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.