Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Whitty: I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the reasoning behind the amendments and

17 Jul 2000 : Column 643

his personal experience. It needs to be clear that the provisions under which any charging scheme is introduced are enabling powers only. That remains the case. It is therefore not a requirement that local authorities adopt any particular arrangements for those schemes.

However, as regards enforcement, where local authorities adopt charging schemes there must be some prescription on the method of enforcement. The noble Lord will recognise that it would not be sensible for different local authorities and their agents to have different powers in enforcing schemes they have chosen to introduce.

If we were to do so, it would mean that arrangements and procedures for entering vehicles, collecting evidence, immobilising vehicles and so forth would be different from one authority to another and entirely at the discretion of the charging authorities. In many case, such discretion would not be appropriate and would not reflect the current practice under road traffic law; for example, wheelclamping or immobilisation.

We already have prescriptions on such issues in road traffic law. That does not necessarily mean that all local authorities adopt the same schemes, but where they are enforcing charges they must be subject to national regulation. We are dealing with entering property, with restraining property and with the enforcement of fines.

The regulations will be fair, effective and equitable. If it were left entirely to local authorities, some strange anomalies could arise. The noble Lord's amendment would allow that to happen and I hope that he will not press it.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I had always understood that one of the reasons for having local government was to permit the creation of diversity. I do not believe that diversity in these matters would be a problem. None the less, I shall study the Minister's reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 229A to 231 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 232:

    Page 105, line 19, at end insert--

("(7) In exercising its powers pursuant to regulations made under this section, a charging authority shall exercise reasonable care and use the minimum force necessary, and shall be liable to compensate the registered owner of the relevant motor vehicle and any other person for any loss suffered by him as a result of its failure to do so.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment is designed to protect property rights. It ensures that if an authority in its pursuit of evidence is unreasonably violent with someone else's property and does unnecessary damage, there is a right of compensation to the owner as a result. I hope that we can all agree with that principle and that we do not need to argue about it.

17 Jul 2000 : Column 644

There should never be a need to damage a vehicle if one requires evidence. As the Minister pointed out, there are other ways of solving the problem; for instance, clamping the vehicle and waiting until the appropriate person arrives. You can then get anything you want, voluntarily or compulsorily as the case may be.

I believe that the issue of compensation is worth writing into the Bill and with that in mind I tabled the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: Would the noble Lord care to indicate why his amendment is different from the present law?

Lord Dixon-Smith: I do not know whether it is different from the present law. The Bill creates new powers and I believe that in doing so we should have some regard to their possible abuse. That is all the amendment is directed at; it is a limited point.

Lord Whitty: We all agree that it is necessary for citizens to have safeguards against enforcement agencies overstepping the mark or going about their business in the wrong way, and that some form of redress is necessary. I also agree with the implication behind the question asked by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis--that the common law already provides for that redress. Our judicial system allows those who believe that they have been wrongly treated by enforcement agencies to gain redress. That is no different from any other area where enforcement agencies of the local authority or, indeed, the police are subject to the common law in that respect.

Therefore, although I agree with the noble Lord in principle--indeed, if I may revert to the previous amendment, some of his arguments provided a good reason for having regulations--I believe that the issue of redress is dealt with adequately in existing common law remedies.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Lord for that assurance because it is precisely what I sought. Our difficulty is in ascertaining precisely whether what we do impinges on the common law. I am glad that this does not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 173 agreed to.

Clause 174 [Immobilisation etc]:

[Amendments Nos. 233 to 236A not moved.]

Clause 174 agreed to.

Clause 175 [Equipment etc]:

[Amendment No. 236B not moved.]

Clause 175 agreed to.

Clause 176 [Traffic signs]:

[Amendment No. 236C not moved.]

Clause 176 agreed to.

17 Jul 2000 : Column 645

Clause 177 [Preliminary]:

[Amendment No. 237 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 238:

    Page 107, line 11, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: I apologise to the Committee for taking so much of its time but it seems that no one else wishes to discuss these particular points; therefore, perforce, I must.

The amendment deals with the workplace charging levy. Clause l77(2) provides for the occupier of the premises in question, or any person specified in regulations by the national authority, to be liable for the workplace charging levy. The purpose of the amendment is to remove the right of the appropriate national authority to specify the person liable in regulations. The payment of the charges is a matter of taxation. I believe that the matter of who pays the taxes should be on the face of the Bill and not simply a subject of regulation.

In a way, this is a matter of principle. This issue comes under the same principle as we argued earlier--the question of whether taxation should be by regulation or by legislation. We considered that this was a matter for taxation by legislation and that the question of liability should not be decided subsequently by regulation.

I accept that there is a potential problem with regard to the workplace parking levy in that the levy is intended to target the employee in order to dissuade him from using his car. Therefore, ideally he will be the person who pays. However, if that is the case, that should be referred to on the face of the Bill and I do not believe that we should leave the differentiation to simple regulation. Of course, if the Minister says that it is a matter for local determination, then we should say so and I should be happy with that. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: There is no great conspiracy behind this issue. We envisage that in the vast majority of cases the occupier of a premises will be responsible for paying the workplace parking charge. However, in a small number of cases it may be more appropriate to make someone else liable. That is why we included the regulation-making power, which we shall need to consider as schemes are developed. For example, regulations may be required in order to cater for liability at premises which are shared by more than one occupier, or where a car park at a premises is used but not owned by the building occupier--in other words, perhaps a neighbouring employer and not the occupier of the premises uses the car parking space.

The provision allows the covering of such loopholes by regulation. The range of potential loopholes on which we need to base the regulations will become apparent only as and when schemes are developed. However, in general this is not a "coach and horses" matter, and in the overwhelming number of cases the occupier will be liable.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister. He is his usual charming self and very persuasive. I shall

17 Jul 2000 : Column 646

study what he has said and may well need to return to the subject. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 239:

    Page 107, line 28, at end insert--

("( ) No licensing authority shall introduce the workplace parking levy before 1st January 2004 and then only if they can produce evidence that expenditure on transport infrastructure in the relevant area has already increased by at least 20 per cent above the level of such expenditure in 1999-2000 and as a result congestion has reduced by 20 per cent.").

The noble Lord said: If I interpreted correctly what I read in the press, the Government said that they do not wish to see workplace parking charges or, indeed, other charges introduced until local transport authorities have improved the traffic environment within their areas. That, of course, is wholly laudable. It may be what I would call politically necessary. However, the amendment sets out simply to quantify that statement. It probes precisely what the Government mean by "improving" the local traffic environment before the charges are introduced and what level of improvement they might consider desirable or necessary.

In part, the amendment seeks also to discover whether the Government are serious about achieving improvement or whether they are merely in the business of politics (with a small "p") and trying to make the unpalatable more palatable. I believe that we would all prefer improvement to palatability. Therefore, this is an important matter and I believe that we should try to clarify what the Government said. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page