HL Deb 23 June 1992 vol 538 cc381-2

3.3 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether further regulation is intended for private firms plying for business in security or the clamping of vehicles

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, steps are being taken to develop self-regulation of the private security industry. The position of firms offering wheel clamping services is being considered in the light of the recent Scottish judgment.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Apart from the question of the legality of private clamping, the subject of a recent ruling in Scotland, should not firms be fully tested as to whether they are fit and proper for this and security work, which are tempting cover occupations for crooks and cowboys?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, as I explained, there has been a move towards self-regulation in the security industry, with regard in particular to the manned guarding of cash in transit and intruder alarms. Wheel clamping is a different matter. There is no connection between wheel clamping on private land and the private security industry.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, does my noble friend know whether private wheel clampers are in any sense paid by results? If that is so, can the practice be ended forthwith?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am not privy to any contract which a private wheel clamping firm has. As far as I know, they make their own contracts with the people for whom they work. I cannot tell my noble friend more than that.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, perhaps I may pursue my noble friend. I have never asked a second question before but this is a serious matter. I have reason to believe that they are paid by results. Will my noble friend look into the matter and, if that is so, give an assurance that this abominable practice will be ended forthwith?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I think this is the first occasion on which your Lordships or anyone else have considered that payment by results is a bad thing. On the whole, most people believe that it is a good thing to be paid by results. Whether that is the case over wheel clamping on private land is a different matter from wheel clamping on public roads. That of course is covered under public legislation where it is done by the police or their agents.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that at least to many Members of this House the obtaining of payment by results in regard to wheel clamping is utterly abhorrent? Will he indicate to the House what monitoring has been undertaken by the Government since the regulations on wheel clamping came into effect? If there has been no monitoring, what are the Government proposing to do about it?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the public wheel clamping of vehicles is covered by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. The result of clamping has been that the level of illegal parking has dropped by a factor of 50 per cent. Noble Lords may find it very inconvenient if their car happens to be one that is clamped, but it happens to be quite convenient for those who are trying to make progress through the streets. That is why clamping has been introduced. As to what progress has been made or whether the conditions have altered with regard to the clampers, I shall find out.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, will my noble friend take counsel with his advisers as to whether the Scottish decision may not also be applicable in criminal law to England? Even if it is not, is not the private clamping of a vehicle inherently a trespass in English civil law, being a trespass to chattels?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not wish to take issue with my noble and learned friend, who is so expert on these matters. But in so far as it may be a trespass, the original trespass occurred when the vehicle was improperly parked on someone else's land. For all that, the judgment of the Scottish courts and its application or otherwise to the English system are being considered.