Amendments 1, 2, 11, and 15 are related, and will, I presume, be debated together.
In Committee on Finance. - Road Transport Bill, 1933—Committee.
I move amendment 1:
In sub-section (1), page 3, between lines 26 and 27 to insert the following:—"the expression ‘carriage for reward' does not include the carriage of merchandise supplied to a customer by the owner of the mechanically propelled vehicle in which such merchandise is being carried, if such merchandise is so carried in course of delivery to such customer."
Amendment 1 is to make it clear that the Act does not apply to a trader delivering goods purchased from him. There was some doubt as to whether it would be allowable for a trader to deliver goods purchased from him without a licence, the point having been raised that the goods, after purchase, were not the property of the trader but the property of the people who had bought them and to whom they were delivered. This is to make it clear that the trader would not require a licence under the Bill.
Will a person who is not a licensed undertaker under this Bill at all be allowed to carry merchandise around the country for sale? You will observe that if merchandise is worth X pounds, say, in Kells, and a man carries it about six miles outside Kells and hawks it there, it is worth X pounds plus the amount he is charging for delivery. Is he entitled to do that?
If the goods are his own property he can take them anywhere he likes.
There is only one thing I should like to ask the Minister about, and that is with regard to the difference between the official amendment and the amendment standing in Deputy Good's and my own name. I take it that there is nothing in the official amendment that would preclude the collection of the trader's own merchandise. Evidently the Minister has in mind the delivery from a person's own warehouse, but under modern conditions that is not always the case and there is the collection as well as the delivery. They are still his goods, but I take it that in the official amendment there is no idea of ruling out collection?
There is nothing whatever to prohibit a merchant from using his lorry for carrying his own goods. This amendment is put in because of the question that was raised as to whether the trader might require a licence for the delivery to customers of goods purchased from him—the point having been raised that the goods ceased to be the trader's property after their purchase. They would be legally the property of the purchaser but, as the trader had contracted to deliver them he would be entitled to do so. This amendment is designed to make it clear that he would not require a licence for that purpose and that he can deliver goods purchased from him without being required to obtain a licence under the Bill.
That is very satisfactory, except that the Minister has not answered my point about the collection of the goods. Is the collection covered?
If a trader collects his own goods there is no obligation for him to have a licence for that purpose.
Is it accepted that No. 2 is covered by No. 1?
I am not prepared to accept that, because if the trader were allowed to hire a lorry for that purpose it would open the door very wide to means of evading the provisions.
A shopkeeper who would undertake to act as a selling agent for farm produce, such as potatoes, would be debarred?
Yes, unless he was a licensed operator.
This amendment goes to the root of the whole Bill. The extent or limitation put on the phrase "carriage for reward" depends the whole measure and its effect as far as road vehicles are concerned. Here you have it described as not including certain things, that is in sub-section (1) of Section 2. Take this one to start with. "Carriage for reward" is declared not to include—what? Let us divide this amendment out. According to the amendment, when merchandise is carried by the owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle, if such merchandise is so carried in the course of delivery to such customer and is supplied to a customer then there is no "carriage for reward." What does "a customer" mean in that connection? Does it mean any customer? Suppose that at the moment I own a lorry—am I entitled to come along to a shop after this, to get a list of the goods that have been ordered and bought, and load these goods up and carry them out to the customers? Alternatively, if I take the situation envisaged by Deputy Dillon, can I, knowing that there are certain customers going into shops in various areas for goods, go in and purchase these goods, become the owner of the goods, and then go out to the customer with the goods? Is that not "carriage for reward" under this?
I do not think so.
If not, where is your Bill?
It is quite clear that if a person contracts to carry goods for payment, then he comes under the Bill.
This is not for payment. My case is that B has a shop in town. I know that X, Y and Z are customers of B. I find out what X, Y and Z want and I go into B's shop, buy these goods, and deliver them to X, Y and Z in my own lorry. Is that "carriage for reward"?
The Deputy has not stated, whether, in fact, X, Y and Z have given any consideration.
X, Y and Z say to me "we used be able to buy these goods and have them delivered to us for such a price; will you do it?" I say "Yes, I will." I then go to B's shop and buy the goods and deliver them to X, Y and Z. The only satisfaction is that I buy the goods and get the same price from the people as they formerly paid. Is that "carriage for reward"?
I assume that the Minister examined all these questions. Take the case of a hawker going around the country. He goes into you and says: "Will you be wanting anything?" You say "Yes—a ton of Indian meal.""Very well," he says, "I will send it to you here at your door for £6 5s." The customer knows that the price is £6 for the Indian meal, but he is content to pay the extra 5/- to have it delivered to his door. That man comes in—an unauthorised haulage contractor—he pays £6 for the Indian meal, drives out to the customer's house with it and collects £6 5s. He sells the meal at £6 5s. and says "Will you be wanting anything to-morrow?" The customer says "Yes, there is my list of goods." The hawker goes in to town and buys those goods, comes out and collects his bill with a penny or twopence added on to the price of each packet. According to this Bill that man has not committed any breach of the law.
He is not conducting a haulage business; he is conducting a trading or shopkeeping business. Having bought the meal it is his own property and remains his property until he sells it again.
Instead of getting paid for carriage, you are taking a profit? You are simply going into the haulage business. The profit represents your remuneration for hauling. This seems to be extending the thing to an unlimited degree, because you can go to any headquarters base and go through the form of buying at one price and selling at another. In fact, your profit is measured by what you normally charge for hauling. In reality you are conducting a haulage business without any licence at all.
And the Minister apparently, is prepared to accept that as the new situation.
Could the Minister do anything to secure that a man should be genuinely in the merchandise business and should not be merely using it as an excuse for hauling?
Possibly. The Deputy, of course, is aware that at the moment a Commission is sitting and taking evidence on the question of retail distribution. One of the matters that the Commission have under their notice is this question of what is called a travelling shop. Certain recommendations are likely to be made in relation to that. The hawker is licensed already. We know exactly where he is and what he is doing. I gather, however, that what seems to be in the minds of Deputies is that there may be an evasion of the Bill by notional buying and notional selling.
An evasion of the Bill? The Minister is asking for it.
I do not think that is likely to arise or that it is going seriously to affect a genuine haulage business.
The Minister's explanation of his own amendment seems to me to make the position a good deal more serious than I understood it was going to be. As Deputy Dillon has pointed out, in addition to these people being able to carry on, as I am sure they will, a hawker's business, they are going to be unlicensed carriers as well according to the Minister's interpretation of his own amendment.
Might I put my point of view again? There need not be this notional buying or selling that the Minister speaks of. There may be an open transaction of the type Deputy Dillon first spoke of and that I referred to. Does the Minister deem the thing that we have talked of as not to be "carriage for reward?" He puts the onus on certain people. He says that "you shall not include in the term ‘carriage for reward' certain things." If there is not "carriage for reward," then the road vehicle can operate not merely as merrily as before but much more merrily. There is going to be very much better trade for it and the Minister is quite happy about this new situation. Up to date there have been professional road carriers operating in a particular way. They took out goods and carried back something else. For the future all that these people have got to do is to go to a person and say "I am going to buy so much of your stuff." At that point that person becomes the owner of merchandise. If that person is also the owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle and carries that merchandise which is now his in his own mechanically propelled vehicle to a customer, then he does not come under this. He has not to be licensed, and is completely and entirely outside the Bill.
That is the new situation. I think that from the point of view of this Bill doing any good to the railway companies, which I thought was the aim and intention of it, it is going to have the opposite effect. As to the expression in the amendment "merchandise supplied to a customer" I do not think one need go through the business of buying and selling to come under this. If one is the owner of a lorry one can take merchandise of any kind. If I have merchandise and I sell it to a customer in his shop I can take it and deliver it to that customer even though I openly charge for the delivery. That is defined here as not being "carriage for reward."
I take it that the Minister's intention was to remove from the operation of the measure business people who sold goods or necessary commodities and included a delivery charge.
I think in view of the explanation we have had that the Minister is going to make these people additional unlicensed carriers. I think it is a matter that requires to be looked into.
I think it is clear that the Minister is not aware of a new class of traffic that has developed in the country. Originally this thing started in this way, that we had lorries carrying goods from point A to point B. A person say bought two tons of meal and one ton of flour from a wholesaler in the city. That person delivered that and got paid for it. He was openly and notoriously a public carrier. That has now developed into a new system where a people go round and collect orders. They go to a shop some miles away, and get these orders filled. They deliver the goods to those from whom they have taken the orders and collect the money. They are going to be included in this. That is a system that has been growing up and that, under this amendment, is going to sidetrack the effective working of this Bill.
The Deputy, I think, is quite wrong in his interpretations of the amendment which is intended to cover the cases of shopkeepers delivering in their own vehicles.
If we are wrong the Minister has accepted our interpretation.
As to the person who goes along the country road accepting orders we are not concerned with him. We are not dealing with him in this Bill. So far as the road transport situation is concerned he is no problem. He may be a problem in relation to retail distribution, but certainly he is not a transport problem.
Who really makes the transport problem?
The owner of any mechanically propelled vehicle who undertakes contracts for carrying goods for reward.
Between a seller and a customer?
Between any two points.
And under this he is deemed not to be carrying for reward. That is what it comes to.
If you look at the amendment it covers the case of the owner of a lorry delivering to a customer of his own.
Where is that?
In the amendment.
Where is the phrase "to a customer of his own"?
The amendment reads: "the expression ‘carriage for reward' does not include the carriage of merchandise supplied to a customer by the owner of a mechanically propelled vehicle in which such merchandise is being carried, if such merchandise is so carried in course of delivery to such customer." Therefore, it contemplates a shopkeeper delivering goods to his customer. It does not contemplate the case which the Deputy has so elaborately explained of a man who intervenes between a shopkeeper and proceeds to get a number of people whose names he is supplied with, delivers goods to them and, in some way, gets reward for the carriage.
He is a shopkeeper.
This particular amendment seems to be clearly designed to prevent a shopkeeper, who is delivering to his customer in his own vehicle, carrying goods for reward.
That may be the design.
It is the form.
Let us face it as the design, but may I point out that the word "shopkeeper" is not mentioned. The words "customer of such shopkeeper" are not mentioned. All that is mentioned is the owner of the vehicle carrying merchandise to a customer. Even although the man has a claim to a reward for the carriage of the goods he is not deemed to be a carrier.
What is the difference between a customer and a hawker?
Does not this lay open the possibility of a shopkeeper becoming a carrier for the purpose of getting haulage hire. How are you to stop people doing that?
You cannot stop a man using a motor as a travelling shop; he is the owner of the goods. I understood Deputy McGilligan's case to be the case of a man not dealing with his own customer but delivering goods to other customers.
He is the customer by buying the goods from the shopkeeper.
The Deputy's point is that a person, because of his interest in road transport, might make himself a travelling shopkeeper but that is a separate problem.