§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether they have given further consideration to the appropriateness or legality of the clamping of motor vehicles by companies operating a system of payment by results.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, a consultation paper on wheel clamping on private land in England and Wales was published on 23rd February 1993. We will consider the responses before reaching a view.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, while fully appreciating my noble friend's appropriate caution in expressing a view, is it not clear that to give an incentive to a law enforcement agency in order to obtain further action to enforce the law and to profit from it must in principle be dangerous?
My Lords, there are reasons for doing that. We wish to have the responses to the consultation document before we make up our mind.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, does the consultation document deal with clamping on hospital premises? Is the noble Earl aware that when I took my wife to hospital for an operation yesterday, my car was very nearly wheel clamped? Does he not agree that such action is inappropriate on hospital premises?
My Lords, if that were the worst thing that happened to the noble Lord when he went to hospital, I would think he was lucky. For the purposes of private land, hospitals would fall into that category.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for a very courteous letter which I received today. However, does he recognise that in the consultation paper there is no reference to the possible option of leaving the matter to the courts? That is what happens de facto in Scotland. Would not that be a possible option?
My Lords, it is certainly a possible option. However, there is much concern about wheel clamping both by the people who own the land who feel that their land is being violated and by the people who own the cars who feel that their property is being violated. We wish to find out whether there is any route that the Government should take in the public interest. Obviously, in the end it is a matter for the courts.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, the noble Earl was good enough to tell the House that the consultation paper 1054 has now been published. We are grateful for that. Can he give any idea of the timescale the Government are considering before they are in a position to produce recommendations?
My Lords, the consultation paper has been published. It has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and in a number of other places. The deadline for comments is the end of May.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, is there not an element of possible confusion? As I understand it, the paper on wheel clamping is concerned with wheel clamping on private land. Unless I misunderstood my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, he asked about clamping by law enforcement agencies. The two are as different as chalk from cheese.
My Lords, yes. The reason we concluded that my noble friend referred to private wheel clamping was because he referred to the appropriateness or the legality of the clamping. Of course, clamping carried out by the Metropolitan Police under contract is done so under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the Road Traffic Act 1991. That legislation is the legality for it.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in the meantime excessive charges are being made on collection? Could that aspect be dealt with in a way which does not interfere with the careful consideration that ought to be given to owners of land and vehicles?
My Lords, in the end, if anyone feels aggrieved by what has happened they can take the matter to the courts.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, pending the results of those discussions and consideration, will my noble friend undertake that no further contracts for clamping will be given on the basis of payment by results?
My Lords, I am not quite certain whether my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter refers to the Metropolitan Police or to contractors on private land. Obviously the Government have no control over contracts given by private firms about matters relating to their land.