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Volume 539: debated on Monday 30 January 2012

The Mary Portas review on the future of our high streets recommended the establishment of a new league table for parking charges. We welcome the review and will publish our response to it in the spring.

Why do so many parking schemes across the country involve the use of parking machines that do not give change? When the Government make their assessment of the Portas review, will the Minister check to see what proportion of local authorities have parking machines that give change to the hard-pressed people who are suffering in these Tory times?

First of all, I should point out that planning—and therefore many of the changes to parking regimes—is devolved in Wales and Scotland. Furthermore, one of the first things this Government did was to remove Labour’s incredible instructions to have only upward increases in parking charges and deliberately to build too few parking spaces in both residential areas and high streets throughout the county.

Order. We must have order, however angry and irate is the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas). He is shouting out that he has not had an answer to his question, but if that were to legitimise that sort of ranting, there were would have been permanent ranting in the House of Commons under successive Governments over the last 100 years. We cannot tolerate it.

Excessive car parking charges are a tax on our town centres and high streets. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the implementation of free control parking schemes in many of our town centres would put us on a level playing field with out-of-town stores and therefore start to rejuvenate our town centres and high streets?

My hon. Friend is right. Key is ensuring that local and sensible plans are in place to ensure that people can arrive at a town centre, shop and not be exposed to unreasonable charges. I encourage all local authorities to think about their local economy—something that should be much easier to do when they know that they are going to be keeping the business rates in future.