform the driver of any discount offered for prompt payment and the arrangements for the resolution of disputes or complaints that are available;

(e) identify the creditor and specify how and to whom payment may be made;

(f) specify the time when the notice is given and the date.

(3) The notice must relate only to a single period of parking specified under sub-paragraph (2)(a) (but this does not prevent the giving of separate notices each specifying different parts of a single period of parking).

(4) The notice must be given—

(a) before the vehicle is removed from the relevant land after the end of the period of parking to which the notice relates, and

10 Oct 2011 : Column 147

(b) while the vehicle is stationary,

by affixing it to the vehicle or by handing it to a person appearing to be in charge of the vehicle.

6B (1) A notice which is to be relied on as a notice to keeper for the purposes of paragraph 6(1)(a) is given in accordance with this paragraph if the following requirements are met.

(2) The notice must—

(a) specify the vehicle, the relevant land on which it was parked and the period of parking to which the notice relates;

(b) inform the keeper that the driver is required to pay parking charges in respect of the specified period of parking and that the parking charges have not been paid in full;

(c) state that a notice to driver relating to the specified period of parking has been given and repeat the information in that notice as required by paragraph 6A(2)(b), (c) and (f);

(d) if the unpaid parking charges specified in that notice to driver as required by paragraph 6A(2)(c) have been paid in part, specify the amount that remains unpaid, as at a time which is—

(i) specified in the notice to keeper, and

(ii) no later than the end of the day before the day on which the notice is either sent by post or, as the case may be, handed to or left at a current address for service for the keeper (see sub-paragraph (4));

(e) state that the creditor does not know both the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver and invite the keeper—

(i) to pay the unpaid parking charges; or

(ii) if the keeper was not the driver of the vehicle, to notify the creditor of the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver and to pass the notice on to the driver;

(f) warn the keeper that if, at the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice to keeper is given—

(i) the amount of the unpaid parking charges (as specified under paragraph (c) or (d)) has not been paid in full, and

(ii) the creditor does not know both the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver,

the creditor will (if all the applicable conditions under this Schedule are met) have the right to recover from the keeper so much of that amount as remains unpaid;

(g) inform the keeper of any discount offered for prompt payment and the arrangements for the resolution of disputes or complaints that are available;

(h) identify the creditor and specify how and to whom payment or notification to the creditor may be made;

(i) specify the date on which the notice is sent (if it is sent by post) or given (in any other case).

(3) The notice must relate only to a single period of parking specified under sub-paragraph (2)(a) (but this does not prevent the giving of separate notices which each specify different parts of a single period of parking).

(4) The notice must be given by—

(a) handing it to the keeper, or leaving it at a current address for service for the keeper, within the relevant period; or

(b) sending it by post to a current address for service for the keeper so that it is delivered to that address within the relevant period.

(5) The relevant period for the purposes of sub-paragraph (4) is the period of 28 days following the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice to driver was given.

(6) A notice sent by post is to be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to have been delivered (and so “given” for the purposes

10 Oct 2011 : Column 148

of sub-paragraph (4)) on the second working day after the day on which it is posted; and for this purpose “working day” means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday in England and Wales.

(7) When the notice is given it must be accompanied by any evidence prescribed under paragraph 6D.

6C (1) A notice which is to be relied on as a notice to keeper for the purposes of paragraph 6(1)(b) is given in accordance with this paragraph if the following requirements are met.

(2) The notice must—

(a) specify the vehicle, the relevant land on which it was parked and the period of parking to which the notice relates;

(b) inform the keeper that the driver is required to pay parking charges in respect of the specified period of parking and that the parking charges have not been paid in full;

(c) describe the parking charges due from the driver as at the end of that period, the circumstances in which the requirement to pay them arose (including the means by which the requirement was brought to the attention of drivers) and the other facts that made them payable;

(d) specify the total amount of those parking charges that are unpaid, as at a time which is—

(i) specified in the notice; and

(ii) no later than the end of the day before the day on which the notice is either sent by post or, as the case may be, handed to or left at a current address for service for the keeper (see sub-paragraph (4));

(e) state that the creditor does not know both the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver and invite the keeper—

(i) to pay the unpaid parking charges; or

(ii) if the keeper was not the driver of the vehicle, to notify the creditor of the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver and to pass the notice on to the driver;

(f) warn the keeper that if, after the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice is given—

(i) the amount of the unpaid parking charges specified under paragraph (d) has not been paid in full, and

(ii) the creditor does not know both the name of the driver and a current address for service for the driver,

the creditor will (if all the applicable conditions under this Schedule are met) have the right to recover from the keeper so much of that amount as remains unpaid;

(g) inform the keeper of any discount offered for prompt payment and the arrangements for the resolution of disputes or complaints that are available;

(h) identify the creditor and specify how and to whom payment or notification to the creditor may be made;

(i) specify the date on which the notice is sent (where it is sent by post) or given (in any other case).

(3) The notice must relate only to a single period of parking specified under sub-paragraph (2)(a) (but this does not prevent the giving of separate notices which each specify different parts of a single period of parking).

(4) The notice must be given by—

(a) handing it to the keeper, or leaving it at a current address for service for the keeper, within the relevant period; or

(b) sending it by post to a current address for service for the keeper so that it is delivered to that address within the relevant period.

(5) The relevant period for the purposes of sub-paragraph (4) is the period of 14 days beginning with the day after that on which the specified period of parking ended.

10 Oct 2011 : Column 149

(6) A notice sent by post is to be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to have been delivered (and so “given” for the purposes of sub-paragraph (4)) on the second working day after the day on which it is posted; and for this purpose “working day” means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday in England and Wales.

(7) When the notice is given it must be accompanied by any evidence prescribed under paragraph 6D.

6D (1) The appropriate national authority may by regulations made by statutory instrument prescribe evidence which must accompany a notice which is to be relied on as a notice to keeper for the purposes of paragraph 6(1)(a) or paragraph 6(1)(b) (as the case may be).

(2) The regulations may in particular make provision as to—

(a) the means by which any prescribed evidence is to be generated or otherwise produced (which may include a requirement to use equipment of a kind approved for the purpose by a person specified in the regulations); or

(b) the circumstances in which any evidence is, or is not, required to accompany a notice to keeper.

(3) The regulations may—

(a) include incidental, supplementary, transitional, transitory or saving provision;

(b) make different provision for different purposes.’.

Amendment 60, page 116, line 23, leave out paragraph 7 and insert—

‘7 (1) The third condition is that—

(a) the creditor (or a person acting for or on behalf of the creditor) has made an application for the keeper’s details in relation to the period of parking to which the unpaid parking charges relate;

(b) the application was made during the relevant period for the purposes of paragraph 6B(4) (where a notice to driver has been given) or 6C(4) (where no notice to driver has been given);

(c) the information sought by the application is provided by the Secretary of State to the applicant.

(2) The third condition only applies if the vehicle is a registered vehicle.

(3) In this paragraph “application for the keeper’s details” means an application for the following information to be provided to the applicant by virtue of regulations made under section 22(1)(c) of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994—

(a) the name of the registered keeper of the vehicle during the period of parking to which the unpaid parking charges relate; and

(b) the address of that person as it appears on the register (or, if that person has ceased to be the registered keeper, as it last appeared on the register).’.

Amendment 61, page 117, line 2, at end insert—

‘7A (1) The fourth condition is that any applicable requirements prescribed under this paragraph were met at the beginning of the period of parking to which the unpaid parking charges relate.

(2) The appropriate national authority may by regulations made by statutory instrument prescribe requirements as to the display of notices on relevant land where parking charges may be incurred in respect of the parking of vehicles on the land.

(3) The provision made under sub-paragraph (2) may, in particular, include provision—

(a) requiring notices of more than one kind to be displayed on any relevant land;

(b) as to the content or form of any notices required to be displayed; and

(c) as to the location of any notices required to be displayed.

(4) Regulations under this paragraph may—

10 Oct 2011 : Column 150

(a) include incidental, supplementary, transitional, transitory or saving provision;

(b) make different provision for different areas or purposes.’.

Amendment 78, page 117, line 2, at end insert—

‘Hire vehicles

7B (1) This paragraph applies in the case of parking charges incurred in respect of the parking of a vehicle on relevant land if—

(a) the vehicle was at the time of parking hired to any person under a hire agreement with a vehicle-hire firm; and

(b) the keeper has been given a notice to keeper within the relevant period for the purposes of paragraph 6B(4) or 6C(4) (as the case may be).

(2) The creditor may not exercise the right under paragraph 4 to recover from the keeper any unpaid parking charges specified in the notice to keeper if, within the period of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which that notice was given, the creditor is given—

(a) a statement signed by or on behalf of the vehicle-hire firm to the effect that at the material time the vehicle was hired to a named person under a hire agreement;

(b) a copy of the hire agreement; and

(c) a copy of a statement of liability signed by the hirer under that hire agreement.

(3) The statement of liability required by sub-paragraph (2)(c) must—

(a) contain a statement by the hirer to the effect that the hirer acknowledges responsibility for any parking charges that may be incurred with respect to the vehicle while it is hired to the hirer;

(b) include an address given by the hirer (whether a residential, business or other address) as one at which documents may be given to the hirer;

(and it is immaterial whether the statement mentioned in paragraph (a) relates also to other charges or penalties of any kind).

(4) A statement required by sub-paragraph (2)(a) or (c) must be in such form (if any) as may be prescribed by the appropriate national authority by regulations made by statutory instrument.

(5) The documents mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) must be given by—

(a) handing them to the creditor;

(b) leaving them at any address which is specified in the notice to keeper as an address at which documents may be given to the creditor or to which payments may be sent; or

(c) sending them by post to such an address so that they are delivered to that address within the period mentioned in that sub-paragraph.

(6) In this paragraph and paragraph 7C—

(a) “hire agreement” means an agreement which—

(i) provides for a vehicle to be let to a person (“the hirer”) for a period not exceeding 6 months (whether or not the period is capable of extension by agreement between the parties so as to exceed 6 months); and

(ii) is not a hire-purchase agreement within the meaning of the Consumer Credit Act 1974;

(b) any reference to the currency of a hire agreement includes a reference to any period during which, with the consent of the vehicle-hire firm, the hirer continues in possession of the vehicle as hirer, after the expiry of any period specified in the agreement but otherwise on terms and conditions specified in it; and

(c) “vehicle-hire firm” means any person engaged in the hiring of vehicles in the course of a business.

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7C (1) If—

(a) the creditor is by virtue of paragraph 7B(2) unable to exercise the right to recover from the keeper any unpaid parking charges mentioned in the notice to keeper, and

(b) the conditions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) below are met,

the creditor may recover those charges (so far as they remain unpaid) from the hirer.

(2) The conditions are that—

(a) the creditor has within the relevant period given the hirer a notice in accordance with sub-paragraph (5) (a “notice to hirer”), together with a copy of the documents mentioned in paragraph 7B(2) and the notice to keeper;

(b) a period of 21 days beginning with the day on which the notice to hirer was given has elapsed; and

(c) the vehicle was not a stolen vehicle at the beginning of the period of parking to which the unpaid parking charges relate.

(3) In sub-paragraph (2)(a) “the relevant period” is the period of 21 days beginning with the day after that on which the documents required by paragraph 7B(2) are given to the creditor.

(4) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(c) a vehicle is to be presumed not to be a stolen vehicle at the material time, unless the contrary is proved.

(5) The notice to hirer must—

(a) inform the hirer that by virtue of this paragraph any unpaid parking charges (being parking charges specified in the notice to keeper) may be recovered from the hirer;

(b) refer the hirer to the information contained in the notice to keeper;

(c) warn the hirer that if, after the period of 21 days beginning with the day after that on which the notice to hirer is given, the amount of unpaid parking charges referred to in the notice to keeper under paragraph 6B(2)(f) or 6C(2)(f) (as the case may be) has not been paid in full, the creditor will (if any applicable requirements are met) have the right to recover from the hirer so much of that amount as remains unpaid;

(d) inform the hirer of any discount offered for prompt payment and the arrangements for the resolution of disputes or complaints that are available;

(e) identify the creditor and specify how and to whom payment may be made; and

(f) specify the date on which the notice is sent (if it is sent by post) or given (in any other case).

(6) The documents mentioned in sub-paragraph (2)(a) must be given by—

(a) handing them to the hirer;

(b) leaving them at an address which is either—

(i) an address specified in the statement of liability mentioned in paragraph 7B(2)(c) as an address at which documents may be given to the hirer; or

(ii) an address at which documents relating to civil proceedings could properly be served on the hirer under Civil Procedure Rules; or

(c) sending them by post to such an address so that they are delivered to that address within the relevant period for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(a).’.

Amendment 62, page 117, leave out lines 17 to 34 and insert—

‘9 (1) The appropriate national authority may by order made by statutory instrument amend this Schedule for the purpose of—

(a) amending the definition of “relevant land” in paragraph 3;

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(b) adding to, removing or amending any of the conditions to which the right conferred by paragraph 4 is for the time being subject.

(2) The power to amend this Schedule for the purpose mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(b) includes, in particular, power to add to, remove or amend—

(a) any provisions that are applicable for the purposes of a condition; and

(b) any powers of the appropriate national authority to prescribe anything for the purposes of a condition by regulations made by statutory instrument.

(3) An order under this paragraph may—

(a) include incidental, supplementary, transitional, transitory or saving provision;

(b) make different provision for different purposes.

10 (1) A statutory instrument containing regulations under any provision of this Schedule is subject to annulment by—

(a) a resolution of either House of Parliament (in the case of regulations made by the Secretary of State); or

(b) a resolution of the National Assembly for Wales (in the case of regulations made by the Welsh Ministers).

(2) A statutory instrument containing an order made under paragraph 9—’.—(Lynne Featherstone.)

Bill to be further considered tomorrow.


Business without Debate

Business of the House

Ordered,

That, at the sitting on Wednesday 12 October, paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments) shall apply to the Motions in the name of Edward Miliband as if the day were an Opposition Day; proceedings on the Motions may continue, though opposed, until the moment of interruption and shall then lapse if not previously disposed of; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Sir George Young.)

Motion made ,

That, at the sitting on Monday 17 October, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 14(3A) (Arrangement of public business), the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the Motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund not later than two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion; and such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved.—(Sir George Young.)

Hon. Members: Object.

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Tribunals and Inquiries

That the draft First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) Fees Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 12 July, be approved.—(James Duddridge.)

Question put.

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 12 October (Standing Order No. 41A).

10 Oct 2011 : Column 153

Petition

Swindon Town Centre

10.11 pm

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): I present a petition signed by Swindon residents and visitors to our town centre. It is made in respect of established street traders. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. It is rather discourteous. There is a lot of noise, including that being made by a Government Whip, who unaccountably is not staying to hear the presentation of the petition; I cannot imagine why. If Members are leaving the Chamber, I feel sure that they will do so quickly and quietly. [Interruption.] We are grateful to the Whip on duty for toddling back to his place to hear the presentation of the petition.

Mr Buckland: I am grateful, Mr Speaker.

The future role of established street traders in the life of Swindon town centre is supported by no fewer than 4,371 signatories. The prayer reads as follows:

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request that Swindon Borough Council review its policy on street trading in Swindon town centre.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[ The Humble Petition of Swindon residents and visitors,

Sheweth that there is support for the street traders of Swindon town centre; that street traders add to the vibrancy of Swindon town centre; and that the future of street trading must be placed on a secure footing.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request that Swindon Borough Council review its policy on street trading in Swindon town centre

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.]

[P000963]

10 Oct 2011 : Column 154

Interpretation Services (Ministry of Justice)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Bill Wiggin.)

10.13 pm

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I am delighted to have secured this end-of-day Adjournment debate on the proposed outsourcing of interpretation services by the Ministry of Justice. I wish that it had not been necessary and that the coalition Government had recognised the mistakes made by the previous Labour Government in not taking action to stop police forces around the country outsourcing interpreting services to agencies, which has resulted in a poorer level of service not only to defendants but to police forces and the criminal justice system around the country. This is not the first time that I have raised this issue in Parliament. Back in March 2009, I secured a Westminster Hall debate in response to the north-west police forces planning to outsource their interpreting services. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears; I hope that it will not do so this time.

I would like particularly to thank my constituent Marc Starr, who originally brought this issue to my attention, and Geoffrey Buckingham, the chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters, for providing me with a lot of information for the debate, and to recognise colleagues who have contacted me about this issue, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), who is in his place.

A framework agreement to regulate the supply of police and court public service interpreters has been brokered by the Ministry of Justice. Its intentions are to endeavour to ensure that interpreting services to the judiciary and police are delivered to a high standard via qualified interpreters in a way intended to save about £18 million annually against the current £60 million budget. The Ministry of Justice has decided that the best way to do so is to let a contract to a single self-regulating commercial organisation that will book interpreters, individually or through agencies, to service the police and courts; determine a rate for the job; and monitor not only the quality of the interpreters’ work and need for further training and review, but its own performance. However, it is highly questionable whether this framework agreement and Applied Language Solutions, which is the agency that will provide interpreters, will be able to meet the Ministry of Justice’s requirements.

The plans introduce three tiers of interpreters, and the intention is to rank interpreters into one of three categories, with a rate of pay of £22 for tier 1, £20 for tier 2, and £16 for tier 3. Interpreters will be ranked according to their qualifications, but also subject to the agency’s own assessment, to which already fully qualified interpreters would be expected to subject themselves at their own personal cost. These rates of pay, along with severe restrictions on travel expenses and an end to travel-time payments, will result in interpreters refusing to sign up to the agency, or to take specific jobs, because of the low rates of pay. I have received evidence from one interpreter in Greater Manchester whose current net pay after travel expenses for a typical magistrates court job in Greater Manchester is £103.75 for anything

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up to a three-hour job, whereas under the proposed framework agreement it would be £10 for a one-hour job or £50 for a three-hour job, which equates to £4.44 per hour for one hour, rising to £11.76 per hour if the job lasts three hours.

Perhaps an even starker example is that of a Lithuanian-speaking interpreter who sometimes has to travel to Plymouth Crown court from Surrey because of a lack of qualified Lithuanian-speaking interpreters. Under the current agreement, they would receive £246.25 after travel costs for the 11.5-hour return trip. Under the new framework agreement, this would be minus £65.10 after travel costs. Does the Minister seriously think that that is acceptable, and does he really think that this will be an incentive to accept that particular job?

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): I assure my hon. Friend that the worries that he has outlined are shared by interpreters in Wales, whose concern is not so much the finance but the fact that the service is going to deteriorate because of the quality of interpreters who will work at these rates.

Mr Leech: I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. That is a common issue that has been raised with me by interpreters around the country, in England and in Wales.

When one adds in the additional disincentives of no pension, holiday pay or sick pay, as well as no job security and no increase in interpreters’ rate of pay since 2007, it is unthinkable to assume that these proposed rates of pay and costs are suitable. It also seems perverse that the new framework agreement encourages the use of an interpreter’s car rather than public transport. Currently, standard-class fares are reimbursed in full, while the car mileage rate is 25p a mile. A higher rate of 45p a mile, which is more in line with the true cost of running a car per mile, along with parking costs, is payable only if the interpreter can show that there was no public transport option. However, under the new arrangements all calculations will be based on the use of a personal car and public transport costs will not be covered—not much of an incentive for interpreters to reduce their carbon emissions and travel on public transport.

One of the stated aims of the framework agreement is increasing the number of suitably qualified and vetted interpreters to meet the demand. There are currently around 2,300 interpreters registered with the national register of public service interpreters. Applied Language Solutions claims that 1,000 linguists have signed up to its Linguist Lounge recruitment website. That means a cut of around 1,300 qualified interpreters available to the courts system, assuming that all 1,000 are NRPSI-qualified. If they are not, the cut in qualified interpreters will be even greater. The failure of ALS to reach agreement with at least 1,300 qualified interpreters shows the level of opposition to the proposals, in spite of evidence to suggest that ALS has sought to pressurise interpreters into signing up, with thinly veiled threats that the registration is closing soon. Does the Minister think that that is appropriate behaviour for a company purporting to implement the legal interpreting and translation register, which surely must be consistently open to applicants as a public resource?

10 Oct 2011 : Column 156

Does the Minister also think that closing the list when more than half the NRPSI-qualified interpreters have refused to sign up will increase the availability of suitably qualified and vetted interpreters? Of course it will not. We should look at the evidence from where outsourcing has already taken place and at its impact on the quality and availability of interpreters. The Ministry of Justice claimed on 6 July that “collaborative authorities” had

“concerns that NRPSI registration does not necessarily guarantee quality. The evidence for this is anecdotal, but has been consistent enough to warrant action.”

I would prefer to rely on hard evidence, and there is significant evidence that the outsourcing of interpreting services by police forces has resulted in the use of unqualified interpreters.

When Cheshire constabulary outsourced to ALS, only 34% of the interpreters provided by ALS were on the NRPSI. In Lincolnshire, outsourcing led to a reduction of registered interpreters from 68% to less than 30%. Where outsourcing has taken place there has been a significant reduction in the number of registered interpreters being used—clear evidence that the quality and availability of interpreters is reduced.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree with my constituent Svetlana Clark who is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and a public service interpreter on the national register, that the potential cost to the judiciary of adjournments, mistrials, appeals and failed prosecutions as a result of inadequate interpreting cannot be overestimated and does not serve the interests of justice?

Mr Leech: I do agree with the hon. Lady’s constituent. There is lots of evidence to suggest that where unqualified interpreters have been used there have been delays in police and court action, resulting in additional costs. I have been handed pages and pages of examples of unqualified interpreters being sent to police stations and courts by agencies, or interpreters proficient in the wrong language. One example that made it into Private Eye was ALS providing a Czech-speaking interpreter for a Slovak-speaking suspect. ALS’s explanation was that

“it is fair to say that most people from Slovakia essentially speak Czech.”

Is this really the sort of organisation that we want in charge of ensuring that justice is done?

Other questions have been raised about the suitability of ALS to fulfil the role. The Minister has already assured me that the Department’s procurement specialists were satisfied by the company’s stability and probity, but the fact remains that more than 50% of qualified interpreters do not and will not work for it. The company has been found to be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 on three occasions since 2007. Can the Minister assure me that potentially highly sensitive data are safe and that is it appropriate for them to be handled in non-UK call centres?

Finally, will the Minister explain why foreign-language-speaking interpreters are being treated differently from British sign language interpreters, who will retain their existing terms and conditions? Surely that contravenes sections 13 and 19 of the Equality Act 2010, by providing

10 Oct 2011 : Column 157

less favourable terms to foreign-language interpreters? The Ministry of Justice also intends effectively to re-test foreign-language interpreters, but not British sign language interpreters. Surely it is a contradiction that the Ministry accepts BSL qualifications as valid but rejects foreign-language interpreters, even though they have the same level of accredited qualification.

These proposals have not been properly thought through. The MOJ has failed to look at the evidence from outsourcing, and failed to treat all interpreters equitably. I hope that it is not too late for the Government to take a step back and review this decision. If they cannot do that, I would at the very least strongly urge the Minister closely to monitor the performance of the service, paying close attention to the delays and additional costs that will undoubtedly occur when cases are delayed as a result of a lack of an available interpreter, or when mistakes are made when under-qualified interpreters are used.

10.25 pm

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con): I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech) for raising the important issue of the outsourcing of interpretation services by the Ministry of Justice. I want to raise the case of a local company, Sign Solutions, which is based in my constituency and which specialises in interpretation services for British sign language. It was formed in 1998, following the retrial of the case of R v. Smith, Smith and Sams. This murder trial had been running in the Old Bailey for seven weeks using an unskilled, unqualified BSL interpreter. The interpreter errors eventually became so great that the judge had to stop the trial.

My constituent Sean Nicholson and his friend Gloria Ogborn were interpreters of known expertise, and they were approached by the Ministry of Justice to undertake the retrial. Their company, Sign Solutions, went on successfully to tender for civil and family court work for more than 10 years. Since then, it has helped to streamline interpreting services, and introduced cost savings by reducing the number of interpreters booked for cancelled hearings and supplying the right number of interpreters for each case. It has also suggested cost-saving ideas to the MOJ, such as using a web-based video system that could cut pricing by up to 50% without compromising quality. Sign Solutions is an award-winning national vocational qualification centre that offers post-qualification training in police and court work. It employs apprentices who are training to become the next generation of BSL legal interpreters. Its services encompass all languages and telephone interpreting, in order to be able to compete for one-service tenders.

During the recent MOJ tender process, Sign Solutions was rejected on the basis of having insufficient turnover, despite being one of the most experienced BSL court interpreters in the country, with more than 12 qualified interpreters in house, four of whom have more than 20 years of legal experience each. Small and medium-sized enterprises such as Sign Solutions are just the kind of business that this Government are committed to supporting, so may I ask the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice to look carefully at the MOJ procurement process, to see how a more level playing field could be created so that companies such as Sign Solutions have a better chance of winning Government business?

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10.28 pm

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech) on securing this debate. I understand his concerns, and this debate gives me a welcome opportunity to address them. There are two points I would like to clarify before turning to his key concerns. The first is that the Government’s reforms do not limit in any way the circumstances in which relevant parties to proceedings are entitled to the services of an interpreter. An interpreter is made available as soon as practicable once an apparent need is identified, irrespective of the language involved. That will not change.

Secondly, I believe that we need to take care in our use of the word “outsourcing”, which has characterised this debate. I am referring not only to this Adjournment debate, but to the wider debate taking place on this matter outside the House. Interpretation and translation services are not currently provided in house; they have always been outsourced. The difference is that, in future, the Government will be outsourcing to a single supplier rather than to individual freelance interpreters and translators.

There is no doubt that, at a time when we are striving to make savings across all public services, there is an opportunity to make savings in this area. Currently, the annual spend on these services is in the region of £60 million across the justice sector, so it is by no means insignificant. We estimate that moving over to the framework agreement will result in savings of at least £18 million a year—significant savings.

The decision to move to a single supplier is not a snap decision. Officials in the Ministry of Justice have conducted a lengthy, thorough and robust procurement process, as required by EU law, engaging with a range of bidders to ensure that we get the best possible service for the best possible price. The single supplier with which we have signed a framework agreement is Applied Language Solutions. ALS will provide a single point of contact, available to staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through which the provision of face-to-face interpreting, telephone interpreting, written translation and language services for the deaf and deaf-blind can be obtained.

Under the framework agreement, the Ministry of Justice will sign a contract on behalf of MOJ central functions, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and the Prison Service. Other organisations—for example, individual police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service—can also sign contracts with ALS, but the MOJ cannot mandate this. It is important to be clear that a wide range of justice organisations support the need to make these changes.

The changes will primarily affect England and Wales. However, it will be open to justice organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland to sign contracts under the framework, although the Scottish Court Service already has its own contract with a commercial supplier.

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): The Minister has said that the tendering process is robust. Will he assure us for the record that he is clear that what he is doing in the single tendering to ALS will conform to the directive on the right of interpretation in criminal proceedings?

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Nick Herbert: My understanding is that it does.

Some of our stakeholders—primarily interpreters and their representative organisations—oppose the new model. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington has eloquently set out some of their concerns. They suggest that our proposals will reduce the quality of interpreters and translators working in the justice sector to the detriment of justice itself. Interpreters have suggested that there will be breaches of articles 5 and 6 of the European convention on human rights with, for example, suspects spending longer in custody, collapsed trials and miscarriages of justice. I do not accept that these are valid claims.

Let us first remember that the current system does not meet our needs. We already have the unacceptable position that approximately 400 magistrates court trials and a number of considerably more expensive Crown court trials cannot go ahead as listed because the interpreter does not attend court.

Let us consider the following scenario. A member of court staff receives notification that a defendant due to appear in court for a pre-trial hearing the following Monday morning requires an interpreter. That member of staff accesses the register and starts to make phone calls. Interpreter 1 is not available. Interpreter 2, despite repeated call-backs, cannot be contacted. Interpreter 3, who lives some considerable distance away, is available and takes the booking. At around the same time, the Crown Prosecution Service needs to book an interpreter in the same language for a prosecution witness due to give evidence in a trial. The witness is due to give evidence on Monday afternoon. The interpreter originally booked has pulled out. The CPS accesses the register and starts to make phone calls. Interpreter 1 is not available; interpreter 2 answers the phone and accepts the booking. After 20 minutes of phone calls, we now have two interpreters in the same language travelling to the same court building on the same day. Under the current arrangements, we would pay each of them a payment equivalent to a minimum of three hours work and possibly travel time on top of that.

Mr Leech: Does the Minister accept, though, that where services have been outsourced to an agency to arrange interpreters rather than directly to the registered interpreters, there have been more rather than fewer problems?

Nick Herbert: I do not accept that the problems my hon. Friend describes will characterise the new service we are setting out under the framework agreement. The difference with our new framework agreement is that the court staff and the CPS each make a single phone call or send a single e-mail to ALS. ALS then not only contacts the interpreters, but its infrastructure means that it knows about the two jobs and can ensure that one interpreter is used for both jobs—saving on costs for the justice sector and providing a more worthwhile piece of work for the interpreter who is booked.

Ensuring that interpretation and translation are of the appropriate quality and widening the available pool of interpreters are fundamental elements of this reform and have always been so, and the Government believe that they will be delivered. The framework agreement is clear about the quality standards that are expected. It requires detailed and meaningful management information

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and comprehensive key performance indicators, and it will be properly managed. In addition, all interpreters and translators will be required to abide by a comprehensive code of conduct, which emphasises that they should accept only assignments that they are competent to undertake.

Clearly, in any system for the provision of such services there will be exceptional cases in which it is not easy, or always possible, to find a person with the specified qualification requirements within the time scale sought. That happens under the present arrangements, and—we must be realistic—we cannot rule it out entirely under the new arrangements. Such cases are currently managed as well as possible on the ground by the police and courts as appropriate, and that will continue. The new arrangements will help to mitigate the problems with a tiered approach, and, perhaps most crucially, with objectives to promote the recruitment and training of new interpreters, particularly in certain areas of the court or in certain languages.

Our proposals constitute a reasonable and sensible response to the need to improve efficiency in our spending on interpreters, drive up standards and reduce burdens on the justice system, while ensuring that we maintain quality standards. We believe that when, for example, a defendant or witness needs an interpreter, he or she should be entitled to one. We do not want police officers, court staff and other workers to spend time telephoning and booking interpreters. We do not believe it is acceptable that the taxpayer can pay hundreds of pounds in fees and travel expenses to an interpreter who will deal with a 10-minute traffic hearing in a magistrates court which results in a fine of less than £100. We want interpreters to spend more time interpreting than travelling, and we believe that positive benefits will result from the introduction of more competition.

We have considered carefully what interpreters have told us. What they have said has influenced this project, and has, I believe, resulted in a more robust model. The fact that we have decided to adopt a framework agreement that is opposed by some interpreters does not negate that consultation. The alternative models that they suggested would clearly have led to some savings—we acknowledge that—but they did not meet all the objectives that we sought, and did not offer us the controls that we needed. As I said earlier, we were looking for the best possible service at the best possible price. The Government are satisfied that the framework agreement will ensure that the justice sector continues to have access to quality language services, while ensuring the provision of value for money on behalf of the public.

My hon. Friend raised the issue of the pay that interpreters will receive under the new arrangements. We have always been aware of the claims by interpreters that lower pay will cause them to seek alternative work. As a result, bidders involved in the procurement process were tested to ensure that rates of pay would be sufficient to attract and retain linguists with the appropriate quality standards. ALS has now published the rates that it will pay interpreters. We know that making that information available has not eased the concerns of some foreign language interpreters. We have seen calculations by interpreters which suggest that revised terms and conditions would lead to a reduction of between 40% and 60% in remuneration, and would

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drive them from the profession. However, the situation is not as simple as those calculations suggest.

It is not possible at this stage to produce a detailed analysis of how individual interpreters will be affected, because the whole model is being changed, not just the hourly rate, but we believe that the improved technology available to ALS will enable interpreters to be given work in a more efficient and co-ordinated manner. For instance, an interpreter may be given a series of assignments on the same day and in the same general location. We also know that a large number of interpreters have registered with ALS. Ultimately, the framework agreement offers the opportunity to any linguist, irrespective of race or other protected characteristic, to perform services for the justice sector if appropriately qualified.

My hon. Friend also expressed concerns about the company, and concerns have been expressed by others about the competitive process. During a dialogue that was robust and rigorous, ALS satisfied the procurement specialists at the Ministry of Justice of its financial stability and probity. Failure to satisfy officials in that regard would have resulted in its elimination from the process. I am satisfied that my officials took all the necessary steps to ensure the financial probity of ALS such that the framework agreement was properly awarded to that company. My officials were aware of the criticism that had been made by some interpreters of ALS. The selection of questions and criteria used for the procurement process was influenced by the issues that had been raised. In particular, the process focused on relationships with interpreters, market rates and quality issues. This process was applied equally to all bidders, including ALS, in line with procurement law principles.

This is nothing new. Many goods and services are provided successfully across the justice sector by commercial entities, and in many cases this ensures a continued

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improvement in quality and standards. Opportunity for, and creation of, profit can be a useful tool in establishing greater quality standards. We are not creating a monopoly. The UK market for language services is worth about £940 million annually and the justice sector currently represents about 7% of that market.

My hon. Friend also asked why language services professionals for the deaf and deaf-blind are treated differently from foreign language interpreters. While there are differences in the detail and operation of the frameworks for foreign language interpretation and language services for the deaf and deaf-blind in tiering and assessment, we do not accept the suggestion that this constitutes unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Ultimately, the framework agreement offers the opportunity to any linguist to perform services for the justice sector, if appropriately qualified.

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns about these issues, but I hope I have gone at least some way to allaying his concerns about the way in which this framework agreement will operate, in particular by emphasising not only the importance of ensuring quality in relation to interpretation services, but the significant savings that can be made in this sector of the justice system.

The public finances are under great pressure. We have to deal with the deficit, so we have to make savings in the criminal justice system, where costs have risen very substantially over recent years. This is one way in which we can make those significant savings. We cannot dismiss an £18 million a year saving in this sector. That is a substantial sum, which is why we think it is important to maintain our commitment in this regard.

Question put and agreed to.

10.42 pm

House adjourned.