That the Bill be read a second time.
My Lords, my long association with the City of London has resulted in close involvement with many legislative issues of concern to the City, but this is the first occasion on which I have sponsored a City Private Bill in your Lordships' House. It is not, however, the first occasion on which I have sponsored such a Bill, since, as the Member for the City in the other place, I introduced the City’s last private measure, the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, some 11 years ago. That Bill, to revise and extend the City’s franchise, excited a good deal of debate. When I came to this House in 2001, it still had some six months to run in the lower House. My past did not, however, catch up with me, as it were, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding had kindly agreed to take the measure through the upper House while I was still engaged with it in the other place, such was the elongation of the proceedings. The vagaries of the parliamentary timetable can have unexpected, even serendipitous, results.
By way of contrast—I think that my noble friend Lord Lucas will confirm this—this Bill is not likely to generate a similar profile. Its main aim is to deal with some deregulatory changes to local street trading legislation, balanced by more effective enforcement where this is needed. It might reasonably be described as a modest measure.
Before describing the provisions specifically, I should perhaps say a few words about the context. The character of the City in recent times—and by that I mean the past 100 years or so—has been that of a location where business flourishes but where few people reside. The figures speak for themselves. Some 300,000 people commute daily to work in the offices of the City but only some 9,000 live there, of whom around 6,500 are resident voters.
For the past century, there has been no street trading in the City, other than in a small area in the extreme east on Sundays. This is governed by the only existing City trading legislation, currently contained in the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1987. I shall address this exception to the general position slightly later in my speech. The ban reflects the City’s nature as a business district and the significant pressure created during the day by the working needs of the business community. As buildings are redeveloped and replaced by the high-rise structures that we are seeing today to meet current demands, the pressure on the highways at the busy times of day is increasing rather than reducing. That is why the changes proposed in the Bill to enable the City to issue licences to facilitate the holding of events and to increase the availability of on-street ice-cream selling are designed to address an established need in a way that will not create additional pressure or conflicts in the use of limited space.
There have been occasional events—normally at weekends, when the City is much quieter—where the City’s current blanket prohibition on street trading has presented a problem. One example was a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the first London Bridge in 2009 organised by City livery companies. I should perhaps in parentheses acknowledge the precise anniversary date to be a slightly moveable feast, as there is also evidence that the original bridge was opened by Peter de Colechurch in 1206. In any event, in 2009 the bridge was closed to facilitate the celebrations, but only those livery companies able to obtain stalls at the Southwark end of the bridge were able to sell examples of their craft to members of the public; no trading could be permitted at the City end. There is now also an increased retail presence in One New Change next to St Paul’s. Those responsible for this retail offering aim to attract shoppers to visit the City at weekends and, to do so, may wish to seek to hold special events of a promotional nature.
So far as concerns the detail of the Bill, Clauses 1 and 2 are technical and deal with citation and interpretation. Clause 3 relaxes the existing street trading prohibition currently contained in the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1987 to allow street trading for limited periods. The clause will allow the City of London Corporation to issue temporary licences, typically to enable the sort of event I have described on London Bridge. A licence may be issued to an organisation which will arrange for others to carry out the street trading under the terms of the licence. Clause 4 makes consequential amendments to the existing street trading code, and Clause 5 makes non-compliance with the terms of a temporary licence an offence. Clause 6 sets the maximum penalty for street trading offences, including non-compliance with temporary licences introduced by Clause 3, at level 3, which is currently £1,000. The penalty set under the 1987 Act is at level 2, but level 3 is now the penalty set for street trading offences in London generally.
Enforcement is also the prompt for Clause 7, which responds to the fact that the current regime has not been an effective deterrent to illegal activity. In particular, there have been recurring instances of the persistent deployment of ice-cream vans trading illegally in the City. These vans have been the source of numerous complaints from members of the public, local businesses, local schools and St Paul’s Cathedral. In 2010, acting in response to such complaints, the City brought 247 cases of illegal trading before the courts. The fines imposed on the individual traders were insufficient to deter the activity.
Clause 7 proposes two changes which would obviate the need repeatedly to bring the same person before the courts. The first is, as I have already mentioned, to increase the level of fine for illegal street trading from £500 to the level applicable elsewhere in London of £1,000. Secondly, the new enforcement powers in the clause enable the ice-cream van to be seized, a deterrent already used by the City of Westminster. The detailed provisions to introduce that second change ensure that the legitimate interests of any trader subject to such a procedure are properly taken into account. They require a court order if the vehicle is to be forfeited or disposed of and empower the court to order that the City corporation pay compensation to the trader if proceedings have not been properly brought.
I mentioned earlier the exemption to the prohibition on street trading in the City. It relates to a small part of Petticoat Lane Market. In the early 1960s, a new road scheme to Aldgate on the eastern edge of the City led to the loss of certain pitches occupied by some of the Petticoat Lane street traders in the part of Middlesex Street in Tower Hamlets. Responding to representations by the displaced traders, the City corporation agreed to accommodate them within the City. This was achieved by allowing a specific exception for a small part of Middlesex Street within the City to the general City restriction on street trading.
I can claim first-hand knowledge of that provision. In May 1983, the constituency boundaries of the Cities of London and Westminster South were due to break out for the first time from the ancient, original boundaries of the ancient cities of London and Westminster at the next election, whenever it should come. As an act of pietas, together with the chairman of the highways committee of Westminster City Council, on Rogation Sunday I walked the ancient boundaries of the two cities, which of course involved visiting Middlesex Street. I have always liked to feel that it was because news of our walk reached No. 10 that the 1983 general election was announced the next day.
The City of London (Various Powers) Act 1965, which established the exemption to which I just alluded, gave traders permission to trade for their life only, and restricted trading to a few hours on Sunday. When street trading in the City was considered again in 1987, although the code then enacted remained as generally and geographically restricted as that contained in the 1965 Act, the City was given a power to grant street trading licences in Middlesex Street to new applicants, thus ensuring that the Sunday market there would continue to thrive. The 1987 Act lays down the costs that the City may recover from market traders through charges; however, it requires the maximum figure to be set by by-law. The consequence of that somewhat outdated approach is that the weekly figure recoverable from each trader has remained unchanged since 1989 at £15. Meanwhile, those Petticoat Lane traders whose stalls are in Tower Hamlets face a weekly charge of £32. For the City to recover its allowable costs would require a £25.40 weekly fee. Clause 8 changes the arrangements for fixing the fee to bring them more in line with arrangements elsewhere in London, where a fee reflecting the cost that may be recovered is fixed following consultation with the traders.
The Bill then returns to matters relating to ice cream in Clause 9. The provision is designed to facilitate easy access to iced confectionaries, when they are in demand, by enabling such products to be sold by retailers on the highway outside their premises, provided that the appropriate consents are obtained, which require neighbouring frontagers to be consulted.
My Lords, in speaking to Clause 9, can the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, explain why the distance of the ice-cream receptacle is limited to 11 metres rather than 10 or 12 metres? Eleven seems an odd figure for him to have chosen in promoting the Bill?
I am profoundly impressed by the attention which the noble Lord, Lord Myners, has paid to the detail of the Bill. The corporation has been anxious to provide as much space as it can, given the likelihood that people who have chairs and tables outside their shops will take advantage of it. It is very good of the noble Lord to have attributed to me the decision about 11 metres, but in fact it is contained in a Bill which was formulated elsewhere.
I wonder whether the noble Lord might consider this. If we extended this to a slightly longer distance, we could actually allow the distribution of ice creams on the trading floors of investment banks rather than the large bonuses that so many of us find so unpalatable.
I am again grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Myners, for lending colour to the debate, but I do think that his latest suggestion is actually outside the immediate terms.
Before leaving street trading, I should refer briefly to other local legislation on street trading before the House and the Government’s recent response to the consultation on modernising street trading and pedlar legislation. I know that this is of particular interest to my noble friend Lord Lucas. The conclusion reported in the response that the services directive applies to the retail sale of goods, including pedlary and street trading, will undoubtedly impact on the other private promotions relating to street trading which seek to impose or tighten existing regimes. However, the issues considered in the response do not impact on this Bill, which is moving in the opposite direction and seeking to facilitate trading that is currently prohibited.
I have come to my final remarks. The Bill also addresses two small deficiencies in the statutory regime governing the City’s walkways, which are paved areas dedicated by developers for public access. The first change enables the City to recover its costs from developers for resolutions relating to walkways as it can when dealing with other applications to vary rights of passage. The second would facilitate the civil enforcement of parking offences on walkways, bringing them into line with arrangements on the highway.
This is a modest Bill containing a number of small but important provisions relating to the specific circumstances of the City. I therefore ask noble Lords to give the Bill a Second Reading.
My Lords, easy access to ice cream is something that I would appreciate at the moment, but sadly we are outside the City of London, if not the City of Westminster, so this Bill has no effect on that. I congratulate my noble friend on the Bill and I am entirely happy with its provisions, but I want to encourage the City, through him, to continue in this direction and to do better, and I want to encourage the Government to pick up on their excellent reply to the consultation process and commit to taking that further soon.
At a time when we are bumping along the bottom of a recession, or whatever we appear to be doing, it is incumbent on every public authority to look for ways that give people opportunities to get going in business, to start up in a small way and thus begin to build the new businesses of the future. Many great businesses, including that run by the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, Marks and Spencer and a number of others, started out as individual enterprises just selling goods door to door or from a market stall. However, over the past 10 years or so we have seen a succession of local authority Bills that have sought to restrict the ability of people to engage in these activities—to, as it were, keep the streets clean and tidy and empty rather than having them as places of commerce. There is a misconception that having worthwhile stalls and street traders around drives punters away and keeps them out of the shops, thereby reducing a town or city’s revenue. I think that that is entirely mistaken.
My noble friend Lord Brooke referred to the narrowness of the City thoroughfares and how crowded they are at lunchtime. I worked in the City for 12 years and in many cases I would agree with him, but there are well-established open spaces in the City, albeit not large ones, that are never crowded. There are little patches near the churches, the area outside the Guildhall and the area to the south of St Paul’s towards the bridge. We do not have to have vast street markets, but to make use of little opportunities, particularly in places like the City, where there are so many potential customers who are so well paid. Let us take those bonuses—here, I share the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Myners, to them—by getting people to spend them on recreating something of a real economy in this country by buying goods that have been designed and made here by companies that are based here.
People start with little operations and finding somewhere to sell and promote items. The City has control, and I guess that if it put its mind to the matter it could find sites for 100 stalls. Remembering my time as a City worker, I would be delighted to pass one or two of them on my way to and from a sandwich. My wife, or whomever else I was giving a present to at the time—I am looking back to my time as a bachelor in the City—would be delighted if I came home with products from one of these stalls.
It is incumbent on the City to look at things in this way. It not only has to play its part in its own health and in the health of the bankers, insurance agents and others who fill it but has to provide opportunities for others to build businesses and to flourish because of its unique assets. That applies to the City of Westminster and other prosperous areas of London. As my noble friend said, the City of London has been uniquely deficient in street trading and it is time that was remedied. I am delighted that it is taking this small step and I very much hope that it will proceed to take it further. It would be to the benefit of us all if it did.
Turning to the Government’s reply to the consultation, I am grateful to noble Lords opposite for having started this consultation when they were in power. I am delighted that it has come to such an elegant conclusion. Pedlary should be free of restrictions, and people should be able to get out and sell goods door to door or move around the streets without an established place. It seems to me to be a correct interpretation, both of the European law as it stands and of our philosophy, that people should be free to go out and make a business and a life for themselves. We should encourage that. I very much hope that my noble friend will confirm that this is a conclusion that the Government intend to take forward into legislation at a reasonably early date. It is not a large affair and I am sure it could be tagged on to something else. I would not expect it to have a Bill of its own, but I hope that it will not be left to languish.
I am also grateful for what the consultation response says about street trading and the lifting of some of the restrictions to which that has been subjected by local Bills. It is important to get this moving now and to open up these opportunities. We need to look at how to encourage people who are currently on benefits or who are unemployed to get out and start trading in little ways. Many such people are very capable traders, and to barter and to deal is in their blood. We need to offer them the opportunity and space to do that. We do not need to wait for a couple of years until the back end of the Government and a thin legislative programme to put this through; we need to grant people this freedom now. I very much hope that my noble friend will say that the Government are looking forward to make early progress on this. I look forward to helping her in any way that I can.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for introducing this Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for adding so much detail to it. The Bill is produced by a distinguished former Member of Parliament for the City of London. My only connection with the City is that I spent the first seven years of my working life in Ironmonger Lane opposite the Guildhall working for a firm of chartered accountants, and I also spent many years on the City of London Corporation committee managing Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields.
I would like to deal with some of the detail in the Bill. Clause 10, on City walkways, calls for a crackdown on parking a vehicle on or over a footway. When the noble Baroness replies, I would like her to say whether this means, as in many other local authorities, that a vehicle can park with two wheels on the outer kerbstones. There is a difference and it would be very interesting to know whether the City of London Corporation has considered that, or whether it is over the whole of the footway. As both previous speakers have said, the City also consists of very narrow streets, and in certain circumstances it may be necessary to park on the footway, even with the parking restrictions that are there. This may harm many traders in that particular area. In outer London—I am not saying this is the right thing; in fact I do not like it—many of the boroughs have organised parking on the footway, with an official order allowing that. I think it is horrific, but it gets the cars off the streets when the street is narrow and the footway has some depth to it.
I would also like to talk about Clause 9, the item on ice cream which has excited so such interest in this Chamber. First, I would like to deal with the statistics—the noble Lord, Lord Myners, talks about why there is the threshold of 11 metres. The parliamentary writers of the Explanatory Notes obviously had difficulty with the number 11, because they have actually used the number 15 in the Explanatory Notes and refer to 15 metres rather than 11 metres. I rather suspect the 11 is something to do with 99, which I believe is an ice cream, and they go in those sort of numbers.
It says in the clause that it is not street trading if it is undertaken from a “receptacle”—wonderful word—located within 15 metres, or “11 metres” as the actual Bill says, of the trader’s premises. I worry about this because 11 metres—or 15 metres, whichever it may be—is a fair distance from the shop. It represents quite an element of street clutter and flies directly in the face of the Mayor of London—of Greater London, not the City of London—who is very much in favour of decluttering the streets. Indeed, if you go to outer London boroughs, where I am still a councillor, and to many other places, you will find that many local authorities charge a licence fee for putting items like boards on the street. That is not to help the customer, but to bring in income, and it is something that worries me.
Reverting back to the important matter of ice cream, we really need to watch the quality of the ice cream—and it really is a serious matter—sold by the shops and street traders, whether in vans or receptacles. Visitors to the City of London, and in Westminster as well, find the prices and the quality vary; people complain of ice creams containing 90 per cent water. This is an area where the tourists come to as part of the London experience; but the ice cream in London is not quite the experience of a gelato in other parts of Europe.
The fightback against rip-off Britain, whether it is ice creams or anything else, is missing from the Bill. It particularly should not happen in the City, which I see as the showcase for the nation. In this Bill, the City is actually leading in a fightback against restrictions in a very positive way. The Bill actually eases matters for a variety of reasons—probably a good thing—which is against what other local authorities are doing, as they are actually tightening up in many ways. With the loosening of the restrictions comes a responsibility for keeping the highways and the footways tidy and clean. Sadly, people who travel and who walk and drive around in our environment have a habit of throwing things down on the street; even more so when there is street trading. That must be looked at. I think the City, with its very narrow streets, should be careful about being too restrictive, as well as opening up matters.
Bridges were mentioned. I was disappointed not to see a mention in the Bill of what many developers are doing in developing town centres around the country. I had a meeting with a developer the other day, and the words used were “living bridges”. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, mentioned Southwark bridge. There is no reason why a bridge that is wide enough should not have small traders in small shops or cubicles across that bridge, making it into a living bridge, as happens in many cities, such as Florence and Rome.
As was said in a previous debate, this Bill may not make the headlines tomorrow, but it is an important move forward.
My Lords, I seize the opportunity to speak in the gap in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, described as a modest Bill, to express the hope that the Government will support it, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested.
The Bill facilitates the reintroduction of street trading into the City of London, bringing the colour and vitality of which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, spoke so eloquently. Importantly, it fosters a sense of community in the City. I was chairman of Land Securities when it commissioned the development at New Change at the junction of Cheapside and St Paul’s. We intentionally commissioned a programme with narrow alleyways and squares to recreate the sense of the City as a community and a vibrant area. Today I had lunch in Bow Lane, one of the narrow alleyways; then I went off to smoke my Cohiba in the square in front of the Guildhall. Therefore, I recognise fully what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggests about the potential in the City to create a more lively community.
I support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, in connection with the critical issue of ice creams in Clause 9, which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will have to focus on as the Bill makes its way through Parliament. There are clearly strong views on the subject of ice creams; I do not speak with the knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, but my aspiration will be that we should not rest until we all enjoy a lolly of the same size as Mr Bob Diamond.
My Lords, what a fascinating place the House of Lords is, with its range of issues and topics. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, on introducing this matter at this stage. He gave us an excellent synopsis of the Bill and some fascinating history.
I share the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who I knew would rise to this occasion, having experienced his contributions in a previous debate on the subject of pedlary. I was tempted to declare a conflict of interest on pedlary, but my pedalling has two Ls rather than one, so I decided that it was unnecessary.
There was a point that I wanted to ask the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, to address when he replied. The Bill refers to complying with the European convention, but it is silent on whether the Bill actually complies with the European directive, which was of course the subject of the consultation document. I, too, congratulate the Government on keeping up the good work started previously. The consultation document is excellent.
The Bill is laudable and the intentions are genuine but, as we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions—and the word “paved”, if noble Lords will pardon the pun, might be appropriate in these circumstances. I could not help noticing in the executive summary of the consultation document that it says that to,
“ensure the continued freedom of pedlars to trade, and to prevent re-regulation by another route, we intend to amend the current general exemption from street trading regulation for certified pedlars by clearly defining the exempted mode of trade”,
as well as withdrawing the necessity for certification. It then said,
“This should ensure that pedlars are generally free to trade and not subject to the street trading regime. It will also aid local authority enforcement of illegal street trading by enabling them to establish more quickly when traders are not trading as pedlars”.
I hope it is right in that optimistic assessment because I must admit that when you go through the responses to the consultation document, what is interesting is the variety of responses even among pedlars themselves. For instance, what constitutes a trolley, whether it has ice cream in it or not, since they vary considerably in size? There is an importance to that because in some cases, if it gets to be too large, the question is whether they are really pedlars and mobile in their trade or static street traders. Although we might be considering a somewhat arcane and obscure thing today, I am sure it will eventually have some legal interpretation.
In short, I share the enthusiasm expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and by my noble friend Lord Myners about encouraging people to provide what can be, at its best, a very valuable service and is, for many people, a first-stage entrepreneurial experience. The secret with legislation, however, is in getting the balance right because we know that there will be examples of exploitation going on. Although for many this area will perhaps seem to be of minor importance, I feel sure that the impact will be quite wide-ranging. To conclude, I broadly welcome the legislation. I would be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, could address the question of whether he feels that the proposed legislation complies with the directive—a view which seems to be doubted in the consultation document.
My Lords, I have listened with interest to the debate this afternoon. Having learnt about noble Lords’ views on this Bill I am pleased, as my department’s representative in the House, to respond to this debate on the Government’s behalf. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville brought history alive and put flesh on the bones of his Bill, my noble friend Lord Lucas encouraged the use of little opportunities to start little businesses for the future, and my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill talked about clutter and ice creams and the City of London as a showcase of renown. Then the noble Lord, Lord Myners, leapt into the gap with his support, as did the noble Lord, Lord Young, in whose time this all started.
I am happy to respond to my noble friend Lord Lucas by committing to take forward the response to the consultation on street trading and pedlary. I generally support his call for more local product sales. We are committed to following on from the recommendations from the consultation on pedlary as soon as possible and are hoping to consult on specific measures by the end of this year.
As your Lordships know, this is a private Bill and therefore one that traditionally the Government neither support nor oppose unless for some reason it contains provisions that are contrary to public policy—in which case, I understand, it is the Government’s role to bring such matters to the attention of the House. The House will be aware that in January I reported favourably on the assessment carried out by the promoters of the Bill of its compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights. My department has now had a further opportunity to consider the content of the Bill, and I take this opportunity to report to the House that certain elements of it give cause for concern as to their compatibility with the provisions of the European Union services directive, should the Bill progress.
Of prime interest to my responsibilities are the proposed amendments to allow the City to license temporarily a wider range of street traders than it currently does. This Bill has emerged against the background of the Government’s work to assess the need to change and modernise street trader and pedlar licensing and certification. Some of your Lordships will be aware that the Government have recently published their response to a detailed consultation that draws on the views of stakeholders involved in street trading and pedlary legislation in the United Kingdom. In addition to reflecting on the views of stakeholders who responded, it had also become necessary for my department to consider the impact of the European services directive on authorisation schemes such as the licensing of street traders and the certification of pedlars.
As retailers of goods are deemed to be service providers within the scope of the directive, limitations on their activities in the form of authorisation schemes must be justifiable within the terms of the directive. They must be justifiable in respect of both service providers that are already established in the UK and those from other member states that might wish to provide services on a temporary basis within the UK—maybe even making ice cream. The Government’s response sets out our analysis of the effects of the application of the services directive to retail services and these authorisation schemes. It concludes that we must make some changes to ensure compliance with the directive.
I shall take this opportunity to outline our main proposals. There are a number of changes that we consider necessary, and we intend to consult on draft regulations to implement them later in the year. The areas for consultation are: the amendment of parts of the existing street trading licensing regimes to bring them into line with the directive; repeal of the Pedlars Acts and the certification of pedlars as a deregulatory measure; and the removal of provisions in private or local Acts and in devolved regimes that make certain pedlars subject to street trading regimes, which is also a deregulatory measure.
To ensure the continued freedom of pedlars to trade, and to prevent reregulation by another route, we intend to amend the current general exemption from street trading regulation for certified pedlars by more clearly defining the exempted mode of trade. This should ensure that pedlars are generally free to trade and are not subject to the street trading regime. This should also aid local authority enforcement of illegal street trading by enabling local authorities to establish more quickly when traders are not trading as pedlars.
The full publication, which is available on the BIS website and in the House Library, sets out our proposals for change and our general analysis of the effects of the services directive in more detail than I can give today in the context of this debate. I hope that noble Lords will choose to take some time to look at the response document, and at the consultation document when that is published later.
My noble friend Lord Brooke mentioned the European services directive, and I address that now. I mentioned that the Bill gives rise to some concern about compatibility with the services directive, and I shall outline briefly what those elements are. All local authorities that seek to apply authorisation schemes on street traders will already be aware that they must do so in accordance with the provisions of the directive, as implemented in the UK by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. Where there are provisions in existing regimes that might be applied in a way that is not compatible with the directive, it is for the local authority to ensure that they are not so applied.
In general, authorisation schemes and specific elements of them must be justifiable in their application to service providers already established in the UK, and in their application to those who wish to provide their services on a temporary basis in the UK. In respect of those established in the UK, authorisation schemes, and the specific elements of them, need to be shown to be non-discriminatory and necessary because of overriding reasons related to the public interest. It also needs to be shown that the objectives cannot be met by less restrictive means—that is, that they are proportionate.
In respect of authorisation schemes that apply to temporary providers from other member states—for example, those who might come to the UK to test the market here—the grounds on which such authorisation schemes can be justified are much more limited. Local authorities need to show that the application of such schemes can be justified based on one of only four available grounds: public policy, public security, public health or the protection of the environment. The application of such a scheme must also be non-discriminatory and proportionate. In this context, our view is that the most likely available justification to local authorities will be that of public safety, where such a case can be established. This fundamental difference in available justifications in respect of established and temporary service providers has led the Government to conclude, in our work on the national street trader regime, that it is probably necessary, at least in part, to have a regime that treats each one differently where necessary.
As to the current Bill, our concerns relate to the elements that might not be able to be applied in a way that is compatible with the directive. Clause 3 contains proposals whereby the City would be able to grant temporary licences to trade for up to a maximum of 21 days. Time limitations on authorisation are not banned by the directive, but they must be justifiable in respect of established service providers and temporary providers. It is not clear in the Bill that it is possible to justify such a limit in all cases. The promoters’ stated purpose for these licences—that the intention is to permit trading only in respect of short-term properly defined events—might aid them in framing a justification for these limitations or perhaps in better framing the restriction, but further consideration is necessary.
The second element of the Bill that I would draw to the attention of the House is that concerning the fees chargeable to temporary licence applicants in Clause 3. This provision allows the City to charge such fees as it may determine to cover the reasonable administrative costs or other costs incurred by the Corporation in connection with its functions. However, the directive limits the charges payable under an authorisation scheme, providing that they must be proportionate to the cost of administering such a scheme. They should not in any event exceed that cost. Although strictly speaking the Corporation is not therefore allowed to charge more in respect of an authorisation scheme than is permitted by the directive, noble Lords might consider, for reasons of legal clarity, whether this should be put beyond doubt in the Bill.
The final element of the Bill that I should mention is Clause 9, which relates to permitting the sale of ice cream, using an approved container, outside premises. One effect of this approval system, as currently presented in the Bill, is to permit only occupiers of premises within the City to sell ice cream on the street, albeit within 11 metres of those premises. This, in the view of my department, is likely to be considered indirectly discriminatory against temporary service providers who, by definition, have no established premises in the United Kingdom. The directive prohibits measures that are discriminatory, either directly or indirectly. We suggest that the promoters should rethink these provisions in relation to temporary service providers.
Noble Lords will have noted that the coalition Government want to see all retail businesses, including those operated by licensed street traders, thrive over the coming months as the United Kingdom economy grows. We applaud measures that are good for business and encourage entrepreneurship at all levels. Extending opportunities to licensed traders in the City of London is certainly aligned with the Government’s desire to encourage opportunities for growth. We do not believe that the issues mentioned above are by any means insurmountable.
I am pleased that there has been much of interest in this debate, and to have been able to make a contribution from the Government’s perspective. I know that noble Lords are far-sighted and might recognise that the contents of this Private Member’s Bill not only reflect issues of interest to the residents of and visitors to the City of London but lead us to reflect on the wider developments in street trading and pedlary policy, which will be part of my department’s work into the summer. I hope all stakeholders with an interest in these areas—noble Lords and interested Members of the other place who have been active in the consideration of other private street trading Bills—will choose to get involved in shaping that future landscape. We can all play our part in helping to achieve the large-scale regrowth of the economy, which in a localised way the promoters of the City of London Bill would apparently like to see achieved on a smaller scale within their authority.
My Lords, I cordially thank all colleagues in your Lordships' House who have taken part in this debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, on picking up the reference to 15 metres as against 11. As I deliberately handed the credit for the figures in the Bill to the Corporation, by definition I cannot take any credit for the fact that this magical and instantaneous concession to the noble Lord, Lord Myners, has been achieved in the course of this Second Reading, but I am sure that the Corporation will be grateful.
I thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for his speech and his observations about the Bill. I concur with his comment about the number of open spaces in the City and the fact that there are opportunities available therein to be able to expand at some stage in the future what has already been done. I well remember the campaign waged by that remarkable property developer Fred Cleary, of Haslemere Estates, who I think was chairman of the Metropolitan Water Trust Society, and who sought to quadruple the number of gardens in the City by increasing the number of flowerboxes and using the water troughs for flowers since there were no longer horses that wished to drink from them. He was successful and his efforts had a highly beneficial effect on the look of the City. One of the pleasures of the City of London is that there are plenty of people around—it is a miniature version of the big society—who want to make it a more congenial and agreeable place in which to work. I am sure that the Remembrancer of the City of London—a post which has existed since 1571—will take note of the various suggestions which my noble friend Lord Lucas made about further extensions.
I will not necessarily answer the questions asked me by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, in exactly the order in which he asked them but I will deal first with parking. It is an issue with which I have some parliamentary familiarity, as one of the facets of being an inner-city MP, whereby you have only 75,000 voters but cover an area where the best part of a million people come to work every day, is that if they get into trouble with the parking authorities—in my case, in either part of my constituency—they do not know who to write to, and by definition they do not know the councillors concerned. However, what they do know is that the constituency has a Member of Parliament. Therefore, I had to handle a large number of complaints, which came in from all over the home counties, on the part of people who had been tested by the parking disciplines.
A professional photographer from Norfolk took enormous care always to photograph his car, wherever he parked it, when he came to London on professional business in order to have an absolutely cast-iron defence, whichever parking authority took him to the courts. I am delighted to say that when this problem was pointed out to the Corporation of London and it was warned that some people were photographing their cars to make sure that they were not committing an offence, every single parking official in the City of London was issued with a camera so that every time they administered a charge they had physical proof that the person had parked outside the space involved. As regards the specific question that the noble Lord asked, Section 15(1) of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 enables civil enforcement against a vehicle parked partly or wholly on the pavement in the City and elsewhere in London. Clause 10 will extend such civil enforcement to vehicles parked on city walkways that may be some distance from the highway. It does not change the position for vehicles parked on the pavement.
The issue of the distance from the frontage of an establishment selling iced confectionery has already been dwelt on, unless the noble Lord wishes to press it. As to the quality of the ice cream being offered, which clearly plays a role in making the City an attractive destination to tourists—in addition those who work there, as the noble Lord, Lord Myners, mentioned—the provisions of the Bill will not directly impact on the quality of the ice cream; however, the ability to effectively enforce action against rogue traders who often overcharge for their product, together with the increased sale of ice cream by premises that fall within the remit of the City’s food safety officers, should result in standards increasing.
The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, who was generally friendly towards the Bill, asked about the directive. It was, of course, a subject addressed by my noble friend Lady Wilcox. I am sure that, just as with the suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about further extensions to the City’s liberality, the noble Lord, Lord Young, will have taken note of what she said about the directive. Her department was consulted on the contents of the Bill before deposit and made no comments, other than to draw attention to, first, the need to ensure that any authorisation scheme complied with the services directive and, secondly, the general review that the Government are undertaking and the likely consequent need for change to some local Acts. On the basis of that, it could be said that the Government were keeping their cards fairly close to their chest, and the test may well come hereafter. At any rate, the issue has been attended to and looked at.
I will bring these remarks to a conclusion. I began my opening speech by referring to the last City of London Bill that I sponsored before entering your Lordships' House. I shall end the debate by referring to the first such Bill that I dealt with in the 1978-79 Session of Parliament, now a third of a century ago, which concerned Epping Forest and the then proposed M25 motorway. The City of London Corporation, acting as conservators of the forest, fought a long campaign to protect it, as it had in the 19th century when the forest acted as the green lung for London's East End. The Bill was the culmination of the campaign and settled an agreed route, with tunnelling to preserve the natural aspect of the forest.
It is perhaps worth reflection that among the greatest supporters of the City of London Corporation during the passage of the Bill were the then Members for Newham North West, Arthur Lewis—whom some noble Lords will remember—and for Harlow, Stan Newens. Noble Lords might reasonably think that such veterans of the Labour movement would not be the City of London Corporation's greatest admirers, yet great tributes were paid to the Corporation for what Arthur Lewis repeatedly described in the Official Report, 6 March 1979, cols. 1202-05, as the excellent job the City did in the public interest. For connoisseurs of the East End’s political history, I warmly commend these four columns of debate. Arthur Lewis in particular was so dedicated a constituency Member that, in order to test the security provisions on the urban transportation of irradiated fuel through his constituency, he once turned up at his local station in battle dress. His commendation of the Corporation of the City of London was particularly appreciated in the square mile.
In approaching the regulation of street trading and seeking to accommodate competing needs in a measured way, I venture to observe that the City is continuing to adopt the same approach in this Bill as Arthur Lewis attributed to it in 1979. I hope that these provisions commend themselves to the House. I beg to move.
Bill read a second time.
House adjourned at 5.30 pm.