The programme for Government contains a commitment “to legislate to regulate the vehicle clamping industry”. This builds on the work that my party, in particular my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, carried out in opposition in the form of a Private Members' Bill. I understand that in England, Wales and Scotland clamping is in general banned. However, there is no evidence to suggest that clamping cannot be properly employed for the common good. I believe that, if used as part of a controlled and responsible parking enforcement regime and if appropriately regulated by the State, clamping can modify parking behaviour and serve to encourage proper use of parking facilities.
Prior to the introduction of clamping in Dublin, the problems associated with illegal parking were endemic, causing difficulties for residents and traders alike who could not access parking during business hours as metered spaces were often occupied by all-day commuters. Contrasting Dublin before the introduction of clamping with today, it is evident that the use of clamping as an instrument of public parking policy has been highly effective.
In 2011, I asked the then Joint Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht, of which the Deputy was a member, to take a role in the pre-heads of Bill stage and to contribute to the initial drafting of legislation.
The committee carried out a number of hearings on the matter and published detailed recommendations on the issues that should be included in the legislation.
In March 2013, the Government approved the drafting of a regulation of vehicle immobilisation Bill. This is now with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. As this is a complex area of law, dealing with issues concerning private property rights, drafting has taken longer than I initially had hoped. I expect to publish the Bill in the coming months and look forward to debating it in the House.
The principal provisions of the Bill will require adequate advisory signage in locations where clamping is in operation, set maximum clamp release periods and fees, and establish an independent appeals process. These provisions will apply to clamping activities on property where the public has an invitation to park as of right or subject to terms and conditions.