Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence


Evidence before the Committee (Questions 340-359)

WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2003

340.  This review of policy by the Metropolitan Police of course will only, all being well, satisfy the situation in London. However, I am working with West Yorkshire Police and they are awaiting the review from the Metropolitan Police and they expect to implement the review in West Yorkshire. Also, in the very near future I will ask the Home Office to write to the rest of the constabularies around the country and ask them to implement the same review.

341.  It has taken a kick up the backside from this Bill for me to look at this and say, "yes, there is a problem with regard to the issue of pedlars". Having said that, it has taken me to do it! One has to ask oneself why local authorities are certainly suffering from pedlars who should in no way, in my opinion on an objective analysis, have been issued with pedlars' certificates.

342.  I also deal with Trading Standards Officers, who have a very difficult task. We had problems in Leeds and Bradford, which seems to be the case in the vast majority of places, certainly in the North, of counterfeit Nokia goods. I work with Nokia. I work with the solicitors that represent Nokia and I work with trading standards authorities looking at the issue of counterfeit goods. It is a problem. It took me three months to get trading standards to go on to the market and deal with the matter, a week later the goods were back on the market, so we can understand where trading standards lie on this matter.

343.  Would it not be nice if all of the ills of the world disappeared because certain pedlars sell faulty goods? Last night on the television we saw Seiko with their sharp practices and labelling on their watches with regard to waterproof watches. Criminally they do not break any law but there is certainly civil law and precedent with regard to bad labelling with regard to watches.

344.  I could take Morrison's to task on the way they get-up on their beers, their so-called continental beers that are in fact brewed in Burton-on-Trent. They get up to exactly the same except somewhere on the tin or in the twenty-four tin packet it says "brewed in the United Kingdom". If you are a good beer drinker like me you will appreciate that the water makes all of the difference.

345.  Yes, there are certain pedlars that sell counterfeit goods, sell faulty goods but I have to say that they are few and far between, certainly where I live, and I would say in Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool - trading standards have dealt with it. That is with regard to that issue raised by the witness for the Promoters.

346.  If we look at the preamble to the Bill, "It is expedient that further and better provision should be made for the improvement and development of local government services in London and for the benefit of persons residing therein and that the powers of London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London it should be extended and amended as provided in this Act".

347.  When I look at the sub-sections there I can only see, "It is expedient that the other provisions contained in this Act should be enacted".

348.  It is highly questionable whether unfair competition, pedlars coming from the North, should be addressed by the Committee with regard to what the Promoters are instigating the Bill for.

349.  Unregulated: Pedlars are unregulated, they rely on their conscience. Yes, now and again you suddenly find yourself stood in the pavement, nobody has been about and you cause a problem. The lady that stands there with her pram causes a problem now and again, sometimes she could not care less and sometimes she realises her and her Mum are causing a problem and they move out of the way.

350.  As far as I am aware the last time there was a debate in the House on pedlars - this is pedlars in general - was a House of Commons debate on 1 July - my birthday - 1998. This is from Hansard. It was Dr Peter Brand who opened up the debate, there was Mr David Health, Somerton and Frome and to answer on behalf of the Government was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Mr George Howarth:

351.  "Dr Peter Brand: I am grateful for the opportunity of raising the issue of pedlars. I have been supported on the issue in an early-day motion that has been signed by honourable Members on both sides of the House". This is an issue that has been addressed by numerous councils, if not all councils, so to bring it in as a Private Bill certainly causes problems.

352.  "Mr Howarth: I am grateful that he will respond to this debate. There are significant problems associated with people who trade on the streets, whether they are pedlars or street traders. I should like to concentrate particularly on the issue of pedlars. I believe that they create unfair competition, are poorly controlled, cause great problems for local police forces and are certainly a major headache for environmental health", woe betide the lorry drivers, "trading standards and local government licensing officers.

353.  "I am sure that pedlars once served an extremely useful function in spreading goods round rural communities, such as my own. However, they used to work on foot within a local district, and the fact that they were licensed by a local police authority was entirely appropriate if they restricted their activity to within that authority. `

354.  I add on that, within the 1871 Act you could pay a few shillings more and then your Pedlar's Certificate allowed you to trade anyway in the UK. It seemed quite apparent that everybody paid those few shillings as ten years later, in 1881, there came the addition to the Pedlars Act and basically with a Pedlar's Certificate you could trade anywhere in the UK.

355.  "Unfortunately, now any pedlar can get a licence from his or her own local police force and operate anywhere within England and Wales", if he is an honest person, that is. "Although I am sure that the Pedlars Act 1871 was entirely relevant to its time, I am not quite sure whether it is entirely appropriate now, especially as we move towards the millennium." Our turnover is coming towards £1 million, tax and vat £200,000 a year.

356.  "I have received considerable representations on the issue. I am particularly grateful to my colleague, Alan Hersey, a local councillor on the Isle of Wight, who first brought it to my attention. Concern about the matter has been very...." My apologies.

357.  CHAIRMAN: Mr Thompson, whilst the debate in the House of Commons is obviously of infinite value, I do not think we would like to see every word read out verbatim. If you could encapsulate, how can I put it, the guts of it. So far it seems to me that you are arguing against yourself with what has been said in that particular debate. Maybe there is a saving sentence coming up in a moment.

358.  MR THOMPSON: Yes, sir. The issues raised by the MP, Dr Peter Brand, are issues that have been raised already.

359.  If I can go to the answer from the Under-Secretary of State, Mr George Howarth. "I am grateful to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight for initiating this debate. This is not a subject that often gets an airing in the House, but I know from my correspondence with him, to which he referred, that it is one which in some areas gives rise to considerable concern.


 
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