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I think that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to my next point. Energy saving constitutes a great part of moving towards a low-carbon economy. The challenge for us is to ensure that energy-saving proposals are more successful. This can have a very good impact on many poorer people if we ensure that measures are properly targeted.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his clarification and assurance on tracking the income distribution or social equity consequences. However, it is widely understood that, in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Stern, the Government agree that the economy will continue to grow but at a slightly lower ratein the order of 1 per cent slowerthan if there had been no other constraint, including climate change. Will my noble friend note that that is a separate but important consideration? We are seeing how a 1 per cent change in GDP affects employment. An undertaking needs to be given that that, too, will be subject to further analysis and tracking. Although it sounds like a small figure, it is not inconsiderable if we all agree that the general rate of economic growth in terms of productive potential is adrift by 1 per cent.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not want to go back over what I said about the benefits of a low-carbon economy. I agree with my noble friend that one cannot lightly dismiss that scale of reduction in GDP. However, I think that the substantive point that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, made is that, if we do not take action now, the cost could be very much greater later.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Minister has been winding up for more than 20 minutes and, other than contributions from noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, he should be allowed to conclude his speech.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the Minister gave way. This is an important question because it involves cost to ordinary people, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lea. I estimate and calculate that it means £10 billion per year, which is roughly £1,650 per person per annum that has to be found by ordinary people through their taxes and higher prices. People should be informed of exactly how the Governments policy will hit them.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord about transparency. Clearly, some of the measures that have to be taken will have an impact on the cost for individual householders, which also has to be taken into account. Equally, development of a low-carbon economy, where Britain is in the lead, can also bring huge advantage for our economy. The substantive point is that, clearly, these matters have to be kept under constant review.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, I would not intervene in the Ministers lengthy speechas we were reminded not to do by his noble friendif he had answered my questions. May I briefly give him the opportunity to answer them before he sits down?
First, when the right honourable Mr Miliband said that carbon capture and storage would not be insisted on unless it were commercially proven, what precisely did he mean by commercially proven? It has nothing to do with technology. Did he make the statement without the faintest idea of what it meant? Secondly, and more importantly, of course the Minister hopes that there will be a satisfactoryfrom his point of viewagreement in Copenhagen, but even he must accept that there may not be. A satisfactory agreement in Copenhagen would see all other countries in the developed world pursuing the reduction targets, and the developing world pursuing maybe slightly lesser targets. If there is no agreement of that kind, will we still plough on, at vast cost and to no effect on our own, or will the Minister repeal the order before us, which sets the 2020 target?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the order that we are debating is entirely consistent with the Climate Change Act, which has been passed by both Houses. Of course, our policies will be developed consistent with the Act. I will not contemplate failure in Copenhagen; the signs are as positive as they could be. I have answered the noble Lords question on CCS. We made a statement on the broad principles. We are now doing intensive work on further publications, which will be made available in the summer, setting out the details of what we mean by the assessment and how it will be undertaken. I answered that point.
I confirm for the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that the Government do not intend to buy EU allowances to help meet carbon budgets. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, that we have committed to aiming to meet all three budgets without international credits. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley,
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Of course, there is much more work that needs to be done. We will develop carbon budgets in relation to what it means for government and the impact on policies. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that we will continue to take the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. As she suggested, alongside the mitigation policies, there is a huge challenge on adaptation. The names of the members of the adaptation sub-committee will be announced very soon. We very much look forward to the advice that they will be able to give to the Government directly and to the committee.
As far back as 1997, it was apparent that the clamping of vehicles parked on private land was becoming a serious problem because the law was not fit for purpose, and that is still the case 12 years later. If anything, the problem is getting worse. The short answer to my Question in respect of the SIA is not very much because it does not have the power. The Government for their part have belatedly issued a consultation, which I will turn to later. Before getting into detail, I should make it clear that I fully accept that there is a need for legitimate parking controls, including clampingfor example, at a doctors surgery next to a convenience store or a pub with inadequate parking provision.
I apologise if I tar these operations with a very black and broad brush, but my target is those parasitic operators who prey on vulnerable motorists who are ill equipped to defend themselves. These are the decent, hard working and skilled men and women who go about their business but have to use a vehicle extensively. The release, tow-away and storage charges are disproportionate because they are unregulated by the law and are often much more than the statutory removal fees set by the Minister and his department. Moreover, the statutory removal fees are based upon vehicle recovery operations, pressure of time and 24/7 availability, but parking control operations are much simpler and less costly.
The Government introduced the Private Security Industry Act 2001, the PSIA, but this was primarily concerned with the private security industry, club bouncers and the like. However, it provided that an individual involved in vehicle immobilising, known as a VI, has to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. The SIA is not an appeal body and malpractice is outside its remit. The appeal mechanism lies within the company alleged to be at fault, but there is no requirement for the company to be registered or approved in any way. The SIA is obviously not as well resourced as it would like to be, and its problem is that 1 per cent of its licensed members are VIs, but this generates 25 per cent of its parliamentary correspondence and at least 70 Parliamentary Questions per year. That cannot be a lot of fun for the SIA. If a motorist complains to the police, they will say it is a civil matter and decline to get involved. The police are right because they have no powers, but it is extremely damaging to their reputation among decent, hard working members of the public.
For the past 12 years, the Government have completely failed to deal with this problem, leaving the most industrious and vulnerable members of our society exposed to the following problems: inadequate or misleading signage that sometimes leads motorists to park where they should not; the size of the release and tow-away fees, coupled with the curious reluctance of VI companies to take payment by means of a cardI wonder why they do thatimmediate clamping or towing away without exercising any discretion; operatives refusing to identify themselves, leading one to suspect that a number of them are unlicensed; operatives luring people to park, or intimidating them for payment; the SIAs lack of powers against these types of conduct; and the clamping of vehicles that should never be clamped because of their use.
There is also a new problem concerning the use of cameras and the complicity of the DVLA, which seems to have a policy of releasing as much private information as possible. This help from the DVLA results in unsophisticated motorists being sent a document that is made to look like a fine originating from the Government or their agents, but is more likely to have come from a parasite.
Ministers belatedly recognised the problem and issued a consultation paper on 30 April this year. The Minister will have seen some dodgy staff work in his time, but I am sure that this paper can take pride of place in his black museum. It is well drafted, but it demonstrates that Ministers and the Government have a complete lack of comprehension of the scale, nature and effect of clamping.
The paper is full of holes. For instance, it is predicated on the fact that there are only 1,900 licensed VIs. Elsewhere, it notes that some VIs refuse to identify themselves. A recent GfK NOP survey commissioned by the RAC Foundation suggested that between 8 and 12 per cent of households have had at least one vehicle clamped on private land. This, coupled with the amount of parliamentary activity, suggests that the 1,900 licensed VIs are amazingly active. A more likely explanation is that the problem is much bigger than the Government recognise.
The paper offers only four options. The first is to do nothing, an option that should always be considered. The second is a voluntary code of practice, which is more or less what we have now. The third is regulation by a business licensing system, which apparently is the preferred option. However, this is a cosy cartel set up and run by the parking industry for its own benefit. Where is the independent tribunal component? Since depriving a person of their freedom of movement is a serious matter, there should be a proper and genuinely independent appeals mechanism. The fourth option is a compulsory approved contractor scheme. A voluntary scheme is in place, but only five companies are in it. My guess is that the SIA does not want any greater involvement than running the licensing system, as the regulatory and appeals side is seen as a poisoned chalice.
I am sure that the Minister, like me, will wonder why the paper did not consider other options. A permit could be issued by the local authority, which would introduce a strong element of local democratic checks and balances, to ensure that parking controls are necessary in the location applied for. On the same tack, should it be legal for a VI company to pay a landowner for the right to exercise parking controls? This is happening more often, and the incidence will increase further as premises with parking fall out of use. Another option might be to use the parking appeals tribunal currently used for resolving on-street parking appeals.
The partial impact assessment is just that. It looks closely at the costs to the VI industry, but not at the costs to the motorist and his employer, or the adverse effect on productivity. It is also predicated on a very low number of VIs and VI companies.
This is a sorry tale of ineffective government. The consultation is full of holes and demonstrates that the Government do not fully understand the impact of
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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on securing this debate today; it is very important. He ended by saying that there is not enough time in this Parliament to introduce any regulations. I am not sure whether that is a threat or a promise, and if his party by some fluke wins the next election I will be interested to see how quickly it introduces the right regulations, but that is for the future.
This is a serious example of a part of the motor industry that is wholly unregulated. It is almost the law of the jungle. That worries me, because attitudes in one area, such as the issue of parking, which we are discussing tonight, will have an effect on the attitude of motorists to other issues. The Government have done a good job in the past few years in encouraging motorists to obey the law, whether on speeding, drink-driving or drivers hours. We are getting better, but there is still a long way to go with some trucks.
I was talking to a former director of VOSA recently, who told the story of some checks that he was doing on truck drivers going between Ireland and eastern Europe. The company sacked all the Irish drivers and replaced them with eastern European drivers and paid them £2.50 or £3 an hour. If they stopped for a restwhich of course is statutorythey were charged the same rate per hour as if they had been in a hotel, because they were not moving. The consequence of driving for 36 hours without any rest or sleep is extremely serious.
VOSA is doing better; it needs to do an awful lot more. The point is the difference between what motorists expect and what they get when they obey the law as laid down by the Government, agencies and local authoritieswhat motorists expect and often get, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, when they try off-street parking. The stories abound of serious problems. As the noble Earl said, the Security Industry Authority licenses individuals, so when you complain to the company, the company says that it has nothing to do with it. Often the company allegedly in charge of the parking employs a subcontractor. Motorists wonder who they should appeal to. There are stories of companies saying, You cannot appeal until you have paid the fine in the first place. That is the usual business of people being guilty until they have tried to demonstrate their innocence. It is not even an independent appeal. Something needs to be done to sort out that process.
We have had a lot of debate in your Lordships' House recently about the police not always having their numbers on display. My noble friend has made some positive and welcome comments about that. It is perfectly reasonable that private sector people who operate these parking lots should have some identification that means something. We have even greater trouble with CCTV, because there will be no contact between the motorist and the company until the motorist receives a nasty letter through the post saying, You were seen there and it will cost you a lot of money.
I hope that my noble friend can help me with this. The Transport Select Committee produced what appears to be a very robust recommendation in its report. It basically says that the whole process should be governed,
I conclude by commending, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has done, the organisation that deals with parking appeals in London. I had reason to appeal a few years ago to this organisation about something which my son had done. It turned on whether a parking restriction on a particular road was applicable on Sunday. It is an example to follow. It was very easy; it was quick and convenient. You felt that it was absolutely fairthey listened to your evidence and to the evidence from the local authority; I presented a photograph of the road sign, which said parking was not forbidden on Sunday, and we got the answer. It is not a very difficult thing to do and I do not imagine it costs very much. However, it would give confidence to motorists that they were going to be treated fairlythey would behave better and it would give the industry a good name. I do hope that my noble friend will consider that when he responds.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I listened with great interest to what my noble friend had to say and I agree with everything that he put before us. My interest in the SIA is not so much to do with private clampers but with bailiffs, whom it is also due to regulate. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, will be speaking in the gap, although it seems not, which is sad, as she seems to be making some good progress in getting the SIA under control. It was not the best of regulators before she arrived. It suffers from the great deficit that it cannot deal with complaints but just regulates. You cannot, as has been demonstrated by my noble friend, have a system of regulation and registration without having a complaints system, with teeth, tied in with it in some way.
The SIA could say that we will not register a clamper unless it belongs to a reputable organisation that has a proper complaints and adjudication procedure so that something is made available for motorists who get stuck in this way. That does not seem to be difficult. You have that point of impact on people when you give them a licence. If they have not signed up to a complaints procedure then you do not give them a licence. That does not require any legislation or any changes. It requires someone to have the courage to say that, Yes you, the British Parking Associationwhich after all is a thoroughly reputable organisationis running a complaints and disciplinary procedure that we are happy to go along with, and being a member of that process would tick the box. That seems to be a lot simpler than trying to create something statutory, or, worse still, trying to run a complaints system through the department.
I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said about the appeals procedures for ordinaryas one might call thempublic sector tickets. I do not think they are actually that satisfactory. The whole appeals procedure is not allowed to listen to common sense. It has very restricted grounds for appeal and there is immense inefficiency in some local authorities. Camden sends tens of thousands of people to bailiffs every year because of parking tickets, mostly because of its own inefficiency in contacting those people in the first place and its own rapacity in setting up traps for motorists where there should be none. It is not an elegant and perfect system in the public sector either.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, PATAS is not a bad organisation, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, found out not so long ago when she tried judicially to review it, what it can do is greatly restricted. In particular, it is not allowed to pay any attention to common sense; it just has a set of six very restricted grounds on which it can allow an appeal. I am glad that the noble Lord came within that set, but many people with many good cases do not because of the way in which it has been set up.
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