A bill regulating the maximum fee wheel clamp operators can charge has passed its first reading at Parliament.
The Land Transport (Wheel Clamping) Amendment Bill will:
Set a maximum wheel clamping fee of $100.
Allow for a fine of up to $3000 for an individual and up to $15,000 for a body corporate that charges a fee over the maximum amount or doesn’t remove a clamp when they’re meant to (to be enforced by the Police)
Bills sometimes have a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) which helps the Government make sure the bill will meet New Zealand’s legal obligations, e.g. that it is consistent with the Bill of Rights Act 1990 or Treaty of Waitangi or other obligations. The RIA for this bill can be found here.
The Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi is in charge of the bill but Minister Jenny Salesa gave the first speech on his behalf.
Before she kicked into the why and how of the bill Ms Salesa had to get some parliamentary formalities out of the way i.e. move a motion for the bill to be debated.
“I move, That the Land Transport (Wheel Clamping) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.”
Back in the day they used to read the actual bill out in the House and then all agree that it had in fact been read.
Thankfully things are more interesting nowadays with the debate focusing on the proposal within the bill.
The next step is to nominate a select committee to consider the bill if it passes its first reading.
“I nominate the Transport and Infrastructure Committee to consider the bill. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be reported to the House by September 2019,” Ms Salesa said.
A select committee is a group of cross-party MPs which will examine the bill and likely hear from the public or officials to gather a range of views which then go into a report.
There are 12 subject committees and one of them must be chosen by the Minister in charge to consider the bill.
First reading debates are used to outline the what, why, and how of a bill.
“This bill amends the Land Transport Act 1998 to regulate the maximum fee that can be charged by wheel clamp operators and prevents the public being charged excessive fees, by imposing a cap of $100 for the removal of the clamp,” said Ms Salesa.
“It provides protection for motorists who have been subject to aggressive tactics from clampers and set rules that provide greater clarity around wheel clamping to ensure that the requirements are properly enforced and motorists are protected from unscrupulous wheel-clamp operators.”
Many of the MPs who spoke during the first reading debate shared stories of people who had had to pay large fees between $400 and $700 to wheel clamp operators.
“There are a huge amount of horror stories that have made it to the news in the past few years,” said Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.
“The likes of cars being clamped while people dart into the shops for 30 seconds, their kids still in the car, and the thousands of dollars that these clampers, these cowboys, have tried to charge them while they have been in the shops away from their car for a moment.”
The bill has the support of the entire House but the Opposition will usually find something to criticise in a government bill.
National MP Matt King said the regulatory impact assessment from the Ministry of Innovation Business and Employment showed there isn’t enough evidence to support legislative action.
“I note that MBIE, in their regulatory impact statement have said there's a lack of evidence to the scale of the problem and not enough of a problem to warrant Government intervention,” he said.
‘That's MBIE's findings. So maybe a little bit more work could've been done in that area, but anecdotally there is a problem, I'd imagine, I've seen from news reports. So we'll support that.”
First reading debates are also a chance for MPs to outline issues in the bill that they’d like explored in the next stage - the select committee.
“One of the concerns that I do actually have in relation to this bill is that the officials have not done a lot of consultation in relation to this particular bill as to the size of the problem,” said National MP Melissa Lee.
“I think it will be a good opportunity for us as a select committee to realise that. It seems that the select committee will be doing the job of the Government when we actually get this through select committee.”
No party voted against the bill and it’s now in the hands of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee.