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Clause 19 deals with the performance of the Speaker’s functions by others. The Speaker has a critical role in the recall process. The Bill, as currently drafted, states that the Speaker can appoint somebody to perform those functions. That seems very strange for a number of reasons, so amendment 11 proposes that, rather then the Speaker being able to appoint somebody, the Chairman of Ways and Means or a Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, such as you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would be the obvious person to take on those responsibilities.

Amendment 12 picks up on the point, made in Committee, that one of the exceptions would be if the Speaker was subject to a recall. In such circumstances it would be odd to expect the Speaker to set in train the process of recalling him or herself, and that raises the question of what would happen if they refused to do so. Would another recall petition be sought against them for failing to fulfil the first?

Amendment 13 is entirely consequential on the other two amendments. I hope that all five amendments will not prove controversial and that the House will support them unanimously. In the interests of time, I will not push any of them to a vote if there is dissent within the House. However, I hope that the House will agree to them so that they can be made to the Bill as minor, technical and corrective measures.

Thomas Docherty: I, too, will be relatively brief. Amendment 9 relates to an issue we discussed in Committee. The Government gave a clear indication to the Committee that they recognised that it would be inappropriate to place wording in primary legislation on which they had not consulted the Electoral Commission. I hope that the Minister will confirm when he responds whether the Government have now consulted the Electoral Commission, as they undertook to do in Committee.

I agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) that, having had a hat trick of wins earlier this evening, we should not press our luck tonight. However, we are clear that we do not believe that it is appropriate to have wording in primary legislation that has not been agreed by the Electoral Commission. We will expect the other place to remove that wording if the Government are unable to satisfy this House that they have consulted the Electoral Commission.

Amendment 10 simply rewrites the wording set out in clause 9, as the hon. Member for Cambridge said, and I do not think that it requires further explanation. Amendments 11, 12 and 13 relate to a point that was made during our line-by-line consideration of the Bill. He is absolutely right that it is inappropriate to have ambiguity about what would happen if the Speaker was subject to a recall petition—not least for the benefit of the Speaker. We think that it is correct to state explicitly that the Chairman of Ways and Means or the Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means are the appropriate post-holders in the unlikely event that a recall petition affects the Speaker.

That point was raised with the Government informally, so we hope that the Minister has had a chance to consider it. His previous answer was that the Chair would be vacant because the Speaker would be serving a custodial sentence. However, we have just agreed by an overwhelming majority to make an amendment that will apply this to non-custodial sentences, so that argument no longer holds

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water. Also, if an MP received a very short sentence, they could be out of custody by the time the recall procedure was initiated.

This is purely a tidying-up exercise and we do not see the point in detaining the House. We are sure that the Minister will have reflected on our previous discussions and will agree to make these minor but necessary changes to the Bill.

Tom Brake: I intend to make a satisfyingly and commendably brief contribution: these amendments are not controversial.

Amendment 9 would remove from the Bill the wording of the petition signing sheet and the ability to amend it by regulations. This would be replaced by a power enabling the wording to be prescribed or amended by regulations following consultation with the Electoral Commission. The wording of the petition signing sheet currently appears in the Bill and can be amended through regulations. This aligns with the power that exists in the Representation of the People Act 1983 that allows for the ballot paper for UK parliamentary elections to be amended through regulations, although the form of the ballot paper itself appears in the Act.

Amendment 10 seeks to amend the wording to appear on the petition signing sheet by making it easier for the elector to understand that the MP will not lose his or her seat and a by-election will not be held if fewer than 10% of the registered electors in the constituency sign the petition. I remind hon. Members that this wording has been developed in conjunction with the Electoral Commission to ensure that it is balanced and fits with the commission’s guidance on referendum questions.

I can see the intention behind the amendments. The first amendment addresses concerns expressed in Committee that if any user testing takes place—I can confirm that we do intend to user-test the wording of the signing sheet—it might be clearer to remove the wording from the Bill and accept that the final form of words will appear in regulations. It is important that the wording is approved by Parliament, whether on the Floor of the House or in a delegated powers Committee. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) that proper consultation should be part of the process of developing the wording. That is why we have worked on it with the Electoral Commission and are now looking to test it further to ensure that it is right. Either the power in clause 9 or that proposed in amendment 9 would allow the wording to be adapted or set should changes flow from the user testing. Amendment 10 demonstrates that there is no single way to word the signing sheet, and that is why we are committed to undertaking user testing. The views of the public will provide us with a clearer picture on where improvements can be made not only to the signing sheet but to the notice of petition.

As for the wording of the petition signing sheet, there is a specific purpose behind the use of the words,

“as a result of the petition.”

If the petition is successful, it is right that a by-election will be held. However, if the petition is unsuccessful, it is not necessarily the case that a by-election will not be held. A by-election could be held because the MP decided to resign his or her seat, or otherwise lost his or her seat. The use of the words,

“as a result of the petition”,

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seeks to ensure that the public understand that the effect of an unsuccessful petition is not necessarily to prevent a by-election. The question for the House is whether the wording should be retained in the Bill or be replaced with a power to prescribe the wording in regulations. If the wording is to be retained, the question then is whether we accept the proposed amendment to clarify that a by-election will not be held or leave this to user testing.

Lady Hermon: A small but very important point is that those signing a petition should know of the percentage that is required and the consequences that the Minister has outlined. Will he shed some light on the sequence of the wording in subsection (4)? Why are the two paragraphs in that order and not in the reverse order, which would be much more helpful to those signing the petition?

7.15 pm

Tom Brake: As I said, this has been discussed with the Electoral Commission, which has been very careful to ensure that the wording is as clear as possible. I will have to get back to the hon. Lady on whether there was a specific reason why the paragraphs were put in that order, but I suspect that it was felt that that was the clearest way of presenting the information, rather than the alternative she suggests.

Amendments 11, 12 and 13 would amend clause 19 regarding the role of the Speaker. Under the Bill, certain functions, such as giving notice to the petition officer in the relevant constituency when one of the recall conditions has been met, are performed by the Speaker. As currently drafted, clause 19 allows for the Speaker to appoint a person to perform the relevant administrative functions, including giving notice of the opening of the recall petition process, if the Speaker is unable to perform these functions or there is a vacancy in the office of the Speaker. If no such person is appointed by the Speaker, there is a provision that the Chairman of Ways and Means or a Deputy Chair of Ways and Means will perform the functions. The provisions in clause 19 as originally drafted replicated those found in other legislation such as the Recess Elections Act 1975.

During the debate in Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) pointed out that as the Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Chairs are now elected rather than being appointed by the Speaker, the functions of the Speaker should automatically be carried out by the Chairman of Ways and Means or a Deputy Chair of Ways and Means in the event that the Speaker cannot perform them. The amendment would ensure that if the Speaker was indisposed and unable to perform the relevant functions, the functions would be performed by the Chairman of Ways and Means or a Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means rather than giving the option to the Speaker to appoint someone else. In addition, the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) expressed concern about who would perform the Speaker’s duties in the event that the Speaker was the person whose behaviour had triggered the recall conditions. The amendments put it beyond doubt that in such a situation the functions relating to the recall petition process would be carried out by the Chairman of Ways and Means or his deputies.

Some matters of detail will need to be addressed, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge is content not to press his amendments I am totally confident that

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those matters can and will be addressed in the House of Lords. I hope that the House will consider the full range of points made in the debate when considering these amendments.

Dr Huppert: This has been a brief and fairly agreeable debate. I hear what the Minister has said. I said that I would not press any proposal that was criticised in the House, and I will not do so. In particular, I should listen carefully to what the Electoral Commission has said, especially because my predecessor is one of the commissioners, so I would not challenge his wisdom. I accept the Minister’s commitment to address these matters in the House of Lords, although I do have a concern about the habit of this House to wait for the other place to fix things. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

7.19 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Sam Gyimah): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As you can tell, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am very keen for the Bill to be read a Third time. I will start by thanking my colleagues, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and the Deputy Leader of the House, for the role they have played in the debates so far. I also thank Opposition Front Benchers—I can say this with confidence—for the constructive and non-partisan way in which they have approached the Bill.

I thank those who have tabled amendments, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) for his principled arguments and the passionate way in which he and others have advanced their case. As on Second Reading, I reiterate my thanks to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee for its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill.

The coalition’s programme for Government made a commitment to establishing a recall mechanism for MPs who have been found guilty of wrongdoing or misconduct. The Bill fulfils our coalition commitment to delivering a practical recall mechanism to hold MPs to account when they have done something wrong.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Does the Minister understand why so many of the people who are following this debate are so incredibly disappointed by the recall Bill we have ended up with? It is a sham and bogus, because essentially it means that most ordinary people are not going to be able to hold their MPs to account in the way that they expected.

Mr Gyimah: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. As I have said, the Bill delivers on our manifesto commitments. There was also a free vote on the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park and, as the hon. Lady knows, they were heavily defeated.

Today’s Report stage has rightly given Parliament the opportunity to listen to and vote on a range of proposals to amend the Bill. It has been open to the House to make further amendments and they have been subject

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to free votes. This is a continuation of the approach the Government have taken throughout the Bill’s passage through this House. The purpose of the Bill remains to give the public their say on whether an MP who has been found guilty of serious wrongdoing should retain their seat in this House.

We considered in depth, both on Second Reading and in Committee, the option proposed by some hon. Members of implementing a recall system that would allow the recall of MPs on any grounds and at any time. However, we continue to believe that that approach would leave MPs vulnerable to constant challenge at the public’s expense, which is not compatible with our system of representative democracy. We believe that the principle of linking recall to wrongdoing strikes the right balance between holding MPs to account while making sure that they can do their job.

I will not reiterate the triggers for recall or the process by which a petition is run. I believe that the constructive way in which all contributors have approached the issue, whether during pre-legislative scrutiny or through the parliamentary debates, has resulted in a high-quality and in-depth discussion of the proposals, which I very much hope will continue as the Bill continues to be considered. I commend the Bill to the House.

7.22 pm

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I rise to make a brief contribution, primarily to say that this Bill is a missed opportunity. It could have genuinely empowered people and I was very happy to support the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), but instead we have a Bill that empowers Westminster.

Of more interest to me is the fact that this Bill could have given us the opportunity to empower the devolved Administrations to introduce their own recall mechanisms should they wish to do so. It is disappointing that my new clause 4 was deemed out of scope in Committee. It would have given powers over recall to the devolved Administrations. It would have been an empowering amendment, not a prescriptive one, that would have given power to the devolved Administrations to introduce whatever recall mechanism they wanted.

I had hoped that we would build some sort of political consensus on the issue. Prior to the Bill coming to the House, the Secretary of State for Wales told the Welsh Grand Committee:

“The recall of MPs Bill, which we will introduce later in the Session, will put in place a mechanism by which MPs can be recalled in certain circumstances, and I am exploring with the Presiding Officer whether such a mechanism is desirable in the Assembly.”—[Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee, 16 July 2014; c. 14.]

On Second Reading, I raised that exact point with the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), who said that,

“in principle, if this House has a reserve power, it should give it up so that it becomes a matter for the devolved bodies themselves to decide”.—[Official Report, 21 October 2014; Vol. 586, c. 786.]

I thought that that represented progress. Indeed, during that debate, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) seemed to indicate that he would be open to my proposals should there be a request for the powers from one of the devolved Administrations.

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Alas, the Bill has not been strengthened to give the devolved Parliaments those powers. Plaid Cymru fully supports the principle of enabling the National Assembly to make those decisions. Indeed, we support devolving all powers over electoral arrangements. It is interesting to read some of the leaks from the Smith commission on Scotland, namely that electoral arrangements will be devolved fully to the Scottish Parliament. We will wait to hear what is announced on Thursday.

In Wales during the past few weeks, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Assembly, Kirsty Williams, called, with much fanfare, for powers over recall for the National Assembly. Indeed, she called for an open recall similar to that proposed by the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Richmond Park. Unfortunately, however, it is obvious that she has not liaised with her colleagues in the UK Government, because the National Assembly for Wales has no power to introduce such a recall mechanism as it has not been included in this Bill. That is a further reflection of the disjointed way in which the Unionist parties work in Wales.

Caroline Lucas: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the reluctance of other Members to adopt a genuine recall mechanism reveals their distrust of their own electors and that that speaks volumes?

Jonathan Edwards: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that genuinely vital point. The Bill as drafted further empowers a Committee in Westminster to decide who should be recalled. It will further disfranchise people on the ground and reduce trust in Westminster—not that it is my job, of course, to try to encourage trust in Westminster.

In closing, I believe that this is a missed opportunity on two grounds. First, the Bill should have been used to genuinely empower people. Secondly, its scope should have been widened to enable the national Parliaments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to introduce their own recall mechanisms should they wish to do so.

7.26 pm

Mr Lansley: I want to express my support for the Bill as it finishes its passage through this House. In particular, I want to repeat the point made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that the Bill was introduced on the basis that the principal parties in this House went into the last general election with manifesto commitments to a form of recall, and that is substantially reflected in the Bill.

Some Members have attempted to wear the cloak of democracy and say that we should have passed a completely different Bill that said something radically different and that would have rewritten, on the back of a day or two’s debate in the Chamber, the relationship between MPs and their constituents. The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) was rightly critical of that proposal and made it clear that it would change us substantially from being a representative democracy to being a more direct democracy whereby the electorate, notwithstanding their decision at the general election, could reach into the Chamber of the House of Commons, pull out Members and try to eject them on whatever grounds they chose, and at a time of their choosing, between one general election and another.

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For that reason, I do not think the Bill is friendless. The Bill has merit and the fact that it will be relatively sparingly used in practice will, I hope, reflect the changed climate of behaviour in this House. It is important to note that during this Parliament the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has not referred anybody to the Standards Committee to be sanctioned for breaching the expenses requirements of this House. The Standards Committee has been acting in relation to events that took place before this Parliament, not during it. We have changed since 2009-10. We have introduced proper independent scrutiny and we have a structure of sanctions.

Contrary to the points made on Report by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), I do not think that the Bill’s second trigger simply hands the issue to a committee of parliamentarians upstairs. I hope that when the House of Lords considers the Bill, we in this House will continue to consider how to make the work of the Standards Committee more independent and transparent. I know that the Standards Committee, and its Sub-Committee led by its lay members, is now looking at that matter.

I will not repeat all that I said on Second Reading, but it is important that the Committee does its job in the right way. When I was the Leader of the House, I put to the Committee my view that it should enhance the role of the lay members, and I made it clear not only that they should not bring forward a report without the support of the lay members, but that if they did, my successors as Leader of the House, whoever they were, would see it as their duty to ensure that the lay members’ views, including any contrary views, were put to the House for a decision. The truth of the matter is that, constitutionally, only the House itself can determine the sanctions applied in relation to membership of the House as a consequence of the actions of Members as Members of Parliament.

I hope that the House of Lords will recognise that the second trigger is not a cosy example of parliamentarians exercising judgment on parliamentarians. I hope that the Standards Committee, following its scrutiny, will propose in its report that the process should be led by lay people as much as by parliamentarians.

Parliamentarians and lay people should act on the basis of proven investigations. Much of what we have heard in the debate has concerned the idea that Members of Parliament should be subject to recall in relation to allegations, which they have to reply to, with no proper investigation and with no proven outcome from any investigation. That is where the Standards Committee, with the benefit of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, should deliver a sound basis for deciding whether a Member of Parliament has been found guilty of any wrongdoing. That is a sound basis on which to proceed with recall.

It is a perfectly legitimate view of the nature of our democracy for people to want, as some clearly do, to have a much more open recall system, in which Members can be pulled out of the Chamber by their constituents at any time, but that view should be tested at a general election by being proposed in a party manifesto. I will not be standing at the next election, so it is not for me but for future MPs to make such a decision. For now, it is right and proper to deliver on the pledges we made to

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our constituents in our manifesto at the last election. We should not be in the least bit hesitant about saying that that is the right and proper step to take.

7.32 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): When the Minister moved the Third Reading, he thanked several people, and I associate myself with the thanks he gave them all. In particular, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), the members of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, and Members on both sides of the House and on all sides of the debate. At various stages, we have attempted to reach agreement with Ministers, the Liberal Democrats, and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and his cross-party group.

This debate is of real importance to our politics. We all know that many members of the public feel disconnected from this place and disenchanted with the political process. The principle of recall is just one way in which we can give more power to our constituents to hold their representatives to account. As has been said throughout the debate, all the three main parties committed themselves to recall in the manifestos in 2010. The Labour manifesto stated:

“MPs who are found responsible for financial misconduct will be subject to a right of recall if Parliament itself has failed to act against them.”

We maintain this position today: we support recall, but we accept that in designing a system there is a careful balance to be drawn between one that allows constituents to recall their MP if they are guilty of serious misconduct, and one that allows constituents to do so simply because of a disagreement with their MP’s views or policy decisions.

As was said earlier, the Government chose to table no amendments on Report. The Opposition sought to strengthen the Bill, and I am delighted to say that our attempts were successful, with three amendments being carried. I welcome the passing of amendment 14, which lowers the suspension threshold for recalling an MP. As a result, MPs such as those who received cash for questions in the 1990s would now, under the lower limit, be subject to recall. As we promised in our last manifesto, amendment 24 means that any MP convicted of financial misconduct under IPSA legislation—the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009—will be open to recall. I am delighted at that, because putting it into law will instil greater public confidence in MPs’ financial prudence in the wake of the expenses scandal. By approving amendment 16, the House has ensured that the Bill covers MPs convicted of offences that were not public knowledge when the electorate voted them in. I am pleased that that sensible amendment was adopted by a substantial margin.

We have worked to improve this Bill, and we will seek to explore further options in the House of Lords, including for a robust independent mechanism to enable citizen-based recall. We must tread with care when involving the courts in democratic processes. The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) have been very clearly rejected, but they were real risks, because of the specific contents of their proposals. The Opposition believe that a robust independent

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mechanism to enable citizen-based recall is desirable, if an achievable and effective way can be found of doing so. I hope that a cross-party solution can be agreed in the other place.

The Bill is an important statement about our commitment to accountability and democracy. Throughout its passage, the Opposition have worked to strengthen it. We will continue that work in the Lords so that the Act ensures that the public have confidence both in this place and in the recall process so that there is greater accountability of Members of Parliament.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With the leave of the House, I propose to take motions 2 to 4 together.

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

Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, etc.

That the draft Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 15 October, be approved.


That the draft Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law (No. 2) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 24 October, be approved.

That the draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) and Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 15 October, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With the leave of the House, I propose to take motions 5 and 6 together.

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

Capital Gains Tax

That the draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Tajikistan) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 14 October, be approved.

That the draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Canada) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 14 October, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

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


That the draft Fuel Poverty (England) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 22 October, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

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

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Terms and Conditions of Employment

That the draft Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 13 October, be approved.—(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.

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

Licences and Licensing

That the draft Legislative Reform (Entertainment Licensing) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 8 July, be approved. —(John Penrose.)

Question agreed to.



That Mr Robert Buckland be discharged from the Select Committee appointed to join with a Committee of the Lords as the Joint Committee on Consolidation, &c., Bills.—(John Penrose, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)



That David Morris be discharged from the Science and Technology Committee.—(John Penrose, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)



That Mr Pat McFadden and Mr George Mudie be discharged from the Treasury Committee and Rushanara Ali and Mike Kane be added.—(John Penrose, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

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Traffic Controls (Schools)

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

7.40 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I know that, under the rules of the House, I could entertain Back Benchers and Front Benchers for the next two hours plus, but I do not intend to do so.

I want to talk about parking and traffic outside schools. I invite the House briefly to imagine the scene at 8.45 in the morning outside a school. Parents and adults are walking to school with their children, chatting, checking that everything is in order and waving their charges off as they walk through the school gates. If there are any roads to be crossed, it is usually the local authority that ensures that there are school crossing patrols to see children and adults across safely. Once children are inside the school, every parent rightly expects that the school and the teachers will take care of those in their charge. They want the environment to be safe and they want to be sure that nobody tolerates bullying and that not a single child is put in a dangerous situation.

A significant number of parents walk to school. Some do so because they think it is the right thing to do or because they live nearby. A number of parents drive to school. Some have to do so because it is on their way to work or because they have several children in several schools. Others do so by choice. There is a valid argument that we ought to discourage some of those who drive to school by choice from doing so. Of those who come by car, a large number park nearby, taking care that no obstruction is caused, and walk the last few yards to the school gates. So far, so good. If that was what happened outside every school gate, I would not have called for an Adjournment debate.

At every school gate that I have come across in all my years, there is a small number of parents who insist on parking on double yellow lines, on pavements and in front of driveways, who block exits and who cause dangerous obstructions. So far, I have talked only about the morning. The situation is worse in the afternoon, when parents might arrive early and have to wait for their children. Those parents create a danger to themselves, to their own children and to other children.

I cannot be the only politician who has heard some choice language over the years in my discourse with voters. However, I have to confess that I have never come across language quite as fruity, aggressive and in your face as when a local councillor and I decided, about six months ago, that the only way we could deal with this issue in some of our schools was to go out and ask the parents to move on. I do not name the schools deliberately, because doing so would give the impression that they were unusual. Birmingham has about 475 schools. I know that this problem is spread across the city and does not just affect Birmingham. It just happens to be worse at some schools than at others.

What happened was extraordinary. Outside one school, a road crossing patrol lady in her early 70s was run over by a driver deliberately because they were so aggressive. Such things simply cannot go on. When we went out at one local school, a parent was driving on the pavement. I stood in front of the car and said, “I don’t think you should be doing that.” The man wound the window down

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and said, “Are you that Mrs Stuart or that Miss Badley?”, because the councillor who came out with me was Caroline Badley. I said, “I’m that Mrs Stuart and I’m not moving until you move.” The string of expletives that came out of the car was really quite extraordinary. The key thing is that such people are a minority, but that minority is causing a simple problem. If we just use the current legislation, I do not think that we will change the behaviour.

On some occasions when we have gone out, we have asked the local traffic enforcement officers to go out with us. That has not quite worked because the powers on when it is appropriate and right to issue tickets are fairly unclear. On other occasions, we have asked the schools to help us with the children coming out. The children will stand out on the pavements with placards, telling the drivers that their behaviour is simply not appropriate. That works, but only for short periods. We think we have just cracked the problem and then, come September, a new cohort of parents comes in and the problem starts all over again.

There is a real question over whose problem it is. The schools have an interest in their pupils getting to school safely. However, I do not want to make teachers and governors into part-time traffic marshals. They have a role to play, but they must be part of something much wider. One local primary school made sure when it had rebuilding work done that its staff had enough parking spaces, so that the school was not adding to the traffic problem. However, the head teacher told me that when she went out with traffic cones, the parents simply ignored her. She, too, heard a lot of foul language. It is not enough for just the schools to act.

The local authorities have an interest. Parking offences are civil offences and local authorities have the power to enforce them. They are also responsible for providing a safe environment for the travel-to-school journey. Some authorities have developed policies. I am sad to say that Birmingham has not. The last time Birmingham looked at wider issues such as parking on pavements was when a certain Councillor Steve McCabe, who is now the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak and has been since 1997, was a local councillor there. The council could do more, but that would not be sufficient on its own.

Mature cities such as Birmingham have particular problems. Their schools tend to be in densely populated areas with very narrow roads. Again, that is not a sufficient explanation for the problem. Local authorities and transport agencies also have an interest because, certainly outside several of my local schools, the traffic chaos that is caused affects the bus routes—because the parents are double parking, the buses cannot get through.

All those people have an interest in the matter, but it is never sufficient for anybody to pull things together and decide what to do. I will not call for large-scale legislative changes because that is not the issue. However, we need to stop and think about a proper framework on how we can solve this problem on a long-term basis. Clause 38 of the Deregulation Bill, which is in Committee in the House of Lords, would prohibit the general use of CCTV for parking enforcement, with limited exceptions. That needs to be looked at seriously, because the use of

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CCTV for parking enforcement outside schools during periods when there is a significant problem ought to be taken up.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), who has Front-Bench responsibilities for road safety, has done some useful work on what has happened to local authority budgets in respect of such enforcement. He has found that the Government have axed road safety grants by more than a third, which is having detrimental effects. Something like nine in 10 local authorities have cut their road safety budgets and a third of local authorities have cut road safety staff. To quote my hon. Friend, we have ended up with a rather “pickled policy”, which will not help schools or traffic, and will not help to make things better.

Could we work with police community support officers? I have asked those in my area to stand outside schools, and they have been supportive, wearing their uniform and waiting outside. To be honest, however, the only thing that will hit home for that small minority of parents who are simply not amenable to reasonable conversation is a ticket. Unless we give PCSOs the power, in limited circumstances, to issue tickets outside schools, we may have real difficulty. Community traffic officers also work outside schools, but they are over-cautious in their willingness to issue tickets.

In the light of the significant cuts already experienced—from what I am led to believe, after the next Budget they will be even worse—I accept that we may have fewer community police officers and traffic enforcement officers. Nevertheless, I have come across processes through which the police train laypeople to take evidence that can then be used either for warning letters or prosecutions. About 20 years ago kerb crawling was a real problem in two areas of Birmingham. Local community groups followed tightly drawn up protocols with the police, which allowed the police to use as evidence car registration numbers that had been noted down. We should be able to do something similar. I believe that some local authorities are already doing this, but perhaps parents outside schools and governors could agree a protocol for taking down the registration numbers of offending drivers. The police will then send those drivers a warning letter to say that their behaviour has been unacceptable. That must be a way forward.

Such a process means working with other agencies. Car insurance companies have an extraordinarily strong interest in greater road safety. We should encourage companies such as AXA Insurance, which claims that it wants to do more for road safety, to provide cones outside schools, or jackets for people who wait outside and say to people, “Move on, we are patrolling your pavements and we have some authority.” No single action will make progress, so we must bring together the means that we already have.

Given the fragmentation of our schools, the local authority is no longer the real authority that holds school families together; we are also dealing with academy chains. The Government need to send a clear message to say to schools, “You think that road safety outside schools is important, as do we. We will provide a framework and protocols that you can use to bring together traffic enforcement measures, police officers and outside agencies, so that we can help you to go outside the school gates and end the absolute mayhem that takes place at some schools.”

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I live in Birmingham on the Hagley road. Jokingly, I sometimes say to parents that if they ever hear about an incidence of road rage by an elderly woman around 8.45 am on a weekday, it is probably when I try to turn off the Hagley road. There are nursery schools, and cars are parked on both sides—it is a main artery into the city and the junction is completely jammed and traffic cannot flow because of that parking. We know that that will happen for two half-hour spots in the day; it is not unexpected because we know that on every school day between 8.45 and 9 am, and at about 3.30 or 4 pm, there will be traffic jams. Unless we start to address that with protocols that allow those on the ground to challenge people who behave badly—indeed, a small number behave exceedingly badly and their effect is disproportionate —we will end up with serious accidents outside our schools, particularly as local authority cuts will mean fewer school crossing patrols. There will be fewer local authority activities to provide for road safety, and we as politicians need to address the issue with open eyes.

7.55 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) on securing this debate. Her colleague, the shadow road safety Minister, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), is on the Opposition Benches to listen to her remarks as well as to what I have to say, and I suspect that we will have a lot of common ground on this matter because it affects constituencies up and down the country. I am pleased to speak about an issue that is vital for the safety of our schoolchildren—indeed, the hon. Lady is probably pushing at an open door in that regard. In rural areas such as the one I represent, we have the additional problem that many parents seem to get into bigger and bigger four-wheel drive vehicles, which makes it harder for people to see when manoeuvring. Perhaps it is a fact of modern life, but a lot of people seem to set off far too late to take their children to school and have to race there.

We are all too aware of how traffic tends to be more congested during school drop-off and pick-up periods because many of us use our vehicles to take our children to and from school. Schoolchildren are therefore more likely to be at risk from traffic during those periods, and it is a particular problem directly outside schools because some children make their way home on foot or walk to the nearest bus stop. The Government are keen to increase the number of children who walk to school—we have set a target of 55%—and good schemes such as walking buses or “park and stride” encourage people who perhaps live too far away from their school to walk the entire distance to walk for some of it. That is good news not only for reducing congestion outside schools, but also for improving general health and well-being. When I drive to York station on a Monday morning to come to London, it is obvious when it is half term because the traffic is so much better.

Let me mention some of the legal measures available to local authorities and schools, and the powers that local authorities have to address the problem. Local authorities can tackle congestion and protect vulnerable schoolchildren by applying traffic control measures such as “School Keep Clear” zig-zag markings outside school areas. Those areas can be either advisory or mandatory,

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and it is for the local authority to determine what is appropriate in particular circumstances. If it considers that an advisory approach will be effective, the local authority should apply the appropriate zig-zag crossing on the road outside the entrance of a school to indicate to drivers that stopping or parking is not permitted in the marked area. An advisory marking is unenforceable by the local authority because it is not prohibited in an order made by the council, and traffic signs are not required to indicate the advisory marking. The police can, however, give a driver a parking fine for causing an obstruction as a result of stopping or parking on a “School Keep Clear” road advisory marking. Advisory markings are only intended to act as a deterrent, although as we have heard, some drivers take a lot of deterring.

If a mandatory approach is considered more effective, the local authority will be required to make a “School Keep Clear” zig-zag marking a parking prohibition in an order, and it must also apply appropriate road markings and traffic signs. Local authorities that have taken over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police can enforce a mandatory “School Keep Clear” marking with a penalty charge notice. Current arrangements provide flexibility for local authorities to decide whether an advisory or mandatory approach is needed, and I believe that they are best placed to tackle traffic management in their area. Most school governing bodies that I know include one or two councillors, so it will be easy for them to feed back that concern.

Parking on the pavement near schools is common practice in some areas and can cause severe problems for parents with children in pushchairs, people in wheelchairs, or the visually impaired and blind. Pavement parking could also block the footway passage for schoolchildren, forcing them on to dangerous roads.

In London, parking on the footway is prohibited, but in some areas it is permitted to maintain easy traffic flow. It would be for the London local authority to decide parking arrangements for a local area, and that may include permitting pavement parking. In England outside London, parking on the pavement is not banned. However, local authorities have the power in legislation to implement a pavement parking prohibition in particularly problematic areas, such as outside schools.

Ms Gisela Stuart: The Minister is absolutely right about the legal framework, but the reality is that our local authorities’ financial means have been cut to the bone. If I go to my local authority and say that I want one of those traffic management orders, it will say, “We simply do not have the money.” In Birmingham, there are more than 475 schools and it simply does not have the means. We need other ways and issuing tickets is the simplest thing to do.

Mr Goodwill: I will come on to other ways that may be used to dissuade people from bad behaviour, but I am currently outlining the statutory tools available to local authorities in particular areas. Issuing tickets will create revenue, which may make the system self-financing. However, I must make it clear that we do not support any measures that could be seen as re-declaring the war on motorists that the previous Government seemed to be engaged in.

Since 2011, enforcing pavement parking in English areas outside London has been made easier by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Lewes (Norman

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Baker), who was responsible for removing the requirement for councils to apply for individual traffic sign authorisations. Baroness Kramer wrote to English local authorities outside London this summer, reminding them of their existing powers to enforce pavement parking and encouraging them to do so.

Double parking outside schools when dropping off or picking up schoolchildren can obstruct the passage and flow of traffic, and may put schoolchildren at risk of being hit by a passing vehicle. Local authorities with parking enforcement powers can enforce double parking violations without the requirement for traffic signs, because double parking is prohibited in national legislation. Similarly, local authorities can give a penalty charge notice to drivers who block access to school grounds or nearby facilities as a result of parking their vehicle alongside a dropped footway outside the school area.

Yellow line restrictions near school areas can also be enforced by the local authority. In these circumstances, the police can only enforce if a vehicle is causing an obstruction as a result of parking on a yellow line, or if the local authority has not as yet taken over the responsibility of parking enforcement from the police. I suspect Birmingham is an authority that has taken over enforcement powers from the police, and I encourage all local authorities that have not yet done so to take on those powers. Local authorities have the power in legislation to make arrangements for the patrolling of places where children cross roads on their way to and from school. My Department works closely with intermediaries and partners who engage with children directly, such as teachers, out-of-school group leaders and parents, to communicate road safety messages. The Department provides them with free lesson plans, resources and activities that can all be found on the Department for Transport’s award-winning “THINK!” website. Moreover, the Department continues to work with local road safety officers and stakeholders, including the road safety charity Brake and in partnership with the RAC, to help them deliver road safety plans.

My Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government recently consulted on proposals to tackle over-zealous parking enforcement by local authorities. One proposal was to introduce a ban on the use of CCTV by local authorities for on-street parking enforcement. The Government received an overwhelming number of responses requesting that the use of CCTV by local authorities for traffic enforcement outside schools be exempted from the ban.

We recognise that the primary objective of any camera system for enforcement is to ensure the safe and efficient operation of public highways by deterring motorists from breaking traffic restrictions and detecting those that do. We also recognise that areas outside schools are more susceptible to traffic accidents if a robust system of enforcement is not in place. For that reason, we have listened to the views of the general public, and parents and teachers in particular, and have exempted from the ban the use of CCTV by local authorities for traffic enforcement outside schools. That could be in the form of either a fixed camera or a camera van to ensure that people who are parking illegally receive the appropriate sanctions. CCTV is necessary in these areas in particular, because it takes most drivers only 10 seconds to drop

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somebody off. Therefore, even if a parking warden or an officer of the council is there, it is not possible to ticket more than one car. With the use of cameras, enforcement can be done in a pretty severe way to get the message across to parents who park dangerously. It would be great to have the hon. Lady outside all the schools in Birmingham—I am sure similarly stern ladies could do the work—but the use of cameras is one way to ensure that people cannot get away with dropping people off.

Ms Stuart: I am glad to hear that. Can the Minister be more precise on where cameras will be located and on the enforcement process for evidence gathered from CCTV? Whose responsibility will it be: the local authority or the police?

Mr Goodwill: Where civil enforcement has been taken over by the council, as in the case of Birmingham, it would be up to the local authority, through its civil enforcement officers. If it was a particularly big or busy school it would be possible to install a camera outside the school to do that work, but other local authorities could use a van with a camera fitted to enable that to happen and to provide a deterrent when word gets around that people are being ticketed.

Unfortunately, no matter how strong a message is given to parents, either directly or through their children, not all parents understand the dangers of parking outside schools. If local authorities want to use cameras, we have allowed them to use them in specific locations: red routes in London, bus lanes and outside schools. I was keen to impress on my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government how important it is to make an exception for the situation outside schools. As hon. Members probably know, this has been taken forward as an amendment to clause 39 of the Deregulation Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. It will enable the power to be retained by local authorities and for there to be an exemption from the camera ban.

There is important work to be done by schools on information campaigns and sending notes home from school. I have heard of cases where vehicles and their registration numbers have been listed and circulated back to parents to try to encourage more responsible behaviour. I repeat that we absolutely understand the problem. We need to give local authorities the right powers, and retaining the use of cameras gives them those additional powers. As I have outlined, there are several ways local authorities can enforce parking restrictions outside schools, and I would encourage them to use those powers.

Ms Stuart: Given that the installation of CCTV outside schools can be an incredibly sensitive matter for some local populations, particularly in Birmingham, as we have seen, will a protocol be put in place and would consultation with local communities be undertaken first?

Mr Goodwill: There are certainly processes that local authorities would need to go through, although not in the case of vans. If there were several schools in an area where this was a problem, the use of a van fitted with camera equipment might be the best means of enforcement, and of course parents would never know when it might be parked outside their school.

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Once again, I thank the hon. Lady for bringing this matter to the House. It is a matter that concerns me as a parent—even if my children are now past school age—and one that affects every constituency in the country. She has identified a real problem that parents are worried about, and I hope I have reassured her that local authorities have the powers to do something about it, and I hope they will avail themselves of those powers where this is a particular issue. The last thing we want is children being

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deterred from walking to school or feeling unsafe because of the mêlée of cars outsides their school. We need to get people walking to school again, whether all the way from home or from a sensible parking place.

Question put and agreed to.

8.9 pm

House adjourned.