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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 12 Nov 1980

Vol. 324 No. 2

Casual Trading Bill, 1980: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

This Bill was necessary to try to ensure that proper safeguards are adhered to in roadside trading. I hope that the safeguard provided here will protect the private individual who has a grievance against a roadside trader in relation to some item purchased so that he can have his grievance redressed. This Bill does not go far enough in that regard.

In relation to sites or stalls for roadside trading I hope that the local authority will be able to ensure that there is sanitary accommodation, cleanliness and so on. This is essential. Casual trading is desirable as it provides people with an opportunity to purchase items at a bargain price. However, casual traders are exempt from rates, taxes and so on, so I hope they will not be allowed to cause a nuisance for ordinary shopkeepers who have to pay these duties, by being allowed to do business on their front doorsteps thus damaging legitimate business.

In some instances this has occurred and customers endeavouring to enter the shops have been intimidated by roadside traders. People have to make their way through an array of 20 to 30 tables laid out with goods for sale in order to get to a shop and the shopkeepers can see customers having to come through almost a barricade of tables to get into the shop. This presents a serious problem for the genuine shopkeeper. I hope a situation will not arise where customers of certain shops will have to put up with that sort of thing where casual traders have been provided with sites by the local authority. This happens at present in many cases and people have difficulty in entering shops because of caravans, stalls, vans and so on.

As far as I am aware the Minister has received representations from trade organisations in regard to this. These people are concerned that kerbside traders will be provided with stalls outside their shops and that they will damage their business. I hope that these casual trading areas are not going to be situated where they will damage existing businesses. They should not be damaged or affected in any way. I hope this will be safeguarded against. I hope the Bill not alone works but is seen to work, and that some of the people who have permits and licences do not breach them by conducting business outside the casual trading areas. Departmental officials should ensure that people do not go outside the scope of the law. It will be difficult to enforce this and I hope the Minister's Department will be vigilant in closing loopholes which would enable people to get around the law. That is essential

I note that the local authorities have power to grant a permit for trading in a particular area. They can also designate land as a casual trading area. The Bill specifies the procedure whereby this is set out in newspapers circulating in the area, and the order is made by the local authority. A person has a right to appeal only to the Circuit Court. I am surprised at this, I feel a person should have a right to appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Circuit Court. Would the Minister explain this?

I am in broad agreement with the Bill. Casual trading has been in this country from time immemorial and it will continue for a long time to come. The curbs in the Bill are very necessary and we welcome them apart from the reservations I have mentioned. Trade of this nature is desirable if there are proper restrictions on it. People can purchase items at a reasonable price but we must ensure that these traders do not have an unfair advantage over private individuals who are carrying on businesses. The road-side traders must contribute their fair share of taxation. We must also ensure that their business is conducted in safe areas. No licences or permits should be granted for trading on national, primary or secondary routes. It would be a grave mistake to allow this.

A fee of £5 is reasonable for people selling agricultural and horticultural products. I repeat, we are importing far too many foodstuffs, fruit and horticultural products. The Minister should encourage people to involve themselves in trading as specified for a licence of £5. If people can be encouraged to sell produce of this nature it will help to curb imports and it will mean that people have an opportunity to purchase these items at a reasonable price.

One of the things that concerns me regarding legislation that has been brought in — the Occasional Trading Act, the Pyramid Selling Bill and the present Bill — is that it has not reached many people throughout the country. It got coverage of a minor nature on radio and television but the nitty gritty and the hard facts did not get across to people. They are reported also in the national newspapers regularly but I hope that local papers will co-operate in disseminating the spirit and the contents of the measures that are before the House. One paper, the Westmeath/Offaly Independent, wrote about casual trading in their leading article on 7 November 1980. Local papers are read very extensively and I hope that many more articles will be written about casual trading and also about the Occasional Trading Act, the Trading Stamps Act, the Pyramid Selling Bill and the Sale of Goods Act. There is a tremendous amount of information in all this legislation. People should be made aware of the benefits that are there and to which they are entitled.

I am happy with most of the contents of the Bill.

First, I would like to avail of this opportunity to congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your new office in the Chair and to wish you every success in that role. Also I extend my congratulations to the Minister of State in his new office.

I welcome this Bill. From the point of view of Dublin, we have seen in recent years a new breed setting up, the casual traders, and they have become a scourge in the city. This trend started on the periphery of Dublin and it has worked its way into our smaller back streets. It must be said at the start that a most important aspect of this question of casual trading by the fly-by-night operators is that they provide no after-sales service nor is there any attention for their customers once they have sold them the goods.

The aspect that I am concerned about directly is the question of jobs. By supporting casual trading we are in direct conflict with the provisions of jobs in shops and in industry. I have found — and I am quite sure that this has been the practice throughout the country — that many of the goods that are on sale are a cheaper variety goods imported in massive quantities and, consequently, at very low prices and probably, in many cases, under deception. People feel that they are getting goods of quality and will buy on that account alone. However, no after-sales service is provided and people are left with goods that they cannot have repaired if anything goes wrong with them and they have no recourse in that respect. Someone purchased quite a large cassette radio from a casual trader and, on opening the radio, found it to be full of wrist-watches, obviously smuggled. This gives an example of the type of protection that is needed for consumers. Suddenly a person intending no harm could find himself receiving stolen goods. There are probably many cases of this kind.

The Bill is excellent in that it is a balanced approach to casual trading. It is not a finger pointing at those who have been trading casually as a service to the community over the centuries. The amount of money that is being made by organised rings of casual traders is a matter which needs consideration. I referred earlier to the practice of casual trading in Dublin. This has grown into a situation where people are organised to trade casually even in motor cars. A number of our quiet residential roads are blocked due to indiscriminate parking of old, abandoned cars and cars that cannot be sold easily through legitimate outlets. These casual traders come along, rent a premises and then park about a dozen cars outside, and the pressure from the residents of the area becomes immense before these traders move along. This is the extreme in casual trading. The problem is severe and it is growing in Dublin where people purchase motor cars and then they cannot get the satisfactory after-sales service which is part and parcel of buying a motor car.

Another aspect of the matter which needs attention is the question of people trading casually in a premises that they have rented for perhaps a day or two. It could be argued that provision is made under the Occasional Trading Act, 1979 to prevent this practice but, as the Minister has referred to the loophole whereby people can trade in this manner, I would like to amplify the point. Casual traders come to Dublin and other parts of the country and rent a room or a suite of rooms in a hotel where they sell the goods. They put an advertisement perhaps in the newspapers on Saturday when it is impossible to get in touch with Government Departments to report them and they sell their goods by auction or straight trading on Sunday or Monday morning. This happens quickly before the Garda can prosecute them or get at them through the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism.

I am thinking of a carpet sale which took place recently. The traders set up as experts on Persian or Oriental carpets but nobody had any means of finding out whether their claim to this was correct and the goods could have been of cheap quality from the Orient. We are trying to encourage the national "Buy Irish" attitude in this country and this type of trading, which is opposed diametrically to that concept, should be stamped out straight away. With the best will in the world people support such sales because they feel that they are getting good value, but the sales are run by perhaps very slick salesmen who can talk people into these supposed bargains and convince them that the goods are cheap because there are no great overheads and therefore they can afford to charge a price less than the goods would cost in the shops. When, to their regret, the people discover that the goods are inferior they try to get back to these casual traders who have disappeared without trace.

I have mentioned the "Buy Irish" campaign. A certain store in Dublin made a very strong effort to encourage that campaign. Within a week or two of the start of it sellers from overseas orchestrated a campaign of their own to scuttle it. That is serious and from that point of view I welcome the Bill. I feel that the Minister will refer to this point when he is summing up and will make provision that the casual trader cannot avail of the practice of simply renting a premises to add some type of psuedo respectability to the malpractice. Of course there are no overheads and no staff to consider. There are no rates and there is no stock to hold. This is very unfair competition. Previous speakers have pointed out this before now, but it must be brought home to people who are engaged in casual trading that from now on they will have to pay for an annual licence. Then they will realise also that this will necessitate inspection of their premises.

I welcome the Minister's provision whereby local authorities will be able to designate areas of the city or anywhere in the country where casual trading can take place.

I spoke earlier of the problem in relation to motor car trading, which reminds me of the appalling traffic conjestion caused by this type of casual trading. We do not wish to go overboard and to be complete kill-joys in our attitude and thus eliminate a vital fact of the life of the country as far as small-time selling is concerned. I am directing my criticism as vehemently as possible at organised casual trading through which the public are deliberately deceived and cannot be assured of any after sales service. That is another reason why the Bill is particularly welcome.

Another point is that a lot of this type of trading occurs on Sundays. It is a dreadful experience to drive to the seaside or elsewhere on a Sunday and find oneself in a two or three-mile long traffic jam caused by casual traders along the wayside. Indeed such traders welcome traffic stoppages because they assist them in their business. Vast quantities of goods are being sold in this way without guarantee to the consumer. It nearly got out of hand in Dublin where we have an unfortunate itinerant problem on our hands. Many itinerants engage in this type of casual trading.

A most undesirable element of this type of business became manifest recently in Terenure when itinerants were encouraged, indeed paid, to occupy a site in order to put pressure on local residents to facilitate developers to get their way. Casual trading is an established part of the livelihood of itinerants, they have been at it for many years, but when it becomes organised in the way I have described it must be stamped out straight away.

The Bill provides a balanced approach. It does not propose a clamp-down on charitable work, sales of work and so forth. However, trading in the name of charitable institutions sometimes leaves a lot to be desired because people have been known to cash in on the charitable side, perhaps giving a certain amount of what they make to charitable institutions which they use only as a front.

I wish the Bill every success. It will tighten up a great area of illicit trading in Dublin and with the Christmas season coming up it is appropriate to protect the consumer and to safeguard jobs.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Bill is necessary to deal with the unfair competition which is involved in casual trading. It is also necessary to remedy some of the nuisance and street obstruction caused by casual trading, and I hope it is wide enough to deal with the selling of inferior goods in the course of casual trading.

On the question of unfair competition, it has been said that casual trading constitutes very unfair competition at the moment. Traders drive into towns on prime market days, they set up stalls and trade all day. They do not pay rates to the towns and I am sure they do not contribute anything to the social welfare fund operated by the State. Then they drive off again leaving behind a mess of litter which must be cleared up at the expense of the ratepayers against whom they have been competing during the day. I have always thought that not only is that unfair but that it can be intolerable from the point of view of smaller shopkeepers in the towns. Between the large chain supermarkets and stores on the one hand and the casual traders on the other, the small to medium-sized shopkeepers are operating in nearly intolerable conditions.

Since 1926 the law in this regard has been defective. It has not been strong enough to enable local authorities to move casual traders from positions in towns where they have been creating a nuisance, an obstruction and congestion, and indeed in some cases they have made it impossible for people to get into public buildings such as post offices to transact legitimate business. Therefore, the Bill is overdue, not by a few years but by at least a quarter of a century.

Having been a member of the local authority for several years, with one enjoyable break, I know the troubles local authorities encounter by this casual trading. Therefore I hope the Bill is strong enough to restore some element of fair competition into trade. I agree that these people provide a service and that many people want to avail of that service. I do not propose to go through the Bill section by section—that can be done more effectively on Committee Stage—but I have been asking myself a question in regard to the permits to be issued to enable people to trade casually. It also gives authority to the local authorities to designate areas within their sphere of jurisdiction, and where such areas are designated, the casual trader will have to get a local licence for which he will pay £20.

As I see it, this casual trader can acquire the right to trade in several towns — I was going to say six because there are only six trading days but, if he was big enough he could trade in 15 towns or in as many towns as he could get people to represent him — for £100. There was a time when £100 was a sizeable sum and a person had to think before spending it, but having regard to inflation, £100 can be dealt with lightly. In my opinion, £100 is not a sufficient fee for a national casual trading permit. If the casual trader is a small man, operating in one or two towns, that might be a sufficient fee to charge, but if he were operating in six towns that is not a sufficient fee to introduce fair competition. He does not pay any rates while a person with a lock-up shop in the centre of any town with a population of 5,000 or 6,000 upwards, is paying a few hundred pounds a year. Admittedly, the casual trader is operating only one day a week but he is operating on the prime day. The Minister should have further thoughts about this and see if he could introduce categories of licences. I realise that if we break up the licence into categories it will be very hard to identify the big man but, in my view, an effort should be made in this area.

The biggest difficulties local authorities have had over the years in dealing with these casual traders were that they were confronted with ancient charters and market rights and attempt after attempt to solve the problem and get the traders moved fron one part of the town to another failed. That certainly failed so far as my local authority were concerned and I do not know of any local authority which succeeded in this area.

I hope the authority given in this Bill is wide enough to enable local authorities to extinguish existing trading rights because there are old charters which set aside parts of a town for the sale of clothes, another part for the sale of vegetables and so on. If the Bill is not wide enough, it is no use. At present prime market squares all over Ireland are used by casual traders and there is no authority to move them. Efforts by local authorities to change by-laws have not been successful and I hope this Bill is sufficient to do that. I also hope it is sufficient to enable local authorities to acquire market rights held by people other than themselves.

Section 2 (2) contains a list of things that are excluded from casual trading. One is selling at a market or fair held in pursuance of a market right. The definition of "market right" is "a right conferred by a franchise or a statute to hold a fair or market, that is to say, a concourse of buyers and sellers to dispose of commodities;". I hardly think that includes a person setting up a stand, but if a number of these people set up stands in a square, would that exclude them from the definition of casual trader? Section 15 imposes penalties.

I am glad this Bill was introduced, although it is 25 years overdue. I am firmly of the opinion that the fee is not sufficiently high to introduce fair competition into trading and I hope the Minister will be able to confirm that existing market and selling rights can be extinguished and that the local authorities can accommodate them elsewhere.

This Bill can be better dealt with on Committee Stage.

I welcome this Bill. It would be wrong to let this occasion pass without referring to the fact that on this important Bill, which is being welcomed and on which representations were made from many different groups, including the trade unions, not one member of the Labour Party was here to welcome it or had one word to say about it. That is something that should be recorded.

The benches on the Deputy's side are not full either.

It is traditional here that when the Second Stage of a Bill is introduced the spokesman on the subject concerned for each of the main Opposition parties is either present or is represented by another Deputy.

(Cavan-Monaghan): It is difficult to please the Deputy. When a member of the Opposition wished to speak yesterday, he was put out of the House.

We must get back to the Bill.

I was one of those people who made representations in regard to this legislation because I was aware of the unfair competition that had to be faced by regular traders as a result of the operations of casual traders who do not pay either rates or taxes.

The Minister says that some of the allegations that have been made may have been exaggerated but undoubtedly street traders were able to sell to the public at prices that were much lower than those being charged by registered traders. The casual trader whom I would refer to in particular is the itinerant who offers goods for sale on the side of the road. There has been a good deal of that sort of activity without there being overheads of any description involved. I am aware that a number of companies have had to go out of business as a result of the kind of competition with which they had to contend because of casual trading. These people were mostly in the electrical goods business.

I trust that the Minister, through this legislation, will be able to put a stop to the practice of roadside trading which is the type of trading that I consider to be the worst in the context of what we are talking about. Street trading and market trading have been features of our life for a very long time and these forms of trading are accepted generally but roadside trading is a different matter. Anyone passing the encampments of those who engage in this type of trading can see there many new motor cars showing Northern Ireland registrations. Obviously, there is no shortage of money so far as these people are concerned. By their activities they are taking jobs away from people who are employed with regular traders. Therefore, I hope that from now on anybody who sees casual trading taking place will get in touch either with the Garda or with the Department about the matter. We have waited a long time for this legislation. It has been difficult to draft but it should put a stop to the sort of roadside trading that is being carried on on an increasing scale.

One aspect of legislation of this nature which should concern us is the question of penalties. We should have a system whereby penalties could be updated by regulation instead of having to introduce amending legislation whenever it is considered necessary to increase penalties. There is in existence legislation that was introduced as far back as the turn of the century and which provides for penalties that are laughable in today's terms. There are many cases in which there is provision for maximum fines of £5 but in order to bring that figure up to a realistic level amending legislation would be necessary. I suggest that the Department consider this whole area with a view to having a situation whereby penalties for breaches of the law could be increased by way of regulation.

In the case we are talking of, a fine of £500 would not mean very much to the casual trader though it probably would represent at least the amount that a registered trader would be paying by way of rent or that market people would pay the local authorities for space. It is very important that the roadside trader is put out of business. If they wish to register and be licensed they are free to make the necessary application. Then, if they are successful they can continue to trade but will have to pay their fair share of rates and taxes.

I am satisfied that the £100 licence fee is adequate. That does not mean very much one way or the other. Even if the fee were £500, or, perhaps, £1,000, the difference to the Exchequer would not be great and neither would it mean very much in terms of prohibiting people from seeking licences. There must be strict control in regard to the granting of licences so that there will not be situations in which, perhaps, six people will operate under the umbrella of a licence granted to some other person. I can understand a licensee sending somebody to represent him at a stall but we must be vigilant in ensuring that one licence will apply to one activity only and that a licensee will not consider himself free to have stalls in six different places on the basis of one licence.

Undoubtedly, casual trading in many of its aspects has become a menace in recent years. I exempt from my remarks those traditional traders who have been involved in selling fish, for example, at regular stands in our towns and cities down through the years, but the casual trading which many have regarded as an invasion of the roadsides in recent times has become a curse and has caused harm to every sector of the community.

One would think initially that the consumer gains from this type of trading but that is not so. The consumer does not gain because the cheap bargain often turns out to be the very dear dud. I am glad that we have the opportunity of discussing in the House a Bill to deal with this problem. The only thing I am concerned about is whether the Bill will be effective in controlling the problem.

The present situation has caused problems for the consumer, the established traders in the towns and villages throughout the country and employees and trade unions in relation to its effect on employment. I am in favour of street trading being controlled. However, there are some aspects which have to be borne in mind in relation to controlling the problem and which are relevant in considering the type of legislation we should be introducing.

It is clear to me that many of the roadside traders have been operating without the normal constraints on traditional business from the point of view of VAT and other taxes. I have no proof in relation to this but it has been suggested to me that the source of the goods in many cases is questionable. The Bill is an attempt to tackle the problem. Does the Minister feel that it will be adequate to do this? It seems to me that the amount paid for a general licence could be considered inadequate and, with the rate of inflation we have had in recent years, it will certainly be inadequate in a few years. I suggest to the Minister, firstly, that he fix a higher figure at this stage and, secondly, and more importantly, that he reserve the power to amend the figure by ministerial order when he considers it appropriate.

We all know how difficult it is to get another Bill before the House. Some of the legislation we are talking about in regard to casual trading possibly goes back to the Street Hawkers Act in the last century. I believe the figure in regard to the general licence should be higher and that power should be provided to revise that figure by ministerial regulation from time to time.

I am also concerned about the possibility of one of those traders obtaining redress. The Bill provides that the trader is obliged to display his permit. Is this sufficient? I had experience once of somebody who dealt with one of those traders attempting to obtain legal redress against him. It was like chasing a fly throughout the country to catch up with the trader. I do not think that there is sufficient protection for the consumer by merely requiring the trader to display his permit. He should have to provide a permanent address to the Department and, legally, any documents served at that address should be sufficient service for the purpose of court proceedings. Would the Minister consider that a further protection for the consumer might be to insist on some form of insurance bond to meet reasonable claims. I do not have the full answer to the problem but as I had experience of somebody who dealt with one of those roadside traders trying to contact him, I am concerned that the consumer has the same rights of redress in being able to bring a claim before the courts in relation to such a trader.

The situation at the moment is utterly chaotic. Those roadside traders move in a fly-by-night fashion from one town to the next. They are in a state of perpetual motion. I fear that the Bill will not bring any improvement in that regard. It is an attempt to tackle the problem but I fear that it may not be totally effective. I believe it needs to be tightened up in relation to giving more protection to the consumer. I ask the Minister to consider any further steps which might be taken to ensure that.

I give a guarded welcome to the Bill and think it has many factors to recommend it. I hope it will not be interpreted as a witch hunt against legitimate traders, those who over the years have held hawkers licences and were engaging in their business in a legitimate manner and serving a useful purpose. The number of hawkers and pedlers in recent years has multiplied out of all proportion. It has been obvious for quite a time that restrictive legislation was necessary and I welcome the Bill from that point of view. I would like the Minister to tell us the number of hawkers licences which have been issued each year over the past twenty years. I believe there has been a dramatic increase in the number issued. Unfortunately, the increase is not justified.

There is a place for legitimate casual trading. I believe it is a constitutional right but it should be done in an orderly manner and there should be a restriction on the number of licences issued as is the case in relation to any other business, such as in the licensed trade, salmon fishing and so on. It is recognised that there must be an acceptable number of licences issued and that there cannot be a proliferation to the extent that the right is abused. The right of casual trading has been abused to the extent that the roadside trader besides creating a health hazard when the caravans move along, because those people have very limited sanitary services available, also at times create a traffic hazard. I have no doubt that from time to time serious accidents have been caused not only because of the goods which the traders have on show but also by members of the public stopping their cars without indicating, or arriving in such large numbers as to prevent the free flow of traffic. The position has been just as bad in towns. What were known locally as market days or fair days have given an opportunity to hordes of casual traders to descend on towns and to mop up the profits that otherwise would go to businesses in the towns. The time is long overdue for controls to be introduced. When there is an abuse in any sector of society we are expected by the public, and especially by people who are paying heavy rates and taxes, to correct that situation. This Bill will go a long way towards bringing about that ordered state in our society.

This Bill is not a witch hunt. There is an alternative. In his reply I should like the Minister to expand on the idea that local authorities would have the right to provide alternative market places, designated areas where these people could trade. I hope local authorities will adopt a responsible attitude in this matter and will designate areas that will be reasonably accessible to the public and give the genuine street trader or casual trader an opportunity to earn his living. I should hate to see a situation where the street trader was pushed into such a remote area that he did not have a chance to make a decent living. This is an abuse on the other extreme that must be avoided. I should like the Minister and his officials to be vigilant in this regard, to see that the alternative is practical and reasonable.

I wonder if the Bill will hold up in law? We have been told that a loophole has been found in the legislation dealing with occasional trading which was dealt with in this House. I am afraid that the legislation we have before us today is so technical and legalistic that there may be loopholes. I suppose we will find out the position with the passage of time. From speaking to legal people, it appears to me that old charters, whether given by Queen Anne or by some other king or queen of England some hundreds of years ago have extraordinary strength in our courts. I wonder if this Bill will be able to reduce those rights? I am not asking that they be extinguished; I am just wondering if the charters can be reduced in their effects by virtue of this measure. I understand that previously when attempts were made to change legislation to eliminate such charters it was found virtually impossible to do so. I hope we can dilute the strength of those charters because it is antiquated and ridiculous that charters going back centuries can still be valid and, at the same time, work to the detriment of genuine and established traders. I shall look forward to a conclusion on this matter. It is fairly certain that this Bill will be challenged in the courts and we will await the outcome with interest.

On a minor and parochial scale, I should like to point out that in my home town. Dungarvan, the Garda Síochána, at the request of the urban council, prosecuted street traders for parking for a whole day in the centre of the town. It was market day, the third Wednesday of the month. The prosecution was upheld in the local district court but it was appealed to the High Court by the street traders. I do not believe the case went through but I understand legal opinion was that the traders would win on appeal. I do not know if the legislation before us today is of such strength that such recourse to legal action will not be successful. It is my opinion there will be some legal battles with regard to this matter.

The reason for that assumption is obvious. Hundreds of traders have been making vast sums of money in recent years. I have no evidence to say that their business is anything but legitimate. I do not say they do not pay the correct taxes, whether it be VAT or customs duties, but it is obvious that these people are making considerable sums of money. They will not give up without a fight. I hope that the Bill before us will hold up. It is not a penal Bill. If designated market places which the local authority can earmark are provided in reasonably accessible areas I do not think the casual traders can complain.

In the Minister's speech today it was stated that the trade union movement has been advocating that this legislation be introduced. I have heard other trade unionists and members of the public advocate the contrary to a certain degree. They stated they were for the casual traders because they provide goods at such a low price, thus benefiting the general public and especially the poorer sections. I do not know if these people are providing top-quality goods at vastly reduced prices. I am of the opinion that originally some of the traders provided good quality articles at very reasonable prices but the tendency in recent years has been for them to provide inferior quality goods at a higher cost. With the advent in recent years of strict price controls the established businessman is not in a position to charge exorbitant rates. I do not believe there is a valid argument that street traders are giving far better value. It is my view that the difference is marginal. In many ways the public needs to be protected from the more unscrupulous street traders but we must be careful that the pendulum does not go from one extreme to the other. In implementing this Bill we must not be seen to be vindictive or to crucify the legitimate trader who has done a service to this country over the years.

I welcome the contributions made by Deputies and I am delighted that the Bill has been so well received. There has been very little criticism of the Bill and the measures proposed to be introduced in relation to casual trading.

I will refer first of all to a point made by Deputy Deasy. It is not the purpose of the Bill to penalise anybody but merely to regulate a matter which has got out of hand. It is felt that with the implementation of this Bill everybody will get a fair deal. We are all aware of the problems which have been created over the years by people who congregate in large numbers in our smaller towns and cream off the profits which in some instances should go to the people who maintain services for the local population.

The question of how the Bill can be implemented is not an easy one and we realise that there may be problems in certain areas. However, the Bill gives a great deal of authority to the Garda, to inspectors of the Department and to the local authorities to ensure that any illegalities in connection with this type of trading can be checked and restricted. I agree with the suggestion made by Deputy Enright and some other speakers that goods offered for sale occasionally by these people may be stolen or "hot" goods and this legislation will leave the Garda in a very strong position in dealing with this kind of trading.

Questions have been raised about the role of local authorities in the implementation of the Bill. I assume that local authorities will use their commonsense and discretion in deciding the areas which should be designated. The members of local authorities are people who are familiar with circumstances in their own areas and are constantly in touch with various interests. I feel sure that they will bring this knowledge to bear on the question of designating areas for casual trading.

Will the designated areas have to meet any standards?

Yes. It will be necessary for local authorities to take into account matters such as hygiene. Deputy Enright mentioned that areas should not be designated along national primary or national secondary roads and I agree entirely with this. The designation of areas along such roads would add to traffic hazards and the pace of traffic along these roads is generally very fast. Local authorities would take these matters into consideration in designating areas. Despite any pressure from any source, I cannot envisage that they would select such areas for designation.

The designation of areas for casual trading in towns may involve the installation of electricity and water supplies and adequate surfacing. Who will bear the cost of providing these services?

It would be more appropriate to raise these matters on Committee Stage.

I am glad the Deputy raised this matter and we will go into it in more detail on the next Stage. The Deputy also raised the possibility of one licence being used by a group of people. I assume that local authorities will ensure that it is not possible for one licence to be used by several traders. There have been suggestions in connection with this type of selling, which could be discriminatory, but there is a limit to what can be done in relation to the making of such regulations. The possibility of having certain kinds of identification in the licence would create a problem because there would be a certain amount of discrimination in asking a casual trader to do something which the ordinary businessman is not required to do. The matter has been given much consideration by the Department.

That is the point I want to mention. An ordinary businessman is a permanent fixture whereas this particular person would be only there once over a period of two years and, as the Minister mentioned, the question of identification would arise and perhaps a photograph would help in the identification. This is commonplace on the Continent.

I would suggest to the Deputy and to the Minister that we tease out these matters on Committee. They would be much more relative to Committee Stage.

In reply to the Deputy, the extra powers now being given to the Garda and to the officers of the Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and the local authorities in relation to this type of trading will help to eliminate many of the irregularities which we are facing at the moment. It would not be possible to include all the details that Deputy Enright has given. I agree that there is a need to do everything possible to ensure that these people are tied down as much as possible so that they will not be in a position, as they have been, to get away with many things that we all disagree with and will not come down on the consumer by dealing in any illegal way in the conduct of their affairs. Deputy O'Keeffe mentioned a problem he had in relation to some of these people where he was trying to tie down a particular person who was found to have done something which was illegal; he found it impossible to tie him down. The Bill and its provisions will help to get over the problem which Deputy O'Keeffe raised.

Deputy Enright mentioned another matter which is of importance. He said that all possible information should be made available to the general public on the provisions of this Bill. I agree entirely with this. I am sure that when the Bill has gone through both Houses of the Oireachtas my Department will try to ensure that the provisions of the Bill are made known to the general public and to traders. So I cannot see any problem in relation to that matter.

Deputy Enright also raised the question of appeals to the Circuit Court. He questioned why we decided not to go beyond appeals to the Circuit Court. We have been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that appeals to the Circuit Court cover the situation. We have been acting on the advice received. Again if the Deputy, on Committee Stage, shows any good reason why we should go beyond that then we will be glad to listen to what he has to say and if we find that there are reasons for going beyond that point we will take the matter up with the Office of the Attorney General. But at the moment that is the advice we have and it is because of that advice that we have decided not to go beyond that point.

Deputy Brady dealt with trading in hotels and dancehalls and other places. That does not come under this Bill. That was covered already under the Occasional Trading Act which was introduced some time ago. This Bill as it stands does not cover that aspect of things. The Deputy mentioned the question of after-sales service and matters of that kind. It is well to bring that item to the notice of the general public. It is a very serious problem in relation to casual traders because very often that type of service is not available. Even though the consumer or member of the general public may be spending a considerable amount of money on the articles, after sales service is not available and it is certainly not at all satisfactory. Here again this is highlighted in the Bill and it should serve as a warning to the general public in relation to their dealings with these people. Deputy Fitzpatrick also mentioned this question. The licensing facility and the licence itself will tie down the trader and will protect the consumer against this kind of unfortunate situation that people are in at the moment. Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act the consumer can be protected and with the issue of the licence we will have something definite to work on as against the situation we have at the moment.

Some Deputies questioned the licence fee of £100 and were of the opinion that it should be a much larger figure. The Department have gone into this question. It may seem small in the case of the bigger operator but there are a number of small operators who will find it hard enough to pay £100 and it would be very unsatisfactory to have a grading of fees. It is something that would not be too easy to introduce. Where would one start? I cannot envisage how one could operate the fee on a graded basis. I am not sure whether it was Deputy Fitzpatrick who mentioned the possibility of introducing an increase in the fee by way of ministerial order. There is a provision in the Bill for this purpose.

A number of Deputies mentioned the powers of local authorities to acquire any rights deriving from charters and letters of patent. We are advised that the measures proposed in sections 8 and 9 will be adequate to allow local authorities to acquire any of these rights. By way of a general observation on that I might say that a general right to the public to engage in buying and selling is provided by charters and letters in Thurles, Ennis, Carlow, Dungarvan, Longford, Mallow, Navan, Mitchelstown, Kenmare and Wexford. Markets and fairs in other places are authorised by statute under the Markets and Fairs Clauses Act, 1847, local legislation, such as the Bray Township Act, 1866, Dublin Markets Act, 1899, and so on. Royal grants usually entitle the grantees to collect tolls and other fees. The local authorities in Thurles and Ennis acquired the rights of the original grantees. But we are advised that these rights are very restricted and cannot be readily altered under existing legislation.

Could the Minister repeat the original list of towns?

Thurles, Ennis, Carlow, Dungarvan — one in the Deputy's constituency — Longford, Mallow, Navan, Mitchelstown, Kenmare and Wexford.

What rights or charters are there in those towns?

That was a general right to the public to engage in buying and selling which was provided by these charters in the areas mentioned.

Does this Bill eliminate or extinguish these charters?

No, not entirely, but we feel that it gives local authorities certain rights they can enforce.

But not complete rights?

It enables them to acquire and extinguish. I think it is in sections 8 and 9.

With the kinds of salaries I am giving there will be no need to start anything in Dungarvan.

I am not trying to start anything; I am trying to eliminate it.

On that matter we were also advised that we could run into constitutional problems if we simply legislated to repeal en bloc all the existing authorities to hold markets and fairs. It was in these circumstances that we decided to except from the Bill markets and fairs held in pursuance of market rights. In section 8 of the Bill we are providing that a local authority may acquire any market right and, in section 9, that a local authority may, subject to certain specified conditions, either manage and regulate a market or fair in respect of which it owns the market right, or extinguish the market right.

Is the Minister saying that where there is a traditional fair in these towns casual traders will be allowed to do business on those fair days?

That could be regulated by the local authority under the new legislation. They could not do so without first acquiring the market rights.

We shall have an opportunity to argue all of these points on Committee Stage.

They can do it when the local authority acquires the right.

For all practical purposes it will eliminate the present right of the casual trader?

Perhaps the Deputy would leave that until Committee Stage.

It would be much better dealt with on Committee Stage.

I think I have covered most matters raised.

I did ask one question—

When the Minister concludes the Deputy can ask a question but the other matters would be for Committee Stage.

I think I have covered most matters raised by the Deputies. Perhaps there are details we can go into on Committee Stage when we can deal more specifically with other questions raised by some Deputies.

I asked for a figure earlier. Perhaps the Minister could tell us the escalation in the number of hawkers' licences, for instance, over the past ten years.

I do not have that figure at present. I will get it for the Deputy and let him have it in a day or two.

Question put and agreed to.

This day week.

Subject to all the usual conditions.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17 November 1980.