I have commented upon Eric Pickles before when this Government was only 8 months old and I compared him unfavourably with Julian Huppert, a new MP who had caught my attention by delivering a stunningly good speech in Parliament. Mr Huppert has gone on to do great work co-Chairing the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. Mr Pickles has gone on to suggest that "over agressive parking enforcement" is killing off the High Street and this is presumably his excuse for elbowing in on what would seem to be the natural area of responsibility of the DfT and, more specifically, the Roads Minister. The idea is that motorists have a 'period of grace' to ignore parking restrictions for 15 minutes with impunity provided they are not guilty of 'dangerous parking'. (Yeah right, given the difficulties we have with the enforcement of laws against dangerous driving, I cannot see that being effective.)
As a lawyer I find this kind of mucking with the law distasteful. People talk about 'decriminalising' parking and other motoring offences but we should not lose sight of the fact that this is a rather inaccurate reference to the manner of enforcement, not to any principle. You pay a fixed penalty if you break the law and are caught and if you wish to dispute a fixed penaltyyou do so in a criminal court. This is definitely crime not contract. The suggestion seems to me to be, we shall let you break the law provided that you do not park dangerously and if you park dangerously we shall do you for parking on a double yellow line (not parking dangerously). Alice in Wonderland stuff given that it is perfectly possible to permit parking for up to 15 minutes if that is what was thought desirable. Doing it the Pickles way means that no double yellow lines need be respected and local authorities will be powerless to prevent short term parking.