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A question then arose-from a Committee member, I think-about how pedlars going to Bournemouth would know in which streets they could ply their trade. Although the Bill extends to the whole borough of Bournemouth, the whole borough is not subject to the 1982 Act, so pedlary not just from house to house but in the street will be able to continue in parts of the borough. The trouble is, however, as Mr. Smith conceded in his evidence, one will be able to find out the areas where the legislation will apply only by looking on the internet, and that is not a practical proposition for many pedlars. He said
that the precise boundaries for the operation of the restrictions in Bournemouth should be set out in a leaflet, which they do not yet have in Bournemouth, and made available to all police authorities throughout the country. They would be able to distribute the details to people when they applied for a pedlar's licence, and those individuals would know the parts of Bournemouth in which they were able to exercise their pedlary certificate without getting on the wrong side of the law.
Sir John Butterfill: Surely it is not beyond the wit of any reasonably prudent pedlars to inquire at the town hall whether there are any areas where they are not permitted to ply their trade. I do not see that being particularly onerous; in fact, any prudent person could do so.
Mr. Chope: If my hon. Friend looks at the evidence from the Opposed Private Bill Committee, he will find that he is slightly at odds with the director of tourism for Bournemouth. If that had been the director's view, he would not have suggested that the way to overcome the problem was to distribute leaflets to every police authority in the country.
John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that time may very well solve that problem? The growing ubiquity of personal handheld electronic devices, such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and so on, most of which are capable of surfing the net, would make it much easier-particularly for entrepreneurial people such as pedlars. He and I agree that they are entrepreneurial, and it will be very easy for them in due course to check in real time on the council's website the location of the streets where they are and are not allowed to trade. Such activity may not be ubiquitous quite yet, but in due course I suspect that it will become increasingly easy. Does he agree?
My hon. Friend makes a fair point. However, the problem is that this information is not available at the moment. If he looks at the Bournemouth council website, he will not be able to find out to which streets in Bournemouth the 1982 Act applies and to which it does not apply. It is a more complex issue. We have not yet got on to the penalties that will come by way of fixed penalty fines or seizures, but the consequences for a pedlar of operating unwittingly in a street in which he should not be operating can be very significant.
My hon. Friend is making an important point that goes right to the heart of what we are talking about. This shows that instead of having these restrictive, bitty borough Bills, we need new national legislation.
These peddling free souls are not the sort of people who go around town halls checking on BlackBerrys-they want to get on with running their traditional little business.
These people will choose a different location for their pedlary on different days of the week. They will go to different towns and different parts of the country, as opposed to somebody who is familiar with their own local territory. That is one of the big distinctions between somebody who is a street trader and somebody who is a pedlar. As Mr. Smith said in giving his evidence, one of the restrictions on being able to get a street trading licence in Bournemouth is that the applicant cannot get one unless they are going to regularly occupy that stall.
Mr. Chope: The fact that this Bill, if implemented, will not apply to the whole of Bournemouth makes all the stronger the case for saying, "Let's define specifically the part of Bournemouth where there is a problem and set it out in the Bill", so that the situation is as plain as a pikestaff to anybody visiting Bournemouth with a view to carrying on as a pedlar. The council concedes that the area I have described is that where the mischief takes place.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): In his amendment, is not my hon. Friend setting up a canard in order to shoot it down? If the Bill is to apply at all, would it not be better for it to apply to the whole of the borough? His proposal seeks to define that it should apply only to part of it. In relation to the displacement argument, he would concentrate the amount of peddling activity in certain parts of the borough, which would then become subject to the problem instead of the area that he seeks to exclude. Does he believe in the displacement argument? Does that argument apply in Manchester, where a peddling Bill is in place in certain boroughs but not in others? Is there a displacement problem in that metropolitan area?
Mr. Chope: The jury is out on whether there is a displacement problem. When I raised this issue on Second Reading, I was assured that that was not the case. The Durham university research, with which my hon. Friend is familiar because he managed this brief very ably on the Front Bench during the earlier parts of the proceedings on these Bills-
What my hon. Friend said then was that the evidence in the Durham report suggested that there were different circumstances in different areas, and that there might well not be a displacement problem, because pedlars wanted to go where they would find the best atmosphere for peddling their wares. It suggested that that might vary at different times of year, depending on what products they were selling and so on. The displacement argument is probably discredited for the purposes of discussing the amendment. That is certainly my view,
and I hope that it is correct. If it is not, we may find that pedlars come to Christchurch borough, which adjoins Bournemouth. If they are lawful pedlars there is no problem, but unlawful pedlars would not be very welcome.
Mr. Ellwood: I do not follow this argument at all. If my hon. Friend has got the area wrong in the amendment, it would require an Act of Parliament to change it. That cannot be right. The amendment would represent the nanny state and Westminster telling a local borough council how to conduct its affairs. He has missed off an area in Boscombe, which is part of my constituency, where pedlars are often found, and an area in Southbourne where there are shops and a village-type centre, so again pedlars would be denied. It does not make sense. We must let Bournemouth borough council operate the system in its area.
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend, who unfortunately could not get to the meeting on Monday, even though he set it up, knew then that I was proposing to move this amendment. Instead of our trying to have a meeting of minds on it, there has been a dialogue of the deaf, which is regrettable.
Mr. Ellwood: There would never be a meeting of minds given that my hon. Friend is trying to carve up my constituency and prevent the borough council from doing its job. As a Member of Parliament, he needs to back off from what are rightfully the borough council's operations. I stress again that it would take an Act of Parliament to change an area affected in Bournemouth were the scheme set out in the amendment to be conceived and not work. That cannot be right.
Mr. Chope: With the greatest of respect to my hon. Friend, it can be right, because we are talking about having an Act of Parliament to give a derogation from national legislation. I do not believe that we should have such a derogation except on the strongest possible grounds. Perhaps I can use an analogy to try to persuade my hon. Friend. It is possible for a borough council to designate part of its borough as an "alcohol disorder zone"-I think that that is the expression that is used.
Mr. Chope: But it has to be done in accordance with national legislation, which sets out that an alcohol disorder zone cannot be set up unless there is evidence that there is a problem. My hon. Friend and I know that only this week in our neighbouring borough of Poole, the borough council decided not to set up an alcohol disorder zone because the councillors took the view that the criteria and requirements were not satisfied. I suggest to him that if we are to have a derogation from national legislation, it should apply only to the parts of the country where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it is needed.
Mr. Bone: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are discussing an unusual process of giving a borough the right to do something that other boroughs in the country cannot do, and it should be restricted to the tightest possible area. If national legislation follows it can of course be extended, but at this stage it should be as tight as possible.
Mr. Ellwood: I am still baffled as to how an hon. Member from a different part of the area can seek in an amendment to impose something on a constituency that he has nothing to do with. He can put forward the concept, but it should be for the borough council to determine the matter. I pose him a very simple question: how could a pedlar operate in Boscombe, in my patch, under the amendment? I ask him to recognise the folly in what he proposes and withdraw the amendment now.
Mr. Chope: There is no evidence at all of an unlawful street trading problem in Boscombe. I therefore submit that there is no need to apply the measures in the Bill to the area. Boscombe would be relevant only if my hon. Friend accepts the displacement argument, but he has expressly argued against it. Instead, he has tried to satisfy me that there will not be a displacement problem in Christchurch, which I represent, as a result of the Bournemouth provisions. We need to try to keep things as clear and simple as possible.
The area that amendment 5 would define is very similar to the area of the alcohol disorder zone in Bournemouth. It is perhaps regrettable that we have been unable to have a proper dialogue about the details, for reasons I already set out. If we had had that dialogue, we might have been able to change the proposal to allow the area to be altered in particular circumstances. However, as things are, it is not apparent from any documents that are available at the town hall which parts of Bournemouth are subject to the provisions of the 1982 Act and therefore subject to the provisions in the Bill. That is unsatisfactory, because legislation should be clear.
We are also debating the corresponding amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill. I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of the city of Manchester is not as considerable as my knowledge of the town of Bournemouth. Therefore, rather than seeking to define the area in which operations in Manchester could be carried out by reference to streets-obviously, Manchester is an inland area and does not have a big trunk road like the Wessex way in Bournemouth-I thought it better to use a similar calculation to those used in London, namely ones based on so many miles, metres or yards from Trafalgar square.
I have therefore suggested, in the proposed amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill, that there should be a defined area bound by a circle with a 1 mile radius from Albert square. I do not know how well you know Manchester, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am advised by the locals that Albert square is very much the heart of Manchester-the town hall is there and it is easy to measure 1 mile from it on a map.
Mr. Bone: I have one small technical question. Amendment 7 uses the distance of 1 mile, but in the rest of the debate, we have been talking in metres. Should the amendment not propose a distance of 1.61 km?
Mr. Chope: No, it definitely should not. We spoke earlier of derogations. Fortunately, we still have the freedom in this country to refer to miles as a standard method of measurement of distance in relation to roads. We do not have to go to the metric mile, which is why I have proposed 1 mile. I hope that that is clear.
There is a very different situation in Manchester compared- [ Interruption. ] Is my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East making a sedentary comment about four minutes? Does he wish to intervene, or is he threatening me by saying he is going to move a closure motion in four minutes? [ Interruption. ] I see: he is talking about the four-minute mile. It is very difficult to concentrate when there are sedentary interruptions- [ Interruption ]-but my hon. Friend is continuing to make them.
It would be sensible to do the same in Manchester as in Bournemouth, because on the evidence put forward by the city council, that is where the problem lies. The area would be clearly defined and it is, after all, important that the law should be clear.
I also contend that these provisions should only be in force when necessary. When I had my initial discussions with Bournemouth council about amendments to the Bill, I made the point that as the problem does not arise 12 months of the year, but only in the summer and around Christmas, it would be sensible to limit the ambit of the Bill to those times.
Mr. Ellwood: I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw this amendment because it would be madness to impose a time limit. We need control over pedlars' relationship with street traders throughout the year, whether on football match days, new year's eve or new year's day. There are many examples of celebrations and outdoor activities, such as Valentine's day, on which pedlars will want to do their business, and must do it correctly. To limit the Bill to the summer months is out of place and this amendment does not deserve to be anywhere near the Bill.
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend was not at the meeting that I had at the town hall with Bournemouth borough council officers and councillors back in January or February 2008. I raised this issue, and they did not dismiss it in the same way as my hon. Friend has done. They went away to consider it, and they also discussed it with the promoters of similar Bills. It was agreed between them that none of them would give any ground and they would all stand in solidarity, irrespective of the merits of the arguments made.
Mr. Ellwood: As a representative of Bournemouth, I can confirm that this amendment would be very damaging to the town, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) agrees. We need this Bill to work throughout the year, including Valentine's day and mothers' day, and not be focused on just one period. It would be unworkable and cost the borough council even more than at present. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to listen to the arguments, not his recollections of previous conversations, and withdraw this amendment.
Sir John Butterfill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend: that is the word I was looking for. Holidays are taken throughout the year, and the town has expanded into the conference trade in a big way, as well as the language school trade. It operates for 12 months of the year: it is not a resort that closes down after the summer.
Mr. Chope: I hear what my hon. Friends say, but when the director of tourism was asked about this issue in the Opposed Private Bill Committee he made it clear that there was a problem at particular times of the year, especially in the summer and at Christmas. Now it seems that this is a problem the year round. If that is my hon. Friends' view, I can understand why they are opposed to the amendments.
Sir John Butterfill: Perhaps my hon. Friend misunderstood what he was told by the director of tourism. Certainly we have peak months, but there is a great deal of tourism and business activity the year round. I think perhaps there was a slight misunderstanding between our director of tourism and my hon. Friend.
Mr. Chope: I do not want to risk falling out with my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East and for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) over this matter. Of all my concerns, my biggest relates to the Bill itself rather than the months in which it will operate. In the spirit of good will, therefore, I tell them that I will not press amendment 6 to a vote, although I have slightly different views on amendment 5.
Mr. Bone: I have heard the arguments about Bournemouth being a unique case, which I am prepared to accept, and I heard what my hon. Friends have said. However, does my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) think that that also applies to the Manchester Bill, which has an identical clause?
Mr. Chope: It is significant that although we are debating amendments to both Bills, we have not-if my recollection is correct-heard any comments, whether positive or negative, from anybody from Manchester about anything that has been said this afternoon. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says that they moved the closure. Perhaps they did. I missed that point of detail. If that is true, it makes their behaviour so much more cynical.
We can have a perfectly good and healthy public debate about whether we should limit the application of the Bill in Bournemouth to June, July, August, September and December. My hon. Friends have put forward perfectly reasonable arguments saying, "Well, Bournemouth is a busy town the year round, and the problems discussed are problems 24/7"-to use that colloquialism-but we have heard nothing from Manchester Members, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) mentioned. That suggests that the arguments that I have deployed about limiting the provisions to June, July, August, September and December would be relevant in Manchester, where notoriously-I think one could say-the weather is much inferior to that on the sunny south coast of England.
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