Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by National Clamps (PF 32)

PROTECTION OF FREEDOMS BILL, Sections 54-56

Introduction

1. I am the Founder and Chairman of Lancashire Clamping Company Limited, trading as ‘National Clamps’. The Company was incorporated in the UK on 16th October 1989.

2. I am the Inventor and Patent Holder of the Vehicle Immobilisation Device known as the ‘London Clamp’.

3. I am also the inaugural President of The Parking Enforcement Trade Association and an Honorary Member of the Institute of Parking Professionals

4. After my former business partner was clamped by a Blackpool Guest House proprietor and charged a fifty pounds release fee, he and I sought the Opinion of Counsel, who specialised in the laws of Tort and Trespass.

5. Understanding the Laws of Volenti non fit injuria and the doctrine of distress damage feasant we formed a company, cautious of the deterrent factor, and so we charged £30 per sign per year. This was the birth of the service provider.

6. My business partner and I split in the very first year, but I continued and charged a nominal release fee of £25, being very aware of public opinion. My company still charge £30 per sign per year, and the current release fee is £80, having only been increased from £70 in December 2005. At the peak, prior to the Featherstone announcement in August 2010, my company immobilised ten thousand vehicles per annum and received very little bad press. In 2011 to date, we have towed away just four vehicles and on average we never exceeded ten per annum,

7. Today all National Clamps staff are screened and vetted to BS7858 standards, and the company operates in over three hundred towns and cities throughout England and Wales. National Clamps have an Edexcel approved training centre and two in house trainers, our office procedures are ISO 9001 certified. National Clamps are members of the SIA (Securities Industry Association) Approved Contractor Scheme and a former member of the British Parking Association Approved Contractor Scheme. National Clamps are a founder member of The Parking Enforcement Trade Association.

8. National Clamps have over eight hundred clients who vary in type and size and most Council and Managing Agents have multiple sites. We issue over 105,000 parking permits at the turn of each year and we estimate there are over five

thousand warning signs on client’s premises. National Clamps are perceived as predominant within our field and we have worked hard to earn and sustain a good reputation in the industry.

The Politics

9. Clamping is media heaven and this Committee should not be influenced by emotive headlines which only reflect a small minority of motorists. Those in the car park management industry face conflict on a daily basis but their primary role is to keep out general members of the public who have no right to park on the land, and, secondly, to control the parking on site by those people entitled to use the land.

10. Whether the committee members like ‘wheel clamping or not’, they cannot deny the deterrent value of those signs, and this will never be superseded.

11. Prior to wheel clamping, barriers were used, but were frequently damaged and often out of commission. They are expensive to buy, install and maintain and most of the time are impractical and nothing to do with traffic management. Once inside parking becomes adhoc.

12. The Committee would be incorrect to assume that National Clamps revenue is generated by fly parkers. We immobilise vehicles in disabled bays, ambulance bays and pay and display car parks for not exhibiting or exceeding the chosen paid time. Often on campus or hospital sites we clamp for parking on hatched or yellow lines, for not using designated expenses and for parking on pavements.

13. Clamping is now part of traffic management and not just to deter trespassing. It is more a modern solution to a modern problem. Ticket issuing does not deter, it gives the motorist an unconscious attitude "I’ll cross that bridge should I come to it" or "I’ll talk my way out of it" or "It’s not my car". A clamp cannot be denied.

14. In the 18th January 2011 Impact Assessment, one of your committee members said that one group affected by the proposed ban were:- "land owners, wider business community: shops and retail areas, offices, residential and industrial premises, medical and educational bodies, and others with responsibility for parking space or land management: will no longer be able to use immobilisation or towing away without lawful authority and will therefore have a reduced range of strategies for removing unwanted vehicles from their land" It is a fact that ninety percent of our clients never need to use our clampers. Signs where placed where bound to be seen, and clearly and prominently worded provide good car park management. The proposed ban will require the landowner to invest in new equipment such as barrier and ticket machines and personnel to manage the sites, and yet, some Councils have issues with regard to planning permission for barriers etc., as they can cause on road queues and put other

motorists and pedestrians at increased risk. Just installing a barrier is the beginning of the costs. Ground works prior to installation to provide electricity and subsequent maintenance and breakdown repairs are all costs the Bill as drafted proposes to lay at the door of the landowner.

15. It is the landowners choice to use a clamping company. They do so, usually after trying other enforcement methods first. Article One, Protocol One of the European Human Rights, clearly states the right to enjoy ones property. Once parked (contrary to each sites specific parking terms), the vehicle is no longer in the possession of the driver or owner. It is now in the hands of the land owner under contract and trespass tort or distress. The doctrine of distress damage feasant gives the right of the landowner to seize goods (chattels) and deprive the owner of its use until damages are paid which includes the cost of the debt recovery and a nominal fee. Per His Honour Hirst L.J "it is not necessary to prove actual damage in support of the remedy of distress damage feasant. The impending threat of damage, namely the presence of a trespassing car , is sufficient: but if actual damage is necessary, the cost of clamping the car constitutes such damage" (post pp. 582G-583B, 584D-E, 585A-B)

16. Lynne Featherstone MP claims "that there is a ban in Scotland and that it is successful". This is misleading to Parliament as, whilst it is true to say there is a ban in Scotland, to continue to compare Scotland, with a total population of 5.1 million, to England, where the thirty two London Boroughs alone have a known population of 7.7 million ignoring the millions that visit or pass through London every year, is misleading and questions the assumptions in her Impact Assessment. We have come a long way since the early nineties when the Scottish ban was introduced, but remains unchallenged, and there are many landowners in Scotland who wish they could employ the services of National Clamps and there are many motorists who, if quizzed, would have preferred being clamped instead of being towed away.

17. National Clamps are concerned that Lynne Featherstone MP is a member of the Public Bill Committee considering, amongst other things, a total ban on wheel clamping. As a champion of this Liberal Democrat policy, she is hardly impartial or, it would seem, open to genuine debate. In an open letter dated 16th September 2010 to the BPA Approved Operator Scheme, Mr Troy, CEO British Parking Association said:- "I also expressed my concerns to the Minister at the absence of any consultation on this issue. Although the last government did a consultation on the issue, they manifestly did not consult on the prospect of a total ban so I think it is bad form to have failed to consult the industry on a total ban and I made this clear to her."

18. Costas Constantinou , writing in the Telegraph 31st August 2010 edition said "A request was made under the Freedom of Information Act to the SIA in May 2010 to disclose the number of clamping licences. The result is that there are one thousand nine hundred licensed clampers in the UK but only one thousand two hundred full and part time currently working. In effect we have a licensed operative for every 600 sq.miles of land in the UK." The Impact Assessment states there are "about one thousand eight hundred and fifty vehicle immobilisers currently licensed by SIA." The Impact Assessment fails to exclude redundancies and the number that got a job and left after they saw the confrontation.

19. A vehicle immobilisation device currently targets the driver whilst a ticket targets the ‘Registered Keeper’. Currently, around forty percent of the vehicles ticketed by National Clamps, are not the registered keeper. They are, for example, taxis or company pool cars or delivery vehicles. Whilst the proposed Bill places the emphasis on change from driver to keeper responsibility, there is no legislation that requires a driver of an offending vehicle on private land, to divulge the driver details at the time of the incident. National Clamps issues around five hundred tickets a month. 40% take advantage of the discount; a further 11% pay once we have been to the DVLA and acquired the registered details and about 9% pay after we have used a registered debt collection agency. National Clamps average collection of ticket monies is 60%.This is significantly lower than the 75% put forward in the Impact Assessment. The same assessment assumes the police will manage offending vehicles on private land in future. They are powerless, over stretched and under resourced. With the current coalition government requiring huge cutbacks in Police manpower and assets, the proposed Bill does not fit easily with the cutback regime;. in essence the makings for a different type of disaster.

20. National Clamps requested, but were refused the opportunity to give Oral Evidence to the Committee, as were the Vehicle Immobilisers Association. How ironic that two major motorist organisations are granted an audience and not one property owner nor managing agent nor clamping organisation, (being the three group of people who will be most effected by the proposed changes). The British Parking Association has been granted an audience and yet they have their own self indulgent agenda which consists of Licensing and the BPA holding the purse. So too, has the Securities Industry Authority been welcome to give evidence, but their existence under another piece of Coalition legislation is under threat.

21. I attended the British Parking Association Approved Contractor Scheme meeting in Daventry last October. Their master plan is to remove all private companies such as mine and replace them by council enforcement. It is already a legal requirement that before you can access the DVLA you are required to be a registered member of a DVLA Approved Trade Association, and then be a member of their Approved Contractor Scheme. In 2010, this privilege costs my

Company £6980, rising year on year. Many within the Car Parking Management

industry are leaving ticketing because they have been priced out. Whilst I was at the meeting of BPA Approved Contractors i.e barrier suppliers, car park attendants etc, I asked the following questions:- (1) Who would like to see Vehicle immobilisation and towing away kept if regulated? (2) Who would like to see the release fees capped at £100 or £175 if towed away? (3) Who would like to see a two hour gap between a clamp being applied and a tow truck? I can report that the show of hands was one hundred percent unanimous in favour on all questions.

Those attending were the cream of the UK parking industry and whilst this was consultation in its crudest form, it was honest and untainted.

March 2011