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Volume 515: debated on Monday 6 September 2010

4. When she plans to bring into force existing powers to curb the activities of private sector wheel-clampers. (13085)

I announced on 17 August the Government’s intention to ban wheel-clamping and towing on private land.  The ban will be included in the freedom Bill, which is due to be introduced this autumn. Sections 42 and 44 of the Crime and Security Act 2010, which provide for the regulation of the vehicle immobilisation industry by way of business licensing, will be repealed.

In Hull, we know that the previous Government’s legislation would have stopped overcharging by wheel-clamping companies, and it was widely consulted on. Why cannot the hon. Lady introduce that provision while she waits for the legislation to go through Parliament to introduce the changes that she wishes to see?

Because all the previous Government’s legislation, despite their very good intentions, would have been complex and expensive to introduce. When we looked again at the results of the consultation, we decided that precisely because of the abuses that take place, banning was the best option. That will be brought forward this autumn, which is not that long to wait.

When the Minister made her announcement, had she consulted the industry? Bearing in mind that there are some genuine, law-abiding firms that provide an enforcement service where parking abuse takes place, would it not have been better to deal with the cowboy wheel-clampers rather than legitimate businesses? What compensation will legitimate businesses get?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Yes, the industry was consulted, and of course there are probably a number of people in the industry who are not cowboys, but unfortunately, given the vast number that were cowboys, the industry brought the change upon itself. That is why we have had to take this action rather than bring in more and more regulations that would not be enforced. Such regulations would put burdens on the police to enforce something that was never truly enforceable, and abuses would continue.

We will not pay any compensation, but the vast majority of clamping companies are already using ticketing. When the ban comes in, the others will be able to transfer to ticketing if they are any good, and private landowners will be able to protect their property anyway.

This very week, private wheel-clampers are in operation in my constituency, extorting vast sums of money from my constituents. May I urge the Minister to go further and abolish private wheel-clamping altogether, and hand it over only to local authorities and police forces so that it can be publicly accountable?

I am pleased to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman that wheel-clamping is being abolished altogether on private land. Local authorities will still carry out wheel-clamping on public land.