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Indeed, when I was last in Manchester, during the Conservative party conference last year, it was drizzly and raining most of the time. The local people said, "That's par for the course. You're lucky it's not raining more heavily." Obviously, if one has such varying weather conditions-I am trying to provoke a response from some of the Members from Greater Manchester-it will impact significantly upon the ability of pedlars to go about their business, particularly if they are carrying the goods on their person. In dank conditions, there will be many fewer people on the streets. There will be less likelihood, therefore, of pedlars being around in very large numbers and of illegal activity about which a complaint might be made.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I assume that my hon. Friend believes in the importance of the local democratic process and that local councils should have the power to make their own decisions. Why does he not think that it would be better to allow the Bill to go through, albeit with provisions to allow each council to which the Bill applies to make their own democratic decisions about the time and place, rather than having it dictated from the centre in this place?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend makes a persuasive argument, but the essential difference between these Bills and much local legislation is that most local legislation applies only to local people, whereas these Bills affect people who do not live in a particular locality. They might affect some local people-there is evidence of 200-plus pedlars being certificated and resident in Manchester; probably not all of them are in the city of Manchester, but they are within the Greater Manchester police authority area-but we are talking about a regime that will apply to pedlars whether they are normally resident in Cornwall or Northumbria, and that regime needs to be clear. If we have a different regime for pedlars in every town across the country, I submit that things will be pretty chaotic.
My hon. Friend is great localist, and so am I-in principle-but not when it comes to the application of national legislation. I am sure that he would be the first to concede that even when powers are given to local authorities-for example, to set up alcohol disorder zones-quite strong criteria are applied nationally to ensure no inconsistency of application between one local authority area and another. That is the point that I am trying to get across.
Mr. Leigh: The more I listen to my hon. Friend, the more it occurs to me that the provision that we are discussing is more like a local byelaw governing how people behave in a local park. However, that byelaw would apply to local people, whereas pedlars are nationwide. We would not dream of introducing a Bill to attack chemists or doctors. It is because pedlars are working class and unrepresented-they are a small group without a powerful lobby-that this House believes that it can treat them in this way.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) has been speaking for a considerable proportion of the time available. May I suggest that we confine ourselves to the issues that are the subject of his amendment and not get involved in a wider debate, which we have had on many previous occasions?
Mr. Chope: I certainly do not want to replicate the wider debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let me bring us back to what the amendments do and note that no one from Manchester has raised any objection to the points that I have raised about the Manchester City Council Bill. I urge the House to agree that the specific restriction that I have proposed for the Manchester City Council Bill-that the ambit of the legislation should not extend beyond 1 mile from the centre of Manchester as defined by Albert square-is probably the strongest argument that I can put forward from among all the amendments. Obviously it would be inappropriate to take up the House's time by voting on more than one amendment in the group. When it comes to the appropriate time, I would therefore seek to have a vote on that amendment to the Manchester City Council Bill, rather than on an amendment to the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill. I hope that my hon. Friends will see that as a reasonable way out of our predicament.
This will be my final comment on this subject, because I know that other people wanted to participate in this debate, but there is an analogy between what we are debating and legislation on shotguns. Shotgun certificates can be obtained from a police authority anywhere in the country, and they have national application. Would this House contemplate a situation where each local authority could legislate for the way in which shotguns could be used or operated in its area, even when the holder of a shotgun had a licence for it that had been issued on a national basis? The answer is that we would not.
There is always a conflict between what is in the national interest and what is in the local interest. In this case, however, because there is national legislation relating to pedlars and because the pedlars' certificate has national application, it is wrong to say that local will should always prevail, especially if the consequent legislation is unclear, muddled and hard for pedlars to understand.
Mr. Chope: I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My peroration was going on for longer than it should have done. I said that I would wind up, so I will. I have made my point, and I know that other people want to contribute to this important debate.
Mr. Chope: I will move that amendment-the amendment that we introduced-formally now. Then, perhaps, later on, when we come to the question of voting, I might seek leave to withdraw it and propose an alternative one.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That one is debated now, but would be voted on later, so the hon. Gentleman has to decide. I am prepared to concede that there can be a Division on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill. We have debated it, but now, in sequence, we have to dispose of amendment 4, which he has proposed. If he wishes to withdraw that, and to move on, we will come to amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill at a later time.
Mr. Chope: I am grateful for that clarification. I had not realised that the proceedings were going to be as elongated as that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In relation to the vote that we had on the previous group of amendments, relating mainly to clause 5, it seemed from your ruling that it would still be possible to vote on one amendment in that group when we get to the Manchester voting. Is that right?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hoped that I had made it clear that it will be possible to have a vote on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill, which I understand from the hon. Gentleman's words is the one that he wishes to divide the House on. However, we still have to dispose of the amendments in this group. Do I take it that he wishes to withdraw amendment 4?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I must say to the hon. Gentleman that amendment 4 is the paving amendment for the two other amendments connected with Bournemouth. If I may respectfully say so, it would not be very logical for him not to press amendments 5 and 6-for which amendment 4 is the paving amendment-if his interest is in having a substantive vote on amendment 7 to the Manchester City Council Bill.
"seek rights and powers over and above those sanctioned by public acts or the common law".
We are not debating a Bill that has been proposed by the Government; we are debating matters that relate to specific areas and are above the normal law. In my view, we must draw the provision as tightly- [Interruption.] I hear a sedentary comment that it is law in London, but what we are talking about today is Bournemouth and Manchester. If we are to do this properly, we should draw the provisions as tightly as possible. Amendment 7 relates to Bournemouth and there are similar amendments on Manchester; they relate to particular areas and minimise the extent to which the Bills exceed national law, which must be to the good. I have heard no arguments to the effect that the Manchester area is not defined. I certainly encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to press his amendment to the vote.
We have heard different arguments about Bournemouth. I am prepared to concede that they may apply because of the 24/7 culture of the whole borough of Bournemouth, so that that area should be included. I will not support the amendment on Bournemouth but I will support the one on Manchester. As for the amendment dealing with the period over which the Bill will apply, there is a compelling argument for the House to draw the legislation as tightly as possible in order to stop infringing the rights of pedlars. That amendment makes a lot of common sense, so I will support it as well.
Mr. Leigh: I rise to support amendments 5 and 6. In a sense, the House of Commons is beginning to make itself look rather ridiculous, if it is getting down to the level of detail of whether peddling should take place in the wider Bournemouth area or in the area bounded by Wessex way to the north, the sea to the south and Durley Chine to the west. I am not as familiar with Bournemouth as I should be, but this underlines the point I tried to make earlier-that it is probably a mistake for the House to get down to this level of detail. It would be much better to have a broadly based Bill to regulate peddling and ensure that pedlars operate generally in the way they are traditionally supposed to operate.
I accept that there may be a problem nationally in that the nature of peddling is changing and the old-fashioned traditional pedlar with whom we are familiar is perhaps being replaced by a species of person who might come from abroad and who might try to displace urban traders. As I have said, I accept that there may be a problem with that nationally, but if that is true, the Government need to get their act together and bring in a national Bill.
Here we are talking about a level of detail applying to pedlars that determines whether or not they can trade in a particular location. These are people who move around the entire country. Questions were raised earlier about whether these people do or do not have enough local knowledge, whether they use their BlackBerrys, whether they go to the town hall or whether leaflets are issued nationally. That shows some of the problems that will be imposed on these people.
Generally speaking, it is bad for the House to create more and more prescriptive rules and regulations that make it more and more difficult to be law abiding. Why
do we assume that these people are not law abiding? Why do we assume that they do not want to carry on their traditional trade? Why are we telling them that it is perfectly lawful to trade in a certain area of Bournemouth, but not in another area of Bournemouth.
If we move on to amendment 6, it becomes even more absurd, as it deals with times of the year, making it very difficult to know what is going on. Our debate about place and time, led so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), is an important one: it is not just a narrow issue; it goes to the heart of the Bill. To what extent are we prepared to start interfering with what has traditionally been seen as a lawful activity? If the number of complaints were huge, I would accept that there was a problem. However, the information I have received is that one authority complains once a month. That is hardly a great issue that should be debated on the Floor of the House.
I wish that we were not discussing the Bill at all, but my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is trying to restrict the area of Bournemouth to which it applies. Apart from him and my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), I doubt that anyone in the Chamber, including you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is familiar in any detail with what constitutes the area bounded by Wessex way, the sea to the south and so on. Why are we debating it? We must take the word of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch that the area is a sensible one to define.
Mr. Leigh: I believe what my hon. Friend tells me, but if the area in question is the best one, why is it not in the original Bill? We all know what would happen if a vote took place-Members who were not familiar in any shape or form with Bournemouth would be told by the Whips that they should get the Bill through and pile into the Lobby.
To conclude, if the Bill is to be imposed, let us ensure that its provisions do as little damage to the peddling community as possible. Let us support my hon. Friend's amendment, which would at least restrict the area to the town centre, so that we do not force pedlars out of business in the wider area.
I am conscious that we have not had a substantive contribution to the debate from my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill) and for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) other than through useful interventions. We have had no discussion whatever in relation to Manchester city council. On day two of the Opposed Private Bill Committee, Superintendent Lee made it clear in his evidence that the problem in Manchester is confined to places such as Albert square and Piccadilly, and that it is limited to
times such as the Christmas lights switch-on, which is one of the big events of the year in Manchester. If the Bill passes unamended in relation to time and location, its ambit will cover every month of the year and every street in the city of Manchester, the case for which has not been made.
Mr. Leigh: Will my hon. Friend reply to my point, as he is perfectly entitled to do, in his winding-up remarks? It is difficult for us who are not familiar in any detail with Bournemouth to come to a conclusion on whether the area for peddling should be bounded by Wessex way to the north and the sea to the south. How can we have such local knowledge?
Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend is right. How can we have the local knowledge? Pedlars up and down the country are in the self-same position, because they want some certainty. They want to know which parts of the boroughs-
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