The Security Industry Authority will undertake a feasibility study of various policy options for the regulation of vehicle immobilisation companies—commonly known as clampers—in the private sector, the results of which will be available in early 2009. Further details will be published in the SIA’s business plan for 2008-09.
First, may I say that it is a pleasure to see you in your place, Mr. Speaker? May you long stay there, as a reminder that in this country the Speaker is chosen not by an attempted coup from the Press Gallery, but by the Members of the House of Commons.
My hon. Friend the Minister will be aware that since 1992 wheel-clamping has been banned in Scotland, yet in the midlands and the rest of England cowboy clampers still inflict outrageous penalties on motorists. Will she give civil servants clear instructions to put a stop to that outrage, not in 2009 but this year?
I thank my right hon. Friend and congratulate him on the tenacity and vigour with which he has pursued the issue for a number of years. Scotland has a different legal jurisdiction, under which theft is defined differently, which is why such activity is illegal there.
Fees are supposed to be reasonable, and it is intended that anyone who is clamped can raise the matter, because the individual clamper will be registered and licensed by the Security Industry Authority. There is recourse while we take the time to ensure that we get a proper, proportionate response.
In high-density, high-rise developments such as Winterthur way in my constituency, where residential parking was limited by design, the threat of wheel-clamping is part of everyday life. Will the Minister ensure that the review places enough emphasis on not just deterring unwanted parking but protecting residents to ensure that they are not penalised unnecessarily as part of the process?
The hon. Lady rightly mentions the balance that must be struck: people who are clamped are not happy about it, but there is a clear need to protect landowners and residents from illegal parking. I would welcome her comments and her input into the suggestion of options for the feasibility study. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), will take up the very points she raises.
But are there not clear rules at the moment that forbid the absolutely outrageous behaviour of private companies that clamp people’s cars and charge exorbitant rates? Is it not the responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government to make that very plain to the public, who are getting fed up with such behaviour?
The law requires individual clampers to be licensed as members of the Security Industry Authority. They must charge a reasonable fee and have adequate signage in place. If any individual has any concerns, they have recourse to complain to the SIA. We hope that we will be able to tackle the concerns that hon. Members have raised in the ongoing study.
Surely that is not the case. Under present legislation, there is no control over the fees charged to unclamp a car. Extortionate fees are being charged, and nothing can currently be done about it. When will the Government introduce fresh legislation to put that right?
I am in danger of repeating myself. We recognise the points that hon. Members raise, but fees currently have to be reasonable. However, there is clearly concern, which is why we are undertaking a feasibility study to ensure that we get a balance between fees charged and protection for landowners. That is what we are going to do, and we will unveil plans in 2009.