Cowboy parking firms need to stop ruining lives of my constituents

Parking (Code of Practice) Bill
23 November 2018 
Volume 649

Kevin Brennan:
I was pleased to sponsor this Bill with the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. Why are we here? If we cannot in this place try to ​change things for the better for our constituents, there is little purpose in our being here, and this legislation genuinely will improve the quality of people’s lives. If they no longer have the stress and anxiety of receiving one of these fake notices—which is sometimes what they are—through the post, trying to extort money from them for simply going about their daily business, as anybody should be free to do, we will have done a great service to our constituents. If the Bill takes out some of the cowboy operators that every Member in this Chamber knows about through their constituency casework, we will have done a great service to our constituents. If it saves hard-pressed constituents a few quid because they have not been fooled—as is sometimes the case—into paying notices unnecessarily, we will have done them a great service.

The right hon. Gentleman in particular and other Members who have contributed deserve credit for that. He does deserve some sort of award for bringing the Bill through. I am sure that will make the right hon. Gentleman extremely popular not only, as he already is, with his own constituents—I can say that as he has a very safe Tory seat—but with motorists and constituents across the country.
I am glad that the Bill was strengthened today through the new clause and the amendments that the right hon. Gentleman introduced, and I am sure that when it travels down the Corridor to the other place their Lordships will want to look at it very closely and perhaps consider strengthening it further in co-operation with the Government. But what is most important is that we get it on to the statute book as quickly as possible because it will make a genuine and positive difference.

In Committee, I mentioned some of the bad practices. I am not going to dilate at length—as Mr Speaker might say—on those issues this afternoon, but some companies, such as New Generation Parking, which I mentioned, do not even respond to correspondence from Members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents. In Committee, I expressed the view, which I know the Minister heard, that any code worth its salt would ensure that any company that failed to respond to a letter of concern from a Member of Parliament on behalf of their constituent would be in breach of that code. It should be a basic requirement on any decent company operating any kind of business that it should respond to a reasonable inquiry from a Member of Parliament within a reasonable time.

Sir Greg Knight: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on that point. If a complaint is made about the receipt of a private parking notice, whether by the driver, the registered keeper or the registered keeper’s MP, it should in my view be responded to within 14 days.

Kevin Brennan: I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has put that firmly on the record. He also responded positively in Committee when I intervened on him on this matter. I am sure that the Minister has heard what he said, and I hope that those who are preparing the code will also have heard that viewpoint being expressed here.

Perhaps we need to ponder further on the practice that is now developing of parking companies using technology to enforce these parking notices. I am concerned not only that they are using camera technology but that, ​in more and more cases, anyone who parks on private land—for example, the site of St David’s Hospital in my constituency, where there is no charge but we nevertheless have to register when we park—is required to enter their registration number into a machine in order to be deemed to have parked legally or appropriately there. How is the collection of that data being properly overseen? Who is responsible for ensuring that the personal data that is being collected in the form of our constituents’ registration numbers is being properly and legally processed? Further to that, the companies do not often provide a paper receipt from the machine, and people are expected to provide a mobile telephone number or sometimes an email address in order to get a receipt to prove that they have parked legally. Who is responsible for ensuring that the data being collected in that way is being properly processed?

This issue was brought to me by my constituent, Derek Donovan, who has campaigned heavily on issues relating to parking, and to private parking in particular. He has also pointed out that, even when we are not required to provide a registration number, the parking company can go to the DVLA and ask who the owner of a particular vehicle is. The way in which that information is handed out, and to whom, is not being properly co-ordinated by the DVLA—if indeed it is its responsibility to do that. Only a sample of cases is audited, so we cannot be sure that that data is in all cases being released to responsible people and used responsibly and legally. As a result, Derek Donovan has registered a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the outcome of which could prove pertinent to the passage of the Bill in another place if we hear from the ICO before the Bill goes through its other stages there.

I do not want to go on at length, because we want to ensure that the Bill completes its passage before we end our proceedings today. I reiterate my congratulations to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire and I wish it well for its further passage at the other end of this building.

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