Thursday, 25 November 2010

Clamp down on the wheel clampers

Last year I became one of the thousands of victims of private car clamping firms. I had actually just stopped at this particular car park in Camborne to pick up some volunteers who were going to help me deliver leaflets. I had a permit to use the car park but on that day was borrowing my mother's car. I came out to find that it had been clamped. They said that if I came out with a temporary permit then they would remove the clamp so I went back to the owner of the car park to get a temporary permit. But then they said it was too late. I explained that the owner of the car park was happy for me to use it and had given me a permit but the wheel clamper said it was nothing to do with the owner of the car park. That's an interesting concept.

I resolved on that day that if I were to make it to parliament then cowboy clampers like these should be shut down. It turns out that a lot of other MPs feel the same way and so the new government is going to abolish wheel clamping on private land. Wheel clamping and "towing away" was first used in very rare cases in inner cities where an illegally parked car could cause huge traffic disruption. The development and growth of this industry into the sphere of private car parks has been a disgrace and amounts to little more than legalised extortion.

A couple of weeks ago I came across the case of a constituent who had parked his bike in a visitor’s bay while he met his grandmother. You can't display permits on motorbikes because they blow away but the permit was produced when the clamping van arrived. Too late he was told and given an extortionate fine. We all have enough frustrations in life without this sort of nonsense so I am delighted that the government is putting a stop to it.

We also need to look at the conduct of companies which issue parking tickets on private land. I would like to see new legislation that limits the powers of these companies by capping the maximum "fine" they can levy at the same rate of the local authority and which requires them to cancel any fine if a valid ticket is produced retrospectively. We also need an independent appeals process to end the ridiculous situation where the people who judge your parking appeal are the very ones trying to rip you off in the first place.

I don’t want to prevent the owners of private car parks from protecting their property but this private “enforcement” industry has become completely out of control and so new legislation is required to create limits.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.