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30 Oct 2015 : Column 617

House of Commons

Friday 30 October 2015

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163)

The House divided:

Ayes 2, Noes 47.

Division No. 103]


9.34 am


Chope, Mr Christopher

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Tellers for the Ayes:

Philip Davies


Mr David Nuttall


Bacon, Mr Richard

Barclay, Stephen

Bingham, Andrew

Brennan, Kevin

Brokenshire, rh James

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Chapman, Jenny

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Cooper, Julie

Crouch, Tracey

Elphicke, Charlie

Field, rh Frank

Gardiner, Barry

Greenwood, Margaret

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hinds, Damian

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Huq, Dr Rupa

Jones, Andrew

Keeley, Barbara

Knight, Julian

Leadsom, Andrea

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Malhotra, Seema

McInnes, Liz

Mordaunt, Penny

Offord, Dr Matthew

Onn, Melanie

Pennycook, Matthew

Penrose, John

Pursglove, Tom

Raab, Mr Dominic

Smith, Julian

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Timms, rh Stephen

Tomlinson, Justin

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Tellers for the Noes:

Helen Hayes


Grahame M. Morris

Question accordingly negatived.

30 Oct 2015 : Column 618

Hospital Parking Charges (Exemption for Carers) Bill

Second Reading

9.46 am

Julie Cooper (Burnley) (Lab): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the Bill and facilitate this debate in the House. I thank Members who have given up their valuable Friday constituency time to take part.

This is an important subject and it is essential at the outset to outline the context. The Bill raises, not for the first time in this place, the controversial subject of hospital car parking charges. Other hon. Members have made the case for free hospital car parking. In 2012, the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) ran a prominent campaign against hospital car parking charges. In 2014, the right hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) ran a high-profile campaign on free hospital car parking, arguing that charges represent a “postcode lottery stealth tax”. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) then chose the abolition of hospital car parking charges as the subject of his private Member’s Bill. I am grateful to them all for their work, which has provided a valuable foundation for my Park the Charges campaign.

No one likes to pay to park, full stop. To pay to park at a hospital, when sickness is involved, seems to add insult to injury. The majority of people in Scotland and Wales enjoy free parking when visiting hospitals and other medical facilities. During the course of my research for the Bill, many people contacted me to express the view that all hospital users in England should enjoy the same privileges as their Scottish and Welsh counterparts and be able to park for free when attending hospitals. That may well be desirable, but it goes beyond the scope of the Bill, which focuses on providing support for carers.

The Bill makes provision for carers who are entitled to carer’s allowance to park free of charge in hospital car parks in England. The duties in the Bill would also apply to walk-in centres, GP practices and private hospitals. The Bill, if passed, will require health authorities to put in place a strategy to exempt a broader range of carers from paying parking charges within one year of the Act coming into force.

I chose this subject for my Bill because about 18 months ago, I had a taste of what it is like to be a carer. My mother was seriously ill in hospital. So serious was her condition that we were not sure what the outcome would be. It was a distressing time. I was, by and large, the only visitor and I visited every day for nine weeks, often staying for long periods to provide comfort and support. I spent a lot of time sitting in hospital corridors, waiting to speak to medical staff; I had read every notice on the walls. Each night when I left, tired and distressed, I queued up to pay for my parking. It was costing me £40 a week, and on one of those days, driving out of the car park, it occurred to me that I was lucky, because I could afford to pay that charge. I reflected on the matter and wondered about those people who could not afford to pay—not those who would rather not pay to park, but those who could not afford to. I was distressed and worried about my mum, but I

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thought how much more distressing it must be for those in financial hardship that is made worse by hospital car parking charges.

There are currently 5.5 million carers in England providing unpaid care for people who have specific support needs. More than 700,000 of them receive carer’s allowance at a rate of £62.10 a week. A further 400,000 are entitled to the benefit. Those are the carers who will benefit if the Bill is successful.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): The hon. Lady makes a compelling case, but do hospitals not have discretion to respond in the way that she wants them to, without the need for the Bill?

Julie Cooper: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, and I will come to it later in my comments, if he will bear with me.

Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing forward the Bill. To answer the point made by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), for a carer visiting one of my local hospitals for a couple of hours twice a week to take a relative for treatment, parking costs about £40 a month at St George’s hospital, about £20 a month at King’s hospital and about £48 at Guy’s and St Thomas’s. That is the reality of the situation, and that illustrates how discretion is not being used to help people in the situation we are discussing.

Julie Cooper: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point.

We all need to understand that carer’s allowance is not dished out willy-nilly. To qualify, a person has to devote at least 35 hours a week to caring for a person with substantial care needs, and many carers provide far more hours than that. To fulfil their caring role, they often have no option but to work reduced hours, and some are forced to give up work altogether. They often face a steep drop in income if they have to leave work or reduce their hours in order to care, and there is sometimes a double loss of salary if they are caring for a partner who also has to give up work as a result of their illness or disability. Some 2.3 million people have given up work to care, and that loss of income is often coupled with a steep rise in expenditure as a result of the additional costs of caring and disability, including travel and parking costs as they support the person they care for to attend medical appointments or continue to provide care during stays in hospital.

One carer, Jackie, shared her story with me. She cares full time for her husband David, who has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and hairy cell leukaemia. She said:

“As David’s wife and sole carer, I was at the hospital every day from 9.30 am until 7 pm. We live 22 miles from the hospital and rely on benefits as our sole income—so the expense of travelling to and from hospital every day and paying the parking charges was huge. We exhausted the little savings we had. Weekly parking tickets were available and cheaper than daily charges, but I never knew how long my husband would be in hospital for. The last thing I needed was to be worrying about car parking charges when I was anxious about whether my husband was going to make it or not. Carers are at such a disadvantage already, car parking charges are one extra penalty they do not need.”

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For carers, fulfilling their caring role often involves parking at hospitals for hours on end day after day, week after week. Hospital parking charges place an unfair financial burden on those caring for disabled, seriously ill or older friends or family members. NHS hospital trusts and foundation trusts are responsible for setting their own charging policies and are not currently required under law to provide any exemptions. Some hospitals in England already provide free car parking, and others offer some concessions, although these are few and far between and invariably poorly advertised.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing forward this interesting Bill. She has just said that some hospitals in England do not charge for parking; surely that shows that there is discretion in the system.

Julie Cooper: The fact is that the current system is very hit and miss. Some hospitals provide small concessions, but that is not widespread.

There are no specific exemptions for carers, and hospital car parking charges are particularly onerous for carers who spend long hours on hospital visits on a regular basis. Research by Carers UK found that 48% of carers are struggling to make ends meet, and 45% said that financial worries were affecting their health. The average cost of parking in England is £39 per week, and in London that rises to £130. For those on low or no incomes—as is the case with many carers—charges at any level are a burden they could do without. Dozens of carers have shared their experiences with me over the past few months, and many have said that their entire carer’s allowance is taken up with the cost of hospital car parking and petrol. Many have been forced to get into debt to meet their day-to-day living costs.

I am grateful for the support of Members from across the House, and I know that the Minister shares many of my concerns. In response to some of the issues I have raised, he intends to publish revised guidelines to hospital trusts on parking charges that

“will explicitly include carers in the groups who are eligible for concessions.”

That is new and I welcome it, but it does not go far enough because most hospitals choose to ignore the guidelines. In the past 12 months, more than 100 hospital trusts have increased their car parking charges—recently, the Medway Maritime hospital increased its charges by a staggering 60%—and the trend is not to support the vulnerable. Indeed, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has gone a step further and introduced charges for disabled parking. The direction of travel is wrong, and more action is needed if we are to effect real change.

It is also important to consider the emotional pressure facing carers, because when someone who has spent hours at the bedside of a person they care about comes out of a hospital, the last thing they want to do is join a queue to pay for parking. They should not need to worry whether the machine is working or whether they have the right change. They are often distressed, and invariably in a hurry. Often they are on their way to pick up clean clothes and supplies, and they are already planning their return journey, which in many cases is on the same day. Some hospitals require payment on entry, which brings its own pressures. Carers who are on limited budgets need to estimate how long each hospital

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visit will last, and they often have to leave the ward or treatment room to run out and replenish the ever-hungry parking metre.

In the last few months I have encountered many apparently rational arguments against my proposal, and I shall consider them each in turn. The British Parking Association argues that the removal of charges elsewhere has been unhelpful, and that abuses of that have led to a shortage of parking at medical sites. That is easy to deal with, because my proposal does not ask for free car parking for all, but focuses on a specific group of hospital users, each of whom would display a carer’s charge exemption badge in their car, ensuring that only those genuinely entitled would benefit.

Other critics have pointed out that in many areas carers are able to make use of hospital shuttle buses, which are often provided free of charge. They have said that travelling to hospital in a car is in itself a luxury, but they clearly do not understand the issues. Often, carers cannot access services for a variety of reasons, such as other commitments or dependants, which means that they need their own transport. Sometimes hospital transport requires multiple bus changes, and rural communities often have no bus service at all. Sometimes a patient’s condition means that any form of transport is unsuitable. I have spoken to people who are suffering from cancer and who rely on their carer for transport and for support through the regular chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions. These patients often have impaired immunity, so exposing them to infection on public transport is surely not an option for them.

The main criticism of the proposals in the Bill relate to the perceived loss of income to the NHS. I would make the following points. It is estimated that the contribution made by carers saves the NHS more than £100 billion each year by virtue of the time they spend supporting people in hospital. Sick children, people suffering with mental illness or Alzheimer’s disease, or those with physical and mental disabilities have special needs. They need special care when they are at home and those special needs do not go away when they are admitted to hospital. In fact, they often need more help to cope in an unfamiliar environment.

If carers and parents did not visit and support each day, hospitals would not be able to cope. I spoke to one lady who gave up work three years ago to look after her husband who had developed Alzheimer’s. Her husband had a fall, broke his hip and was admitted to hospital. For three years she had been feeding, dressing and calming her husband, and she continues to perform this role in hospital. The nursing staff already have enough to do attending to the medical needs of all the patients on the ward. They simply do not have the time to provide such intensive caring. Similarly with stroke patients, I have met many carers who go the hospital each day and sit patiently feeding their loved one, leaving nurses free to perform their duties as qualified medical practitioners. Many families are struggling in poverty because their child has an ongoing medical condition. A parent or carer’s presence at the hospital often provides many hours of valuable support that would otherwise have to be provided by the nursing staff—at what cost?

During the preparation for the Bill, I have met parents who have more than one child with multiple health needs, both of whom are constantly in and out of hospital, necessitating multiple journeys to and from

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hospital. This means little, if any, time for the parents to go to work as they are performing a big support role on the ward, but suffering significant financial hardship. And we want to charge them to park! Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust proves the point. It has successfully implemented a free parking scheme for carers. It acknowledges that the financial impact has been minimal by comparison with the benefits received. For example, nurses at the hospital report that the scheme means they have more free time, as carers are able to spend longer visiting their loved ones. Carers who use the scheme say they feel valued, that the scheme saves them money and that it removes one of the many stresses in having to visit hospital.

In addition, there is evidence that patients make a faster recovery when they have the continuous support of a known and trusted carer, and are often discharged from hospital earlier, with obvious financial savings to the NHS. Hospital car park charges are a financial punishment for carers for looking after a friend or family member. Without carers, many people would never be able to access the healthcare they need to help them to manage their illness or disability. Carers have so much to cope with, why do we give them one more financial burden?

As a former member of Lancashire’s health and wellbeing board, I know that one of the ways that the Government seek to make savings in the NHS is by reducing the number of hospital stays. Where carers are willing and able to provide ongoing care at home, many patients can now be discharged at an earlier stage than in the past, thus freeing up much needed beds. They go on to return routinely as out-patients, with transportation invariably provided by their carer. The saving to the hospital in those instances is far more than is ever collected in car parking charges. Carers enable people to continue to live in their own home, saving the expense of care homes.

The Minister rightly recognises that if we want to keep people out of hospital we must improve out-of-hospital care. He has also acknowledged that

“Carers do a magnificent job”

and that

“they do not always get the thanks or support that they need.”

I am singling out carers for special attention because they are vulnerable and going through a difficult time, and because they matter and they need our support.

I ask hon. Members to support the Bill to provide free car parking at hospitals for qualifying carers and in the future to consider supporting eligible carers. It will not solve all their problems by any means, but it will help, and just as importantly, it will send a signal to carers around the country that we value their contribution. The Bill would support carers and send a message that Britain cares about carers. Carers are crucial to the future of Britain’s health and wellbeing. Surely the least we can do is allow them to park for free.

10.5 am

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper)on being elected to the House and, in such short order, introducing this Bill. It has clearly been brought forward with a great deal of worthy sentiment with which it is very difficult to disagree. I should perhaps also congratulate

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her on the expert doughnut she appears to have arranged for herself. She has not long been in the House, but even long-standing Members would be proud of that doughnut. It masks the fact that there is literally nobody else on the Opposition Benches. She deserves particular praise for that, and she will clearly make an expert Member. I wish her very well in her time here.

As you will know, Mr Speaker, when I was first elected to Parliament 10 years ago, my mentor was the late, great Eric Forth, and one of the things he taught me was the importance of private Members’ Bills. He taught me early on that many of them had a worthy sentiment behind them, but that we should not just pass legislation on the whim of a worthy sentiment, because it can have lots of unintended consequences that affect people’s lives and livelihoods. It strikes me that this is one of those Bills. It is based on a worthy sentiment with which people would find it difficult to disagree, but the consequences would be sometimes impractical, sometimes unnecessary and sometimes very negative.

I have mentioned before that when a politician is given a problem, their solution always incorporates two ingredients. The first is that they have to be seen to be doing something. It is the bane of my life. I detest the fact that politicians always have to look as if they are doing something. I long for the day when a Minister stands up at the Dispatch Box—I have high hopes that the Minister today will do so—and says, “Well, that’s got nothing to do with me. It is for people to sort out themselves. It is not for the Government to do something about this.” That is seldom said in the House though. Everyone always wants to be seen to be doing something.

The second ingredient is that the proposal does not offend anybody. If a politician can be given a solution that makes it look like they are doing something without offending anybody, they will go for it every single day of the week. It does not matter whether it makes any difference or whether it is a good thing. As long as it meets those criteria, most politicians will go for it, and the Bill is a perfect example. Clearly, the hon. Lady has quickly acquainted herself with this way of dealing with things in the House.

The hon. Lady believes that carers, who might have to visit hospital very often, are charged unfairly for car parking. I can certainly sympathise with that sentiment. I say from the outset that hospital car parking charges are often very costly, but her proposed solution, which does not offend anybody and makes it look like she is doing something, is simply to make car parking free for carers. I do not think the solution is that simple, which is why I oppose the Bill, despite sympathising with the sentiment.

Before anybody misconstrues my comments, let me say I do not oppose the Bill because I am not concerned about carers. I do not believe there is a single Member in the House who has anything but praise for carers. Carers do a very difficult and very demanding job, and it comes with a great amount of emotional problems for themselves and those they are caring for. Caring is essential. I should point out, too, that the work of caring on behalf of other people in many respects saves the taxpayer a considerable amount of money each year. We should not underestimate that contribution, or indeed the wider contribution they are making to society and their families, which is almost immeasurable.

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I do not believe anybody present is arguing against the Bill because they have no sympathy or regard for carers. I oppose the Bill fundamentally because in many respects it is completely unnecessary; what the hon. Lady proposes can already be done. There is no legislation that forces carers to be charged for their car parking, so we do not need legislation to force them not to pay for their car parking. These things can already be done at a local level, if it is decided that that would be the best course of action in the local area.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): In that case, would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to lobby his local hospital to exempt from these charges carers in the Shipley constituency?

Philip Davies: I do not want to get distracted so early in my speech, but I will come to my local hospital during the course of my remarks, so I hope the hon. Lady can be patient. Of course, if I fail to deal with that point, she can always come back and chastise me for not having done so.

Let us look at the origin of the Bill. On 4 July, the hon. Member for Burnley explained it on her website blog—I am a keen reader of it, as I am sure are many others both here and in Burnley; indeed, I am sure that the Minister has a great regard for the hon. Lady’s blog. This is what she wrote:

“Having read through over 100 suggestions, and after much deliberation, I have finally chosen the subject for my Private Member’s bill: I intend to try to help carers by making provision for them to be exempt from hospital parking charges. During recent years, I have met with carers from across the constituency from different backgrounds, all of whom had different stories to tell but all with one thing in common: their willingness to support a sick person, whether it be a child with cancer, an elderly person with complex needs or a person attending hospital for regular treatments such as chemotherapy. All of these carers often have reason to be parked at hospitals for long periods and can incur charges which they can often ill afford. It seems to me that it is time we put an end to this ‘tax on illness’.”

Ten days later, however, the hon. Lady said something else in her blog; there was a subtle difference on which I would like to focus. She said:

“Many of you may know that I am trying, through the bill, to obtain free hospital parking for carers. Support for this is growing but, if I am to be successful, I really do need your help. I know from my conversations with so many of you, that hospital car park charges are a problem for many carers, who often spend a lot of time hospital visiting. If you are a carer, and this is a problem for you, please get in touch and share your problem with me. Sometimes it is more than the charge (though these are quite hefty and can mount up) because I understand that visiting, particularly for extended hospital stays during winter months, can be quite stressful and distressing, and queueing for parking can sometimes feel like the last straw. If I am to get this bill through government, I need plenty of evidence.”

In my experience, people usually get the evidence of a problem first, and then bring forward a Bill to tackle it. On this occasion, we seem to have had a more novel approach to legislation, which is to bring forward a Bill and then ask people for the evidence to support it. Personally, I view that as a novel approach, but I commend the hon. Lady for starting a trend that we may see more of in the months to come.

It strikes me from the hon. Lady’s blog that the Bill has been brought forward only on the basis of a worthy sentiment, from which very few people would dissent,

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because she was still collecting evidence to show the need for the Bill after she had announced she was going to introduce it. She did not look at the reality of situation, find a problem and then try to find a solution.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I have to wonder whether the hon. Gentleman listened to the beginning of my hon. Friend’s speech. She said that she had based the Bill on her own experience. She had been a carer, and she had had to pay the charges. I myself have asked constituents to get in touch with me about the issue. As all Members of Parliament should know, carers are busy, stressed people, who do not have the same time that everyone else has. All of us undoubtedly hear more about issues such as football governance than about caring, but there are 6 million carers in the country, and this is an issue for them.

Philip Davies: I entirely agree with everything that the hon. Lady has said. I do not think anyone would disagree with anything that she said about carers. She said that there were 6 million in the country, and that is a point to which I shall return. If we are talking about free hospital car parking, the number of people with whom we are dealing is clearly a factor, to which the hon. Lady has helpfully drawn attention.

Barbara Keeley: The hon. Gentleman really should have been listening. My hon. Friend’s Bill applies to carers who receive carer’s allowance, of whom there are 700,000. As I said a moment ago, there are 6 million carers, and at various times this will be an issue for them, but my hon. Friend has restricted her Bill to the 700,000 who do the most for caring and for society.

Philip Davies: We are already slightly all over the place with this Bill, and now the hon. Lady has drawn attention—probably not intentionally—to what a dog’s dinner it is. We are already arguing about how many carers there actually are, but in fact the Bill will apply to only a few of them, and the hon. Lady has just suggested that the vast majority will not even benefit from it. The hon. Member for Burnley has said in the past—and I may say more about this later—that the Bill is just a starting point, and that she intends to extend it further and further, so we have no idea where we may end up.

Julian Knight: The Bill does not apply only to those who receive carer’s allowance. It also applies to those with an underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance, which brings a great many more people into the net.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend has made a perfectly valid point. How the hospitals are likely to know who has an underlying claim to carer’s allowance is something that we may explore at greater length as the debate continues.

Julie Cooper: May I clarify a point? The only dog’s dinner is the current practice. Some hospitals have a hotch-potch of concessions, while others have none at all. The Bill specifies a clearly defined number of people. As the hon. Gentleman says, it will apply to 700,000 carers and to a further 400,000, so a total of 1.1 million stand to benefit. That is very easy for everyone to understand.

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Philip Davies: I agree that that part of the Bill is clear, but as the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) has just said that there are 6 million carers but only 1 million will gain any benefit from the Bill, some people may consider that there is an unfairness there.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): These exchanges have completely overlooked clauses 4, 5 and 6. Those clauses refer to eligible carers, who are defined in clause 5. I shall not go into the definition now, but it could bring in millions more carers, rather than just the 1.1 million who we have just been told are covered in the Bill.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend has made a very good point, and I hope that he will expand on it in his own speech. I do not want to steal his thunder.

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): Did the hon. Gentleman not hear the compelling cost-benefits analysis presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper)? It is the Conservatives who go on about a long-term economic plan. The proposed exemption for the carers who prop up the NHS in so many ways will save the NHS billions upon billions of pounds, so it will be good value in the long term.

Philip Davies: I was prepared to hear lots of arguments in favour of this Bill and some of them I was going to find quite compelling. The idea that this provision is going to save the NHS millions of pounds is an argument I was not prepared for, I must admit, because it is quite clearly a load of old nonsense. If that really is the economic thinking of the Opposition that we can look forward to over the next five years, then Lord help the lot of us, because the Opposition clearly have no economic credibility whatever if that is the case the hon. Lady is making. This clearly incurs a cost—

Dr Huq rose

Philip Davies: I will let the hon. Lady have another go.

Dr Huq: The briefing all MPs were sent based on research by Leeds University and Carers UK puts the figure at £119 billion, because these are people who take stress off the NHS. As my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley clearly described in her speech, they are people who change incontinence pads and do the feeding; they keep people out of hospital in the long run. This proposal will cost less than bed-blocking in the NHS. Furthermore, of all the representations all of us on both sides of the House have received, it is only the parking industry that wants to keep things as they are.

Philip Davies: The hon. Lady is approaching this Bill as if nobody at the moment does any caring and if we have this Bill everyone will start caring and save the NHS billions of pounds. The point is the people—

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Philip Davies: I will deal with the first intervention first, then I will give way to the hon. Lady; there is plenty of time.

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On those people who are saving the NHS millions of pounds—I think I made very clear at the start of my remarks how much we all rely on carers—they are already saving the NHS that money. This Bill does not come with any savings to the NHS. This Bill only comes with a cost to the NHS. If the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) cannot see that, she really needs to go and look at the Bill again, because that is clear to everyone. She may well want to argue that it is a worthwhile cost to the NHS, and I am perfectly prepared for her to make that case, but people should not be claiming that this is a cost-saving Bill for the NHS because it is anything but.

Liz McInnes: The hon. Gentleman seems to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Did he not hear my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) talk about Torbay hospital and the benefits that it has found the scheme brought to the hospital in terms of patient care and wellbeing, which is surely what hospitals are about? They are not about charging people to park.

Philip Davies: If I might be able to make some progress, which I am always keen to do on these occasions, I will come later to the situation at Torbay, because it is very interesting and does not make the case for this Bill as the hon. Lady seems to think.

It has also been interesting to learn from these exchanges that whereas not that long ago during the passage of a different Bill the Labour party claimed it very much supported the principle of localism—that it was the champion of localism and devolution and it wanted to jump on that agenda—today, early on in this Parliament, when we actually have localism in action, where local hospitals can make decisions which they think are in the best interests of their local residents and local patients, the Labour party goes back to type and wants to centralise everything.

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is making an important point about how this ties in with the devolution agenda. We are going headlong towards a combined authority in Greater Manchester, which will be in charge of the NHS in the area. Presumably that will mean that it will be in charge of hospital parking charges, and will be able to do many things, including giving discounts to carers, if it deems that necessary.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right, and my understanding was that the Labour party in Manchester was in favour of devolution and it had agreed to the devolution package the Chancellor had proposed. I suspect it could not ever have got off the ground if the Labour party in Manchester had not been supportive of it. The whole purpose of devolution is to allow local decision making on things such as the NHS, and presumably as part of that car parking charges within the NHS, yet it seems that at the first step the Labour party wants to take the whole devolution agenda from under the feet of the locally elected people before it has even started.

Liz McInnes: Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that, although car parking charging decisions are made locally by individual hospital trusts, they follow the Government’s guidelines?

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Philip Davies: That is the point I was making. If I did not make it, I apologise for not being clear. For the avoidance of doubt, those decisions are made locally and I support that fact. Labour Members clearly do not believe that they should be made locally. They believe that the rules should be set nationally. In a nutshell, that is where we have a difference of opinion. I believe the decisions should be made locally; the hon. Member for Burnley clearly believes they should be made centrally. That is a perfectly respectable position to hold, but it happens to be one that I do not agree with. That is the nub of the point on localism.

Mr Chope: In Scotland within the past week there has been enormous criticism of the quality of healthcare being delivered by the Scottish Government. Is not that an example of a place that has free hospital car parking but does not necessarily have a better quality of health service?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I will say more about Scotland and Wales in due course, because we have seen the impact of this policy in those countries. There is not a never-ending supply of money, and if more is spent on free car parking in the NHS, less will inevitably be spent in other areas. Labour Members seem to think that money grows on trees and that there is a never-ending supply of it, but back in the real world, we have a certain amount of money and we choose how to spend it. If we choose to spend it on one thing, we inevitably have to take it away from somewhere else. The hon. Member for Burnley did not mention the need to make that choice, but it is important that we face that fact.

The hon. Lady has clearly had difficulty in finding evidence to support her Bill, so I thought I would help her out a bit. She has clearly spoken to lots of carers groups, and she has set up the Park the Charges campaign with Carers UK, for which I commend her. For the sake of balance, however, we should not just listen to the views of carers, important though they are. We should also seek the position of the hospitals on this matter, because they would ultimately be the most affected by the proposed changes.

I am not sure what discussions the hon. Lady had with the hospitals, given that her Bill would force them to change their car parking policies. I contacted the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which I believe is the hospital trust that covers her constituency. I asked the trust what consultations she had had with it on this policy. I put in a freedom of information request to ask what communication Burnley general hospital had received from the hon. Lady on the issue of carers and hospital car parking charges. I received a response on 25 September, which stated:

“I can now confirm that we have not had an enquiry of this nature from Ms Cooper”.

Julie Cooper: For the purpose of clarification, I should like to point out that the majority of people in my constituency who require a hospital stay normally go to Blackburn hospital. It is also part of the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and I have discussed these proposals extensively with the chief executive there.

Philip Davies: I am pleased to hear that. I am sure that it will be a matter of great reassurance to the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust that the hon. Lady

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was not interested in its opinion, even though Burnley happens to be her local hospital. I was surprised to find, given that she is trying to make such a fundamental change to hospitals, that the one in her own constituency—Burnley general hospital—had not received a request from her to discuss the impact of her proposals. I would have thought that, as the MP for Burnley, she would have taken an interest in that. I personally believe that the people who tend to know best about things are the people who deal with them every single day of their lives, be they nurses, teachers or checkout operators in supermarkets. When assessing the impact of her Bill on hospitals, I would have thought that Burnley general hospital would have been a good place to start.

We have already discussed who currently decides hospital car parking charges. The hon. Lady is right that such matters are decided locally. We should also note that there are guidelines around hospital car parking charges. NHS services are responsible locally for their own car parking policies for patients, visitors and staff. Back in August 2014, the Government published new guidelines on NHS patient, visitor and staff car parking principles—I hope the Minister will expand on this matter when he responds to the debate. They are guidelines only; they are not mandatory. The car parking guidelines recommend the provision of concessions to groups that need them, such as disabled people—both people with blue badges and people who are temporarily disabled—frequent out-patient attenders and visitors with relatives who are gravely ill. The Government guidelines on car parking charges say:

“Concessions, including free or reduced charges or caps, should be available for the following groups: people with disabilities…frequent outpatient attendees…visitors with relatives who are gravely ill…visitors to relatives who have an extended stay in hospital…staff working shifts that mean public transport cannot be used…Other concessions, e.g. for volunteers or staff who car-share, should be considered locally.”

It was also reiterated in the previous Parliament that relatives of people who are gravely ill or who require a long stay in hospital should also be exempt from car parking charges. The then Health Minister made that clear in an answer to a parliamentary question, in which he set out the people who should be exempt as far as the Government were concerned.

Barbara Keeley: What the hon. Gentleman is showing is the fact that we have a postcode lottery on this matter now. I want to give him a recent example that was given to me of relatives of somebody who was gravely ill and who then died on the 13th day that she had been in hospital. They were helpfully told, “If you had been coming here one more day, you would have got free car parking.” That was said to a distressed family on the day that their relative died. Does he really think that that is a suitable way for hospitals to go on?

Philip Davies: Everyone will have a massive amount of sympathy for the relatives in that example. However, I must point out to the hon. Lady that this Bill will not end terrible situations such as the one she has just described. Even if this Bill is introduced, there will be very many other similar cases, for which we can all feel sympathy. I am not entirely sure why she thinks that this Bill will eliminate any other terrible situation involving someone paying car parking charges; it will not.

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Barbara Keeley: No one on the Labour Benches is suggesting that the Bill will eliminate the issue; it will ameliorate it and send an important signal to carers, who repeatedly find themselves in this situation. The example I gave was to show how badly some hospitals behave.

Philip Davies: If I had a pound for every time somebody brought forward a private Member’s Bill, or supported a private Member’s Bill, on the basis that it would send a signal, I would be a very wealthy person. Unfortunately, the problem is that we do not pass legislation to send signals. We pass legislation to bring something into the law of the land. The hon. Lady has sent a signal by making that point in this debate. If the whole purpose of this was to send a signal to show how important carers are to the country and how important it is that hospitals show some compassion for carers when they come to visit hospitals, the hon. Lady has achieved that by making that intervention. Perhaps therefore she may feel satisfied that we can leave the matter at that. We have all sent a signal about how important carers are, and I now want to move on to the Bill that is being proposed, which goes way beyond sending a signal.

We already have Government guidelines that set out a range of people who they think should be exempt, all things being equal. When hospital car parking charges were debated back in September 2014, the Minister stated that

“40% of hospitals that provide car parking do not charge and of those that do, 88% provide concessions to patients. However, I am aware that there are 40 hospital sites—which is 3.6% of hospitals in acute and mental health trusts—that have charges and do not allow concessions to patients who need to access services. As a Government, we want to see greater clarity and consistency for patients and their friends and relatives about which groups of patients and members of staff should receive concessions and get a fairer deal when it comes to car parking.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2014; Vol. 585, c. 89.]

Furthermore, in his latest position on the Bill, Lord Prior said that NHS organisations must have autonomy to make decisions that best suit their local circumstances and community interests, and that although the principles provide clear direction and leadership, a one-size-fits-all policy is not appropriate for car parking.

Although the Government have given strong guidance on where concessions should be made for hospital car parking they have, rightly in my opinion, left the final decision to be made by the hospital implementing the policy. Therefore, importantly, each hospital sets its own parking policies and is not required under law to make any exemptions. The Bill today will be the first time that Parliament has intervened to demand that hospitals give free car parking to a particular group of people.

The Government have set out guidelines about the people who, in their opinion, should be exempt from parking charges, or should receive concessions. They are people with disabilities, all frequent out-patient attenders, visitors with relatives who are gravely ill, staff working shifts who cannot use public transport and visitors to relatives who have an extended stay in hospital. Why does the hon. Member for Burnley not believe that those people should have the same benefit as regards hospital car parking charges as the people she includes in the Bill? Is she saying today that the people in the list I have just given are not as important as the people she

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wants the Bill to cover? Does she think that people with disabilities are not as important as carers? Is she saying that their needs are not as great? Is she saying that staff who cannot get there by public transport are not as important as the carers to whom she refers? Why are the carers so much more important? We all agree that they are important, but why are they so much more important than all the other vulnerable groups who she has spectacularly not included in her Bill while the Government are saying to hospitals that they should make some provision for those people? There is a great unfairness in her proposals.

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): If the hon. Gentleman believes in what he has just said—I agree that most of the people he has listed should be included—will he not propose an amendment or another Bill to say that all those people are important and that we should help everyone we can who has an issue with these horrendous charges?

Philip Davies: I would have more sympathy with the principle of the Bill if it wanted to make the Government’s guidance mandatory, because there would be some logic to that. Clearly, a whole range of people struggle, but just to pick out one group at random seems iniquitous.

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is making an interesting case about other groups and how the Bill picks out carers individually. Many people do not travel to hospital by car but by public transport or by using subsidised bus services. The Bill does not cover them in their time of need, so will my hon. Friend reflect on the fact that the Bill is purely for car owners who are generally in the higher income groups?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Bill applies only to car parking charges, and many carers cannot afford a car, let alone car parking charges. They travel faithfully on a probably more tortuous journey to hospital by public transport. If the Bill were to be passed, people who could afford a car would get their parking charges reimbursed but those who cannot afford a car and have to travel by public transport would not get their public transport costs reimbursed. Clearly, there is something not quite right about that. My hon. Friend makes a good point. While we are on that subject—I may come back to this as well—I should have thought that we were trying to deter people from using a car. Some people have to use a car, as he said, and nobody argues with that, but it would be perverse to give people an incentive to use a car rather than using public transport if they could. My hon. Friend has made a good point as to why the Bill would give people a perverse incentive to use a car rather than public transport.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I am rather surprised by my hon. Friend’s burst of socialism and that he should be discouraging the use of the motor car, which should be encouraged in a free society.

Philip Davies: I have been accused of many things in my time. A burst of socialism is a first, even for me. I may try and put that out to my left-wing constituents to

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show them that there is hope for me yet. If I did come out with a burst of socialism, I apologise profusely, not least to my hon. Friend, who always keeps me on the straight and narrow. I apologise for a burst of socialism; it was not intended to be such. I feel chastised.

We should consider why hospital car parks are not already free. There is an argument, I guess, that instead of picking out parking for carers, all hospital car parking should be free. In its 2009 report, “Fair for all, not free-for-all—Principles for sustainable hospital car parking”, the NHS Confederation stated:

“Charging for car parking is often necessary, but needs to be fair – and to be seen to be fair.”

It is important for Opposition Members to recognise that the country and the NHS do not have millions of pounds to spend on covering the cost of parking for a certain section of the population. The Labour Government left this country in a huge financial black hole which we are still struggling to recover from. Policies such as this could severely affect local NHS hospitals and services and their budgets.

There is an analogy that I always give in such situations, which I first heard Lord Tebbit use. I hope that goes some way to restoring my hon. Friend’s faith in me after my earlier lapse. The analogy in this context, which is not necessarily the context in which Lord Tebbit used it, is this: if somebody asked, “Do you think we should have free hospital car parking?”, the chances are that virtually everybody who was asked would say yes. If they were asked, “Should we have free hospital car parking? By the way, that will mean having to get rid of lots of doctors, nurses and essential staff”, people may give a different answer. In the analogy that Lord Tebbit used, the question was, “Would you like a free Rolls-Royce?”, and he suspected that the vast majority of people would say yes. If they were asked, “Would you like a free Rolls-Royce? You’ll have to live in a tent for the rest of your life to pay for it”, people may come up with a different answer.

Of course, in principle, people would love to have free hospital car parking, but we have to think what the consequences would be and whether people would want to face those consequences. When it comes to the crunch, I suspect the answer may be different. If the Government had an additional £180 million to spend, which would be the cost of free hospital car parking, I am sure there would be many other pressures to spend that £180 million on in some part of the NHS. For example, it may pay for another 2,500 doctors or 8,000 nurses for the NHS. If we had a vote on what is the most important thing that we should do with that money, I suspect that the additional doctors and nurses would carry quite a weight of support, not just in this House, but across the country as a whole. It is not just a free-for-all. The harsh reality is that there are consequences of doing these things.

Mr Chope: We are talking not just about free car parking, but about car parking? Too many hospitals do not have adequate car parking. That is one of the great complaints that so many patients have—that they cannot find anywhere to park when they go to hospital.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South made the point that people find it very stressful to have to pay after they have been to visit a relative in hospital,

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but as my hon. Friend rightly points out, it is probably even more stressful if they cannot find a car parking space at all. We need to bear that in mind.

Julian Knight: In my constituency, one of the reasons hospital parking charges were introduced in the first place was that the car park of the hospital, which is very close to the town centre, was being used at weekends by shoppers leaving their cars, and so patients, carers and those with urgent medical needs were unable to get into it. Will my hon. Friend reflect on that point?

Philip Davies: I was about to come on to that point, and my hon. Friend makes it very well. One of the essential reasons for hospitals charging is that, particularly near town centres, people use the free parking and then go and spend all day at work. That does not help any carer who is trying to find a parking space. That is why it is so important that hospitals have to be able to use charges in a way that suits their particular local circumstances to ensure that visitor and staff parking is always available when it is needed. Without their being able to make some restrictions on a local basis, there will be nothing to prevent people from using the site as a free car parking area.

I have no idea—perhaps the hon. Member for Burnley could tell me—whether parking would be free for carers only when they are coming to the hospital as a carer or free for them all the time because they are a carer. That is not clear in the Bill. I am looking for assistance from some of my more learned colleagues, but it appears that nobody knows the answer to that question, including the promoter of the Bill, so I will leave it there as something that does not seem to have been thought through.

This issue applies not only to hospitals close to town centres, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), but to those that are close to railway stations, where there is also a large demand for parking. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) mentioned Scotland earlier. This issue has arisen at hospitals in Wales and Scotland since they scrapped car parking charges. The NHS Confederation said:

“The NHS Confederation represents 99 per cent of NHS trusts in England. On behalf of our members we support the right for NHS trusts to determine their own car parking and transport arrangements within current regulations and good practice”.

That is what is under threat today. A response from the House of Commons Library states:

“There is nothing specifically stopping hospitals from giving concessions or free parking to carers or other groups—although all public bodies need to operate within the framework of the Equalities Act—i.e. avoid discrimination against protected groups. Decisions on hospital car parking charges are a matter for the NHS body running the car park.”

Hospitals clearly have the flexibility to offer a free parking policy for carers—as the hon. Member for Burnley said, some have already done so—but it is not right that we as a House should force them to do so. Hospitals that do not already have a free car parking policy for carers have clearly assessed the situation and chosen not to, for whatever reasons. There may well be good reasons that we are better not second guessing. If she feels so strongly about this issue, perhaps her time would be better spent lobbying her own hospital trust in

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Burnley to persuade it of the argument for giving carers free parking, as opposed to coming along here and trying to impose it everywhere else when she has not even persuaded her own hospital in Burnley to do it.

Hospital parking charges are a key part of income generation. Hospitals may choose not to give free parking because car parking on healthcare sites is an income- generation scheme under the income-generation powers that enable NHS bodies to raise additional income for their health services. NHS bodies are allowed to charge for car parking, and to raise revenue from it as an income-generating activity, as long as certain rules are followed. Income-generation activities must not interfere to a significant degree with the provision of NHS core services. It is also crucial to note that these income- generation schemes must be profitable, because it would be unacceptable for moneys provided for the benefit of NHS patients to be used to support other commercial activities. It has to be the other way round; the commercial activity has to support the core NHS services. The profit made by income-generation schemes has to be used to improve health services. That is absolutely crucial. The money has to go towards that particular purpose.

The Department of Health’s “National Health Service Income Generation—Best Practice: Revised Guidance on Income Generation in the NHS”, which was published in February 2006, clearly sets out that income generation must be profitable. Paragraph 30.10 states:

“For a scheme to be classed as an Income Generation scheme, the following conditions need to be met: the scheme must be profitable and provide a level of income that exceeds total costs.”

It then goes on at great length, but that is the key part, so I will not bore everybody by reading the whole paragraph. The document goes on to say that

“the profit made from the scheme, which the NHS body would keep, must be used for improving the health services”,


“the goods or services must be marketed outside the NHS. Those being provided for statutory or public policy reasons are not income generation.”

Therefore, if exemptions are made for other people, that must be taken into consideration when calculating the estimated annual revenue and whether it will make a profit or a loss.

I fear that if the hon. Lady’s Bill is successful, the consequence will be not just exemptions for carers—worthy sentiment though that may be—but, I suspect, higher car parking charges for everybody else who visits the hospital so that it can protect its revenue stream. The hon. Lady did not mention that and she has not been open about it, but the chances are that that will be the consequence of the Bill. Everyone else will have to pay more in order to meet the NHS’s criteria for income generation. That means that all of the people the Government think should get a concession from car parking charges, including people with disabilities and those who visit hospital regularly, will not be exempt, but will have to pay more as a consequence of this Bill. Does the hon. Lady really want to tell all disabled patients who go to hospital that, in order to pay for her Bill, they are going to have to pay more to park at their local hospital? If that is the message she wants to send, I think she is rather brave. I would not want to tell my disabled constituents that they are going to have to pay more. It seems to me that that would be an inevitable consequence of the Bill. That is why we cannot pass

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legislation based on a worthy sentiment; we have to think through the consequences.




If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) wants to intervene, I would be very happy to give way to him.

Mr Mahmood: I do not want to intervene.

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman was chuntering—I misinterpreted him. I thought he had something worth while to say, but clearly not.

Given the guidelines, I would be interested to know what information the hon. Member for Burnley has obtained to determine an impact assessment for the scheme in question to be rolled out nationally. Indeed, during my research on the Bill, the House of Commons Library—which, as ever, I praise for its fantastic work—confirmed to me that

“no central data is collected on NHS hospital car parking charges or concessions”.

It therefore seems to me that the hon. Lady could not possibly have done an impact assessment, because no assessment has been made of the current impact.

Where is the money made from car parking charges spent? Obviously, the provision of car parking incurs overheads, including for the running of it and for maintenance costs. If no charges were imposed, the maintenance costs would have to be sourced from elsewhere, at the risk of diverting funds from patient services. There is also the cost of monitoring the car park, to make sure it is being used for its intended purpose. That money has to be recouped, and it is recouped through car parking charges.

Julian Knight: The contracts for hospital parking maintenance costs in my constituency are signed by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, and some of those costs, such as those for drawing lines and for preparing machines and barriers, are very high indeed. If this Bill comes to pass, would that not mean that that money would potentially have to come directly from healthcare budgets, because no profit would be being made?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. There is a considerable cost involved in maintaining car parks, including setting them up in the first place and drawing the lines. The Bill would have a number of potential consequences. The maintenance money would have to come from patient care and there would be less provision for car parking spaces. Maintenance would not be carried out and the spaces would not be monitored, so there would be no point in carers being exempt. Everyone may as well be exempt, because no one would be checking whether they had paid to park their car. There would be a number of potential consequences, all of which would be adverse.

Given that foundation trusts are independent bodies, they are not covered by the Department of Health guidance on income generation. Their non-NHS income is governed by a board of governors who are drawn from NHS patients, the public, staff and stakeholders. Non-NHS income streams need to demonstrate concretely how new revenue from sources outside the NHS will support

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the principle purpose of a foundation trust, which is to provide goods and services for the NHS.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) has not stayed to hear me talk about my local NHS trusts, despite encouraging me to do so. Back in August, one of my local NHS trusts, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are determined to keep car parking charges as low as possible, this is the first time in 11 years that rising costs and growing pressure to create extra parking has forced us to increase them.

Our car parks are self-funding, ensuring we do not have to divert money away from frontline services and patient care. Demand for 24 hour parking is low and it is normally used under exceptional circumstances. We will review 24 hour parking if it becomes problematic for our visitors. Reduced parking rates will continue for people frequently attending outpatient clinics and those visiting relatives who are gravely ill or having an extended stay in hospital. Parking for people with disabilities will remain free of charge”.

That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable policy.

The whole point of the governance of foundation trusts is that it is not some NHS baron who decides these things. Foundation trust governors are drawn from NHS patients, the public, staff and local stakeholders. They are the best people to determine their local hospital’s car parking policy. Members of Parliament and Ministers should not dictate to them what is best for them. That is why I am very happy with what my local NHS trusts are doing. I am sure they would like to go further if they could, but there is always a balance to be struck.

During my discussions about this Bill with my local hospital—I did contact my local hospital—it said:

“It must be acknowledged that there is a cost of operating and maintaining the Foundation Trust’s car parks. If car parking income is reduced because of the introduction of the new legislation then the balance would have to be met from elsewhere. Ultimately, this could mean higher charges for other car park users or funding diverted from budgets that could potentially impact on patient services.”

That is a very serious concern. A one-size-fits-all central policy is simply not appropriate for regulating hospital car parking charges and it could have those severe unintended consequences.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Burnley on being a clear champion for the NHS and I praise and support her for it. Time and again she is quoted as being extremely worried about staffing and patient care in the NHS, particularly in her local area, but it is ironic that her Bill could have serious implications for staffing and patient care in local hospitals.

How would the Bill be enforced? That is one of the key practicalities involved. One of the main concerns of many local trusts will be how on earth it will be implemented. I must say that the hon. Lady was quite light on that.

The nearest comparison to a group of individuals being given free parking is the free parking scheme for people with disabilities. The scheme is monitored by ensuring that people using a disabled parking space have a blue badge. That in itself is not as easy as it might seem. I speak as somebody who, in my many years working for Asda, was responsible for our facilities for disabled customers. I also had to ensure we had a system to protect the parking bays for use only by disabled customers. That is one of the biggest problems. I suspect that if hon. Members ask car parks what their

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biggest problem is, they would all say that it is trying to protect the spaces for disabled blue badge holders to make sure that they can use them when they need them and that the spaces are not abused by other people who want to get nearest to the entrance or whatever. I know that from my own experience.

That scheme uses the blue badge, but it is not all that easy. People go on holiday, break their leg, get themselves crutches and then they are—albeit temporarily—disabled, but do retailers have to tell them, “Actually, you’re not disabled, even though you’re on crutches”? Some discretion must be allowed, otherwise the whole thing becomes a farce and the staff who have to monitor the scheme can be put in very difficult situations, including dealing with conflict. We should always bear in mind that, ultimately, somebody has to enforce such policies. If policies are not very clear, or always have exemptions and shades of grey, somebody somewhere will be in the line of fire. They have to implement the policy, and we must make it as clear and as fair as possible for them, and allow them sufficient discretion. We need discretion in any car parking policy or any policy that involves dealing with customers.

I do not know what the hon. Member for Burnley envisages. Does she expect all carers entitled to free car parking to be issued with a badge for a similar purpose? If so, I am not entirely sure what the cost would be of developing, creating and distributing the new badge, or how everyone to be issued with a badge would be identified. Perhaps she does not envisage having such a system. Perhaps she thinks that car parks could be fitted with automatic number plate recognition technology to ensure that when a car goes into the car park, the number plate is recognised and no charge is therefore allocated. That can of course be successful. We tried such a scheme at Asda to protect disabled parking bays. The problem is that it is extremely expensive to introduce. Another problem is that when a carer goes into a car park for the first time and has not registered, they get clobbered like everybody else. They have be go to the hospital to register, so although it is all right for subsequent visits, they fall foul of the rules on their first visit.

Julian Knight: I have discussed with my local hospital trust aspects of free parking and what we can do to help people. One point mentioned to me is that such a scheme might take people off front-line care services, or at least off front-line administration services, when they are asked to step in and help with the parking or to administer a parking scheme such as the one proposed in the Bill.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. There will, as an inevitable consequence of the Bill, be issues about preserving the integrity of the spaces.

I am not sure, but perhaps the hon. Member for Burnley intends to ask hospitals to provide designated spaces for carers to use, in the same way that there are designated spaces in car parks for people with disabilities or for parents with toddlers. If so, how many spaces should the hospital provide? There are rules and guidance on how many spaces there should be for disabled customers. From my memory of working at Asda, I think the rule is that 4% of all the spaces in a car park plus four should be set aside for disabled customers. That was certainly

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the situation when I was at Asda. Does she envisage a similar system—a number of designated spaces for carers, but when they are full they are full?

Does the hon. Lady expect someone to police the car park at all times to ensure that carers use the right spaces and that no one is charged unfairly? I do not know what system she wants. Perhaps she envisages a system of reimbursement, with carers paying for parking normally, just like everybody else, and then going into the hospital to demonstrate that they are a carer and have their costs reimbursed. That may require 24-hour-a-day, constantly manned reimbursement desks to be open at the hospital. Does she envisage that?

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am following my hon. Friend’s speech very closely. Is the heart of what he is saying that the scheme proposed in the Bill would prove so complex to administer that it would in effect be the end of all car parking charges, because to continue to have any charges would make the whole system collapse?

Philip Davies: Yes. That is absolutely my fear. Once we start down this route of having a centrally imposed system that has not been worked out locally, there will be all sorts of consequences. Ultimately, hospitals will be forced to turn a blind eye to this person or to that person, because their situation justifies having free parking just as much as a carer’s situation. It would be terrible for someone in the hospital car park to say, “Yes, you are a carer so you can have the free parking,” but, “You have a disability, so no, you can’t have free parking.” I do not see how we can allow hospitals to get into such a situation, because that would be grossly unfair.

From time to time, there will inevitably be disputes about whether somebody is a carer. If the system uses badges, somebody may forget to take their badge. As a carer, they would be entitled to free car parking, but if they had forgotten their badge, the hospital would not have to grant it. I am not entirely sure how such disputes would be policed. Would somebody be on site to adjudicate, or would the hospital do so? What training and qualifications would such people be given? Is this something for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to adjudicate on? Is the hon. Member for Burnley suggesting that a new adjudicating body should be created to settle hospital car parking disputes? Those are all practical matters that need to be considered. This is not an easy yes/no question. There will be disputes from time to time, so who will sort them out, how will it be paid for and who will organise it and set it up? Will the hospital be judge and jury on its system of parking charges, or will that be monitored by an independent board?

Mr Rees-Mogg: To follow on from that, will the public or the private appeals system for parking offences be used? The two are completely different and have different statutory backings.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I do not know. The Bill covers not only NHS hospitals but private hospitals, which is another factor that needs to be considered. The hon. Member for Burnley did not say anything about how this would work in practice. In effect, we are being encouraged to vote for a pig in a poke.

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The Bill will have unintended consequences. Hospitals may or may not be able to cope with the number of carers who use their car parks. The shadow Minister talked about the figures. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, just short of 721,000 people were claiming carer’s allowance in February, and a further 408,000 were estimated to be entitled to it. In England, 613,000 people actually claim it, and a further 331,000 are entitled to it. The number of people entitled to it varies quite widely from region to region.

I do not know whether this is why the hon. Member for Burnley has introduced the Bill, but she may be interested to know—this will certainly be of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) —that the north-west has a very high proportion of people entitled to carer’s allowance and a very high number who receive it compared with any other region in the country. I am not entirely sure of the reasons for that, but that is the fact of the matter, according to the figures from the Department for Work and Pensions. If, just under such a narrow definition, nearly 1 million people are suddenly automatically entitled to free parking in hospitals, how will hospitals cope with any potential increase in demand for car park places? Hospital car parks are bursting at the seams and unable to meet the current demand for car parking.

The principle of supply and demand is obvious in this regard. If the price of something is put up, the demand for it goes down, and vice versa. If we exempt people from car parking charges, an inevitable consequence will be a surge in demand. We all know that, much to the delight of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), car use is increasing in the UK. Presumably, the demand for hospital car parking places will get more acute as time goes on—something that he will no doubt welcome regally.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I do indeed. The more the motor car is used, the better. My hon. Friend is getting to the nub of the matter. One can ration either by price or by queue. There is no other way of determining how supply and demand meet.

Philip Davies: I am glad that we have got back to a situation where I am in agreement with my hon. Friend.

The Cumberland infirmary in Carlisle has outlined its concern over its four car parks on its website:

“We are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of cars requiring parking spaces at the Cumberland Infirmary.”

It is already having that problem. How on earth is it expected to find the additional car parking spaces for carers to park free of charge?

In the north-west alone, 102,000 people are receiving carer’s allowance and a further 60,000 people are entitled to it. That is 162,000 people just in the north-west who would be entitled to free car parking under this regime. Where on earth will they all go?

In the 2015 edition of the Department of Health’s health technical memorandum entitled “NHS car-parking management: environment and sustainability”—they always have catchy titles at the Department of Health—Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was quoted as saying:

“The car-park occupancy levels often reach and surpass 100%.”

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It is not as though there are lots of car parking spaces available to allocate to worthy groups of people who might need to use them.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am momentarily puzzled about how the usage of a car park can exceed 100%. Are the cars crashing into each other or parked on top of each other? Can my hon. Friend explain?

Philip Davies: I suspect it means that people are parking in places where they should not be parking within the car park because there are not enough spaces, so they park somewhere where there is not a space.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I do not think we need to worry too much about going over the capacity of 100%. We need to concentrate on the Bill and worry about carers’ parking.

Philip Davies: I very much agree, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will move on. I will discuss how it might work with my hon. Friend in the Tea Room afterwards.

Mr Chope: If there is increased demand for car parking spaces at hospitals and it is desirable that those hospitals provide extra provision, that has to be paid for. How will it be paid for?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I do not think that is our worry for today.

Philip Davies: Whether it is or not, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will move on.

I asked my local hospital how many carers already use its car parking spaces, which very much is our concern today. It replied:

“The Foundation Trust is currently unable to determine how many carers use the designated hospital car parks. It would therefore be difficult to assess the potential impact on car parking revenue”.

That goes some way towards answering the question my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch asked. The honest answer is that we do not know what the impact will be on any particular hospital. My local hospital certainly does not know.

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is making the important point that his foundation trust does not know how many carers park at the hospital. I have asked similar questions and have not received any answers. That shows that we do not know how much the Bill would cost the country if it were put in statute.

Mr Deputy Speaker: In fairness, we have had an hour of explaining that we do not know the cost. I am sure that we do not want to rerun that.

Philip Davies: Absolutely, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Although there are no official statistics on this matter, in the NHS car parking impact assessment for 2009, the Department of Health provided an estimate of the revenue raised from hospital car parking charges as a whole, which was in the range of £140 million to

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£180 million. University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust raised £1.5 million from car parking in 2004-05. This measure would clearly leave a substantial hole in NHS hospital budgets.

As I have made clear, one consequence of the Bill would be increased car parking charges for people who do not apply for the free parking. One of my concerns is that we have already seen considerable increases in car parking charges at hospitals. Wye Valley NHS Trust has increased its average hourly rate from 33p in 2013-14 to £3.50 in 2014-15. I would be loth to put any additional cost on people who are using that car park. The Whittington health trust in London doubled its average hourly rate from £1.50 to £3, and Medway Maritime hospital in Gillingham increased its price for a five-hour stay from £5 to £8. Given that we are already seeing such huge increases in parking fees, I would not want to pass a Bill that would see people paying even more.

That point was highlighted by the British Parking Association in 2009, following the scrapping of hospital car parking charges in Scotland. It said:

“Car parks need to be physically maintained, somebody somewhere has to pay. Charges were not introduced to generate income but rather to ensure that key staff, bona fide patients and visitors are able to park at the hospital. Without income to support car park maintenance…funds which should be dedicated to healthcare have to be used instead.”

Barbara Keeley: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for an hour and nine minutes, and we are now getting a lot of repetition. Many other people want to speak.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): In fairness, it is for me to decide whether there is repetition. I certainly do not need any advice. You should not be questioning the Chair’s ability to hold the speaker to account. I am sure that Mr Davies is well aware that many people wish to speak and that he wants to hear those other voices. He is in order, but I am worried that we will get into repetition. I certainly do not want to get bogged down in the maintenance of Scottish car parks. I am sure that he will move on quickly.

Philip Davies: I am grateful for that guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady has intervened on me more often than anybody else, which has held me up in making my remarks. My advice is that if she wants me to crack on, she should not keep intervening on me so that I have the opportunity to do so.

A big geographical inequality would result from the Bill because car parking charges vary wildly from one part of the country to another—from £4.26 in the north-east to £11.85—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has given a great number of examples. I do welcome examples, but there is a limit to how many we need. I think that people can get a flavour of the arguments from the examples he has used. Hopefully he will bring something new to the Chamber. If not, I am sure that he would like to hear somebody else. I am sure that some of his colleagues are desperate to speak.

Philip Davies: I am very grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker.

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I will turn to the example that the hon. Member for Burnley used in her remarks, which she encouraged me to reflect on. As she said, at the end of last year, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust announced that it would offer free parking to registered carers at Torbay hospital. I should point out that that scheme, unlike the Bill, is offered specifically to unpaid carers, rather than people who receive carer’s allowance. That is not what the Bill proposes, despite the impression the hon. Lady wanted to give. The interim chief executive of Torbay hospital, Dr John Lowes, said in December 2014:

“Family members and friends who provide unpaid care to our patients at home are invaluable, so we wanted to do something to make their hospital visits a little less stressful, and to demonstrate that we really do value what they do.”

He explained that the system was being implemented with the involvement of the established local care providers and that

“if someone is registered with either Devon or Torbay Carers Services, they just need to display their Carers Card on the car dashboard whilst they are parked in the public pay and display areas, and they will not be charged for parking.”

There are two points to make about that. First, the hon. Lady argued that what happens in Torbay shows why we can happily roll out the scheme across the country, but my view is that it is a perfect illustration of why we do not need legislation. Torbay has managed to do it without any legislation in a way that suits its local requirements, which is what I want to see.

Secondly, I know from my own experience that there is a problem with having a card displayed on a dashboard in a pay and display area, which is effectively what happens with blue badges. Anybody who has been involved in that area knows that people hand their badge to someone else to use—a member of their family, or whoever. It is not right—it is a terrible thing—but it happens, and we cannot ignore the fact that it would happen under the system proposed in the Bill.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I just want to say that I am sure things like that do not happen in Somerset.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. And I am sure that it is not part of the debate for today.

Philip Davies: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Again, I will move on.

As the Torbay scheme is the nearest to the one that the hon. Member for Burnley proposes, I asked some questions through freedom of information requests about the impact and take-up of the scheme. I asked how many people had used the scheme since it was introduced, and the reply from Torbay was:

“We are unable to provide you with the information requested as it is not held electronically or in a central location. We do not record the details of carers, only a verification that they are on the register.”

We do not even know how many people take up the scheme that has been introduced.

Mr Chope: Surely that is a good thing, because it shows that there is a light-touch approach without too much bureaucracy and administration.

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Philip Davies: I very much agree, which is why I think the Bill is unnecessary. This can be done much better locally than by central Government diktat.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has also set up a scheme for carers, aiming to support their needs when they visit hospitals. It asks that carers make hospital staff aware of their caring responsibilities, and it also mentions that they may be entitled to a carer’s badge that they can use during a hospital stay. That entitles the carer to exemption from parking fees, but also to reduced meal costs in the hospital restaurants, free drinks on the ward and the use of toilet and washing facilities in the ward area. When we allow local hospitals the freedom to do their own thing, they can give carers an enhanced service that is much better than what the hon. Member for Burnley proposes. I fear that if there were a central Government diktat that was bureaucratic and difficult to implement, areas such as Gloucestershire would scale back the other benefits that they gave carers and instead just meet the requirements of the law.

It is perfectly clear that the Torbay and Gloucestershire schemes have completely different ways of working and of identifying eligible carers. If it works at local level, all is well and good, but that would not be possible under the Bill.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Is my hon. Friend saying that carers who currently receive the benefit of free parking would have to be removed from the Torbay scheme if the Bill were brought into law, because they would not qualify and Torbay would have to change the scheme?

Philip Davies: That is my reading of the situation. Because the definition of carers in the Bill is different from that used by Torbay—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. May I just say that we have covered Torbay? The hon. Gentleman has moved on, but unfortunately the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) keeps wanting to drag him back to what he has already covered. I know that he does not want to go back to that.

Philip Davies: I am pleased that you have acknowledged that I am being led astray, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker: But a little bit too easily.

Philip Davies: In which case we must look at the Bill itself, Mr Deputy Speaker, if that is what you are urging me to do.

The Bill is called the Hospital Parking Charges (Exemptions for Carers) Bill, but it would actually apply to all health service providers, both public and private, and not just hospitals. I do not think many people appreciate its true scope. Clause 1 states that bodies that provide healthcare must

“make arrangements to exempt qualifying carers”

from car parking charges. That applies to

“any National Health Service hospital, walk-in centre, GP practice or other health care facility to which patients are admitted, or which they attend, for diagnosis, testing, treatment or other appointment relating to their health”,

so we are not just talking about hospital car parking charges. It also extends to private hospitals, so not only are we dictating what should happen in the NHS, but

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we are telling private hospitals what they should do. Many people might argue that those who can afford private healthcare treatment can also pay for car parking. Whether that is a legitimate use of resources is a different matter.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I wonder whether the Bill’s proponents have considered the human rights implications of taking a revenue source away from a private company without compensation. The Bill makes no provision for compensation.

Philip Davies: That is a very good question, and I do not know about that. My understanding is that Bills have to be certified to say that they fulfil obligations under the Human Rights Act and all of that stuff, but I do not know whether that applies to private Members’ Bills. My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I am not sure what the answer is.

Clause 2 is an attempt to define who would qualify. It states:

“A qualifying carer under section 1(1) is a person who…receives the Carer’s Allowance, or…has an underlying entitlement to the Carer’s Allowance.”

I have no idea where to begin with that. To claim carer’s allowance, a person must provide at least 35 hours a week of care for a severely disabled person receiving one of the following benefits: the middle or highest rate of disability living allowance; attendance allowance; the daily living component of personal independence payment; constant attendance allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an industrial injuries disablement benefit, or at the basic rate with a war disablement pension; or armed forces independence payment. The person applying must be at least 16 years old, meet residence and presence conditions, not be subject to immigration control and not be in full-time education or gainfully employed. Anyone entitled to carer’s allowance would automatically receive free parking at hospitals under the Bill, whether they frequently visited hospital or not.

The hon. Member for Burnley has specifically identified that the members of the caring community who should be entitled to free parking are not only those who receive carer’s allowance but those who have an underlying entitlement to that allowance. I do not understand how on earth a hospital is supposed to know whether somebody has an underlying entitlement. The benefits system in this country is incredibly complex, and I would prefer our NHS hospitals to concentrate on the complicated process of providing the appropriate treatment to the right patients rather than have to be bogged down in Department for Work and Pensions rules on who is eligible for a particular benefit. That is what the hon. Lady is asking them to do in clause 2—to understand who is eligible for the benefit, not just who receives it.

As the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South made clear in an intervention, many people in this country care for people but are neither recipients of carer’s allowance nor eligible for it, because of the restrictive entitlement definitions. Why would we want to exempt some carers from parking charges but not others? That seems very unfair. I tried to get some information about what defines a carer, and it is not necessarily the same as what qualifies somebody for carer’s allowance. We need some flexibility on that.

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I want to move on, because other Members want to speak. Clause 3 sets out provision for the Secretary of State to issue guidance and regulations through statutory instruments about the implementation of the duty to exempt carers from car parking charges. It is an important part of the Bill. It is something that we often see in private Members’ Bills: whether the Bill has merit or not—I am trying to flag up some serious concerns about that—the Member in charge includes a provision that would allow Ministers to extend the Bill’s requirements with the stroke of a pen and with barely a breath being taken. Clause 3 is a dangerous part of the Bill, because a Secretary of State or Minister could come along and say, “Actually, I’ve decided that we’re going to extend this left, right and centre”, and the hospitals will just have to implement it. That is very worrying.

Clause 4 would introduce a

“Duty to establish a scheme for exempting eligible carers from hospital car park charges.”

I think I have sufficiently covered who that would apply to and why it is a dangerous path to go down. Clause 5 states that a person would be eligible for free hospital car parking if they are assessed by a local authority under section 10(5) of the Care Act 2014, and it would change the provisions of that Act. It therefore seems to me—perhaps the hon. Lady will correct me—that under clause 5 eligibility could be granted on an intention to provide care, rather than someone actually being a carer. I am not sure how well that has been thought through.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Can my hon. Friend explain whether under clauses 2 and 5 somebody can quality for this allowance but not be eligible, or be eligible but not qualify?

Mr Deputy Speaker: If the Bill goes to Committee, such points can be teased out and straightened out there, rather than on the Floor of the House today.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. I contend that the Bill is so flawed that it cannot be rescued in Committee, or that rescuing it would involve filleting it to such an extent that it would come out barely recognisable, which would be a pointless exercise. I appreciate that such issues could be considered in Committee—as ever, Mr Deputy Speaker, you are perfectly right.

Clause 7 says that the Act must come into force

“12 months after the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent.”

There are two pertinent points about that. If it is so unjust for carers to pay hospital car parking charges, how can the hon. Lady justify requiring them to pay charges for another year? Why not introduce the change much sooner? I think I know the answer to that question, and it reinforces my argument. I think the hon. Lady realises that the provisions in the Bill would be a logistical nightmare to implement, for some of the reasons that I have already mentioned—I am sure there are also many others. She probably realises that to make anything of the Bill it would require at least a year to come up with anything that makes any sense. It is interesting that such a measure is part of the Bill, and it justifies my concerns. The hon. Lady said that she would like the measures in her Bill to be extended in future to cover other people. She made the point that this is a good start—

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Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. That is speculation for another day. We are dealing with the Bill before the House, not what might be before us in future. I know that the hon. Gentleman is desperate to hear the views of other hon. Members, and I am sure his colleagues are desperate to speak.

Philip Davies: I agree. This is hard work, Mr Deputy Speaker, and you are right—I am anxious to press on.

Mr Chope: Before my hon. Friend concludes, will he address clause 7(2) which states that the Act extends to England only? Does he think that, as with free school meals, there will be Barnett consequentials?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are not going to open that can of worms today. Philip Davies, I know that you want to get beyond clause 7 and to your conclusion.

Philip Davies: I knew it was a mistake giving way to my hon. Friend, and that he would try to lead me astray once again. I will leave him to consider Barnett consequentials in his remarks—I am desperately trying to reach a conclusion.

I appreciate that the hon. Lady genuinely wants to help carers, and if the principle behind her Bill is to support carers, I will happily support that principle. However, of all the worthwhile issues and campaigns championed by different carers organisations and charities, it seems that she has picked the one dud. I would have been happy to support many other campaigns for carers had she raised them. For example, parent carers could be offered an assessment rather than having to request one for their children, and we could introduce measures such as:

“Clear recognition in law that parent carer assessments and services must have the promotion of their well-being at the heart of what they do.

Consolidation of legislation on parent carers from three different Acts”.

I would have been prepared to support such worthwhile campaigns to help carers, but I fear that the hon. Lady has picked the wrong campaign. For future reference I urge her to consider some of the other campaigns that carers organisations would like to be raised. I think she would get a lot of support from across the House and—I hope—from the Government.

In conclusion, the Bill is ill-thought through and many areas are far too vague. It will be a logistical nightmare to enforce and implement, and it would cost NHS trusts up and down the country millions of pounds, forcing higher charges on other visitors, or risking patient services. It would exempt a lot of people who are just as worthy recipients of parking concessions—I think that the Government’s guidance on hospital car parking is far more sensible than the provisions in the Bill, and they encompass more people who deserve to be considered. Hospitals already have power to implement the policy suggested by the hon. Lady if they wish, and perhaps on reflection she should go away and come back at some point in future with a different Bill. I have not mentioned the money resolution consequences of this Bill, but I hope that others will consider that issue. I have not seen any money resolution proposals.

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Finally—very finally—I have people visiting Parliament today, so I apologise in advance if I cannot be here for the entire debate. I will try to stay for as much as possible because it is an interesting discussion.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Don’t let us disturb you. I think your guests are waiting for you.

Philip Davies: Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not—I do not know. I genuinely wish the hon. Lady well in her time in the House, and I do not doubt the worthy sentiment in this Bill. We all support what carers do in this country, but I think the Bill is misguided.

11.38 am

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) on this important and hugely needed Bill. Unfortunately, owing to the assassins on the Government Benches—one of them has just left the Chamber—more than two hours of time has, bizarrely, been taken up, and I do not think that I will be able to go into all the important issues that I wished to raise. People are concerned about this procedure. A lot of people, including my constituents, are looking forward to the consequences of what happens today, so I will certainly not take up as much time as that taken by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies).

This is an important issue, as I know from my experiences over the past six years or so. Having suffered from renal failure and been in hospital on dialysis, I saw a lot of other people like me. On average, a person on dialysis spends at least five hours in hospital, and they mostly need some sort of support, including from carers who incur huge costs. That is three times a week on a regular basis. On top of that, those on dialysis have to come to hospital for the other procedures—blood tests and so on—that are required. That is just one group of people who need the service on a regular basis, but many other patients with long-term conditions need hospital appointments and procedures to bring them back to good health.

The people who support patients have a huge amount of responsibility and they provide a service to all of us who support the NHS and to hospital nursing staff. They do a huge amount of work with hardly any compensation and the Bill would allow us to support them. These are excessive charges. Some sit here and argue the point, but some of the people and friends alongside me for treatment were in very difficult circumstances. When they finished dialysis, they were hardly in a position to walk out on their own. A large number of people required support, and they were just those on dialysis for renal failure.

Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that carers provide an invaluable service to the people they care for, doing day-to-day tasks such as washing and feeding, and providing friendship and social interaction? All the things they do behind the scenes they do out of love, but in doing so they are working very hard for wider society. As that society, we should, in turn, support them.

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Mr Mahmood: I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. The services that carers provide are really beyond the call of duty and any compensation they might receive would not account for that. They provide huge support to nursing staff pressed by the shortages that currently exist in our hospitals. The huge amount of support and love they provide comes at great financial cost, and that is why I support the Bill. They are making a huge contribution to society, as well as to the people they support.

The hon. Member for Shipley went around the issue of parking about 25 times and back again, but the questions he asked were not substantive. As Mr Deputy Speaker helpfully pointed out, if he and his colleagues are really interested in this subject, they can sit down in Committee and raise the issues there rather than breaking down the issues in the Bill at this stage, which is their intent. Carers in their constituencies should take note of that and hold them to account.

Parking charges are excessive. This is not the first time I have raised this issue. I have raised it a number of times in Birmingham, because it affects the people who are least able to pay. The biggest issue is how to have some sort of discount. Offers are available, but they are hardly ever advertised and people are not aware of them. Many hospitals employ private contractors and it has been claimed that it is very easy to negotiate with them, but it can be very difficult to go through the bureaucracy to get that discount. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), who is no longer in his place, talked about human rights. It is interesting to hear a Conservative Member talk about human rights, but what did he do? He talked about the human rights of the car parking contractors. These are the people who drive around in Porsches with special number plates. That is what Conservatives believe in. The real issue is support for carers. They are the ones who need support.

Comments have been made about the technicalities of sorting out carers’ parking. That is not the problem. Who comes in and who goes out can be verified, and that currently happens. The hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), who is also not in his place, mentioned problems associated with city centre hospitals. There are procedures that deal with that quite easily. The Bill would not make parking free for everybody. Tickets would be validated only within the hospital. People could not park and then go off to the city centre to go shopping. A huge number of red herrings have been raised by those on the Government Benches. The intention of the Bill is clearly to give very vulnerable people more of the support they need. Carers in the north-west are not paid a huge amount. They do the job because they want to support the people they are caring for. That is the main issue. That is the problem.

Contractors make a huge profits. There has been a national campaign in the newspapers and we should back it. I see the hon. Member for North East Somerset is back in his place. He wants the human rights of parking contractors to be considered over the human rights and liberties of carers.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Mahmood: I am not going to give way to anybody on the Government Benches. They have wasted enough time, so I will not indulge them.

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We have to support this important Bill, because it would provide support to the people who pay in a huge amount to society. I was glad to hear Conservative Members talking about using public transport. The problem with public transport is that services do not run as well as they should. They do not run late, so somebody receiving dialysis in the evening may not be able to manage and carers may not be able to get a bus at that time. If no buses are running they will have to pay for a taxi, which is a lot more expensive. People use their own cars because of the equipment they might sometimes need to carry or if they have to drive their children. Some carers bring their children into the unit—the children can sit and do some work while the dialysis take place—because there is no one else to provide childcare.

These are all very significant and important issues and concerns. The Bill is a small measure. People say the NHS will go bankrupt, but the money generated does not go back to the NHS; it is paid to private contractors who hold the car park licences and make a huge amount of money, as has been pointed out in the newspapers and by the national campaign. That is the real issue and we need to deal with it. We need a lot more action, rather than the huge amount of jaw that has, and will, be expended by other Members. We should have a vote and show our support for carers. They care for the most vulnerable and they are sometimes the most vulnerable themselves.

11.48 am

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), who gave us his take on the Bill, although I feel the matter is a little more complicated than he would have the House believe.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) on coming fourth in the ballot for the right to bring in a private Member’s Bill—as a new Member entering the ballot for the first time, she has done very well indeed—and on choosing such an important topic. I do not know if she does the national lottery, but if she does—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Obviously, congratulating the hon. Lady is a good way of taking up time, but actually I did the draw, so if the hon. Gentleman is going to congratulate anybody, I think it should be me. However, I do not want us to get bogged down in that, because I know he wants to get straight into the Bill, on which I would welcome his comments. I know he would rather talk about the Bill.

Mr Nuttall: Of course, you were there, too, Mr Deputy Speaker, doing the draw, and very well you did it as well. As you know, however, because it is done in reverse, coming first actually means coming 20th.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Let us leave it there for today.

Mr Nuttall: I will move on.

This is the first Bill to come before the House for its Second Reading since the new Standing Orders were introduced last week on what generally is referred to as “English votes for English laws” but what I prefer to

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call, more accurately, “English vetoes for English laws”. The new Standing Orders make it clear that the new procedures do not apply to private Member’s Bills, but it is worth noting—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. They do not apply to private Members’ Bills, so we do not need to discuss them. Seriously, a lot of Members still wish to speak, and I do not want any filibustering. I know that people are interested in the Bill and want to concentrate on it.

Mr Nuttall: I am grateful for the work carers do in my own constituency, particularly at the carers centre I visited recently, which provides a wide range of activities and support for those who undertake the often unsung job of caring for a loved on. I also pay tribute to the work that Carers UK does, as the principal national charity for carers. Of course, it very much supports the Bill, in this its golden jubilee year.

The aim of the hon. Lady’s Park the Charge campaign, which has resulted in the Bill, is to improve the financial position of carers who have to use hospital car parks by exempting them from car parking charges. Without doubt, the Bill is well intentioned, and no one from across the House would disagree with the proposition that helping those who selflessly care for others is a worthy aim. The first difficulty, however, facing anyone determining the size and nature of a group is that of definition, and that applies to carers as much as to any other. Carers UK says there are 6.5 million carers in the UK, with 5.4 million of them living in England. As I tried to mention earlier, the Bill only applies to England so that is the relevant figure.

Carers UK goes on to state that these people are providing unpaid care for their loved ones, saving the economy an enormous £119 billion each year, yet its research found that 48% of carers were struggling to make ends meet, and 45% said that financial worries were affecting their own health. It is no surprise, therefore, that Carers UK and the Bill seek to alleviate one of the financial pressures on carers—hospital car parking charges. However, I have several concerns, ranging from the Bill’s drafting to its financial implications and potential impact on other groups.

It is not clear to me how we can objectively determine who should and should not be expected to pay for car parking, as we would be doing if we started centrally exempting one particular group as being more deserving than another group. It would seem preferable to allow individual NHS trusts to continue making such decisions locally. Otherwise, on the face of it, we seem to have here a fair and reasonable proposal. Indeed, my initial thought was that it sounded like a good thing to do, and I suspect that most people’s instinct would be to support the Bill simply because of the title.

I know that the hon. Lady has campaigned on this issue with the best intentions, but I want to deal precisely with the exemptions she seeks to introduce. The Bill would exempt two groups of carers. The first is defined in clauses 1 to 3. Clause 2 states that beneficiaries of an exemption would either be in receipt of carer’s allowance or have an underlying entitlement to it. Carer’s allowance is a taxable benefit currently set at £62.10 a week to help a carer look after someone with substantial caring needs, and it is paid to the carer, not the recipient of the care. To qualify, the applicant must be over 16, spend at

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least 35 hours a week caring for someone, have been in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years and not be in full-time education or studying for 21 hours a week or more. The person in receipt of care must receive qualifying benefits, such as the daily living component of the personal independence payment, the middle or highest care rate of the disability living allowance, attendance allowance or the armed forces independence payment.

That is the first group to which we can start to put a number. According to Department for Work and Pensions figures, as of February, 721,000 people were receiving carer’s allowance, so these people would be the first group that would clearly qualify under the criteria. However, the Bill would go further, by also including within the first group all those who have what is referred to as an underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance. The term “underlying entitlement” refers to the fact that a claimant cannot usually receive two income-replacement benefits together—for example, carer’s allowance and the state pension. This is called the overlapping benefit rule. If a person is not entitled to be paid carer’s allowance because of this rule, they are said to have an underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance instead. This might mean they could get the carer’s premium in jobseeker’s allowance and income support, the extra amount for carers in pension credit or the carer’s allowance element of universal credit. The importance of including those people is that the Bill would otherwise exclude carers in receipt of other benefits, such as the state pension, bereavement allowance, contribution-based employment and support allowance, contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit, industrial death benefit, maternity allowance, severe disablement allowance, universal credit, war widow’s or widower’s pension or widow’s pension.

Not surprisingly, the inclusion of these people significantly increases the number of those eligible under the Bill. DWP figures, as of February, estimate this group to number 409,000. Taken together, therefore, clauses 1 to 3 could exempt approximately 1.13 million people. These people are either receiving carer’s allowance or have an underlying entitlement to it. As the hon. Lady will be aware, in the north-west, where both our constituencies are located, there are 163,000 such people. To give some idea of the massive increase in the number of carers in recent years, I should add that the figure of 1.13 million is up from 451,000 in February 2000.

If, however, the definition of entitlement is applied in strict accordance with clause 2, the Bill would exclude, a university student caring for a disabled parent, for example. I suspect that the second group of potential beneficiaries was defined for people in such a position. The Bill therefore draws a distinction between a “qualifying carer”—someone caught by clause 2—and an “eligible carer”, as defined in clauses 4 to 6. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) touched on this, and I pointed out in an intervention that the figure of 1.13 million—the figure quoted by Opposition Members as being the total number involved—seemed to ignore completely those included under clauses 4 to 6.

Clause 5(1)(a) defines the eligible carer as someone who

“has been assessed for free hospital parking”

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by virtue of an amendment to the Care Act 2014, which this Bill would insert. The Bill proposes to amend section 10 of the 2014 Act, which deals with carer’s assessments. A carer’s assessment is made by a trained person either from the council or another organisation that the council works with. The Bill will make it a mandatory requirement for the assessor to assess

“whether the carer should be eligible for free hospital…parking”.

This is in addition to assessing, as outlined in the rest of section 10—

“(a) whether the carer is able, and is likely to continue to be able, to provide care for the adult needing care,

(b) whether the carer is willing, and is likely to continue to be willing, to do so,

(c) the impact of the carer’s needs for support on the matters specified in section 1(2),

(d) the outcomes that the carer wishes to achieve in day-to-day life, and

(e) whether, and if so to what extent, the provision of support could contribute to the achievement of those outcomes.”

It is not clear at all on what basis the assessor is expected to make this decision. If only eligibility or underlying eligibility to carer’s allowance is going to be checked, this provision is superfluous, as such people would be covered in the first group. If some other criteria are to be applied, there is nothing in the Bill or in any guidance notes—no such notes have been issued—to suggest what that might be.

Returning to my example of the student who is caring for a parent but cannot get carer’s allowance because of their studies, clause 5(1)(b) perhaps comes to the rescue. It says an “eligible carer” is a person who

“provides or intends to provide substantial care on a regular basis, other than by virtue of a contract or as voluntary work and has been certified as such by an appropriate clinician.”

I believe that the meaning is ambiguous. What does “intend to provide” mean? How far into the future is it expected that the care will be delivered—within the next week, the next month, the next year, or what? The Bill does not say. Or is a fixed timescale not required; is consideration of caring enough? What constitutes “substantial care” in this provision? Is it the 35 hours a week required to be eligible for the carer’s allowance, or is it fewer than 35 hours a week? We need to know, because the Bill is asking an assessor to be the ultimate arbiter of whether someone is entitled to free hospital parking charges.

Suddenly, the number of people who might benefit from free hospital parking becomes a lot less certain. The first group gave us 1.13 million people. How many more of the 5.4 million carers estimated by Carers UK to be living in England would be included in the second group? We simply do not know.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Does my hon. Friend agree with the further point that clause 5(1)(b) might provide an incentive to increase the total number of carers because people would have a strong need to say that they were carers or had the intention to be carers—even if the reality were completely different, which would mean falsely inflating the figures?

Mr Nuttall: There is always a danger with any scheme, as with the blue badge scheme, that some people will try to use it for their own ends. I hope it would be only a minority, but that danger exists. The assessors would

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need to be aware of that; they would need to be constantly on the lookout for people who were not genuine cases. That is what I think my hon. Friend is getting at—that some people might “try it on” to their own advantage.

Given that there are no explanatory notes and no impact assessment for the Bill, it is worth considering what has been done in the past. Fortunately, under the last Labour Government, an impact assessment was done—the NHS car parking impact assessment, which was published in December 2009. It estimated that there were 46 million in-patient visitors a day. We do not know how many of them are carers, but as we shall see, car parking charges vary significantly around the country. Regardless of the precise number, it is inevitable that one consequence of the Bill would be to divert part of the healthcare budget that could otherwise be used for front-line national health services—potentially life-saving services—to cover car parking maintenance and all the associated costs ranging from maintenance to administration and dispute management.

The Bill places Members here in the unenviable position of being asked to single out one particular group of people as being more deserving of financial assistance than any other. Without an exact number of those eligible for exemption, it is difficult to know how much money we are talking about in each area that the Bill would take out of the healthcare budget.

At the Bill’s heart is the principle of whether it is right to charge for parking at a hospital or other healthcare facility and, if so, which if any group should be exempt from those charges. I appreciate that some of the public—perhaps virtually all the public—take the view that charging to park a car at a hospital is simply an attempt to make a profit for greedy hospitals or, worse still, for nefarious parking companies. If that were the case, I suspect there would be universal condemnation of such a practice, but of course it is not the case.

Hospital car parking charges in our national health service are what are called “an income-generation scheme”. They are not just an extra-revenue scheme for hospital managers to provide comfier chairs or profit for private parking company executives to fund their jollies to the Seychelles. In 2006, the Department of Health issued guidance called “Income Generation: car parking charges —best practice for implementation”, which was subsequently revised in the same year. This guidance clearly states that to qualify as an income-generation scheme, the scheme

“must be profitable and provide a level of income that exceeds total costs. If the scheme ran at a loss it would mean that commercial activities were being subsidised from NHS funds, thereby diverting funds away from NHS patient care. However, each case will need to be assessed individually. For example, if a scheme is making a substantial loss then it should be stopped immediately.”

If a scheme such as car parking charges at an NHS hospital ran at a loss, it would not be acceptable. The Department of Health’s guidance goes on to state that

“the profit made from the scheme, which the NHS body would keep, must be used for improving the health services”.

The current guidance therefore prevents public money that should be used for patient care from being used to subsidise a loss-making scheme.

Clearly, if the Bill became law, it would inevitably affect the amount of income that a scheme would generate, meaning either that there would be knock-on

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effects for other users of the car park who are paying for it or that the health authority would be faced with the question of whether to start to subsidise it. It cannot do so because of the guidance, thus raising the question of whether the guidance would need to be revised in the regulations anticipated in the Bill. It is a principle that the Bill could reverse or it could open a door to making such a change.

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is providing a forensic discussion of the Bill and all its parts. Does he agree that we could end up with hospital trusts seeing staff members taken off the front line in order to administer these schemes, or even with administration staff, who would be better deployed in the hospital, being brought in to ensure that the right people get the free hospital parking?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think we have heard this question before. Mr Davies was asked whether staff would be taken from the front line. We are going over ground that has already been covered. This is about a Bill, about car parking, and about the benefit of carers. What I do not want to do is become involved in speculation. We are not here to speculate about the future.

Mr Nuttall: I was about to say exactly the same thing, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) was in the Chamber when someone made what I agree was a very similar point. I will merely say that, undoubtedly—I think that Members in all parts of the House will agree with this—the scheme will have to be administered somehow. It is not going to run itself. Someone, somewhere, will be required to run it, either someone new who has been brought in or someone who is currently doing another job in the hospital.

I do not know whether, as part of her preparation for the Bill, the hon. Member for Burnley ascertained how many national health service trusts in England might have to alter their price structures—that is, increase their parking charges to avoid falling foul of the income- generation principle—if the number of exempted carers were to be as significant as it appears. I do not know whether she proposes to scrap the principle of not running a scheme at a loss, as required by the 2006 guidance from the Department of Health. The NHS Confederation, which is the membership body for some 500 organisations that plan, commission and provide NHS services, says:

“NHS principles and Government policy are clear that healthcare is funded through taxation, not through patient charges. Surpluses from parking charges should only be a by-product of covering costs and managing space fairly.”

Most trusts make it clear that the income they receive from car parking charges goes towards covering the maintenance of the car park: for instance, the security, facilities and staff. To be specific, we are talking about the ongoing costs of anything from lighting to CCTV, footpath and cycle path maintenance, car park surfacing, and the employment of enforcement and security staff. If there is any money left over—and some trusts have no surplus from their car parking—it must, in accordance with the guidance, be used to improve local health services.

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The Government have already been active in ensuring that information about parking is made very clear to members of the public, and I think it perfectly fair and reasonable to require trusts to ensure that that information is clearly visible on websites and in patient information in, for instance, letters. Patients are entitled to the reassurance of knowing that the purpose of the car park charge is not to provide the NHS with an additional, excessive income stream, but to provide for the car park in the first place. Charges, therefore, are used primarily to cover the running costs of the car park, and if there is a surplus, it cannot be used for other pet projects.

I referred earlier to the 2009 NHS car parking impact assessment. The then Labour Government commissioned the detailed, 61-page assessment of the costs of introducing free car parking. It concluded:

“On the available evidence there is scope for this policy to have both a positive and negative impact, both for older people and the disabled.”

Despite that rather mixed finding, Labour’s 2010 manifesto pledged to scrap hospital car parking charges. Five years later, however, at the time of this year’s May general election, Labour appeared to reverse its view, and to decide that the policy was unworkable. I look forward to hearing from the shadow Minister later whether that is still the position of the official Opposition. In fact, the Bill runs contrary to the principle that individual trusts feel that it is right to set parking charges according to their own financial situations. Only yesterday it was reported that the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust was consulting on the introduction of parking charges at its community hospitals.

What are hospital car parking charges actually paying for? That is a perfectly legitimate question for people to ask. It is reasonable to say that visitors and patients do not generally have a great deal of choice when it comes to parking at a hospital. There is usually just one car park operator, and patients, staff and visitors are therefore a captive audience. In some town centres, one might be fortunate enough to have the choice of a cheaper place in which to park, but for hospitals there is no market incentive to keep costs under control.

In December 2010, the British Parking Association, which is the largest professional association in Europe representing parking and traffic management organisations, released a charter of best practice for parking in hospital car parks. Understandably, given the large number of disabled users, it set high standards. The Charter for Hospital Parking stated that hospital parking operators should provide

“good lighting, high standards of maintenance for structures and surfaces, payment systems and equipment that are easy to use and understand, signs that are clear and easy to understand”


“clearly marked parking bays.”

Patients and visitors will understandably want a safe and secure environment in which to park when they go to their local hospital, or, potentially, a hospital that is out of their immediate area if they are receiving specialist treatment. As Carers UK points out, attending hospital can be a stressful experience for patients and visitors. The last thing they want is to have their car broken into, or to spend 20 minutes driving round in circles because entrances and exits are not marked properly, or to be

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stuck facing a ticket machine that does not work with the threat of an unfair penalty charge looming. Patients, and their carers, visitors and staff, will quite reasonably expect a properly maintained car park with proper lighting and adequate security, along the lines of what is set out in the charter, whether the purpose is to guide a daytime visitor with proper and effective signage or to protect the doctor or nurse who gets into the car at 3 am in the dark after a long shift.

The charter also states: