The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Mr Laurence Robertson
† Anderson, Stuart (Wolverhampton South West) (Con)
† Beckett, Margaret (Derby South) (Lab)
† Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab)
† Dowd, Peter (Bootle) (Lab)
† Evans, Dr Luke (Bosworth) (Con)
† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)
† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)
† Gullis, Jonathan (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
† Harrison, Trudy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
† Hunt, Jane (Loughborough) (Con)
† Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)
† Loder, Chris (West Dorset) (Con)
† Richards, Nicola (West Bromwich East) (Con)
† Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
Sheerman, Mr Barry (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
† Solloway, Amanda (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Trott, Laura (Sevenoaks) (Con)
Huw Yardley, Kay Gammie, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 27 April 2022
[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]
Draft Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Representations and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2022
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Representations and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2022.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson.
The regulations before the Committee meet a commitment laid out by the Prime Minister in the 2020 policy statement “Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking” to give local authorities outside London the powers conferred in part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to enforce contraventions of moving traffic restrictions. The powers have been commenced to coincide with the regulations due to come into force on 31 May.
The regulations before the Committee form part of a package: a statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure and one subject to the negative procedure. I shall refer to the former as the appeals regulations, and they are the ones we are considering. The appeals regulations consolidate the rights of representation and appeal in place England-wide since 2007 for vehicle owners who are or may be liable to pay penalty charge notices, or PCNs, in respect of parking contraventions and extend them to disputed bus lane and moving traffic PCNs outside London, the latter being defined under the umbrella term “relevant road traffic contraventions”.
Colleagues should also note the Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Approved Devices, Charging Guidelines and General Provisions) (England) Regulations 2022, which are subject to the negative procedure. They are referred to as the devices and guidelines SI, if required. The instrument includes wider related provisions for evidence regarding penalty charge notices, adjudication penalty charge levels and income and expenditure.
The regulatory package being introduced under part 6 of the 2004 Act consolidates existing legislation and at the same time makes powers available to local authorities outside London to issue PCNs for contraventions of safety and critical moving traffic restrictions such as no entry, barred turns and unlawful entry into box junctions. Local authorities wanting to undertake moving traffic enforcement may from now apply for formal designation of these powers to enable enforcement to begin in practice by using CCTV cameras that have been certified by the Secretary of State.
We plan, as soon as practicable thereafter and with sufficient demand, to lay a further order before the House later this year. When using the powers, local authorities have a duty to act fairly. The regulations make provision to entitle drivers who are or may be liable to pay penalty charges for contravening certain traffic regulations, including the moving traffic regulations, to make representations to the enforcement authority and, if their case is rejected, to appeal to an independent adjudicator against the penalty charge.
The appeals regulations prescribe the information that must be given when a penalty charge is imposed about the right to make representations or to appeal against that charge and to prescribe time limits for each stage of the process within which both the motorist and the local authority must respond. They create an offence of knowingly or recklessly making false representations under the regulations or in connection with an appeal.
I can assure colleagues that the regulations merely extend long-established provisions for motorists wishing to dispute parking penalties, applying the forthcoming civil enforcement regime for moving traffic contraventions inside and outside Greater London. To create parity across the board outside London, we have also used this opportunity to repeal the bus lane enforcement regime in place since 2005 under the Transport Act 2000 to create a single enforcement regime that includes bus lane enforcement.
It was envisaged that this would happen soon after the 2004 Act was introduced. By doing so, we have removed some inconsistencies in the legislation. Motorists who challenge bus lane penalties will therefore benefit from representations and appeals provisions not previously available to them, which will apply to all contraventions. For example, they can challenge a penalty charge on the grounds of procedural impropriety. There is an express duty on local authorities to consider any compelling reasons that the motorist gives for cancellation of the charge; an express power for adjudicators to refer cases back to the local authority when there are no grounds to allow the appeal, but the adjudicator considers that the authority should reconsider whether the appellant should pay all or some of the penalty; and a requirement for the authority to respond to representations within 56 calendar days.
Bringing bus lane powers under the 2004 Act also enables Ministers to publish statutory guidance, to which local authorities must have regard, to cover all contraventions for the first time.
It should be noted that the affirmative SI provisions for appeals in connection with vehicle immobilisation—clamping—and removal—impounding—relate only to the long-established civil enforcement regime for parking contraventions and are not applicable to the forthcoming moving traffic enforcement powers.
I am clear that civil enforcement of moving traffic contraventions should be a last resort. If contraventions are preventable through other means, such as improvements to the road layout or signing, I expect that to be done before enforcement is considered. We will issue statutory guidance to ensure that local authorities use those powers correctly.
Before enforcement can begin in practice, local authorities must apply to the Department for an order by means of a letter to the Secretary of State. To ensure due diligence, designation will be conditional on local authorities having already consulted local residents and businesses on where existing restrictions have been earmarked for enforcement. Due consideration must have been given to any legitimate concerns.
Local authorities will also be expected to issue warning notices for first-time moving traffic contraventions at each camera location for six months following enforcement go live. That applies to any new camera location in the future. Those requirements will be enshrined in statutory guidance to ensure that enforcement is targeted at only problem sites, that road users clearly understand the new powers and that enforcement is carried out fairly.
Statutory guidance will also require the issue of warning notices, which are an opportunity to explain the benefits of compliance while advising that any further moving traffic contravention at the same camera location will result in a penalty charge notice, even within the sixth-month period.
I stress that the enforcement must be aimed at increasing compliance, not raising revenue. Local authorities will not have a free hand in how any resulting surplus is used. It will be strictly ringfenced for covering enforcement costs or specified local authority-funded local transport schemes or environmental measures. Local authorities will not have a free hand in setting penalty charge levels for moving traffic contraventions, for which banded levels are set in the devices and guidelines SI, in line with existing penalties for higher level parking contraventions, such as parking in a disabled bay.
As moving traffic and bus lane contraventions are of a kind, we are increasing bus lane penalties by £10 to align with those for moving traffic contraventions and higher level parking contraventions, such as parking in a disabled bay. That places equal emphasis on what we believe to be serious traffic contraventions while reaffirming our commitment to achieving the aims of the national bus strategy.
I commend the regulations to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship, Mr Robertson.
We understand the rationale behind the regulations and the others contained in the package of measures. We support greater powers for local authorities in enforcing moving traffic offences while also extending rights of appeal. We will therefore not oppose the regulations today.
There is widespread support from the industry and the public for these changes. Research by the RAC shows that 57% of drivers support allowing local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences. It is hoped that these new measures will have a tangible benefit when it comes to road safety and traffic flow. However, the Government have so much more work to do in improving our roads; I will come to that later.
We support extending greater rights to motorists outside London to appeal bus lane violations—indeed, that would bring regulation in line with that for other offences such as parking violations. As I have said, that support is shared by motorists. However, I would like to highlight some outstanding issues to the Minister.
I am aware of concerns raised regarding box junctions in particular. Of course, the vast majority of drivers want action to be taken against those deliberately blocking junctions and causing gridlock. However, the RAC has found that many box junctions across the country are not fit for purpose when it comes to benefiting traffic flow. Hence, there is concern that enforcing such yellow boxes could result in considerate drivers being fined unfairly. That could then have a knock-on effect on the appeals process and result in an already overstretched system being put under yet more pressure. I invite the Minister to offer reassurances to the industry and to drivers who are concerned about the enforcement of box junctions.
In addition, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the additional pressures that could be placed on our local authorities. In my area, Sheffield City Council has had its spending power cut by almost a third of its total budget since 2010. I urge the Minister to ensure that the new duties do not place yet more burdens on our local authorities, whose budgets have been cut to the bone on the Government’s watch. Many new duties have already been highlighted by the Minister and it is disappointing that local authorities are unable to take part of the enforcement fines that they collect. That would have been helpful.
One of the biggest obstacles to road safety is poor road markings and a lack of sufficient maintenance. We now know that highway maintenance funding cuts seen over the last few years are here to stay. By 2025, the funding will have been cut by a third in real terms since 2020—yet more confirmation, if it were needed, that the Government are totally blind to the crisis on our roads.
In conclusion, we support the aims of ensuring a fair appeals process for motorists who have received a fixed penalty notice, and we will not oppose this statutory instrument. However, we also reiterate our calls for the Government to step up and fix the mess on our roads, which is causing havoc for so many motorists.
I broadly support this statutory instrument, but I want to put on the record concerns about how these issues are being enforced across England. I hope that the Minister will take those concerns away.
I should declare an interest: I have been given a penalty charge notice for a bus lane offence. I appealed, and my local authority decided that on that occasion I did not need to pay the PCN. So on a personal level, I know that the system sometimes works; in that case, I was driving out of the bus lane after having been forced in. I have, however, been contacted by constituents who have been fined because they have moved into a bus lane to keep clear of a passing ambulance. The authority has not lifted the fine, saying that it is not required to do so.
The statutory instrument will help constituents who have legitimate reason to appeal after driving in a bus lane or a hatched area—they may have been moving out of the way of an emergency service vehicle, for example—for which they could currently be fined, in the case of a bus lane. I am pleased about that, but I would like the Minister to make it clear that authorities should not fine motorists in such instances and should use their discretion. At the moment, they are not doing so.
I am also deeply concerned that many drivers believe that the penalties are used as revenue-raising alternatives for councils. That is understandable, because council funding has been cut by huge amounts. One bus lane camera in Brighton has raised £1.3 million in just nine months. The Conservative and Labour parties have asked for that camera to be removed following a review; unfortunately, the Green party, which currently runs our city, continues to insist that it should stay there.
The situation exists because of a lack of signage, a lack of consultation and, as the Minister rightly pointed out, a lack of clear road markings. When someone is driving, if they have missed the sign that comes 300 yards before they get to the traffic lights, they will assume that they can continue going straight on. I do think the Department needs to be clearer about where it would rule out the use of such cameras and enforcement, and allow people to appeal.
Finally, I would love the independent adjudicator to be able to develop a basis of precedent, because that would show councils where they are getting it wrong. There is a danger that the independent adjudicator treats each case alone and cannot establish a level of precedent about particularly problematic uses of this power. I do support it but I think we need to be cautious, because people are sceptical.
It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Robertson.
As a former local authority member—indeed, I was the leader of a council and the chair of highways many years ago, when we had what was called the decriminalisation of on-street parking offences—I have a bit of experience of introducing systems and processes that inevitably led to many fines for people who took an insouciant or nonchalant attitude towards parking when it was not appropriate to do so; indeed, when it was dangerous to do so. We all agree on that.
I therefore welcome today’s proposals, but it would be remiss of me not to mention, as colleagues have done, the implication in the explanatory memorandum that they will not be too much of a burden on local authorities. The proposals may well be a burden for local authorities. My local authority has faced £230 million of cuts from the Government in the last few years. Local authorities are straining at the sinews when trying to provide services, so I do not want to underestimate the challenge the proposals might bring them.
I do not think local authorities implement such proposals as cash generators—certainly, my local authority and those I have been involved with do not. As with on-street car parking, the money goes back into the transport budget. When I was the leader of a council, I certainly never said, “Can we squeeze more out of the fines?” when drawing up a budget. It just does not work like that on the ground. I am glad the Minister refers to the documentation that says that local authorities should not do that, but in my experience they tend not to do it in any event.
Paragraph 7.4 of the explanatory memorandum refers to police forces being under strain. Of course they are under strain—20,000 police officers have been cut in the past 10 years. Numbers have now gone up 13,700—I think that is what the Prime Minister said—but they are still 7,000 or 8,000 short of where they were in 2010. That belies the fact that local authorities are also under pressure. It is no good transferring the problem to local authorities simply because the police are under pressure. We have to sort out both problems.
I agree with the point about consultation, but everybody always agrees with such proposals in the abstract. Of course, when people get a fine for something, often they no longer like the idea. I would like to see discretion, so that the regime is as sympathetic to people as possible. Nevertheless, we have to recognise that people will contravene these regulations. If we want the regulations, which people do, there have to be certain consequences that, frankly, we might not like on an individual basis. We have to be as careful and as sympathetic as possible in enforcing them, but people cannot just use any excuse to not pay the fine they should be paying.
I am glad the explanatory memorandum mentions that the regulations do not relate to the European Union. I am pleased about that, because it is two years since we were in the EU. I am surprised that that is even in the document.
I broadly welcome the proposals, but I recognise, as the Minister said, that some road layouts may need to change significantly. Local authorities do not have the resource to do that at the minute. It is no good the Minister sharing road layout changes in advance when the local authorities do not have the money to make them. Perhaps the Government should consider giving local authorities that take on such responsibilities the capital investment that they need up front. They could do their own layout and then get the money from the fines, which would go into that pot. Perhaps the Government should give that careful consideration.
On the whole, I welcome the proposals. I am sure that by working with our colleagues on councils, local MPs will monitor the impact on our constituents as time goes by, and on specific individual situations and topographies in our constituencies.
I thank colleagues for their broad support for the SI, and for their consideration. I will respond to a couple of queries. To correct the shadow Minister, I confirm that as the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown rightly said, local authorities will be able to receive the money, but it will be ringfenced. We take seriously the need to do that in order to address significant concerns from Ministers and the public about over-zealous enforcement by some LAs.
Traffic enforcement is not about LAs raising revenue; its aim is to encourage compliance and to achieve the policy aim of improving traffic flow, with consequent benefits to wellbeing and the economy. Any surplus raised is strictly ringfenced in order to cover the cost of enforcement activity, LA-funded environmental measures and the local transport schemes that we have heard are so important.
I understand the ringfencing, but does the Minister not agree that local authorities could end up spending that money on transport plans such as subsidised bus routes in a different area of the authority, or an environmental plan in a completely different location? For the public, that is not a ringfence; it is a substitution of funding that would have been previously paid for out of Government grant that has been cut.
Local authorities will choose to spend the money in accordance with guidance from the Department and the Secretary of State.
I think everybody will agree that the draft regulations are a vital part of the regulatory package, because it is so necessary to enable sensible and fair traffic management, as we have heard. That is broadly what local authorities are calling for; they want these new powers. On the new burdens assessment, it has been agreed with the Local Government Association that this is the right way forward.
Since their introduction in 2003, equivalent powers in London have proved effective at reducing moving traffic contraventions, with a consequent increase in traffic flow. By making the enforcement powers available to local authorities outside London, we will improve air quality, make active travel safer and more attractive, and be able to promote sustainable travel for everyone. We all rely on the restrictions being followed to enable us to travel efficiently and safely.
I have set out the rationale for where roads can be improved. Tackling the drivers who choose to disregard the rules will therefore benefit the lives of pedestrians— not least those with protected characteristics, including people with mobility or sensory impairments, older people, carers and children. I thank you for your time, Mr Robertson, and I thank colleagues for their consideration of the SI.
Question put and agreed to.