|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Government will publish a consultation document this summer. Taking into account the findings of the report, we will be seeking views on possible changes to street trading and pedlar legislation, and on draft guidance on the current regime.
start his consultation on the findings of the Street Trading and Pedlary in Great Britain report.[ Official Report, 30 March 2009; Vol. 490, c. 913W.]
Philip Davies: That is a very helpful reply. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that that response from the Government should simply conclude the matter for now and that we should all wait until that review takes place? It seems pointless to take any action now, when that review will take place in the summer.
Mr. Chope: As so often in the House, my hon. Friend makes a compelling statement of what most people would regard as common sense. The issue has national implications, not least because pedlars certificates have a national ambit when they are issued. The issue has been the subject of detailed research and the Government are now saying that they are going out to consultation. At best, that may result in some guidance, which is very much neededpeople on all sides of the argument would recognise thatand it could result in some legislation.
Why do the promoters not seem to want to go down that path of common sense? As I have said to the hon. Member for Manchester, Central, his Billthe Manchester City Council Billmay well continue in Committee in this Session, but he will have to take account of the fact that it cannot get on to the statute book until after Report. I anticipate that when my colleagues and I table
amendments on Report that reflect the findings of the Durham university report, it will not be just us arguing for them, but the Minister himselfif he is still in the Government thenbecause those amendments would be a reflection of common sense and the findings of the Durham university study.
Mr. Greg Knight: My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech, but is not the flaw in the argument that he is developing that if the promoters say, Well, the Government are going to consult, so we dont need to carry over, they will, in effect, have to go back to square one? If they decide that they want legislation that goes beyond what the Government eventually propose, they will have to start all over again. Would not the promoters argument therefore be that they want the carry-over motions in order to keep their options open?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. For the guidance of the House, it is fairly plain that we have a motion before us for carry-over. It is the merits of that motion that the House is now obliged to consider, rather than the motivation that might lie behind it. The motion is here and it is being debated. I suggest that that is what we strictly do.
Mr. Bone: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for being so generous in giving way. He should forgive me if I do not understand the procedureI am a new boy herebut if national legislation is anticipated for the future, why on earth are we considering reviving private legislation that might contradict what the House decides that national legislation should be?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. One of the questions that we must consider in deciding whether we wish to revive the Bills this evening is whether they have been so discredited as a result of the latest findings and so upstaged by the Governments announcements to which I have referred that they are now almost redundant and will not make any progress.
The evidence for private acts should however be convincing, both in terms of the evidence of a problem, as well as the solutions having the desired effects. Local authorities hoping to adopt legislation...should provide a strong case to justify their adoption.
That is where the promoters of these two Bills have fallen down: perhaps before the publication of the Durham university report, we would have thought that there was not such a stringent test; now that the report has come out, I think most fair-minded people would say that the test is reasonable. We obviously have to take
into account the use of the Houses time, the burden placed on those participating in Committee and whether that Committee stage will be worth-while, having regard to the constraints to which I have already drawn attention and the possibility that when the matter gets to Report, the Government might seek major amendments to the Billswith or without the support of Opposition Members and others who are concerned about ensuring the future of pedlary in this country. I have been unable to tease out from the promoters of the Bills their response to the Durham university report. In my submission, it is not an academic matter; it goes to the heart of whether or not these Bills should be revived.
I also want to draw attention to the fact that if the promoters were, in the light of the Durham university report, prepared to withdraw clause 5 from each Bill, thereby disapplying the application of the Bills to pedlars, I am sure that those who have been concerned about these Bills would be happy to respond positively. To go back to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), it would mean that these Bills could go through very quickly because there would effectively be no opposition to them. What could be more reasonable and sensible than that? To adopt what is tantamount to a heads-in-the-sand approach should give us all great cause for concern, not least because such stubbornness will inevitably result in an elongation of proceedings.
We have established that there is a difference of view between the different promoters of these different Bills; up to now they have been treated as if they were a block of Bills, but we have now found that two councils are willing to admit to substantial amendments in respect of clause 5, but the other four councils are not willing to do that. That is a new development since the last debate on these matters and is a relevant factor in considering whether it is appropriate to allow these Bills to be carried over.
Mr. Chope: Yes, I am. I met representatives from Leeds city council and from Reading borough council today, and on a previous occasion I met representatives from Leeds city council. Both those councilsin fairness to them, they have a different view about their own needs compared with their colleagues needsrecognise that their priorities can be satisfied without penalising pedlars in a way that causes a great deal of concern to my hon. Friend and, indeed, to other Members.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I have been closely involved in the discussions with Reading borough council and the business community in the Reading area. Will he reflect on his earlier comments, which seemed to suggest that Reading borough council was prepared to withdraw its Bill? In fact, that is not the case.
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
Order. I think that the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) anticipates what I am about to say. Canterbury has already been raised;
Reading has now been raisedbut the motion concerns Manchester and Bournemouth. I hope that the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) will not think that I am trying to encourage the hon. Gentleman to go down the wrong route. I am sure that he knows not to do so.
While I am on my feet, let me say this. I think that it is a question of balance. It is quite difficult to maintain an equitable distinction between the content, or the merits, of the Bills and reasons why a revival motion should or should not be accepted. The fact of the report to which the hon. Member for Christchurch has referred is an argument in question. To give too much detail about that report would, I think, tilt the balance unfairly.
Mr. Chope: As ever, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for your guidance. Let me respond to the intervention from the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) by saying that I am sure we shall have a chance to discuss the issue in relation to Reading, but alsoI think that I should put this on recordthat I do not think I said that Reading borough council was keen to withdraw the Bill. I suggested that it was keen to amend significantly clause 5, which relates to pedlars. Perhaps we shall be able to discuss that later in tonights proceedings.
You referred to the Durham report, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have argued that it constitutes new information. Prompted by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), I have also referred to the Ministers written response to the report, which I think also introduces new information and which, in my view, presents a compelling reason for the House not to exercise its discretion and allow these Bills to be revived.
Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West) (Con): Does my hon. Friend accept that the Durham study observes that circumstances will vary considerably from borough to borough, and, rather than recommending national legislation covering the whole area, states that it will be up to individual boroughs to present and justify its own proposals? Does he not agree that, in the case of the two Bills whose revival we are now considering, the justification process could take place equally appropriately during a Committee or a Report stage? In fairness, if my hon. Friend wants the debate, he should allow it to take place at those times.
My hon. Friend said that there was not a great deal of evidence of demand because there had been only five convictions in Manchester and only three in the Dorset area. However, as he is from Dorset, discussions with the Dorset constabulary will have left him in no doubt that they find it very difficult to secure convictions without devoting a huge quantity of police time to this matter, and also that we experience a good deal of rather more serious crime in the area. Is it possible that the constabulary devote their resources to dealing with that rather than to convicting pedlars?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that, in the course of this interlocution between two distinguished members of the Chairmens Panel, one might easily find the other to be out of order as a result of the length of interventions such as that.
You will never find me criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West in the Chamber, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He has a very distinguished record. It was great that we were able to enter the House
together all those years ago, in 1983although, unfortunately, my hon. Friend has been a great deal more successful than me in retaining the confidence of the electorate in his original seat.
Let me deal with the substance of what my hon. Friend has said. I am sure that, being diligent, he has read the report from Durham university, and will be aware that it expressed criticism of Dorset police for misleading pedlars in relation to what they say is the law relating to pedlary and the way in which it applied in Dorset. I hope that he will draw the position to the attention of the Dorset constabulary so that it can be put right before his Bill is considered in Committee.
My hon. Friend was mistaken in his intervention in that he was equating prosecutions with convictions, and, of course, it is for the courts to convict, not the police. The question is: how many prosecutions have been brought and have resulted in convictions? That task is normally given to street trading officers and local authority enforcement rather than the police. However, my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the new information that there have only been three convictions in Dorset in the last period for which figures are availablea period of four years between 2002 and 2006.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): My hon. Friend has considerable knowledge of this subject. In his discussions with the promoters of the private Bills we are debating, has he addressed the fact that we now have considerable experience of Bills that have been passed by this House, notably those in respect of the city of Westminster in 1999, Newcastle in 2000, London in 2003, Medway in 2004 and Maidstone, Leicester and Liverpool in 2006? Has he compared the workings of the authorities that have managed to get private Bills through this House with those of the authorities that have not yet managed to do so?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend raises an important point. Obviously, I have not been able to do my own direct research on this matter. [ Interruption. ] My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) sounds doubtful about that, but I assure him that that is the correct state of play. I have before me paragraph 213 of the Durham university report. I shall not quote all of it, but it says:
The direct effects of private acts are difficult to assess, in terms of being able to eliminate illegal street traders. With regard to the Acts introduced in 2006 (Leicester, Liverpool and Maidstone), the effects may not be fully understood for some time. One of their most obvious impacts is that genuine pedlars remove themselves from areas where they must trade from door-to-door or face possible criminalisation.
As the jury is still out and the report says that we still do not really know what the effect has been, is that not even more of a reason why these Bills
should not be revived now and we should wait until further consideration has been given to the impact of previous ones?
Mr. Chope: That is a statement of self-evident common sense. It is particularly important to pay regard to the costs involved in all this, as this is not a cost-free area of operation. Introducing private Bills costs money, and that burden falls directly on the local taxpayer. I know from my discussions with some of the councils that are concerned about this that they have to evaluate the costs and the benefits of particular courses of legislative action. It is a pity that there has not so far been any evidence that either of the Bills that we are discussing has been the subject of concern expressed at local council level as to whether they will continue to provide good value for money, having regard to all other possibilities.
The issue of trolleys is now very much out in the open. On Second Reading, there was a lot of discussionnot least by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterburyabout the burden on local people caused by pedlars using trolleys. The Durham university report makes it clear that only half the pedlars interviewed use trolleys but all of them
Mr. Bone: I wish to be clear on the issue of costs. If the Bills are revived, would the councils and the local taxpayers incur more costs? Has my hon. Friend estimated how much extra cost to this House would result from their revival?
Mr. Chope: The short answer is that I have not estimated how much the cost would be to this House. These two Bills have had their Second Readings so if they are revived, they would need to go into Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West will know what the possible timetable is, but I imagine that there would be a separate Committee for each Bill, because separate interests are involved, and that the councils involved would face costs for dealing with those proceedings.
Much of the content of the two Bills is relatively uncontroversial. The point I am making is that if their promoters were saying that the very controversial bits and the bits that are now contradicted by the evidence from Durham university were to be taken out of the Bills, there would not be an argument against allowing them to be revived. When I came into the Chamber this evening, I hoped that I would hear from my hon. Friend or from the hon. Member for Manchester, Central that, in the light of the evidence, there was to be a modification. It may be that in due course such a modification will be made, but we have to judge the situation on the evidence before us at the moment. That evidence suggests that there is no willingness on the part of the promoters to compromise or to reflect upon the findings of the exhaustive study carried out by Durham university.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I just say to the hon. Gentleman that he should face the microphone, because if he does not do so the reporters will not always catch his words? I am sure that he would want them to be on the record, so although I understand his courtesy in turning round to address the hon. Member, he should really be addressing the microphone.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My head will face the microphone and my hand will face my hon. Friend. He will be aware, although the House may not be, that the private Bill procedure in Committee is very different from that in respect of most Committees in this House. I served on the Committee considering the private British Waterways Bill, when British Waterways had a Queens counsel on hand for many months. That must have cost it a huge sum, so I think that the answer to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) is that this will be a very expensive procedure.
Mr. Chope: I have not had the experience that my Front-Bench colleague has of serving on a private Bill Committee, but I am sure that what he said will have been noted by the council tax payers in Manchester and Bournemouth. Although we may find that people have no willingness to compromise tonight, taxpayers may be asking whether it is really worth concentrating on clauses 5 of the respective Bills if that is going to add a significant expense to the burden on local taxpayers.
I shall conclude by drawing attention to the fact that another of the Durham university reports findings is that if a local authority takes strong enforcement action under the existing law, it can achieve its objective of ensuring that it has a lawful regime in respect of street trading and pedlars. That is a further reason why councils that have not done much so far on enforcement might think of it as being a more cost-effective way forward than the process of private Bill legislation.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|