You could have been forgiven for missing a recent and significant piece of motoring news, buried as it was amidst all of the Brexit-related goings-on. After a long (some might say overlong) wait, the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 received royal assent on March 15th. This piece of legislation is designed to protect motorists from unscrupulous private parking operators, who, for decades, have been slapping motorists with ginormous bills for trivial infractions.
This is one of those rare occasions where something obviously worthwhile happens in Westminster. Reaction to the news was almost universally warm, with the party-animals over at the British Parking Association claiming to have ‘popped a bottle of Champagne’ in response to the announcement.
So what’s actually happened?
You might think ‘Royal Assent’ means ‘done and dusted’. The Commons proposes something, argues about it, passes it to the Lords to argue about it a bit more, and then the Queen gives it a stamp of approval. But this isn’t quite what’s happening here, because the bill and the code of practice are two different things. Confused? Let’s unpack a little.
This is what’s called an ‘enabling’ bill. If you look at the law itself, you’ll see that it’s full of powers for the Secretary of State to draft the actual Code of Practice.
So, what’s next?
It’ll need to secure 100 votes in the commons and be passed to a committee of MPs to go through the thing line-by-line. Then there’ll be a long period of back-and-forth between the industry and the parking operators themselves.
At the heart of the new rules is a code of practice, which will be designed to help the ‘good’ parking operators to comply, and to basically put the bad ones out of business. Where firms are found to have violated the new rules, they could be prevented from getting your details from the DVLA database. That means no letter through the post, because they don’t have your address, and no more phone calls, because they won’t have your phone number.
It’s hard not to jump for joy at the prospect of regulation, here – unless you’re one of the few who’ve been getting rich by fleecing hapless motorists. If you’re one of those people, you have our not-entirely-sincere condolences.
Incidentally, one of the chief architects of the new law is Sir Greg Knight, the Tory MP for East Yorkshire. Knight is a classic-car enthusiast and amateur musician. This gives us a perfect excuse to look back at this deeply surreal video from the 2017 election. It gets weirder and weirder as it goes on, and ends with unexpected genius. Trust us.
When the next exciting chapter of this particular story unfolds, we’ll keep you up to date. In the meantime, be careful when you stick the van – and don’t pay any fine, because the chances are that this thing will go through before they have any legal power to force you to pay up!