My Lords, I should first explain the three minor amendments to this Bill, which I shall move formally at a later point. All I can say about these amendments is that they are in the nature of tidying up. One of them alters an incorrect reference to the “Kent Valley Police Force”, which appears to be something of a hybrid of Kent and Thames Valley, no doubt caused by the fact that Reading Borough Council is promoting one of the other Bills that we are discussing this afternoon.
I begin by paying tribute to those noble Lords who considered the Bill in Select Committee just over a year ago. The noble Baroness, Lady Knight of Collingtree, chaired the committee most ably, and was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, my noble friend Lord Glasman and the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger. All the members of the committee took a very strong interest in the Bills, and that is evidenced not only by their attendance here today but by their detailed special report which I, and I am sure other noble Lords, have read with interest.
Over three days the committee heard evidence from all four councils, and from pedlars who had presented petitions against the Bills. I am told that the committee was not only fair and even-handed with all the parties, as we would expect, but took a truly active and interested role in the proceedings, questioning the witnesses forensically in some detail. The committee decided to amend the Bills substantially, and highlighted a number of points in its special report, which I will try to summarise now.
First, there was a concern that the Bills were disproportionate, in the way that they restricted people’s ability to exercise their rights legally to trade as pedlars. The committee was particularly concerned to protect the rights of those pedlars—genuine pedlars, as they have become known—who play by the rules, who move around when trading and who do not use oversized stores to display their wares. These mirrored concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, at Second Reading, and the committee addressed them by amending the Bills in the way that it did. The Bills now contain provisions that restrict the size of stall that can be used by pedlars, but they are otherwise able to continue to trade as they did before.
Secondly, the committee was concerned about the use of piecemeal, incremental modification of national law by private legislation. As I mentioned at Second Reading, pre-empting points that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, the Bill’s promoters have real sympathy with his concern. They would have preferred not to promote these Bills to deal with these local issues, but the problems that they were encountering meant that they felt that they had to, particularly as there was, at the time that the Bills were deposited, no real appetite on the part of the Government to address the issues nationally. Things have changed on that score, and in a somewhat timely manner. Only last Friday, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a consultation paper on regulations to amend street trading legislation on a national basis. I will return to that topic a little later.
The committee also questioned the motivation of the councils in promoting the Bills. It accepted the councils’ primary concern, about the need to ensure safe passage on the highway and to prevent obstruction, but was unconvinced by the council’s evidence on the need to protect the urban environment. Again, the committee’s views chimed with those of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, at Second Reading, when he expressed his views about some of our streets lacking character.
The committee was also concerned about what it saw as an attempt to protect licensed street traders from unfair competition from pedlars. The councils presented evidence to show that licensed street traders sometimes paid hundreds of pounds annually for their licences, compared to the £12.50 paid by pedlars. They also demonstrated that, in many cases, traders who were trading under the authority of a pedlar’s certificate were often doing so from stalls that gave the impression of being permanent. I have some sympathy for those street traders and, in that respect, I am glad to say that, as I mentioned earlier, the committee amended the Bill in such a way that the use of larger stalls will be subject to control.
The next point that the committee dealt with was enforcement. All four Bills would have allowed the councils to seize items from unlawful street traders. The committee thought that this was a step too far and removed the seizure provisions. The councils were naturally disappointed, but were pleased that the committee was content to leave in the fixed-penalty provisions.
Finally, the committee was concerned to ensure that the new restrictions on pedlars did not operate throughout the whole area of each council. It is fair to say that a happy medium was reached in that regard, with the committee deciding that the new restrictions on the size of pedlars’ stalls should apply only in those parts of the authorities’ areas which are designated by councils on the basis that the controls will be necessary to ensure road safety or prevent obstruction of the highway.
Having mentioned the committee and its decisions, I turn briefly to the Government’s position. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has, while the Bills have been progressing through Parliament, been developing its own policy on street trading, particularly in the light of the European services directive which, since the introduction of the Bills, has been recognised as applying to the retail sale of goods and, therefore, to street trading. The department submitted the report to the Select Committee and appeared before it, expressing some concerns about the compatibility of the Bills, as they then were, with the directive. During proceedings, the councils drafted amendments which satisfied the department in that regard. As I have mentioned, the committee went somewhat further with its amendments, noting importantly that it was satisfied that the Bills before us now are compatible with the directive.
The Government have also recognised the need to deal on a national basis with the issue of compatibility. After a long wait, they published a consultation and a draft regulation just 10 days ago. It would not be appropriate to dwell on that consultation for too long today, but there is some similarity between what the Government are proposing on a national basis as regards the equipment that a pedlar may trade with and what the Bills now provide. The councils will need to examine the consultation document carefully and will no doubt provide detailed responses in February when the consultation closes. What seems clear, and will no doubt come as something of a relief to your Lordships, is that if the Government make their proposed regulations there are very likely to be no more local pedlars’ Bills. We should all give three cheers for that; we have been waiting for this consultation for a long time.
I conclude by saying that, after their long gestation in Parliament, these four Bills are now in a form that I hope your Lordships will find acceptable. The councils will be able to exert much needed control over those who abuse the pedlars legislation and, as a result of the committee’s amendments to the Bills, those who are now commonly referred to as genuine pedlars will be afforded protection. I therefore hope that your Lordships will allow the Bills to pass today and agree to the amendments that I shall propose to the Canterbury City Council Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, we are all indebted to the masterly summary from my old friend and parliamentary neighbour for some years, the noble Lord, Lord Bilston. We had another guardian angel, and that is the noble Lord, Lord Lucas; I am delighted that we shall hear from him in a little while. When one is told one is to chair a Select Committee set up to examine a case put forward by quadruplets—three cities and a borough—it sounds like rather a dull old chore. That is wrong—in fact, it turned out to be a fascinating, educative, challenging and rewarding experience and I would not have missed it for the world.
I will put a slightly different complexion on what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, from the heart of the Select Committee, as it were. I would like to make it clear to the House that the team of colleagues I worked with could not possibly have been better. From all political corners of this House, we worked in happy unison. I begin with my heartfelt thanks to every one of them for their expertise, wisdom, patience, judgment and, may I also say, their friendship.
Basically, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, has said, these local authority Bills were seeking the total eradication of pedlars from their streets. The supporting counsel said that pedlars caused unacceptable congestion. The members of the committee asked for evidence and they produced photographs of their streets, which of course were very crowded. We scrutinised them carefully and asked questions. We concluded that nothing we had been shown, or told, proved the case that the local authorities were making.
We reached the conclusion, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, has touched on, that the local authorities were at least partly motivated by a desire to protect licensed street traders who pay a lot more for their licences than the pedlars pay for their permits. We did not accept the claim that pedlars should be banished because the quality of their goods might be inferior to that being sold in the shops or on the fixed stalls. We felt rather outraged by this; it has never been the business of local councils to set up as experts on what is unfair or fair trading, as regards the quality of the goods. So that claim went by the wayside.
The representatives of the councils then assured us that the public were much against pedlars, that they could not stand having pedlars in their streets and that we really should listen to what the public said. The committee asked for evidence on that issue. They could not produce a single letter or newspaper campaign in support of their contention. However, the pedlars gave us acceptable and valid reasons to say that there was good evidence of public approval.
The members also reflected that pedlars had been on the streets of England prior to Shakespeare. Even Chaucer mentioned pedlars and we saw no reason to go to war with them or to change history. However, as has been said, we felt that some changes should be made in the way in which pedlars operate. Some of the pictures submitted by the promoters showed that the small trolleys that pedlars are allowed to use to carry and display their wares were sometimes very much extended. The base was small with four little wheels, rather like those that we all wheel about when we come to London for the week. But enormous adjuncts, including poles, were put on and where the trolley started quite small, it finished up yards wide with, for example, pashminas and scarves hung all along it. We felt that those were not acceptable and could cause obstruction.
Therefore, the committee suggested amendments. We have heard a little about the changes but I have the exact measurements. The trolley used to carry the goods must not be more than 0.75 metres in width; 0.5 metres in depth; and 1.25 metres in height. The overall size of the trolley also is constrained. We gratefully accept the small amendments, which were necessary, on different subjects, about which we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bilston. Clearly, great care has been exercised on the whole of these applications by the councils.
However, we had several other concerns. So great was the interest of the members of the committee that one brought a pedlar’s base to the Committee Room. We had it on the desk where we gazed at it, walked around it and figured out how it would look when it was dressed. We really concerned ourselves with how things were to work.
I am delighted to receive the news that other changes are to be made, because we felt that the four Bills presented would undoubtedly have given councils a disproportionate power in relation to suspected street trading offences. The pedlars were very worried about that, particularly the suggestion that almost at the drop of a hat all their goods could be confiscated for such a period of time that many would be useless when that time was up—they would have gone past their sell-by date by a long way. We have reduced these powers to the issuing of fixed penalty notices and we have made it a requirement that councils train all officials who exercise the remaining powers. We decided it would be best to put in place a statutory duty on councils, rather than just relying on an undertaking given under private Bill procedures.
The most important change of all is the piecemeal modification of national law by scores of individual little bits of private legislation that has gone on until now, but is now—thank heaven—to be changed. It really is extremely unsatisfactory. There are people who very much support the right of local authorities to put forward their own Bills—and long may that continue—but here we have a silly situation where the same objective has so far been put forward by 40 local authorities through their own legislation. There are some 300 others waiting around the corner to see when they are going to have their chance. These Bills would have come to this House, causing more time-wasting and money-wasting for the local councils, who have to employ counsels to put forward their case.
We heard a little about the arrests that this has led to, which are quite wrong and totally unfair. If a pedlar gets his certificate to trade, say, in Newcastle, that gives him the right to trade just as legally in Brighton, Bodmin, Birmingham or anywhere else; he can use the one certificate. However, a certificate in one place gives powers that are quite different from those in another place which has brought in its own rules. This is very confusing, and I am glad that we now see a light at the end of that tunnel and that this, too, will be altered. Incidentally, we heard evidence from a woman pedlar who had received her certificate quite legally, but who was arrested by the police in a town other than the one which had granted the licence and taken her money for it. She had no idea that she was breaking the law. That really must stop, and I am delighted that it will not be long before we see the change that we have all asked for.
It may be worth throwing in another point. We understand that there have been at least four other occasions when this House has held a Select Committee on very similar Bills. None of those committees came to the same conclusion that we did. They thought that the local authorities were right. That will have to be sorted out: they came to totally different conclusions, and those conclusions were wrong. Suffice to say that all the Bills were after the same thing: getting rid of pedlars.
Only a few weeks ago the Government published a consultation paper on repealing the Pedlars Act 1871 and the Pedlars Act 1881. The paper appeared after our committee had sat, but during our deliberations we warned that repealing the requirement on pedlars to obtain a certificate to trade would take away the exemption for certified pedlars from other street-trading restrictions. To do this without putting in its place a clear national exemption allowing pedlars to exercise their right to trade would be wholly unacceptable.
For more years than anyone wants to count, Peers have paid their tributes and uttered their thanks to the magnificent staff who serve us all in the Private Bill Office and the Public Bill Office. All of us on the committee wish to do so unreservedly. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff who worked with us. The bounty and quality of their help was absolutely endless. I will mention specifically the wonderful Kate Lawrence, whose expertise as clerk to the committee we relied on completely and endlessly, and Chris Bolton, who bears the impressive title Examiner of Private Acts. She, too, must be a very busy lady. Between them, these two ladies know absolutely everything and are a huge asset to the House.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, and to thank the one person whom she did not thank—namely, her. I am sure that I speak for all my colleagues on the committee when I say how marvellously she chaired it and how enjoyable the experience was.
I shall speak extremely briefly. Having heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, and the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, I am not sure that there is much more to say. The crucial issue is that we cannot go on having private Bills on the same subject for the next 300 councils. The intellectual experience of trying to combine the provisions of 19th century legislation with the EU services directives of 2010 or 2012 should not be imposed on any other committee.
I urge the Government, when the consultation is over, to go back to the existing legislation and other councils. We are now in a position where the four councils whose Bills we examined will have a regime that is more restrictive of them than is the case, for instance, in London, which is much harsher towards pedlars.
Our real triumph was to look at the trolley, decide what size it was, look at the photographs of ones that looked like small cars being pushed round the streets of Leeds and decide that enough was enough.
Finally, in a period when city centres are under such pressure and there are too many closed shops, why would we wish to close down the seed corn of the pedlars who bring some brightness to those streets? I commend the Bills.
My Lords, I, too, will say a great thank you to my noble friend Lady Knight. The witnesses who came before the committee were very varied. It was not particularly easy to give them the opportunity to say what they wanted to say. Some of the representatives and the pedlars were quite overawed by the Pugin experience. Of course, the evidence coming from the local authorities was very different. They were very well schooled, they knew what they were going to say, and they also knew what they were not going to say. Our chairman did a brilliant job of bringing out the evidence that came out during our inquiry. Certainly it was because of that that the members of the committee became so intrigued by and involved in what was going on in front of us.
I want to talk briefly about fixed penalties. I think that in principle fixed penalties are undesirable. They may be necessary but, when they are, they are a necessary evil. The problem is that many people acquire the power to impose fixed penalties. We try to offset that by training and I hope that that works, but I think your Lordships will all recognise that power corrupts. One can go on to absolute power but power does corrupt—there is absolutely no doubt about that. In some fixed penalty regimes, there are people who take advantage of the power that they have and they impose the regime in a very unfriendly way. The necessity for these regimes may arise from the courts being overloaded, but one has to ask why they are overloaded. The conclusion is that Parliament must have some responsibility for that.
In the exercise of these powers, which are in some of the Private Members’ Bills that have become Acts, I think that my noble friend is entirely right that there is a culture of chasing pedlars about. I am not sure about removing them altogether—it is more fun to chase people who are still there—but they do it to make pedlars’ lives more difficult. I am very grateful that in the Bill the Secretary of State has the power to look at the penalties and, if necessary, to restrict them.
As for the new regime which we have been told about, I hope that it is a liberal one—that is, liberal with a small “l”. I have always thought, and continue to think, that one of the great advantages of democracy is an acceptance of difference and diversity, and not a wish to make everybody look and behave the same while living by a great welter of rules. I very much hope that the 4,000 pedlars are not reduced in number under the new regime but are able to trade and to live their lives in the way that they want.
My Lords, I also pay tribute to the committee, and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, who gave me incredible instruction on how to chair. It was a genuinely excellent experience. There are two things I should like to share with the House. First, the balance between kindness and severity was very well judged. The pedlars and their representatives were occasionally speechless and sometimes cried in the committee. They were scared and I thought that the noble Baroness dealt with them beautifully. Towards the legal counsel, the proposers and the pedlars’ legal representative, who tended to go on a little, I thought that she showed the appropriate degree of, let us say, sternness. Secondly, I should like to share with the House what the noble Baroness said to me. When I asked her a question, she said, “Being in committee is as much about the work you do between the meetings as the work you do in them”. That was taken on board. It was a very good experience indeed and I think we came to the right judgments.
There are two concerns that I should like to share with the House. First, I asked the representative from Leeds council whether she could name one world-class institution that came out of Leeds. It was obviously not the football club. She could not quite put her finger on it. I tried to prod her, telling her that Marks & Spencer was the institution and that Simon Marks started off as a pedlar. The idea that pedlars—poor people coming to this country, moving around and showing some enterprise—would be stamped on here was astonishing to me. I completely echo what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said about the desire to homogenise the shopping experience and shopping centres. There was quite a whiff of local enforcement going on against the pedlars that came through from the witnesses, and I found that quite unpleasant and disturbing.
My second concern is a constitutional one. “Pedlar” is from the Latin for feet—as we said in the committee—as in pedalo. It is true that pedlars were pushing their bags rather than walking them in some cases, due the size of the things that they had, and we originally based it on Simon Marks’ bag, which we looked at in the Marks & Spencer museum. That was an appropriate size for a pedlar’s bag, we thought. There has to be enforcement in bringing that down to size and getting it correct.
One finds references to pedlars even before Chaucer, going back to accounts from Roman times. There have been pedlars taking their wares from town to town and from city to city for as long as there have been records in the country, so it is a status that has existed from time immemorial. There were references to pedlars before 1191. It is not customary practice; it is practice from time immemorial. It was recognised in the 1871 Act; it was not created in the 1871 Act—that is a very important distinction. In other words, it is not clear that the status of the pedlar can be abolished. It seems to me that it is an ancient status in the realm and that there have been very ill thought out and incoherent attempts to limit that freedom of movement, as was manifest in the Bills that came before.
I looked at the BIS consultation document. BIS’s legal evidence seemed to suggest a lack of historical awareness about pedlars. It was taking EU directives and applying them in a very flat and straightforward way. I asked BIS how it could account for the fact that Germany has enormous differences in craft status that are still consistent with the EU. Its reply was, “We take a different view of enforcement”. BIS is taking a very straightforward, unhistorical view that pedlars will interfere with new services. We have to resist that, refute it and absolutely assert that pedlars have been part of our kingdom and part of the realm for many thousands of years. They play a role in taking things from town to town and in bringing people together in many ways, disrupting stable, corporate markets. We really should defend them. I commend the report and I commend the committee.
My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to be able to praise my noble friend’s committee. It is an extraordinary example of the Lords at its very best and I cheer to the echo what it says in its report. It is wonderful to see the Lords standing up for the unregarded, which is something which, when we pay attention, we do very well. I echo my noble friend’s praise for Chris Bolton, who is one of the great anchors of this House. I am also going to praise the European Union, which I do not always do—it seems to me that it has got the services directive right—and I am going to praise my noble friend on the Front Bench in his role with his department, because the consultation that it has produced is a very fine example of a consultation. It is clear about what it sets out to do; it is clear about the reasons that it is adducing for that; and it is open as regards the responses that it is looking for. It clearly anticipates that people will disagree and it encourages disagreement. It is a very fine piece of work and I look forward to the legislation if it carries on in that spirit. It would have been nice, too, to be able to praise the Local Government Association, but its reaction to the consultation was immediate, negative and silly.
As the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, often reminds us, we are going through tough economic times. It looks as though those will be with us for some time to come. We really have to make it easy for people to start out in business, whether they intend to found Marks & Spencer or whether they intend just to make a living. If that is some minor inconvenience to us, we jolly well have to put up with it. The high streets are difficult places to break into now. It would be very difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, to do what he did in founding a business because so many businesses are now chains. How can a little guy starting out get a chain store to take up his product? It is very difficult. A lot of the empty premises in high streets are not for rent except at very high figures because the landlords are desperate to keep up the fiction that they still have a high-value property on their hands. That makes it very difficult for people who are just starting out to obtain space on the high street. The attitude shown by the consultation and by my noble friend’s committee seems to me entirely praiseworthy.
When one walks around the streets of Westminster, one sees that Westminster Council is very much in favour of sterility when it comes to its streetscape. I feel ashamed because there is so much money in Westminster and so many opportunities to start businesses. I hope that the result of the determination of my noble friend on the Front Bench’s department to open up the legislation on street trading and pedlary will be that we start to see that, as a community in Westminster, we give many more people the chance to start out in life.
My Lords, I, too, was a member of the Select Committee that considered these Bills and I will start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, who chaired the Select Committee with great patience and skill.
Most pedlars are itinerant and often go where the business takes them, selling hats, scarves, other items of clothing, key rings and balloons. They are true entrepreneurs, adapting their products and location to what their customers want and where the market is. They add colour and diversity to our increasingly uniform shopping streets. The fact that they can make a living as pedlars suggests that they provide a useful service and, so far as the committee could tell, they appear to do no one any harm at all.
The Bills as drafted sought to end the pedlars’ exemption from street trading laws so that they would not be able to operate on the street in areas designated by the four local authorities that are pushing the Bills. The Bills as presented to the Select Committee also introduced fixed penalties and a power for officials to seize pedlars’ goods. The committee spent a lot of time trying to discover why the four local authorities wanted these powers. We were told that pedlars sell sub-standard goods, but no evidence whatever was offered to prove this allegation, and we have no reason to believe that their goods are any better or worse than those sold by licensed street traders. It was alleged that pedlars create a situation that attracts pickpockets, but again, no evidence was offered. It was also said that pedlars cause obstruction of the highway. Little evidence for this allegation was offered apart from a small number of cases where wide and expanding trolleys had been used.
The witnesses who spoke for the local authorities were somewhat unconvincing. We heard evidence from pedlars that many council officers and the police are ignorant about the 1871 Act, and we also heard much evidence of a bullying culture on the part of council officials towards honest and hard-working pedlars. I concluded that the real reason why these councils wish to exempt themselves from the 1871 Act is that they are control freaks who resent the freedom that pedlars enjoy. I also suspect that there is pressure from licensed street traders, who compete with the few pedlars in their area and who pay considerably more than a pedlar’s licence for their trading pitch. However, for the extra fees that licensed street traders pay, they get the benefit of a fixed pitch where they can trade all day without having to move on. If they think that pedlars get an unfair advantage, there is nothing to stop them applying for a pedlar’s licence themselves.
The committee made several important amendments to the Bills. Pedlars will still be able to operate on the street in the designated areas provided that their trolleys do not obstruct the highway. The amendments set maximum dimensions for the trolleys to bring clarity to this issue. The amendments reduce the number of reasons that a local authority can use to designate an area. We deleted the seizure powers, which we thought could easily have been abused by council officials. We added a requirement for better training of council officials on trading laws and a requirement for local authorities to make their rules and designated areas clear on their websites. We also constrained the value of fixed penalties. Therefore, we have turned what I believe to have been four bad Bills into four not so bad Bills. We have removed or neutered their most repressive aspects.
I have to say that, if it had been down to me alone, I would have made only one amendment to each Bill, and I would have done that with the help of the nearest shredder. But in deference to my more experienced colleagues on the committee, I have agreed to a set of amendments that reduce the detrimental impact of these Bills, and it is the amended Bill that is before the House today.
My Lords, perhaps I may acknowledge at the outset the considerable efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, and pay tribute to his determination to see these Bills make progress. The noble Lord’s patience is remarkable. I should also say that your Lordships’ House is indebted to the committee for its extremely thorough work, and it is very clear that my noble friend Lady Knight of Collingtree has been both kind and firm. The result of the committee’s work is that the Bills are in better shape.
My understanding is that the Government do not normally seek to intervene in private legislation, but on this occasion they have done so in order to take full account of the impact of the European services directive. As many of your Lordships will know, the services directive aims to make it easier for services businesses of all types, including retailers of goods such as street traders and pedlars, to set up and trade anywhere in the European Union. Restrictions on trading must be the minimum necessary and can be allowed only where necessary to defend overarching public interest objectives such as public safety and public order. This means that licensing and registration systems must be justifiable on the evidence and effective in securing the public interest. Blanket bans will not be allowed if there are less restrictive ways of achieving the desired objective and there must be no discrimination in favour of UK-based or local traders.
The Government are currently consulting on changes to the national legislation on street trading and pedlary in order to take account of the directive. The same constraints apply to local legislation. I should say at this stage that this is not a case of the UK being obliged to introduce onerous new regulations against its will. The services directive is fundamentally a pro-enterprise measure designed to build the single market and successive Governments have supported this kind of deregulation.
In October 2011, during the Committee stage of these Bills in your Lordships’ House, the Government raised their concerns about the compatibility of the Bills with the services directive, in particular Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bills. As a result of the concerns raised both by the committee and the Government, Clauses 4 of the Bills were totally removed and Clauses 5 were adequately amended. As the Government’s concerns have been addressed, the Government have no objection to the further progression of the Bills through this House.
If your Lordships will permit, I would like to say a few words about the Government’s further plans in this area, and I am reassured that noble Lords have already welcomed much of what has already been said in this regard. As has been mentioned, the Government’s consultation on draft regulations to amend the national street trading regime and repeal the UK-wide Pedlars Acts of 1871 and 1881 was published on 23 November and will run until 15 February next year. On conclusion of the consultation period, the Government will fully consider the views of the respondents before a final set of draft regulations is laid in Parliament. The Government are open to amending local legislation through these regulations at the same time, if the relevant local authorities so wish. Referring to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blair, the Government have asked in the consultation that local authorities ensure that they screen their legislation. If they identify provisions which require amendment, they can use the Government’s regulations to make the changes. I will also refer to the point made in different ways by the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, and by my noble friends Lord Strasburger and Lord Lucas, about the historic—indeed ancient—role of pedlars. In my view as a rural man, this relates to the analogy of acorns growing into oaks of commerce. My noble friend Lord Lucas referred to founding businesses and we must surely encourage this.
The Government will watch carefully to see if the new legislation creates particular problems for local authorities and if they emerge, the Government are open to considering further changes to national legislation, if appropriate. However, on this occasion I think the balance has been struck correctly and I reiterate the Government’s continued thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bilston, and to the committee for their work in getting this matter right.
My Lords, I sense that the House wishes my reply to be brief. I can be brief, in the sense that a great deal of the meat of this important question has been dealt with by the members of the committee. Every member of the committee made the point that I made at the outset: that it is due to the able chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, and the integrity and wisdom of the committee in bringing forward the points and amendments that it made, that a fine and fair balance has been struck between the needs of pedlars and those of legitimate market traders and local authorities. I entirely accept the stricture of the noble Lord, Lord Blair, that there is a long way to go. However, it is not for the want of people like myself urging previous Governments to take hold of this issue and deal with it, as we did at Second Reading. We now understand consultation will take place in order to have a national solution which will be dealt with in a national way, rather than with these private Bills.
As we have heard, anomalies will now arise, because Bills have been passed giving greater powers to local authorities in this matter than are being given in the four Bills we are debating today. The way that these Bills have been dealt with creates anomalies and that is why we always wanted a proper national solution from the Government of the day. I hope this will be forthcoming. I again thank the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, and all the members of the committee for working in B-flat harmony to bring about this happy conclusion for the four local authorities for which we are moving these Bills and for the pedlars who will have a sense of fairness and justice awarded to them. I commend the Bill to the House and thank all noble Lords for their participation.
Amendments 1 to 3
1:Page 1, leave out “and touting”
2:Clause 2, page 2, line 13, leave out “Valley”
3:Page 2, line 22, leave out “street” has the same meaning as in Schedule 4 to the 1982 Act.”
Amendments 1 to 3 agreed.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.