Consideration of Bill, as amended
It will be for the convenience of the House if the amendments relating to the Manchester City Council Bill [Lords] be debated together with those relating to the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill [Lords].
With this, we will take amendments 3, 74, 7, 24, 8, 25, 9, 26, 10 to 12, 27, 13, 14, 28, 15 to 17, 29 to 31 and 18 to 23 to the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill [Lords], and amendments 2, 3 to 5, 34, 9, 26, 10, 37, 11, 28, 12 to 14, 29, 15, 16, 30, 17 to 19, 31 to 33 and 20 to 25 to the Manchester City Council Bill [Lords].
It is a pleasure to move amendment 2, which is supported by four hon. Friends. With it, we will discuss 27 other amendments on the Bournemouth Bill and 28 on the Manchester Bill. In this debate, it will become apparent that the amendments go to the heart of the concerns that have been expressed by many people about the wide-ranging content of the Bills and the potential impact on the livelihoods and very survival of pedlars the length and breadth of the country.
Amendment 2 needs to be considered with other amendments, but it is designed to ensure that pedlary and trading are treated as separate activities. For too long, some councils have equated street trading with pedlary and, by extension, rogue and unlawful street trading with lawful pedlary. That is at the root of the problem. That issue is addressed in the detailed amendments to clause 5, which I shall discuss shortly. However, I shall take the amendments sequentially, so I shall start with amendment 3, which would delete clause 4.
I tabled amendment 3 because clause 4 extends the application of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to services. For example, as we have discussed during earlier stages, services might include teeth whitening, or applying an artificial tattoo to someone’s skin. Since the Bill was drafted back in 2007, however, there has been an important legislative development—the implementation under UK law of the European Union services directive by means of a statutory instrument. I had the honour to chair the Committee that considered the statutory instrument. Under the directive, which came into effect on 31 December last year, pedlars of services only will no longer need a pedlars certificate, and those obtained by pedlars of services before the changes came into effect will continue to apply until they expire.
I tabled amendment 3 to try to draw the Minister on the important issue of the interaction between the services directive and pedlary, and the provisions in the Bill. That point was referred to briefly last week on Third Reading of the Nottingham City Council Bill and the Canterbury City Council Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) said, in a throwaway line, that he thought that the advent of the services directive had made the extension of the Bills to cover services redundant. Since then, I have received a letter from the agents acting for the promoters of the two Bills before us today stating that they assume that the effect of the services directive interacting with the rules relating to pedlars will be different. However, the whole issue is up in the air. By proposing that we leave out clause 4, I thought that we could try to probe the representatives of the promoters in the Chamber or the Minister on the interaction with the services directive.
The importance of the services directive is that it enables people who are supplying services and resident in other parts of the EU to come to this country and continue supplying those services without inhibition or legal restriction. To carry on activities as a pedlar in the UK, the person concerned needs to obtain a pedlars certificate, which they can from any police authority in the land if they can establish that they are of good character. Importantly, however, they must also establish that they have been resident for some time at a fixed address within the area of the police authority to which they applied for the pedlars certificate.
The provision relating to pedlars is at odds with the services directive, because it is regarded by the EU as an unreasonable restraint on the right of somebody to work wherever they wish within the EU. UK law currently states that one can engage in pedlary only if one is resident and has a fixed abode in the UK; one does not have to be British, but one has to show evidence of residence here. So at the very time that the services directive has been brought into law, we have before us a Bill that purports to extend the scope of pedlary to services. I find that rather confusing. It seems to me that clause 4 is probably redundant.
Much of the stuff that comes from Brussels is pretty impenetrable to people of ordinary intelligence such as Members of Parliament. Perhaps the Minister, with the benefit of legal advice from people who are better remunerated and wiser, will be able to guide us through the interaction of the services directive with pedlary and explain to us whether, in the light of its implementation, he too believes that clause 4 is redundant and superfluous, not to mention rather confusing.
Surely leaving out clause 4, which would extend the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to the provision of services in the street, would do the very reverse of what my hon. Friend is suggesting, because there is no residency requirement under that Act. Extending it in that way would be helpful to pedlars, rather than the reverse.
I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to explain that point more clearly to me. As for the application of the 1982 Act, my understanding is that Bournemouth borough council is seeking to take more control over people who provide services than it has under existing law. I find it hard to understand how that will be in the best interests of pedlars.
We have had Bills from councils in other areas across the country, which are already in place as Acts and have been for a number of years—we are in one such area now: London has the exact legislation that we are seeking in Bournemouth—and they are also subject to the 1982 Act, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) referred. I am not aware—perhaps those on the Front Bench can illuminate this point for me—of any requirement to change legislation in any of those places, whether it be London, Liverpool, Maidstone, Leicester, Medway or Newcastle. All those places have had their own borough council Bills, which is what we are seeking today. All have been able to work with the same legislation, despite the 1982 Act.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that, but I am not sure that he understands my main point, which is that since the 1982 Act was introduced we have had the services directive, which came into effect on 31 December. Although other local Bills might have been enacted with equivalent provisions to those contained in clause 4, I do not think that it is open to Parliament—my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has different views about this—to bring forward legislation that is inconsistent with a European directive.
I think I am saying that, yes. The implementation of the directive serves as the automatic repeal of those provisions, which is why I cannot understand why, when we are considering a Bill that is not yet on the statute book, we should be seeking to put provisions such as those in clause 4 into law, in prima facie breach, in my view, of the services directive.
May I offer some clarification? We could not place restrictions on doctors coming in from the European Union and offering their services. That has been made clear despite what the General Medical Council might wish to do. Is not that the kind of thing that we are talking about? If the services directive is in force, people have the right to bring their services here, so this restriction would be ultra vires under European law.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s interpretation is the same as mine.
The Government are consulting on a document at the moment. It was issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 6 November 2009, and it is entitled “A joint consultation on modernising Street Trading and Pedlar Legislation, and on draft guidance on the current regime”. On page 29, there is a whole series of paragraphs under the heading “Services Directive”. Paragraph 113 might be of particular interest to hon. Members, because it states:
“Incidentally, we understand that those local authorities who apply street trading licensing to service providers are required to justify that those regimes operate within the requirements of the Services Directive. If they are unable to do so those authorisation schemes will need to be removed insofar as they apply to service providers.”
Is my hon. Friend therefore arguing that a pedlar who is an EU citizen who is stopped in Bournemouth could appeal under the services directive and carry on trading in Bournemouth high street, but that a home-grown English pedlar who could not appeal under the directive could be driven from the streets? Would not that be unfair?
It would certainly be unfair, if that were the position. I am not sure that my hon. Friend’s interpretation is quite correct, however. The pedlar would have to be offering services, rather than trading, within the terms of the legislation relating to pedlars. If he were offering services, and came under the category of service provider, that would be exactly the sort of jeopardy in which he would be placed.
Paragraph 114 of the consultation report from the Minister’s Department states:
“It may be possible to institute a national system of authorisation for service providers within the requirements of the Services Directive although we are conscious that our justification for imposing such a scheme may be challenged in respect of the qualifying criteria. However, we are of the view that attempting to introduce such a system in respect of a small number of pedlars of services only, would not be a proportionate response to any perceived detriment which may result from the situation where no certification or authorisation scheme exists.”
That paragraph seems slightly self-contradictory.
Paragraph 115 states that
“the Services Directive applies stricter tests in relation to authorisation schemes in respect of temporary providers of services in the UK to the extent that any scheme which might be capable of applying to established pedlars of services could not apply to temporary pedlars of services visiting the UK.”
That relates to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) has just made. The paragraph continues:
“This inconsistency of application would be unfair to established pedlars and would introduce significant enforcement difficulties.”
So, there is a real issue here.
I know that my good hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) are sceptical about some of the arguments that I deploy on this legislation—both of them have intervened on me on this point—but I hope that we will be able to get an answer from the Minister on this question. It will be relevant not only to the two Bills that we are discussing today, but to the two that we discussed last week, which are now on their way to the other place, as well as to the other two Bills on the Order Paper, which we are not discussing at the moment.
I follow the hon. Gentleman’s argument on the services directive; I shall wait to see whether it is right or wrong. If the services directive were not in force, would he still wish to strike down this clause, or would he be content with it?
In fairness, I have not at any previous stage of our debates on this Bill raised an issue about clause 4. I was alerted to the issue only after reading the Government’s consultation paper and having had the privilege of chairing the Committee I mentioned. In fairness to myself, and perhaps to the hon. Gentleman’s surprise, I would not otherwise have sought to amend clause 4 in respect of pedlars providing services. I hope that that clarifies the matter. It is an issue on which we look forward to hearing the Minister’s views so that we can make a judgment. It is implicit in what we have heard so far from my hon. Friends who represent Bournemouth constituencies that the promoters of the Bill believe that it is right to go ahead with clause 4, notwithstanding the advent of the services directive.
I now move on to deal with the large number of amendments that we are debating in tandem with amendment 2. I start with amendment 74, which relates to clause 5. I shall not read out all the words in the amendment, but I will say that those words provide a much better and clearer way of setting out what the Bill’s promoters have to some extent been asking for, which is to ensure that pedlars with large trolleys are no longer able to operate within Bournemouth—or the city of Manchester. The amendment would allow pedlars with
“a wheeled vehicle with a carrying capacity no greater than one cubic metre”
to continue to operate. It would allow them to continue “trading”, including
“the display or offer of items for sale.”
In other words, it would not alter the definition of pedlary in the existing statutes.
This is the kernel of the matter. There is absolutely no point in driving small-scale pedlars off the street only to have them bothering people door to door. These people will go on trading anywhere anyway. It is better to regulate them on the street in a small-scale way than have them bothering people in their houses.
I agree with my hon. Friend, but I am not sure that I would concede that pedlars bother people in their houses. There is a perception these days that many householders do not want to be harassed by people knocking on their doors, seeking their attention or selling goods door to door. Quite a lot put up notices on their front door, saying “No hawkers or pedlars” or refusing delivery of circulars and the like.
However, we know from evidence produced for the Durham university report published about a year ago that in city centres quite a lot of people enjoy being able to engage with pedlars and to purchase goods—usually relatively small-value items—and to do so in the freedom of the open air. These people would not want to be bothered with offers on a door-to-door basis. Some pedlars sell balloons or mini-kites—goods more associated with people on holiday who may have their children with them, people who want to have a bit of fun at not very great expense. It is much easier for pedlars to meet those sorts of people in the streets in the town centre, near the seafront or wherever, rather than have to seek them out by calling door to door.
Reading and Leeds, two of the councils in the group of six bringing forward the Bills, have accepted amendments to clause 5 that are more restrictive than my amendment 74. Their Bills are proceeding on that basis, and their Report stages and Third Readings are coming up shortly. I have included provisions relating to people being able not just to carry goods on their person but in
“a wheeled vehicle with a carrying capacity no greater than one cubic metre pushed or pulled by him.”
That is because the issue was referred to in the Opposed Private Bill Committee, which concluded that clause 5, as originally drafted by the promoters from Bournemouth and Manchester, was too restrictive of the traditional right of pedlars to operate. After listening to the evidence, it proposed amendments which are set out in the minutes of evidence.
At the end of the Committee, it was concluded that the Bills should be amended to take on those concerns. On Wednesday 1 July 2009, at page 63 of the minutes of evidence, the Committee Chairman said, at paragraph 1119:
“Clause 5 is amended as follows…The pedlar trading house to house survives; for those not trading house to house their goods or tools or handicraft must be carried on foot on the person or in a trolley pushed or pulled by the person with a carrying capacity of no more than one cubic metre; they must not stop in one place for more than five minutes”.
Many more detailed constraints followed. The detail, which is now reflected in the revised wording of clause 5, adds nothing that is worth while, and is likely to cause confusion, as it is an attempt to introduce through the back door a redefinition of what a pedlar can do lawfully. It picks pieces out of the common law, puts them in statute, and applies them to the two localities in Bournemouth and Manchester.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that his proposal in fact extends what pedlars can do under the current legislation? At present, they have to carry such items with them. The introduction of wheeled vehicles of some sort extends, rather than breaches, their existing rights.
My hon. Friend is not correct about that. Under the existing law, they are entitled to take goods with them not only on their person but using equipment. I quote from page 2 of the explanatory memorandum to the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill, which defines a pedlar as
“a person who, without any horse or other beast, travels and trades on foot from town to town carrying to sell or exposing for sale any goods, wares or merchandise or procuring orders for the same, or selling or offering for sale his skill and handicraft”.
Order. I want to ensure that I am following the hon. Gentleman’s speech carefully. Which amendment is he addressing at the moment?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be talking about clause 5.
I assume that the hon. Gentleman is aware that clause 5 is dealt with in the next set of amendments.
I was merely trying to respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not intend to anticipate the debate on a subsequent group of amendments, and I will not be drawn any further down that avenue.
I am trying to explain to my hon. Friend that the wording of amendment 74 is not less but more restrictive than the wording of the current law, because under the current law there is no specific limit to the carrying capacity of the vehicle that the pedlar takes with him in order to conduct his business.
As politicians, we know full well how easy it is to expand carrying capacity. Any one of us who has set up a street stall will know that. What concerns local authorities is the problem of clutter and the blocking of ease of access for people going about their normal business. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to ensure that from this definition of carrying capacity does not emerge a table or stand of some sort that the pedlar might use? Might not a restriction in that regard make good sense?
I agree. That is why I have made the suggestion in amendment 74, and that is why, when I discussed these issues with the promoters of the Leeds and Reading Bills, I went even further and conceded—to the chagrin of some pedlars—that, in the particular circumstances of Leeds and Reading, it would be reasonable not to allow the pedlar to have anything with him other than the goods on his person.
The clear rationale set out in the main letter from the chief executive of Manchester city council, and in the separate letter from the leader of the council, which was well circulated—it was sent to a number of councils, encouraging them to ask their local Members of Parliament to participate in today’s debate—is that the mischief that the Bills wish to address is that of wheeled vehicles drawn by so-called pedlars which are causing obstructions in town centres.
Obviously I would think that my own amendment was a good one, but it seems to me that amendment 74 clearly expresses a way of meeting the intentions of the amendments tabled by members of the Opposed Private Bill Committee without creating a complicated new provision that would offend all the principles of good regulation.
Effectively, it would. My hon. Friend is an experienced practitioner of the law, and he knows that if a pedlar had a horse or a beast with him, he could not possibly comply with the terms of amendment 74. However, that is—as lawyers would say—an academic point, rather than one of practical substance. However, that comment might sound rather more critical than I intended to be of my hon. Friend.
Amendment 74 is essentially a new clause, replacing clause 5. Importantly, proposed new sub-paragraph (2B) states:
“For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2A)(b), above ‘trading’ includes the display or offer of items for sale.”
Clause 5 currently does not make that clear, but it is vital that that provision of the pedlars legislation is retained intact.
Many of my other amendments in this group remove the worst inaccuracies or ambiguities from the interpretations that the Bill’s promoters have put on the words of the Opposed Private Bill Committee. They are, therefore, alternative amendments to amendment 74. That amendment effectively completely redrafts clause 5, but each of these other amendments tweaks a part of the clause that gives the wrong impression and would make bad law if unamended.
Amendment 7 would delete the word “only” from clause 5(1)(a). By inserting that word there, for the purposes of the Bill, its promoters narrow the definition of “pedlar” from the existing definition as restated in the 1982 Act, and I do not think that that can be accidental. Amendment 7 would delete the word “only” in respect of trading that is carried out
“by means of visits from house to house”
and so forth.
Amendment 24 seeks clarity. I received strong representations on this matter from pedlars. They think “location” is far too broad a term. The Opposed Private Bill Committee used the word “place” in its recommendations, rather than “location”, but I think the word “position” conveys a much better and more precise definition. A pedlar would then be in a particular position—standing on a square space of a few paving stones, perhaps—rather than in a “location”, which might be regarded as a particular street or a much wider area. I hope that this amendment will find favour with the promoters of the Bill, because it more accurately conveys the intentions of the Opposed Bill Committee and will avoid a lot of argument about what is meant by “location”.
I agree with my hon. Friend that this amendment seeks to make an important minor change, which would clarify the Bill enormously. I recall great debates that have taken place when section 106 agreements have said that money should be spent “locally” and that has been defined so widely as to have become something spent in the region. The tighter we can draw the Bill, the better. This amendment is small, but important.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for my amendment. He will know that the word “location” appears not only in clause 5, line 20, page 3, but in many other clauses. I shall not recite all those, but the consequential, similar amendments are set out in this group.
Amendment 8 seeks to reflect accurately common law case law on the interpretation of how long it is reasonable for a pedlar to stay in one position when complying with his duties and responsibilities under a pedlar’s certificate. There is quite a lot of case law—I shall not refer to the tomes on it—suggesting that anything up to 20 minutes is reasonable for a pedlar to spend in one position and after that the pedlar needs to move on. Clause 5 says that it would not be possible for a pedlar to stay in one position for more than five minutes. That is unduly restrictive, and a 15-minute period would be more reflective of case law. In order to demonstrate the reasonableness of this and other amendments, I have not gone to the extreme of the ambit by proposing, in line with some case law, a 20 minute limit—there is even a case that suggested a stay of up to half an hour or longer. I thought that 15 minutes would be reasonable and proposed it in the hope that it would find favour with the promoters of the Bill.
I have been listening to my hon. Friend’s remarks, which make some sense to me. Would it help if he distinguished between a pedlar providing services, notwithstanding what he has said about the services directive, and those providing goods for sale? Providing goods for sale takes little time, whereas providing a service—he mentioned teeth whitening—will take rather more than five minutes. Indeed, one would hope that it would, so perhaps a distinction should be drawn between the two.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because he makes a powerful point about having a five-minute time limit on the provision of services by a pedlar. I am no expert in teeth whitening—his medical knowledge probably means that he knows more about what is involved—but I do not think that that service could easily be executed to the right standard in five minutes, so perhaps 15 minutes would be a more reasonable limit. I agree with him that that should apply to services. In order to try to reduce the complexity, we would be better to adopt the same time limit for pedlars providing services as for pedlars who are trading, selling or displaying goods. What would happen if people were providing both teeth whitening and, perhaps, selling toothpaste? They would be both selling and providing services and that could cause problems with enforcement.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I shall not argue with him.
The sad thing is that we are now faced with a situation in which this Bill is now being considered on Report—it has already been through the other place—and the scope for amending it beyond the amendments tabled today is non-existent. I think my hon. Friend, in fairness, is faced with the choice of supporting the provision of five minutes for all pedlars, including pedlars of services, or amendment 8, which would delete the reference to five minutes and insert 15 minutes.
I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that five minutes was what the Committee, after a lot of deliberation, thought was reasonable, and that 20 minutes was well beyond what it thought was reasonable. At 20 minutes, the definition starts to become more like that of a street trader than of a pedlar. The essence of a pedlar is that he moves along.
I accept what my hon. Friend says. That is why I am not going as far as to suggest 20 minutes, and why I am proposing a 15-minute compromise. Having read the transcript of the proceedings in the Opposed Private Bill Committee, I doubt whether the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) about its being very hard to provide some services within five minutes was taken on board at all.
All this is nonsense. Who is going to police all this rubbish of insisting that someone stays for five minutes, seven minutes or 10 minutes? It is much better to have a less restrictive time limit, as my hon. Friend is trying to propose. The principle would be that they have to move on, rather than their being told to move on after five minutes. Who would police it? The police have better things to do.
My hon. Friend is right. The issues of seizure, penalties and enforcement are dealt with later. We must try, in this great Palace of Westminster where we legislate, to introduce a bit of common sense and practicality into the laws that we introduce. If they are effectively unenforceable, we are going to make ourselves even more of a laughing stock than we are already.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He is being very generous. Will he explain a point to the House and to me? In clause 5, proposed new sub-paragraph (2A)(a)(i) states
“at the end of the five minute period, or”—
as (ii) states—
“as soon as he is able after trading ceases, whichever comes later”.
That seems to drive a coach and horses through any time limit. Have I misread it?
Basically, that demonstrates how complicated this drafting has become. We are talking about a set of rules that are meant to be easily understood, remembered and complied with by pedlars who have had their certificates issued anywhere in the UK and who come down to Bournemouth and go to Manchester. Will they find it easy to understand these precise constraints, which will be unique to the Bournemouth and Manchester areas if they become law today?
I think that the answer to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) is that a very tight time limit of five minutes may lead to a queue of customers asking, “Hang on a minute, can I buy one of those?”, to which the response will be, “No, because my five minutes are up.”
Unless people are within sight of the town hall clock, it will be quite difficult for them to be cognisant of when they arrived and of how long they can enjoy selling wares to willing customers.
My hon. Friend anticipates my amendment 9. Line 28 of page 3 says that after a pedlar has left a location—or, as I would prefer to say, a position—he must move a minimum distance of 200 metres before he can engage in further trading. He will therefore say to customers rushing down the street after him as he walks away, “I can’t trade with you now because I have not done my 200 yards”—as I would call the distance. Again, that is absolutely ludicrous—
Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is being tempted to move from amendment to amendment. He is doing very well, but it would be helpful if he would move logically from amendment to amendment. If he deals with amendment 9 now, we will consider it dealt with.
I was trying to go logically through the amendments, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have dealt with amendment 8, which would leave out “five” and insert “fifteen”, but I have not referred to amendment 25, as it is another one that would replace the word “location” with the word “position” and I have already deployed the arguments in that regard.
As you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that brings us to amendment 9. For those who are following the debate and have a copy of the Bill, that amendment refers to line 28 of page 3 and reads:
“leave out ‘200’ and insert ‘20’.”
For a pedlar to establish that he has moved, there is no need for him to move 200 metres. I have already said why I do not believe that setting a minimum distance requires such a highly prescriptive form of legislation but, if that is what we must have, my proposal is that the Bill should set the more reasonable distance of 20 rather than 200 metres.
I would be the first to accept that that is an arbitrary judgment on my part, but my 20-metre proposal would still make it clear that a person had moved and could then continue with his transactions.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend has finally admitted that these are, in essence, wrecking amendments that would change the Bill in its entirety and render it unworkable. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) has said that a person moving one inch could not be policed, but that is exactly what would happen if the distance were to be reduced from 200 metres to 20 metres. How could that possibly be policed? Two hundred metres is a decent distance: with that, and a time limit of five minutes, there would be no doubt about what was happening.
I do not want to test the House’s patience, but the Bill makes it clear that the provisions apply only when trading has ceased. So a person getting his teeth whitened will not have to give up the service halfway through, and the trader will be able to deal with any queue that has formed before moving on. The drafting of the Bill is sound, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend is not giving it the justice that it deserves.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Not for the first time, two hon. Members have reached different conclusions about what should be the right form of the legislation. However, clause 5 and the amendments tabled as a result of the deliberations in the Opposed Private Bill Committee show that the members of that Committee, and now the Bill’s promoters, have tried to encapsulate in statute the case law that has arisen.
There is no evidence to suggest that case law requires a pedlar to move between each set of transactions a distance of 200 metres rather than 20 metres, which is the distance that I suggest in amendment 9. I strongly dissent from my hon. Friend’s suggestion that that is a wrecking amendment. It is not. The amendment has been selected for debate, and it is based upon representations that I have received. I have modified them not only to make them more reasonable, but to bring them closer than might otherwise have been possible to the concerns expressed.
If an amendment was put down and seen to be a wrecking amendment, it would not be called for debate. However, it will help if the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) lets us know each time he moves from one amendment to another, and help if he keeps ticking along.
I am looking with some concern at clause 5(1)(a) and (b). Paragraph (a) refers to
“visits from house to house”.
In Wellingborough, houses are often right next door to each other; they are certainly not 200 metres apart. Have I misread that provision? If one employed a 200 metre provision, one could not go from house to house.
But the provision would apply, presumably, to the “lucky lavender” seller who peddles her wares—throughout the summer, certainly—on Westminster bridge. She does not move very far and cannot, poor thing, because of all the passing traffic, so it would apply to her, would it not?
It most certainly would apply to her, and my hon. Friend raises an important issue, because the Bill’s promoters would argue that that lavender seller is just the sort of person who is outlawed under similar legislation that has been enacted in London. Returning to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough made about enforcement, and notwithstanding the legislation in London, we still see such activity continuing, however. So, even if the intention was to stop a lavender seller operating in Bournemouth town centre, I am not sure that it would be realised in practice. We will turn later to whether it should be possible to seize and hold the lavender seller’s lavender until a fixed penalty has been paid, but we should not anticipate that debate.
Amendment 10 would leave out from clause 5
“in any 12 hour period”
and, taking into account amendment 11, mean that the location that a pedlar occupied with a view to trading would have to be at a minimum distance from any other one that he had so occupied at any time within a period of “two hours”.
Amendments 10 and 11 would make the provisions more akin to those that apply, for example, to restricted waiting for cars. A lot of waiting restrictions say that someone cannot stay in one particular parking bay for more than, say, half an hour, and they must not return to that same location within two hours. I have yet to come across any parking restriction that says that they cannot come back within 12 hours, because it would be very difficult to enforce that: who is going to stand in a location for 12 hours to see whether the person comes back? I am trying to introduce some common sense into this.
I think that common sense is something that we wandered away from some time ago. My hon. Friend has described a situation where a pedlar can, over any two-hour period, move a maximum distance of about 160 metres. How is that possibly going to be useful from a town centre perspective of controlling street traders and pedlars? This is getting daft.
My hon. Friend has multiplied my 15 minutes by 20 metres. He is saying that in any hour the pedlar would have to move 80 metres, so in two hours he would have to move 160 metres. With the greatest respect, that does not seem unreasonable, because the pedlar is continuing to move around. Obviously, if he does not have any trade in one particular position, he will move more frequently, but if he has quite a lot of trade, then he will do as is suggested, which would be perfectly in order under the current legislation applying to pedlars. I disagree with my hon. Friend.
As currently worded, the provisions mean that a pedlar would not be able to return within a 12-hour period to any place that he has occupied. Taking all the original wording together, that means that he would have to travel 200 metres every five minutes over a 12-hour period. If we multiply that out—I am not so good at mental arithmetic when I am on my feet—it is clear that he would have to travel quite a long way. I suggest that that is unreasonable, particularly when coupled with the requirement that having travelled those distances the person must not return to a location that is less than 5 metres away from any position that he has occupied during the previous 12 hours.
The Pedlars Act 1871 says that a pedlar
“travels and trades on foot and goes from town to town”.
From that, one can deduce that they are on the move fairly regularly. Therefore, it makes sense to provide that a person could move the distance that we are talking about—200 metres—and then move locations over a 12-hour period with a view to trading at a minimum distance of 5 metres away from a position that he has occupied before. That fits with the 1871 Act.
With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, it is for Parliament to legislate and for the judges to interpret that legislation. The interpretation placed on the 1871 Act by successive members of the judiciary is contrary to that of my hon. Friend. I think it is better for us to proceed on the basis that we should try to align these provisions with the existing common law interpretation.
We have the 1871 Act, and my hon. Friend is obviously in touch with the peddling community. If I were a pedlar who had done this for years, I cannot believe that I would think in terms of 200 metres, or whatever. I would think in terms of having, from time to time, to move on, because that is what is bred into me by my community. Are we not being far too prescriptive? Cannot we just go back to the broad interpretation that we have always had under the 1871 Act and common law?
My hon. Friend makes the plea that we have been making throughout the deliberations on these Bills. The whole issue of what we should do now in the national context will soon be on the Minister’s table, because he has put out a big paper for consultation. We will see from the responses to it what the Government decide to do, but it would be very odd if the House decided to have a different, prescriptive regime for what we mean by “moving on” for the purposes of pedlars operating in Bournemouth and Manchester compared with what judges up and down the land have said is reasonable for pedlars operating in other parts of the country. I am very much with my hon. Friend on that.
I move on to amendment 12, which would leave out lines 34 to 37. The provisions that I have criticised would be less offensive if those lines were left out, because they state that a pedlar
“must not begin so to occupy a location any part of which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres from any part of a location for the time being so occupied by another person”.
That means that a pedlar who had finished his five minutes of trading would not be able to move anywhere else, other than some 200 metres away, if the new position were within 50 metres of another person.
It is, and I plead with the sponsors of the Bill to make some concession to common sense. As currently drafted, clause 5(1)(d) does not make any sense at all and is oppressive beyond all measure. The case for leaving it out and getting on without it is extremely strong.
Amendment 13 would leave out, in line 34 on page 3, the words “any part of”. It is an alternative but much less adequate way to mitigate against the worst impact of subsection (1)(d). The amendment would mean that a pedlar
“must not begin so to occupy a location”—
or, in my preferred wording, a position—
“which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres”
from another person. The expression “any part of” gives credence to the concern that I expressed earlier when introducing my amendments to replace the word “location” with the word “position”, which is that the drafters of the Bill have it in mind that a “location” might be quite a wide area. If it were not, they would not need to include the words
“any part of which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres”.
It would be quite easy to measure 50 metres from a spot where one was standing selling flowers or whatever, but from what part of that position or location should that be done? That wording confirms my suspicion and that of pedlars that in using the word “location”, the promoters are trying to introduce a system of measuring not from a particular spot or position but from a wide area.
We must then ask what we mean by that location or area and how to measure the 50 metres minimum distance from the nearest part of it to “any part of” another
“location for the time being so occupied by another person”.
Government draftsmen would find such drafting intolerable in Government legislation—it cannot be good legislation.
I can understand people asking why we must go into such detail—
Order. I say to the hon. Gentleman that the amendment is extremely clearly set out. Presumably he is either for or against it.
Order. I am sure the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) is very experienced in these matters. Perhaps he could speak to the amendment before the House, and not to how these things are done.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I live in anticipation of getting a helpful response from the Minister that would in due course result in one of my hon. Friends summing up the debate by saying that quite a lot of the amendments have been accepted by the sponsors. I would be the first to raise my hat to the roof in celebration of such common-sense concessions, which I am sure should be made in due course.
I will not discuss amendments 14 and 28, because I have made the case for those in previous discussions. Amendment 15 would mean that the pedlar could not move within a minimum distance of 50 metres of another pedlar, rather than simply “another person”. There must have been an error in the drafting of the Bill, because it is complete nonsense that someone should have to be 50 metres away from any other person. I pray in aid the explanatory memorandum which, in explaining the alterations to the pedlars’ exception in clause 5 and summarising the essential requirements, states that
“no trading must be commenced any nearer than 50 metres from another person trading with the authority of a pedlars’ certificate”.
The explanatory memorandum adds the words
“with the authority of a pedlars’ certificate”,
but that is not in the Bill. I hope that someone will intervene to assure me that there has indeed been a drafting error, because the intent, as expressed in the explanatory memorandum, is that the minimum distance—whether one likes that or not—should be from another pedlar, rather than from “another person”.
If one is 50 metres from a pedlar, what is all the fuss about? It is not as though high streets are being invaded by a rash of pedlars standing every 5 metres. What does it matter if there is a pedlar every 50 metres or every 100 metres, or indeed only every 45 metres? It is ludicrous.
I do not dissent from the use of the word “ludicrous”. The existing wording however provides that the pedlar would not be able to move within 50 metres of anyone. If he has to find a position at least 50 metres from anyone else, people will think that he needs a bath or something—
My hon. Friend is being unfair. I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will accept that that is an error. That would be a modest but welcome concession.
Clause 5 lays out several things that a person must do
“at all times while…trading”
or “otherwise occupying any location”. Amendment 16 would insert the words “acting as a pedlar” after “at all times while”, so that we would not restrict the ambit of the rules and responsibilities relating to pedlars. Acting as a pedlar includes offering one’s goods for sale so that people may look at them and discuss what is available—it might even involve taking an order to be delivered on a subsequent occasion. The amendment would add clarity and precision to the Bill.
Amendment 17 would remove all the restrictions in proposed new sub-paragraph (e), which would help to clarify the Bill. We know what activity is legitimate activity for a pedlar, and to define that activity more narrowly would contradict the express statement of the Opposed Private Bill Committee that nothing it did would amend the definition of pedlar. That was its intention as stated in paragraph 1119 on page 63 of the transcript of day two, which quotes the Chairman as saying:
“We are not attempting to redefine peddler.”
However, there is an attempt to redefine pedlar, which is raising all sorts of concerns and suspicions among pedlars.
Amendments 29 and 30 relate to the point that I made earlier about the benefits of using the words “position” or “positions” rather than “location” and “locations”. The same is true of amendment 31.
Amendment 18 would leave out “bona fide” on page 4, line 4 in clause 5, which instead of referring to customers, talks about bona fide customers. I am not sure that it will be easy for people to find out who is a bona fide customer. The provision states:
“Nothing in sub-paragraph (2A)(b) to (d)…disqualifies any person from occupying a location within a minimum distance for the purpose of trading if…he so occupies it on the request of a bona fide customer”.
Does that mean that the customer has to complete a purchase for the pedlar’s position to be validated? How is any observer of the scene to assess whether the customer is bona fide?
Again, that is a completely subjective test—it is not an objective test. Why does this Parliament have this relentless itch to change, regulate and control? How many complaints against pedlars are there? My information is that on average there is one complaint per authority in this country. Yet we are introducing this new law, which is unasked for, unwanted and will control the ability of people to engage in enterprise.
Order. I encourage the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to stick to the amendment before the House.
I am conscious of progress—or perhaps the lack of it, as we wander through the amendments—and hope that we might see a conclusion today. Given that my hon. Friend has invited the sponsors of the Bill to provide some clarification, I shall explain the reason for the reference to “bona fide”. Hon. Members might like to wander outside their own constituencies to places such as Manchester and Bournemouth, where stooges are used to keep pedlars occupied and so prevent them from moving on as they should. That is the reason for the reference to “bona fide”. If my hon. Friend does not like the Latin “bona fide”, he could easily have suggested “genuine”. However, that is the explanation. It is a reality that stooges are used to prevent movement and deliberately to keep the pedlar in one location.
Well, in that case, I defer to my hon. Friend’s expertise. I stand corrected; it was raised in Committee. I obviously skim-read that bit and did not notice the reference. However, the point that I would make in response is this: who is to decide whether the customer is bona fide or a stooge? There have been, I think, six prosecutions for illegal pedlary in Bournemouth over a two-year period. Proportionally, to include “bona fide” on lines 4 and 11 in relation to a customer is pushing the ambit of the prescription and regulation too far.
Order. My patience is now being strained.
Amendment 19 is similar to amendment 18 in that it would leave out “bona fide” on page 4, line 11. I do not need to address my remarks to that.
Amendment 20 reads:
“leave out from ‘customer’ to end of line 13”,
on page 4. The effect of amendment 20 would be to enable the person to carry on trading from the time that he commences a transaction involving selling goods to a customer or supplying a service for payment by a customer, because it would leave out the words
“up to the moment when the transaction is completed or aborted”.
Again, that would add a lot of clarity and reduce the restrictions in the Bill. Amendment 20 is perhaps not the most important amendment, but it nevertheless merits serious attention. Amendment 21 would leave out the words “bona fide” from clause 5, on page 4, line 15, although I will not go over that ground again.
Then we come to amendment 22, which would leave out lines 20 to 24 on page 4, removing the requirements relating to measurements of minimum distance. Everyone understands what a minimum distance is and why I am against references to minimum distances, and certainly the short distances referred to in clause 5. Everybody knows how to measure a distance, and we do not need to define it as tightly as the Bill does, which says that the
“measurement of minimum distance operates in a straight line except to the extent that…the ground is not level”—
I am slightly confused by what that means—or that the
“passage along the line is obstructed by buildings, fixed structures or private property”.
If we are to have any confidence in common sense, surely we do not need the degree of prescription in proposed new paragraph 1(2C)(b) of schedule 4 to the 1982 Act, as set out in clause 5, on lines 20 to 24 of page 4.
The last amendment in this group is amendment 23, which is arguably one of the most important amendments, because it bears directly on the quotation that I gave a moment ago of the Chairman of the Opposed Private Bill Committee, who said that there was no intention on the part of that Committee to redefine the word “pedlar”. It is my submission that clause 5(2) should not say:
“Nothing in subsection (1) shall be taken to extend the range of activities that comprise acting as a pedlar.”
The Bill as drafted restricts the range of activities that comprise acting as a pedlar, compared with the activities set out under the Pedlars Act 1871 and the case law under it. It would be much clearer, and would also reflect more accurately the express intentions of the Chairman and other members of the Opposed Private Bill Committee, if clause 5(2) said that nothing in subsection (1) should be taken to “restrict” the range of activities that comprise acting as a pedlar, which is the complete reverse of what it says now.
The reason why I think that that is important is that there is a lot of suspicion about the motives behind the provisions. There has been a breakdown of trust between the pedlars and the various boroughs whose enforcement officers they believe are harassing them unnecessarily. If the Bill goes forward in a way that, it could be argued, restricts the range of activities that currently comprise acting as a pedlar, not only will that be premature, because we will still be awaiting the report from the Government following the consultation that is taking place, but it will add to the pedlars’ frustration and their feeling that they are an oppressed minority. There are only about 3,500 of them up and down the country, and some of us are trying to defend their interests today—and, indeed, to encourage more people to participate in the art and activity of pedlary, which brings so much joy to so many people in so many parts of the country. I have summarised my amendments and I urge hon. Members to support them.
This has been a very long debate. May I place on record my concern that we could have had another 45 minutes, once the previous chunk of business had finished? Instead, the sitting was suspended, which was unhelpful. We could have had more time to debate these matters.
Order. Can we stick to discussing the amendment before the House, and not go into what happened before?
There is a lot of history behind the Bill. We have debated it more than we have debated most of the Government Bills that have been put through Parliament in this Session. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), who initially objected to its being pushed through at a pace with which he was uncomfortable, made it clear that we needed to give it due discussion, and that was accepted. We have now had that discussion, however, and I am concerned that 81 amendments have been tabled at the eleventh hour. I hope that we will be able to bring this matter to a conclusion here today.
We have moved much too far away from the real issue, which is the relationship between street traders and pedlars, both of whom have a legitimate role in society today. Unfortunately, there is a legal blurring in regard to how the two work together, to the extent that local authorities up and down the country are having problems with how to control their town centres. The purpose of the Bill—which follows similar Bills relating to places such as Leicester, Medway and London—is to try to reconcile that difference.
I would be the first to acknowledge that national legislation covering all local councils would be sensible. Unfortunately, we are a long way off achieving that, and the situation in our town centres has created a sense of urgency. We therefore need to push ahead with this legislation. There would not be so many borough councils queuing up to join those that already have the legislation if it were not important. All borough councils face huge financial pressures, and it has cost an awful lot of money to get where we are today. They would not be going down that road unless it were important.
I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. It is a pity that individual local authorities have to pursue these matters in this way. My council, Wiltshire county council, has yet to contact me on this matter, but I know that these issues arise in the market towns of Wiltshire, and I am anticipating the day when we might have to introduce a similar Bill for my area. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a hierarchy of disadvantage for those who operate shops, for street traders and for pedlars—in terms of business rates, for example? That creates a competitive disadvantage that needs to be addressed, and in that respect the market needs to be managed. This Bill is part of that process, albeit in relation only to Bournemouth.
My hon. Friend echoes the importance of pressing ahead with this legislation. We have already had votes in the House on the Bill. Parliament has already spoken on the matter, and I do not want to take up any more of its time. I urge hon. Members to press forward with the Bill and to draw the matter to a conclusion.
Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made.
The House proceeded to a Division.
This is a smaller group of amendments. I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will show a little more respect to the arguments deployed in support of the amendments in this group than they did to those in the last group. People who are looking at the record will be amazed to think that 28 amendments, which took well over an hour and a half to discuss and concerned many Members of the House, received no response from the Government or the official Opposition and no meaningful response from the sponsors before they curtailed the debate. I hope we do not experience that again, because it sends out a very bad message from this House. It suggests that people who table amendments are never entitled to a response to the arguments they make in support of them.
I am a little offended on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and myself that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) does not think we replied to the serious points he made. We did not regard some of them as being particularly serious.
I am sure that if this Bill reaches the statute book the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we will see the result in the Bournemouth magistrates court or divisional court. Perhaps the Government will sort it out by introducing some national legislation.
There is a serious matter. In an excellent speech—he gets the Eric Forth award for consistency and accuracy—my hon. Friend made some important points. We should have a convention that at least the Minister should reply to a debate before the closure motion can be moved.
Absolutely, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Amendment 4 would insert the phrase
“to the area of the Borough defined in subsection (3) below”.
Subsection (3) is provided by another amendment in this group, amendment 5, which defines a specific area of Bournemouth in which the ambit of the provisions of the Bill will apply. That is the area to the south of the Wessex way, and hon. Members on both sides of the House familiar with conferences in Bournemouth will know that that is the extension of the spur road into town. People travelling from London turn left off the spur road to get to the centre of Bournemouth and to the Bournemouth International Centre, where the conferences are held.
The area that I am defining would be confined to the area to the south of the spur road—in other words, it would lie between the spur road and the seaside. Restrictions to the west of that area would apply at Durley Chine; to the east, they would apply at the Lansdowne and its Meyrick road extension.
My hon. Friend makes a really good point. Leaflets do not have to be sold in order to be issued by pedlars, but perhaps we should have ensured that the people handing them out held pedlars’ certificates. I am concerned about this matter because my constituency of Christchurch is so close to Bournemouth—indeed, it is contiguous with it. It is a great inconvenience that we no longer hold Conservative party conferences there.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To deal with the question of location, I shall refer to a conversation that I had with Mr. Mark Smith, Bournemouth’s director of tourism. We spoke on Monday of this week, over breakfast at a hotel in Christchurch. The meeting was organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), although unfortunately he was not able to attend.
Also at the meeting was a Bournemouth councillor, and I raised with Mr. Smith an issue that I had raised at a discussion at Bournemouth town hall some 18 months ago. Bournemouth says that it has a problem with illegal street trading and rogue pedlars in the town centre, so the suggestion was that the provisions of the Bill should be limited to that area and not extend across the whole area of the borough. I gave Mr. Smith the details of the restricted location proposed in the amendment, and he agreed that, to all intents and purpose, that was the core part of Bournemouth’s commercial centre.
Mr. Smith accepted that it would be an appropriate area to put in a restriction, but he was worried about making any concessions at this stage. He was also worried about what he described as the displacement effect—the possibility that activity currently taking place in the town centre might be displaced elsewhere.
You may remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that is exactly the same argument as the one that we addressed on Second Reading, when we debated whether the consequence of introducing this legislation in Bournemouth’s town centre would be that the activity would be displaced into the borough of Christchurch. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) spoke about towns such as Wimborne and Blandford in his constituency, but at that stage it was denied that there would be any displacement effect. Now, however, the argument about possible displacement is being used against my proposal, which is that the Bill should contain a clear definition of the part of Bournemouth to which these restrictions will apply. It is more complicated than it might seem, because different trading regimes already operate in Bournemouth.
That point was borne out by the evidence from the same Mr. Mark Smith, the director of tourism, during the Opposed Private Bill Committee at the end of June and the beginning of July last year. I recall him saying, early on in his evidence, that although the Bill would apply to the whole of Bournemouth, some streets were prohibited streets, some were not, and there were some to which the local authority had not sought the application of the 1982 Act. It does not apply to quite a lot of the streets in Bournemouth.
A question then arose—from a Committee member, I think—about how pedlars going to Bournemouth would know in which streets they could ply their trade. Although the Bill extends to the whole borough of Bournemouth, the whole borough is not subject to the 1982 Act, so pedlary not just from house to house but in the street will be able to continue in parts of the borough. The trouble is, however, as Mr. Smith conceded in his evidence, one will be able to find out the areas where the legislation will apply only by looking on the internet, and that is not a practical proposition for many pedlars. He said that the precise boundaries for the operation of the restrictions in Bournemouth should be set out in a leaflet, which they do not yet have in Bournemouth, and made available to all police authorities throughout the country. They would be able to distribute the details to people when they applied for a pedlar’s licence, and those individuals would know the parts of Bournemouth in which they were able to exercise their pedlary certificate without getting on the wrong side of the law.
Surely it is not beyond the wit of any reasonably prudent pedlars to inquire at the town hall whether there are any areas where they are not permitted to ply their trade. I do not see that being particularly onerous; in fact, any prudent person could do so.
If my hon. Friend looks at the evidence from the Opposed Private Bill Committee, he will find that he is slightly at odds with the director of tourism for Bournemouth. If that had been the director’s view, he would not have suggested that the way to overcome the problem was to distribute leaflets to every police authority in the country.
Does my hon. Friend agree that time may very well solve that problem? The growing ubiquity of personal handheld electronic devices, such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and so on, most of which are capable of surfing the net, would make it much easier—particularly for entrepreneurial people such as pedlars. He and I agree that they are entrepreneurial, and it will be very easy for them in due course to check in real time on the council’s website the location of the streets where they are and are not allowed to trade. Such activity may not be ubiquitous quite yet, but in due course I suspect that it will become increasingly easy. Does he agree?
My hon. Friend makes a fair point. However, the problem is that this information is not available at the moment. If he looks at the Bournemouth council website, he will not be able to find out to which streets in Bournemouth the 1982 Act applies and to which it does not apply. It is a more complex issue. We have not yet got on to the penalties that will come by way of fixed penalty fines or seizures, but the consequences for a pedlar of operating unwittingly in a street in which he should not be operating can be very significant.
My hon. Friend is making an important point that goes right to the heart of what we are talking about. This shows that instead of having these restrictive, bitty borough Bills, we need new national legislation. These peddling free souls are not the sort of people who go around town halls checking on BlackBerrys—they want to get on with running their traditional little business.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
These people will choose a different location for their pedlary on different days of the week. They will go to different towns and different parts of the country, as opposed to somebody who is familiar with their own local territory. That is one of the big distinctions between somebody who is a street trader and somebody who is a pedlar. As Mr. Smith said in giving his evidence, one of the restrictions on being able to get a street trading licence in Bournemouth is that the applicant cannot get one unless they are going to regularly occupy that stall.
The fact that this Bill, if implemented, will not apply to the whole of Bournemouth makes all the stronger the case for saying, “Let’s define specifically the part of Bournemouth where there is a problem and set it out in the Bill”, so that the situation is as plain as a pikestaff to anybody visiting Bournemouth with a view to carrying on as a pedlar. The council concedes that the area I have described is that where the mischief takes place.
In his amendment, is not my hon. Friend setting up a canard in order to shoot it down? If the Bill is to apply at all, would it not be better for it to apply to the whole of the borough? His proposal seeks to define that it should apply only to part of it. In relation to the displacement argument, he would concentrate the amount of peddling activity in certain parts of the borough, which would then become subject to the problem instead of the area that he seeks to exclude. Does he believe in the displacement argument? Does that argument apply in Manchester, where a peddling Bill is in place in certain boroughs but not in others? Is there a displacement problem in that metropolitan area?
The jury is out on whether there is a displacement problem. When I raised this issue on Second Reading, I was assured that that was not the case. The Durham university research, with which my hon. Friend is familiar because he managed this brief very ably on the Front Bench during the earlier parts of the proceedings on these Bills—
Perhaps not today.
What my hon. Friend said then was that the evidence in the Durham report suggested that there were different circumstances in different areas, and that there might well not be a displacement problem, because pedlars wanted to go where they would find the best atmosphere for peddling their wares. It suggested that that might vary at different times of year, depending on what products they were selling and so on. The displacement argument is probably discredited for the purposes of discussing the amendment. That is certainly my view, and I hope that it is correct. If it is not, we may find that pedlars come to Christchurch borough, which adjoins Bournemouth. If they are lawful pedlars there is no problem, but unlawful pedlars would not be very welcome.
I do not follow this argument at all. If my hon. Friend has got the area wrong in the amendment, it would require an Act of Parliament to change it. That cannot be right. The amendment would represent the nanny state and Westminster telling a local borough council how to conduct its affairs. He has missed off an area in Boscombe, which is part of my constituency, where pedlars are often found, and an area in Southbourne where there are shops and a village-type centre, so again pedlars would be denied. It does not make sense. We must let Bournemouth borough council operate the system in its area.
My hon. Friend, who unfortunately could not get to the meeting on Monday, even though he set it up, knew then that I was proposing to move this amendment. Instead of our trying to have a meeting of minds on it, there has been a dialogue of the deaf, which is regrettable.
There would never be a meeting of minds given that my hon. Friend is trying to carve up my constituency and prevent the borough council from doing its job. As a Member of Parliament, he needs to back off from what are rightfully the borough council’s operations. I stress again that it would take an Act of Parliament to change an area affected in Bournemouth were the scheme set out in the amendment to be conceived and not work. That cannot be right.
With the greatest of respect to my hon. Friend, it can be right, because we are talking about having an Act of Parliament to give a derogation from national legislation. I do not believe that we should have such a derogation except on the strongest possible grounds. Perhaps I can use an analogy to try to persuade my hon. Friend. It is possible for a borough council to designate part of its borough as an “alcohol disorder zone”—I think that that is the expression that is used.
But it has to be done in accordance with national legislation, which sets out that an alcohol disorder zone cannot be set up unless there is evidence that there is a problem. My hon. Friend and I know that only this week in our neighbouring borough of Poole, the borough council decided not to set up an alcohol disorder zone because the councillors took the view that the criteria and requirements were not satisfied. I suggest to him that if we are to have a derogation from national legislation, it should apply only to the parts of the country where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it is needed.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are discussing an unusual process of giving a borough the right to do something that other boroughs in the country cannot do, and it should be restricted to the tightest possible area. If national legislation follows it can of course be extended, but at this stage it should be as tight as possible.
I am still baffled as to how an hon. Member from a different part of the area can seek in an amendment to impose something on a constituency that he has nothing to do with. He can put forward the concept, but it should be for the borough council to determine the matter. I pose him a very simple question: how could a pedlar operate in Boscombe, in my patch, under the amendment? I ask him to recognise the folly in what he proposes and withdraw the amendment now.
There is no evidence at all of an unlawful street trading problem in Boscombe. I therefore submit that there is no need to apply the measures in the Bill to the area. Boscombe would be relevant only if my hon. Friend accepts the displacement argument, but he has expressly argued against it. Instead, he has tried to satisfy me that there will not be a displacement problem in Christchurch, which I represent, as a result of the Bournemouth provisions. We need to try to keep things as clear and simple as possible.
The area that amendment 5 would define is very similar to the area of the alcohol disorder zone in Bournemouth. It is perhaps regrettable that we have been unable to have a proper dialogue about the details, for reasons I already set out. If we had had that dialogue, we might have been able to change the proposal to allow the area to be altered in particular circumstances. However, as things are, it is not apparent from any documents that are available at the town hall which parts of Bournemouth are subject to the provisions of the 1982 Act and therefore subject to the provisions in the Bill. That is unsatisfactory, because legislation should be clear.
We are also debating the corresponding amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill. I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of the city of Manchester is not as considerable as my knowledge of the town of Bournemouth. Therefore, rather than seeking to define the area in which operations in Manchester could be carried out by reference to streets—obviously, Manchester is an inland area and does not have a big trunk road like the Wessex way in Bournemouth—I thought it better to use a similar calculation to those used in London, namely ones based on so many miles, metres or yards from Trafalgar square.
I have therefore suggested, in the proposed amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill, that there should be a defined area bound by a circle with a 1 mile radius from Albert square. I do not know how well you know Manchester, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am advised by the locals that Albert square is very much the heart of Manchester—the town hall is there and it is easy to measure 1 mile from it on a map.
No, it definitely should not. We spoke earlier of derogations. Fortunately, we still have the freedom in this country to refer to miles as a standard method of measurement of distance in relation to roads. We do not have to go to the metric mile, which is why I have proposed 1 mile. I hope that that is clear.
There is a very different situation in Manchester compared—[Interruption.] Is my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East making a sedentary comment about four minutes? Does he wish to intervene, or is he threatening me by saying he is going to move a closure motion in four minutes? [Interruption.] I see: he is talking about the four-minute mile. It is very difficult to concentrate when there are sedentary interruptions—[Interruption]—but my hon. Friend is continuing to make them.
It would be sensible to do the same in Manchester as in Bournemouth, because on the evidence put forward by the city council, that is where the problem lies. The area would be clearly defined and it is, after all, important that the law should be clear.
I also contend that these provisions should only be in force when necessary. When I had my initial discussions with Bournemouth council about amendments to the Bill, I made the point that as the problem does not arise 12 months of the year, but only in the summer and around Christmas, it would be sensible to limit the ambit of the Bill to those times.
I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw this amendment because it would be madness to impose a time limit. We need control over pedlars’ relationship with street traders throughout the year, whether on football match days, new year’s eve or new year’s day. There are many examples of celebrations and outdoor activities, such as Valentine’s day, on which pedlars will want to do their business, and must do it correctly. To limit the Bill to the summer months is out of place and this amendment does not deserve to be anywhere near the Bill.
My hon. Friend was not at the meeting that I had at the town hall with Bournemouth borough council officers and councillors back in January or February 2008. I raised this issue, and they did not dismiss it in the same way as my hon. Friend has done. They went away to consider it, and they also discussed it with the promoters of similar Bills. It was agreed between them that none of them would give any ground and they would all stand in solidarity, irrespective of the merits of the arguments made.
As a representative of Bournemouth, I can confirm that this amendment would be very damaging to the town, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) agrees. We need this Bill to work throughout the year, including Valentine’s day and mothers’ day, and not be focused on just one period. It would be unworkable and cost the borough council even more than at present. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to listen to the arguments, not his recollections of previous conversations, and withdraw this amendment.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend: that is the word I was looking for. Holidays are taken throughout the year, and the town has expanded into the conference trade in a big way, as well as the language school trade. It operates for 12 months of the year: it is not a resort that closes down after the summer.
I hear what my hon. Friends say, but when the director of tourism was asked about this issue in the Opposed Private Bill Committee he made it clear that there was a problem at particular times of the year, especially in the summer and at Christmas. Now it seems that this is a problem the year round. If that is my hon. Friends’ view, I can understand why they are opposed to the amendments.
Perhaps my hon. Friend misunderstood what he was told by the director of tourism. Certainly we have peak months, but there is a great deal of tourism and business activity the year round. I think perhaps there was a slight misunderstanding between our director of tourism and my hon. Friend.
I do not want to risk falling out with my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East and for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) over this matter. Of all my concerns, my biggest relates to the Bill itself rather than the months in which it will operate. In the spirit of good will, therefore, I tell them that I will not press amendment 6 to a vote, although I have slightly different views on amendment 5.
I have heard the arguments about Bournemouth being a unique case, which I am prepared to accept, and I heard what my hon. Friends have said. However, does my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) think that that also applies to the Manchester Bill, which has an identical clause?
It is significant that although we are debating amendments to both Bills, we have not—if my recollection is correct—heard any comments, whether positive or negative, from anybody from Manchester about anything that has been said this afternoon. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says that they moved the closure. Perhaps they did. I missed that point of detail. If that is true, it makes their behaviour so much more cynical.
We can have a perfectly good and healthy public debate about whether we should limit the application of the Bill in Bournemouth to June, July, August, September and December. My hon. Friends have put forward perfectly reasonable arguments saying, “Well, Bournemouth is a busy town the year round, and the problems discussed are problems 24/7”—to use that colloquialism—but we have heard nothing from Manchester Members, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) mentioned. That suggests that the arguments that I have deployed about limiting the provisions to June, July, August, September and December would be relevant in Manchester, where notoriously—I think one could say—the weather is much inferior to that on the sunny south coast of England.
Indeed, when I was last in Manchester, during the Conservative party conference last year, it was drizzly and raining most of the time. The local people said, “That’s par for the course. You’re lucky it’s not raining more heavily.” Obviously, if one has such varying weather conditions—I am trying to provoke a response from some of the Members from Greater Manchester—it will impact significantly upon the ability of pedlars to go about their business, particularly if they are carrying the goods on their person. In dank conditions, there will be many fewer people on the streets. There will be less likelihood, therefore, of pedlars being around in very large numbers and of illegal activity about which a complaint might be made.
I assume that my hon. Friend believes in the importance of the local democratic process and that local councils should have the power to make their own decisions. Why does he not think that it would be better to allow the Bill to go through, albeit with provisions to allow each council to which the Bill applies to make their own democratic decisions about the time and place, rather than having it dictated from the centre in this place?
My hon. Friend makes a persuasive argument, but the essential difference between these Bills and much local legislation is that most local legislation applies only to local people, whereas these Bills affect people who do not live in a particular locality. They might affect some local people—there is evidence of 200-plus pedlars being certificated and resident in Manchester; probably not all of them are in the city of Manchester, but they are within the Greater Manchester police authority area—but we are talking about a regime that will apply to pedlars whether they are normally resident in Cornwall or Northumbria, and that regime needs to be clear. If we have a different regime for pedlars in every town across the country, I submit that things will be pretty chaotic.
My hon. Friend is great localist, and so am I—in principle—but not when it comes to the application of national legislation. I am sure that he would be the first to concede that even when powers are given to local authorities—for example, to set up alcohol disorder zones—quite strong criteria are applied nationally to ensure no inconsistency of application between one local authority area and another. That is the point that I am trying to get across.
The more I listen to my hon. Friend, the more it occurs to me that the provision that we are discussing is more like a local byelaw governing how people behave in a local park. However, that byelaw would apply to local people, whereas pedlars are nationwide. We would not dream of introducing a Bill to attack chemists or doctors. It is because pedlars are working class and unrepresented—they are a small group without a powerful lobby—that this House believes that it can treat them in this way.
Order. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) has been speaking for a considerable proportion of the time available. May I suggest that we confine ourselves to the issues that are the subject of his amendment and not get involved in a wider debate, which we have had on many previous occasions?
I certainly do not want to replicate the wider debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let me bring us back to what the amendments do and note that no one from Manchester has raised any objection to the points that I have raised about the Manchester City Council Bill. I urge the House to agree that the specific restriction that I have proposed for the Manchester City Council Bill—that the ambit of the legislation should not extend beyond 1 mile from the centre of Manchester as defined by Albert square—is probably the strongest argument that I can put forward from among all the amendments. Obviously it would be inappropriate to take up the House’s time by voting on more than one amendment in the group. When it comes to the appropriate time, I would therefore seek to have a vote on that amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill, rather than on an amendment to the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill. I hope that my hon. Friends will see that as a reasonable way out of our predicament.
This will be my final comment on this subject, because I know that other people wanted to participate in this debate, but there is an analogy between what we are debating and legislation on shotguns. Shotgun certificates can be obtained from a police authority anywhere in the country, and they have national application. Would this House contemplate a situation where each local authority could legislate for the way in which shotguns could be used or operated in its area, even when the holder of a shotgun had a licence for it that had been issued on a national basis? The answer is that we would not.
There is always a conflict between what is in the national interest and what is in the local interest. In this case, however, because there is national legislation relating to pedlars and because the pedlars’ certificate has national application, it is wrong to say that local will should always prevail, especially if the consequent legislation is unclear, muddled and hard for pedlars to understand.
The latest Government consultation paper states that pedlars are, on the whole, entrepreneurial, and good with—
Order. That one is debated now, but would be voted on later, so the hon. Gentleman has to decide. I am prepared to concede that there can be a Division on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill. We have debated it, but now, in sequence, we have to dispose of amendment 4, which he has proposed. If he wishes to withdraw that, and to move on, we will come to amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill at a later time.
I am grateful for that clarification. I had not realised that the proceedings were going to be as elongated as that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In relation to the vote that we had on the previous group of amendments, relating mainly to clause 5, it seemed from your ruling that it would still be possible to vote on one amendment in that group when we get to the Manchester voting. Is that right?
I hoped that I had made it clear that it will be possible to have a vote on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill, which I understand from the hon. Gentleman’s words is the one that he wishes to divide the House on. However, we still have to dispose of the amendments in this group. Do I take it that he wishes to withdraw amendment 4?
I must say to the hon. Gentleman that amendment 4 is the paving amendment for the two other amendments connected with Bournemouth. If I may respectfully say so, it would not be very logical for him not to press amendments 5 and 6—for which amendment 4 is the paving amendment—if his interest is in having a substantive vote on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I intend to be brief, as we have already gone into many of the subjects in great detail.
My concern about the amendments is that they relate to a private Bill that will
“seek rights and powers over and above those sanctioned by public acts or the common law”.
We are not debating a Bill that has been proposed by the Government; we are debating matters that relate to specific areas and are above the normal law. In my view, we must draw the provision as tightly—[Interruption.] I hear a sedentary comment that it is law in London, but what we are talking about today is Bournemouth and Manchester. If we are to do this properly, we should draw the provisions as tightly as possible. Amendment 7 relates to Bournemouth and there are similar amendments on Manchester; they relate to particular areas and minimise the extent to which the Bills exceed national law, which must be to the good. I have heard no arguments to the effect that the Manchester area is not defined. I certainly encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to press his amendment to the vote.
We have heard different arguments about Bournemouth. I am prepared to concede that they may apply because of the 24/7 culture of the whole borough of Bournemouth, so that that area should be included. I will not support the amendment on Bournemouth but I will support the one on Manchester. As for the amendment dealing with the period over which the Bill will apply, there is a compelling argument for the House to draw the legislation as tightly as possible in order to stop infringing the rights of pedlars. That amendment makes a lot of common sense, so I will support it as well.
I rise to support amendments 5 and 6. In a sense, the House of Commons is beginning to make itself look rather ridiculous, if it is getting down to the level of detail of whether peddling should take place in the wider Bournemouth area or in the area bounded by Wessex way to the north, the sea to the south and Durley Chine to the west. I am not as familiar with Bournemouth as I should be, but this underlines the point I tried to make earlier—that it is probably a mistake for the House to get down to this level of detail. It would be much better to have a broadly based Bill to regulate peddling and ensure that pedlars operate generally in the way they are traditionally supposed to operate.
I accept that there may be a problem nationally in that the nature of peddling is changing and the old-fashioned traditional pedlar with whom we are familiar is perhaps being replaced by a species of person who might come from abroad and who might try to displace urban traders. As I have said, I accept that there may be a problem with that nationally, but if that is true, the Government need to get their act together and bring in a national Bill.
Here we are talking about a level of detail applying to pedlars that determines whether or not they can trade in a particular location. These are people who move around the entire country. Questions were raised earlier about whether these people do or do not have enough local knowledge, whether they use their BlackBerrys, whether they go to the town hall or whether leaflets are issued nationally. That shows some of the problems that will be imposed on these people.
Generally speaking, it is bad for the House to create more and more prescriptive rules and regulations that make it more and more difficult to be law abiding. Why do we assume that these people are not law abiding? Why do we assume that they do not want to carry on their traditional trade? Why are we telling them that it is perfectly lawful to trade in a certain area of Bournemouth, but not in another area of Bournemouth.
If we move on to amendment 6, it becomes even more absurd, as it deals with times of the year, making it very difficult to know what is going on. Our debate about place and time, led so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), is an important one: it is not just a narrow issue; it goes to the heart of the Bill. To what extent are we prepared to start interfering with what has traditionally been seen as a lawful activity? If the number of complaints were huge, I would accept that there was a problem. However, the information I have received is that one authority complains once a month. That is hardly a great issue that should be debated on the Floor of the House.
I wish that we were not discussing the Bill at all, but my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is trying to restrict the area of Bournemouth to which it applies. Apart from him and my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), I doubt that anyone in the Chamber, including you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is familiar in any detail with what constitutes the area bounded by Wessex way, the sea to the south and so on. Why are we debating it? We must take the word of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch that the area is a sensible one to define.
I believe what my hon. Friend tells me, but if the area in question is the best one, why is it not in the original Bill? We all know what would happen if a vote took place—Members who were not familiar in any shape or form with Bournemouth would be told by the Whips that they should get the Bill through and pile into the Lobby.
Of course I take your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
To conclude, if the Bill is to be imposed, let us ensure that its provisions do as little damage to the peddling community as possible. Let us support my hon. Friend’s amendment, which would at least restrict the area to the town centre, so that we do not force pedlars out of business in the wider area.
I am conscious that we have not had a substantive contribution to the debate from my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) and for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) other than through useful interventions. We have had no discussion whatever in relation to Manchester city council. On day two of the Opposed Private Bill Committee, Superintendent Lee made it clear in his evidence that the problem in Manchester is confined to places such as Albert square and Piccadilly, and that it is limited to times such as the Christmas lights switch-on, which is one of the big events of the year in Manchester. If the Bill passes unamended in relation to time and location, its ambit will cover every month of the year and every street in the city of Manchester, the case for which has not been made.
The wider the ambit of such restrictive legislation, the more difficult it is to have a sensible enforcement regime.
Will my hon. Friend reply to my point, as he is perfectly entitled to do, in his winding-up remarks? It is difficult for us who are not familiar in any detail with Bournemouth to come to a conclusion on whether the area for peddling should be bounded by Wessex way to the north and the sea to the south. How can we have such local knowledge?
The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 9(3)).
Debate to be resumed on Thursday 28 January at 3 pm.
Manchester City Council Bill [Lords]
Bill to be considered on Thursday 28 January at 3 pm.
Leeds City Council Bill
Bill to be considered on Thursday 28 January at 3 pm.
Reading Borough Council Bill
Bill to be considered on Thursday 28 January at 3 pm.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There was a problem during the Division on the closure motion. I was one of those who were looking after the situation, and I went into the toilets to ensure that no one was left in there before we closed the procedure with the Tellers. When I came out—having found no one in there—the Clerks were still in their places, but one of my colleagues had gone through and said “All out”, which meant that the Tellers did not have an opportunity to record accurately that I was still going through. The Clerks say that only you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can ensure that my name is included as one of those who voted in the Division.