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Car Parking Contracts (Exclusion Clauses)

Volume 893: debated on Monday 16 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she will now introduce legislation to ban exclusion clauses in contracts of car parking businesses.

The Minister of State, Department of Prices and Consumer Protection
(Mr. Alan Williams)

This is one of the problems on which the Law Commissions' recommendations are awaited. As soon as the Commissions' report is received we shall consider urgently what needs to be done.

Is my hon. Friend aware that we have been awaiting the report for several years and that the delay is quite disgraceful? Is he also aware that in the meantime motorists are paying very high rates to park their cars where they have no alternative but to leave their keys in the ignition and when an employee of the car park smashes up a car the motorist has to pay the bill because of an iniquitous exclusion clause in the contract? What is my hon. Friend proposing to do about this? Does he not agree that it is a disgrace?

I agree that it is a disgrace. I am sure that I do not need to spell out to my hon. and learned Friend that the Law Commissions are independent and not subject to the control of the Department. My hon. and learned Friend must make up his mind how much he wants to preserve the independence of the Law Commissions. He cannot have it all ways. We have made our position clear. I shall be happy to convey to the Law Commissions the point of view that my hon. and learned Friend has expressed.

At the end of the day the Law Commissions are not subject to my control or to my Department's control.

Does the Minister not agree that if the Law Commissions are not subject to the Government's control, the Government are not dependent on the Law Commissions and not obliged to wait until the Law Commissions produce their report? If they are so dilatory in producing their report, why will the Government not act independently of them?

If the hon. Gentleman had followed earlier exchanges on the subject he would realise that the question of exclusion clauses is more complex in relation to services than in relation to goods. The Law Commissions are within one or two months of completing their report. There are complications because of the legal differences in Scotland, England and Wales. This is causing some delay. However, nothing the Government could do in this sector could be as comprehensive as that which we hope to do in a relatively short while, based on the report which the Commissions have almost completed.