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"in any 12 hour period"
and, taking into account amendment 11, mean that the location that a pedlar occupied with a view to trading would have to be at a minimum distance from any other one that he had so occupied at any time within a period of "two hours".
Amendments 10 and 11 would make the provisions more akin to those that apply, for example, to restricted waiting for cars. A lot of waiting restrictions say that someone cannot stay in one particular parking bay for more than, say, half an hour, and they must not return to that same location within two hours. I have yet to come across any parking restriction that says that they cannot come back within 12 hours, because it would be very difficult to enforce that: who is going to stand in a location for 12 hours to see whether the person comes back? I am trying to introduce some common sense into this.
Mr. Ellwood: I think that common sense is something that we wandered away from some time ago. My hon. Friend has described a situation where a pedlar can, over any two-hour period, move a maximum distance of about 160 metres. How is that possibly going to be useful from a town centre perspective of controlling street traders and pedlars? This is getting daft.
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend has multiplied my 15 minutes by 20 metres. He is saying that in any hour the pedlar would have to move 80 metres, so in two hours he would have to move 160 metres. With the greatest respect, that does not seem unreasonable, because the pedlar is continuing to move around. Obviously, if he does not have any trade in one particular position, he will move more frequently, but if he has quite a lot of trade, then he will do as is suggested, which would be perfectly in order under the current legislation applying to pedlars. I disagree with my hon. Friend.
As currently worded, the provisions mean that a pedlar would not be able to return within a 12-hour period to any place that he has occupied. Taking all the original wording together, that means that he would have to travel 200 metres every five minutes over a 12-hour period. If we multiply that out-I am not so good at mental arithmetic when I am on my feet-it is clear that he would have to travel quite a long way. I suggest that that is unreasonable, particularly when coupled with the requirement that having travelled those distances the person must not return to a location that is less than 5 metres away from any position that he has occupied during the previous 12 hours.
"travels and trades on foot and goes from town to town".
From that, one can deduce that they are on the move fairly regularly. Therefore, it makes sense to provide that a person could move the distance that we are talking about-200 metres-and then move locations over a 12-hour period with a view to trading at a minimum distance of 5 metres away from a position that he has occupied before. That fits with the 1871 Act.
Mr. Chope: With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, it is for Parliament to legislate and for the judges to interpret that legislation. The interpretation placed on the 1871 Act by successive members of the judiciary is contrary to that of my hon. Friend. I think it is better for us to proceed on the basis that we should try to align these provisions with the existing common law interpretation.
Mr. Leigh: We have the 1871 Act, and my hon. Friend is obviously in touch with the peddling community. If I were a pedlar who had done this for years, I cannot believe that I would think in terms of 200 metres, or whatever. I would think in terms of having, from time to time, to move on, because that is what is bred into me by my community. Are we not being far too prescriptive? Cannot we just go back to the broad interpretation that we have always had under the 1871 Act and common law?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend makes the plea that we have been making throughout the deliberations on these Bills. The whole issue of what we should do now in the national context will soon be on the Minister's table, because he has put out a big paper for consultation. We will see from the responses to it what the Government decide to do, but it would be very odd if the House decided to have a different, prescriptive regime for what we mean by "moving on" for the purposes of pedlars operating in Bournemouth and Manchester compared with what judges up and down the land have said is reasonable for pedlars operating in other parts of the country. I am very much with my hon. Friend on that.
"must not begin so to occupy a location any part of which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres from any part of a location for the time being so occupied by another person".
That means that a pedlar who had finished his five minutes of trading would not be able to move anywhere else, other than some 200 metres away, if the new position were within 50 metres of another person.
Mr. Chope: It is, and I plead with the sponsors of the Bill to make some concession to common sense. As currently drafted, clause 5(1)(d) does not make any sense at all and is oppressive beyond all measure. The case for leaving it out and getting on without it is extremely strong.
Amendment 13 would leave out, in line 34 on page 3, the words "any part of". It is an alternative but much less adequate way to mitigate against the worst impact of subsection (1)(d). The amendment would mean that a pedlar
"must not begin so to occupy a location"-
"which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres"
from another person. The expression "any part of" gives credence to the concern that I expressed earlier when introducing my amendments to replace the word "location" with the word "position", which is that the drafters of the Bill have it in mind that a "location" might be quite a wide area. If it were not, they would not need to include the words
"any part of which is nearer than a minimum distance of 50 metres".
It would be quite easy to measure 50 metres from a spot where one was standing selling flowers or whatever, but from what part of that position or location should that be done? That wording confirms my suspicion and that of pedlars that in using the word "location", the promoters are trying to introduce a system of measuring not from a particular spot or position but from a wide area.
"location for the time being so occupied by another person".
Mr. Bone: My hon. Friend is explaining the amendments in great detail. Would it be helpful to the House if on occasion the sponsors of the Bill intervened to say that they accept an amendment? In that way, we could move a bit faster.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) is very experienced in these matters. Perhaps he could speak to the amendment before the House, and not to how these things are done.
Mr. Chope: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I live in anticipation of getting a helpful response from the Minister that would in due course result in one of my hon. Friends summing up the debate by saying that quite a lot of the amendments have been accepted by the sponsors. I would be the first to raise my hat to the roof in celebration of such common-sense concessions, which I am sure should be made in due course.
I will not discuss amendments 14 and 28, because I have made the case for those in previous discussions. Amendment 15 would mean that the pedlar could not move within a minimum distance of 50 metres of another pedlar, rather than simply "another person". There must have been an error in the drafting of the Bill, because it is complete nonsense that someone should have to be 50 metres away from any other person. I pray in aid the explanatory memorandum which, in explaining the alterations to the pedlars' exception in clause 5 and summarising the essential requirements, states that
"no trading must be commenced any nearer than 50 metres from another person trading with the authority of a pedlars' certificate".
"with the authority of a pedlars' certificate",
but that is not in the Bill. I hope that someone will intervene to assure me that there has indeed been a drafting error, because the intent, as expressed in the explanatory memorandum, is that the minimum distance-whether one likes that or not-should be from another pedlar, rather than from "another person".
If one is 50 metres from a pedlar, what is all the fuss about? It is not as though high streets are being invaded by a rash of pedlars standing every
5 metres. What does it matter if there is a pedlar every 50 metres or every 100 metres, or indeed only every 45 metres? It is ludicrous.
Mr. Chope: I do not dissent from the use of the word "ludicrous". The existing wording however provides that the pedlar would not be able to move within 50 metres of anyone. If he has to find a position at least 50 metres from anyone else, people will think that he needs a bath or something-
"at all times while...trading"
or "otherwise occupying any location". Amendment 16 would insert the words "acting as a pedlar" after "at all times while", so that we would not restrict the ambit of the rules and responsibilities relating to pedlars. Acting as a pedlar includes offering one's goods for sale so that people may look at them and discuss what is available-it might even involve taking an order to be delivered on a subsequent occasion. The amendment would add clarity and precision to the Bill.
Amendment 17 would remove all the restrictions in proposed new sub-paragraph (e), which would help to clarify the Bill. We know what activity is legitimate activity for a pedlar, and to define that activity more narrowly would contradict the express statement of the Opposed Private Bill Committee that nothing it did would amend the definition of pedlar. That was its intention as stated in paragraph 1119 on page 63 of the transcript of day two, which quotes the Chairman as saying:
"We are not attempting to redefine peddler."
Amendment 18 would leave out "bona fide" on page 4, line 4 in clause 5, which instead of referring to customers, talks about bona fide customers. I am not sure that it will be easy for people to find out who is a bona fide customer. The provision states:
"Nothing in sub-paragraph (2A)(b) to (d)...disqualifies any person from occupying a location within a minimum distance for the purpose of trading if...he so occupies it on the request of a bona fide customer".
Again, that is a completely subjective test-it is not an objective test. Why does this Parliament have this relentless itch to change, regulate and control? How many complaints against pedlars are there? My information is that on average there is one complaint
per authority in this country. Yet we are introducing this new law, which is unasked for, unwanted and will control the ability of people to engage in enterprise.
Mr. Ellwood: I am conscious of progress-or perhaps the lack of it, as we wander through the amendments-and hope that we might see a conclusion today. Given that my hon. Friend has invited the sponsors of the Bill to provide some clarification, I shall explain the reason for the reference to "bona fide". Hon. Members might like to wander outside their own constituencies to places such as Manchester and Bournemouth, where stooges are used to keep pedlars occupied and so prevent them from moving on as they should. That is the reason for the reference to "bona fide". If my hon. Friend does not like the Latin "bona fide", he could easily have suggested "genuine". However, that is the explanation. It is a reality that stooges are used to prevent movement and deliberately to keep the pedlar in one location.
Mr. Chope: Well, in that case, I defer to my hon. Friend's expertise. I stand corrected; it was raised in Committee. I obviously skim-read that bit and did not notice the reference. However, the point that I would make in response is this: who is to decide whether the customer is bona fide or a stooge? There have been, I think, six prosecutions for illegal pedlary in Bournemouth over a two-year period. Proportionally, to include "bona fide" on lines 4 and 11 in relation to a customer is pushing the ambit of the prescription and regulation too far.
"leave out from 'customer' to end of line 13",
on page 4. The effect of amendment 20 would be to enable the person to carry on trading from the time that
he commences a transaction involving selling goods to a customer or supplying a service for payment by a customer, because it would leave out the words
"up to the moment when the transaction is completed or aborted".
Again, that would add a lot of clarity and reduce the restrictions in the Bill. Amendment 20 is perhaps not the most important amendment, but it nevertheless merits serious attention. Amendment 21 would leave out the words "bona fide" from clause 5, on page 4, line 15, although I will not go over that ground again.
Then we come to amendment 22, which would leave out lines 20 to 24 on page 4, removing the requirements relating to measurements of minimum distance. Everyone understands what a minimum distance is and why I am against references to minimum distances, and certainly the short distances referred to in clause 5. Everybody knows how to measure a distance, and we do not need to define it as tightly as the Bill does, which says that the
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