Before we start this debate I would like to point out that we are having repetition on this section. We will have to proceed with the section and deal further with the Bill.
Casual Trading Bill, 1980: Committee Stage (Resumed).
An Leas Cheann Comhairle
Section 4(8) is very useful but I think it should be amended in some way. It deals with casual trading where the licence is for the purpose of selling fish, horticultural and agricultural produce and articles made by the person who holds the licence. The amount of the fee is only £5 and that is welcome. However, I am somewhat concerned with regard to imported horticultural and agricultural produce.
What has that to do with the section before the House? The section does not deal with the importation of any products. It provides for licences for casual traders and others.
I do not think the Chair can anticipate what I am going to say. Perhaps I might be allowed to proceed and then the Chair will admit it is wrong.
I cannot see that the Chair is wrong but the Deputy may make the point.
I support the section but I think we should differentiate between imported and home-produced food. I appreciate there may be difficulties in drafting and enforcing such a provision but it would be of considerable help to the producers and also it would benefit the economy. I am rather disappointed that a person whose sells imported foodstuffs will be charged such a minimal licence fee. I admit this is not of major importance but if we make a change it would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps the Minister will consider this matter before we take Report Stage. It would benefit home producers of horticultural and agricultural produce and also those people selling fish.
I have allowed the Deputy to make his point but now he is getting into a debate on Irish goodsversus imported goods. It does not arise on this Bill.
Of course it does.
No. The Chair will have to have some say in the matter.
(Cavan-Monaghan): It would be a very good thing if we could create a few thousand jobs.
Yes, but I am afraid we cannot do it on this Bill. The Deputy has made his point and he should leave it at that.
I am asking the Chair to allow us a little leeway on the matter. In this instance people will get a licence fee at the reduced charge of £5. I do not think that these people should sell only imported foods. It is my view that if they do this they should pay £100, the same as everybody else.
I shall allow the Deputy to make that point, but he may not elaborate on it.
I am trying to get across to the Minister the importance of this matter, that there is a necessity to make some differentiation between the two. I hope the Minister will consider this on Report Stage. If necessary, we ourselves can put down an amendment on it. With the vast amount of imports of different commodities now coming into this country, it is important that, when we have an opportunity such as is presented by this Bill, we ensure that our own producers are helped. Could I have the Minister's views on that? Has the Minister no views on that?
We all agree with the sentiments expressed by Deputy Enright in relation to trying to protect our own people. He must be aware that, because we are coming into the area of free trade and so on, we cannot insert any clauses in the Bill which would in any way be against the existing regulations. This is the difficulty that I can see in regard to the Deputy's suggestion. We all agree with his sentiments, but that is the problem.
In subsection (b) there is a reference to articles made by a person who holds the licence, or his spouse or children. That, in its own way, is a safeguard for people who are producing items for sale and is certainly a good idea. In regard to the earlier point, a section can be provided which would be of benefit. I am concerned that at times one has great difficulty in obtaining produce, such as potatoes and vegetables, grown in this country. Every effort should be made to entice the casual traders referred to in this Bill to purchase, sell and dispose of Irish produce. I hope the Minister will go a stage further than he is going to meet this request.
(Cavan-Monaghan): To some extent, the point which I made on section 4 in regard to the charge for a licence authorising a person to engage in casual trading arises here in regard to a permit. Under section 5, a local authority may issue a permit authorising the casual trader to engage in casual trading within the area of its jurisdiction and the fee is £20. For that fee of £20, the person concerned is covered for 12 months, whether he attends once a week, once a month, or, indeed, whether he attends there every day, which would be most unlikely. Some of these casual traders engage in casual trading within an urban area on, perhaps, the Tuesday of each week, with others attending on only the first Tuesday of each month. Are these people to be charged the same fee of £20? Again, while a permit fee of £20 might be reasonable in regard to one type of trader, it might not be sufficient in regard to another type of trader who was virtually engaging in full-time trading under the guise of casual trading. I do not intend or wish to be in any way offensive but I say that these two sections, numbers 4 and 5, lack imagination. They lack any evidence of thought as to how equality might be introduced into trading as between resident and casual traders or, indeed, under this section, as to how equality and equity might be introduced as between one casual trader and another. It appears that if a person turns up on only one day of the year he pays £20 and if he turns up on 365 days of the year, he also pays £20.
It is also stated that the local authority shall issue a permit in respect of a specific place. Does that mean that the holder of the permit will have the right to that place throughout the year? What happens if he turns up on only a couple of days of the year? Will some other person be prevented from using that stall or selected place to carry on business there? This section has overlooked a lot of things. It has taken the easy way out by saying that a permit will be granted to a licence holder, without thinking how often he will turn up or how often he will use the area allotted to him. I would like the Minister's views on all these things.
The question raised by the Deputy relates to the issue of a permit. A permit will be granted by the local authority for a particular area. That confers on the applicant the right to sell in that particular area. It is a matter for himself as to how often he uses the area when he holds that permit. It is very hard to write all the things mentioned by the Deputy into a Bill of this kind.
One item concerns me in regard to permits and, in fact, in regard to licences, since they are closely interwoven. Quite a considerable amount of legislation has been passed through the House in regard to people purchasing items. They are protected under the Sale of Goods Act and many other Acts. On the other hand, one can purchase from these casual traders televisions which can cost over £600. A sizeable quantity of goods can be purchased in this way. If I purchase a coloured television for a sum of £600 and am not well up as to the quality of the television set and have no opportunity of seeing if it works, if on getting home I discover it is absolutely useless, a dud, where do I go from there? The permit fee is only £20. Someone may decide on one day to get a permit to attend, perhaps, some where in Mayo, Offaly, Cork, Wexford or wherever. He goes to these places and may have 20 televisions valued at £500 each. He gets all this money together and people in the locality may find that the television sets are absolutely useless. This Casual Trading Bill leaves those people with no redress. There is no protection for them. Will the permit be of any help to them?
The permit refers to the area of trading. It is issued by the local authority. The licence gives the person the right to trade in that area. I do not know whether the question the Deputy is raising comes under this section.
It is not relevant.
At present there is no way of getting after these people if something which the Deputy outlined occurs. Under the Bill they will have to display their licence to trade clearly, their names, and so on. In that way it will be possible to keep a close check on the type of business these people carry out.
Section 5 (2) provides:
An application for a casual trading permit shall be made to the local authority concerned not less than 30 days before the first day on which it is intended to engage in the casual trading to which the application relates.
I submit that before a local authority issue such a licence an applicant should be obliged to furnish a bond to the local authority setting out that there is some form of protection for the consumer. It is necessary to have some type of protection. We are speaking of vast sums of money in some instances. This would be one way of protecting the consumer who purchased a faulty television set. I am not saying that these people will defraud their customers, but this would be a safeguard.
Under certain sections of the Bill the local authorities can decide whether or not to grant a permit. Section 5 (4) provides that a local authority may refuse to grant a casual trading permit to a person who has been convicted of an offence under section 3 of this Act. Everybody who applies for a licence or a permit may not automatically qualify.
Can a local authority give a permit in special circumstances where the application was made within the 30 days? There are functions such as football matches or Macra na Feirme field days where traders may feel they can give a service and they might not have 30 days in which to give notice. Can the local authority issue a permit in these special circumstances?
No, I do not think so. There is one point in relation to a question raised by Deputy Enright. Shopkeepers are not required to hold bonds. We would be discriminating if we introduced the type of regulation mentioned by the Deputy.
That is exactly the point I was making. We have now come to the nub of the issue. A shopkeeper carries on business in established premises. He has his assets, his shop, his house, and so on. Normally he is a member of the community. If faulty products are purchased from him the person who suffers the loss can bring an action against the shopkeeper. A casual trader may be in a certain place today and may never come back again. A hundred television sets could be sold in a town, all of poor quality. The people who purchased them would be entitled to bring an action against the person who sold them.
Consumer protection comes under different legislation which we have already passed.
Exactly. You have helped me further.
I am not helping the Deputy. I am telling him that he is talking about a different Bill. We must stay on the section which deals with permits. I allowed the Deputy to make a point about having a bond. That was in order, but we cannot deal with consumer protection.
The Chair misunderstands the situation.
No one understands it better.
There is no protection for somebody who purchases something faulty. Legally he is entitled to redress under the legislation which passed through the House. In this case a person may obtain a licence for £100 and a permit for £20. For an outlay of £120 he can make a killing by selling substandard goods. He may make £10,000 by selling shoddy goods. People who paid out their hard-earned money then find they have no redress because that person may be a fly-by-night, a man of straw. The Minister should have a look at this between now and Report Stage.
The licence and permit will help to identify the casual trader for the purpose of obtaining redress. His permanent address will have been provided in his application. In that way he is identified, and this is something we did not have previously. In relation to the bond, it strikes me that if a person starts up in business in a town or village it would be unfair to suggest that he should provide a bond in the same way as the Deputy suggests a casual trader should provide a bond.
When I was replying to Deputy McMahon's query I forgot to mention that under section 2 (2) (d) it will not be necessary for people to get a licence if they list the things they are selling at the football match.
The Minister replied to one point but there are two.
They are excluded.
They are excluded and they do not have to get a permit for casual functions like Macra na Feirme field days. People trading at such an event are excluded from requiring a permit. Is that what the Minister is saying?
Yes. Usually they are for charitable purposes so they would be excluded.
The trading would not be for charity.
I would ask the Deputy to look at section 2 (2) (d).
Is the Minister saying a person would not require a permit——
We dealt with that type of trading on section 2.
This section should be more closely looked at. I was not referring to the person who purchases a property and sets up business in town having to get a bond, but somebody who comes into an area for one day and disposes of a lot of goods should be obliged to have an insurance bond. Many such traders sell radios, televisions and so on to consumers. How they get them working to display them nobody knows but when the consumer gets home he cannot get them to work at all and when he returns the following day for redress he finds that the trader has lifted camp and gone. There are unscrupulous people who seize opportunities to make fast money and then leave. They are living on the edge of the law and there is no redress for consumers. I would hate to find that a lot of the fine legislation that has gone through recently could be skirted because we were not right enough in this. We must protect the ordinary man and woman who wishes to purchase goods from a casual trader. Bonds have proved necessary in a lot of businesses and as casual traders have no proper headquarters they should be obliged to have an insurance bond. An insurance company would ensure that a person was creditworthy and an insurance bond would provide an asset which a consumer could claim against if necessary. In this instance consumers would be happy that they would have some comeback if they bought furniture or anything else from a casual trader. I would ask the Minister to consider this on Report Stage.
I will go along with the Minister in relation to having a licence and permit clearly displayed for members of the public. That sounds well in theory but when I visited the Continent I norticed that in bazaars and market places run under the direction of the local authority not alone must the people have their licence and permits displayed but the person behind the counter has to be identified as well. I raised this question on Second Stage and the Minister more or less said that it would be difficult to enforce as it would be difficult to arrange photographs and identification. I appreciate that, but it is essential that people should be identified. It is usual now in supermarkets for shop assistants to wear their names on badges on their coats. People in casual trading should be identified by their name and photograph so that they will be easily identifiable and can be stopped if they are conducting a shady business. This would be slightly difficult to enforce but the advantages outweigh the difficulties. We must protect the ordinary consumer in this Bill.
We went through this on Second Stage. This section requires the trader to display his licence or a copy of it which would include his name and address when he is trading and he must also display his permit issued by the local authority. We would regard an obligation for the casual trader to wear a badge as being discriminatory as no ordinary trader has to do that. The supermarkets do not have to issue their employees with badgets. I understand that that is more or less a public relations exercise. An obligation to have a photograph included in the licence is something that does not apply to any other trader. In relation to what the Deputy saw on the Continent, it must be remembered that in many Continental countries every person is required by law to carry some form of identification. I am not so sure that we would want to have our freedom interfered with to that extent here. We have gone into these matters very closely and we have gone as far as we can in relation to this section of the Bill.
It is a pity that the Minister did not take this point more seriously. The Minister said that customers will have protection in so far as the trader must have his name and address displayed either on the licence or on the permit, but it is not the same as in the case of a normal trader who will have a permanent address. Is the Minister saying that a trader without a permanent address will not get a licence? If that is so, than there is some protection. The greatest offenders in Dublin city and county are people without permanent addresses. Many of them come in by boat on a Friday night, trade on Saturday and Sunday and leave on Monday. I would hazard a guess that many of them do not have a permanent address. I am sure the Minister is aware that many traders live in mobile homes and move from one part of the country to another. There is no hope of protecting the purchaser from such offenders because it is not possible to track them down. Deputy Enright was trying to get this point across to the Minister but the Minister is avoiding the issue.
This Bill has been awaited with anticipation by many people who wish to see the regularisation of roadside trading, but I fear the Bill will not be effective in this respect. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider these points with a view to introducing amendments.
Assistants in supermarkets often wear badges on their lapels showing their names and when they are courteous and helpful to customers a friendship is established between them. This must be regarded as a good thing.
It is provided in this Bill that a licence and a permit will be displayed and the Garda will have power to inspect the licence. If it is in order, that will limit them in what they can do. If colour televisions are on sale for £500 which are absolutely useless the Garda will not have power to interfere. The purchaser will not have any rights because there will not be a bond. If the trader had to display his name and address and photograph on his lapel and if this information were kept in a register attached to the licence, there would be a safeguard because he would be traceable. If he were found to have broken some regulation the Garda could take action.
In my locality 30 or 40 people bought radios and it would be possible to hear as much music in a bucket.
The Deputy keeps repeating arguments he has already made. He will blame the Chair for interrupting him, but what else can the Chair do in such circumstances?
The people who purchased those radios had no redress and were not able to identify the traders because they had disappeared. This legislation will continue to allow people to trade in one area today and move to another county tomorrow. People will still have difficulty in tracking them down.
We are debating a matter which does not arise here.
When issuing a licence the local authority will have the name and address of the trader and this will be displayed on the licence. I suggest that this will make him as easy to identify as would a photograph or badge. Regarding Deputy McMahon's point about traders coming from England, this is exactly what the Bill is designed to tackle. The Garda will have authority to move in and seize goods. Permits will have to be issued by the local authorities and traders caught operating without authority will face the confiscation of their goods by the Garda.
The Minister is not accepting that these people can get a licence. They are not excluded from doing so under the terms of the Bill. Can a person without a permanent address get a licence? If so, it would pay him to do so even to trade for half an hour because of the huge profits to be made.
We must move on. Section 6 deals only with the display of permits. We have passed the section dealing with the issue of licences.
They must give a permanent address in order to get a licence.
Will there be any check on whether they have a permanent address? A person who lives in a mobile home may not be there in seven days' time and certainly will not be there in seven months' time. If a person says that he lives at Bohernabreena, Tallaght, County Dublin, the Department cannot refuse a licence.
The Deputy is now dealing with something which arises on a previous section.
I am dealing with the protection of the consumer.
Section 4 dealt with this matter.
The Minister said that the purchasers' protection would be in the display of the name and permanent address of the trader. A person may give his name and say he has lived for the past twelve months in a certain place in a mobile home. Thousands of people live in mobile homes and the numbers are increasing.
The Chair must have some control over this debate.
I want to have this point clarified because unless it is, the Bill is not worth a damn. I will still be in hell and hot water, as I have been for the last seven or eight years, because of roadside trading which is a real menace. No matter how hard the Chair is on me, he will be much easier than——
I will allow the Minister to answer if the Deputy lets him, although this does not arise under the section.
It arises out of the Minister's reply to Deputy Enright.
It is not in order at any stage.
If a person living in a mobile home gives his name and address as X town in X county, can the Minister refuse him a licence? If he cannot, there is no guarantee that he will be there in a month's time, because he can move to another town or even another country. People come from Britain to Dublin city and county regularly to engage in casual trading. The Minister does not have to take my word for this. He can verify it from the recent survey carried out by the Itinerant Settlement Committee. These people get their supplies in England or across the Border. They have no permanent address here. How then can they display a permanent address on their licence for the protection of the consumer?
I would ask the Deputy to look at section 4 (9). It is covered there.
(Cavan-Monaghan): I have been reading this section and see that it gives power to local authorities to designate areas as casual trading areas. Section 7 (1) (a) (i) says that the local authority may designate any land, including a public road, in its functional area to which the public have access as of right— that is all right— or any land occupied by and in the functional area of the local authority. The words “occupied by” are troubling me a little. I can see a situation where a local authority might not, as of now, have within their area and in their occupation any land they might wish to designate as a casual trading area, but they might enter into an arrangement with the owner of land to make land available as a casual trading area. That land could not be said to be in the occupation of the local authority and the authority might not want it for any purpose other than a casual trading area. Some member of the public might challenge the order in court on the grounds that at the time the designation order was made the land was not in the occupation of the local authority. The second paragraph deals with land in the occupation of another local authority.
Instead of using the words "in the occupation of the local authority" we might insert the words "or any other land in the functional area of the authority with the consent of the owner and occupier of that land". That would remove the temptation for somebody to rely on this occupation provision because, I repeat, the land might not be in the occupation of the local authority at the time the order was made and the local authority might never want to occupy it for any purpose other than for a casual trading area.
The decision relating to the designation of the casual trading area might be the right decision at the time. Because of subsequent changes or for social or economic reasons, it might be found that the relocation at a particular time was not a good one. The local authority could then relocate——
(Cavan-Monaghan): I appreciate that.
They do not have to own the property to decide a location——
(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not think the Minister gets my point. If the point I am making is valid I would not blame him for not grasping it because it is a technical point. It is a question of occupation. The local authority cannot designate land uless they are in occupation of it. The local authority might not have any land but might enter into an arrangement with the owner of land to make land available for casual trading, without the local authority being in occupation of it. If they made an order in those circumstances, it might be challenged.
The only problem I see with the word "occupied" is that it covers a very wide area. It could be rented, owned, hired and so on.
(Cavan-Monaghan): If the Minister were to insert the words “with the consent of the owner and/or occupier of the land” we would get the same result and avoid the danger of having the order upset by a court.
If it satisfies the Deputy we can have a look at this between now and Report Stage and come back to him on it.
I notice that if a person is not satisfied he can inform the Minister for the Environment and if the Minister is not satisfied with the decision he can appeal to the Circuit Court. Is there a further appeal from that court? Does the Minister feel that is satisfactory?
Yes. We have gone into that with the Attorney General's office and it is adequate.
Under the section will any standards for casual trading areas be laid down? Will there be minimum standards or will this be covered by regulation? In my view, casual trading areas must be of a certain standard—proper ground surfaces, water supplies, electricity and so on and it is necessary that the Department, in conjunction with the local authorities, should lay down minimum requirements. I should hate casual trading areas to be regarded as unsavoury and unwelcome by local residents or to be unsatisfactory for the people shopping there. Ideally we should consider having these areas properly specified, with a proper minimum standard being laid down.
That would be going into the local authorities areas. It would be entirely in their hands to decide what they considered best for each area. I can say quite definitely that it will be a matter for the local authority to decide where they will designate an area, the space that should be provided and the other amenities and facilities to be provided in each of those areas.
Is it intended that the cost of all of this will be borne by the local authorities?
Does the Minister envisage it proving costly to the local authorities? Has there been any estimate carried out of the likely cost?
(Cavan-Monaghan): This section gives a local authority power to acquire market or fair rights by agreement or compulsorily. I imagine that sub-section (2) simply provides the compulsory machinery for acquiring those rights and applies certain Acts to that with modifications.
Yes, that is correct.
(Cavan-Monaghan): There is something here the Minister will have to look at. This section gives a local authority the right to extinguish market rights. If this does not work a very important part of this Bill will break down. It is essential in provincial towns to get casual traders out of places in which, as of now, they have a right to trade under old market rights whether granted by charter or otherwise. These casual traders are there, they will not move and they are thumbing their noses at local authorities for as long as I have been associated with local authorities. As I said earlier, this part of the Bill is all very well but, if it does not work, the whole Bill will be rendered void.
The House may take it that, when this Bill becomes law, it will be gone through with a fine-comb in order to challenge it in the courts. Local authorities have been defeated before in their efforts to charge tolls and to make it unprofitable for these people to trade in a particular place.
Subsection (2) says:
A local authority may, with the approval of the Minister for the Environment, by order extinguish a market right owned by it.
Then subsection (3) (a) says:
A local authority shall not extinguish a market right under this section unless it provides alternative facilities in the same vicinity as the market or fair to which the right relates ....
The four words there of which I am afraid are "in the same vicinity". What do those words mean? How will a court interpret them? For example, in my town at present the market places to which these people seem to be entitled are right in the centre of the town—they were on televesion the other evening—right outside the post office, with a built-up area either side, opposite and behind. Certainly in that case there is no way in which an alternative market could be provided "in the immediate vicinity". Is there a difference between "immediate vicinity" and "vicinity"? I suppose there is —"immediate vicinity" certainly means right beside where it was. "Vicinity" would be a looser term but, in my opinion, it would not mean at the other end of the town. Indeed if it were sought to move these people to the other end of the town any solicitor would challenge that interpretation and say: this is not "in the same vicinity", these people are now being shifted to a place much less lucrative, less convenient and matters might very well be upset. Those words "in the same vicinity" appear in subsection (3) (a) and (b) in reference to the extinguishing of market rights and to the use of market rights where other rights have been acquired. In my opinion in both cases those words are almost certain to be challenged in the courts. If they are—to put it at its remotest—then there is every possibility it would be held that the rights could not be extinguished because alternative rights were not being provided in the vicinity. Instead of the phrase "in the same vicinity" something like "alternative reasonable facilities within the urban area or adjacent thereto" might be used, or some phrase that would be sufficiently wide to allow a little elbow room. I would suggest that "reasonable facilities" would be far more flexible than "in the same vicinity".
If one were to examine provincial towns one would see that these rights—in the days of donkeys and carts and slowmoving traffic—were provided in the centre of those towns. But those towns have expanded and there is now motor traffic moving through them causing major problems. While nobody wants to be unreasonable I would not be in favour of a local authority exercising their rights under this section by shifting those people, say, two miles out of the town. That would be going to the other extreme. But I see nothing wrong with moving them to the other end of the town or to the peripheral areas. With what expertise I possess I would advise the Minister to examine this matter.
The power to acquire and extinguish market rights is not intended to be used to kill off the traditional fairs or markets as such. It is intended merely to enable local authorities to update arrangements in their areas, perhaps to change the location slightly because of traffic hazards or the like being created, to change the market days and hours of trading, to substitute the licence and permit fees proposed in the Bill for stalls, rents and tolls and to limit the area that a trader may occupy as a casual trading area.
I can see the point made by Deputy Fitzpatrick in regard to a major change being made in relation to the areas now being used by these people. Again the authority for designating these areas is vested in the elected representatives of the local authority. These are people with commonsense who know what is required and who always work in the best interests of their areas. If I might refer to this aspect of the Bill, at a time when we complain about central control and bureaucracy we can feel proud that this Bill vests a great deal of authority in local representatives in the various local authority areas.
We will surely pay for the privilege.
In relation to this section, that is what is meant. We can have a look at the wording with a view to improving it. It gives authority to local authorities to designate areas so that traffic will not be held up to the extent it is at present.
(Cavan-Monaghan): It is not so simple. It is true that the powers of designation are being vested in local authorities but interpretation of the Act is for the courts and all local authorities can do is to depend on how the courts will interpret the language we have put into the Bill. If the Minister leaves in the words “in the same vicinity” it may be held that local authorities cannot extend a market or fair unless they provide another market or fair in the same vicinity, and it may not do for them to provide such a facility at the other end of the town, half a mile away. I am asking the Minister to substitute for the present wording “reasonable marketing facilities in another area reasonably convenient”. He would be well advised to do that.
"In the same vicinity" would mean reasonably close to the existing area. I think we are playing with words.
(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not hold myself out as an authority on interpretation or draftsmanship but in one way or another I have a little more experience than the Minister and I would advise him to get the best available advice on the submissions I have made.
I have told the Deputy I am prepared to have another look at it.
Subsection (6) states that it shall be a defence for a person who has given information which is false to say that he did not know it was false at the time. That is a strange form of defence.
That is a standard provision in legislation. The subsection states:
It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section in relation to the giving of false information to the Minister or to a local authority to show that he did not know and could not, with the exercise of reasonable care, have known that the information was false.
It seems a strange situation that if a person gives false information and it is discovered later to have been false he can plead as a defence that he did not know it was false.
There are people of this sort who do not remain at the same location for very long. Is there an obligation on such a person to notify the Department that he is not at that location any longer? Could it be alleged that he had given false information if he got a licence knowing that he would not be at the address given for the full term of the licence?
When a person applies for a licence he must give a permanent address. The licence will be for 12 months and if he gives wrong information, when he looks for a renewal of the licence he will find himself in trouble. We are entitled to refuse a licence if the person deliberately gives wrong information.
Is such a person required to remain at a certain address for 12 months?
It is possible that we could make a condition of the licence that a person would notify any change of address.
I hope the Minister will do that.
Will the Minister have a number of Departmental officers monitoring this matter who will be working in conjunction with local authorities?
We do not envisage that it will be necessary to have any extra staff appointed to deal with this. The local authorities will have officials already dealing with matters like sanitation who can deal with this. There are 50 officers in the Department who do different jobs in connection with illegal trading and we consider that they will be able to deal with this Act.
(Cavan-Monaghan): The Garda can do it.
Local authorities will be financing this. There will be considerable work involved and I find it hard to understand why the licence fees will go to the Department of Finance instead of the local authorities who will have considerable expense in administering the Act. The permit fee will go to the local authorities but the larger licence fee will go to the Department of Finance.
The Bill does not stop local authorities from making extra charges.
As well as the £20 for the permit?
The Garda Síochána will now have power to seize goods and they will have power of sale and so on. I was told recently about a case where the Revenue Commissioners seized a motor car, which was retained by them for about two months. When the owner finally got the car back it was in a deplorable condition. Now we will have goods seized and in some instances they can be sold. I hope, whoever retains those goods, whether it is officers of the Minister's Department, the local authorities or the Garda, while they are investigating the case, will ensure that the goods are retained in a safe place where they cannot be damaged by outsiders or they will not be destroyed by the elements. I hope the Minister's Department will ensure that this section is properly administered in regard to safeguarding the property which is seized. I know of cases where property was seized and was not looked after. It is very wrong of a responsible body to allow property to deteriorate. If the Minister wants proof of this I will give it to him.
We are advised that the Garda are under common law obligation to take every care of such goods and the person may take a civil action if his property is damaged, stolen or mislaid.
That is satisfactory.
I said earlier that problems will arise in regard to a person taking action against a trader who is selling those goods. If the person succeeds in his action in the District Court under the Sale of Goods Act I hope that the registers of licences and permits will be used by the Minister's Department and by the local authority to ensure that if a decree is given against a trader and if the decree remains unsatisfied, that he will not be allowed to renew his licence and permit until he has made satisfaction for the decree. I would forget about the bond, which I mentioned earlier, if I was satisfied that people will not be able to escape the law and if proper contact is made by the Minister and the local authorities concerned to ensure that people will not be able to evade their responsibilities. Could the Minister clarify that for me?
Our information is that a refusal can apply only under this Act and not under any other Act. The Minister and the local authorities will maintain registers of licences and permits, including any revocations of either. This provision is concerned mainly with efficient administration but it also envisages that such registers will be readily available sources of information for the Revenue Commissioners and any other authorities to establish reasonable claim to information about the holders of licences and permits. It is not envisaged that the registers will be open to the public for inspection. There are other methods for enforcing the decrees of the courts.
That is a worry. I hoped that this would be the most important stick which the Minister could wield so that people would not be able to evade their responsibilities. If a working man buys a television set for £500, which is completely useless and he obtains his decree the trader can come back with his licence and his permit and do the same thing tomorrow and the following day. The unfortunate victim can get his decrees but we have no way of preventing the trader carrying on business in that particular area. The Minister should look at that.
Supposing that a trader did that in Birr and the person who bought goods from him took action against him if the goods he received were found to be faulty, I would like if, at that stage, the trader could not go to another town and do exactly the same thing and have a number of unsatisfied decrees against him in a particular area. Could this particular section not be used as a safeguard against such traders?
One would assume that if decrees are given against people of this kind publicity will be given to them and the public will be on their guard in relation to them. There would, therefore, be protection in that respect. We should all be very interested in letting people know the dangers of trading with people like this. We should try to ensure that people deal with established traders and those who have a good record in business generally.
Local papers and national papers rarely carry reports of decrees given against people unless they are huge decrees. I believe that bank managers are the only people who readStubbs Gazette nowadays. It is not the favourite pastime of the ordinary working man to read this or a similar magazine to see if the person he is doing casual trading with is in it. I do not believe we will be getting to the ordinary working man who is buying from those casual traders. I believe it is necessary to tighten up this section.
It is a closed shop in relation to a person who is selling something illegally. There is no prohibition in law to do what the Deputy suggests.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 13, before section 17, to insert the following section:
17.—Section 2 (2) of the Occasional Trading Act, 1979, is hereby amended by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (i):
`(i) selling in respect of which it is shown by the seller—
(i) that any profits therefrom are for use for charitable purposes or for other purposes from which no private profit is derived, and
(ii) that no remuneration, emolument, gain or profit will accrue to the seller or his servants or agents therefrom.' ".
The acceptance of this amendment involves the deletion of the existing section 17.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 14, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section, the Street Trading Act, 1926, shall continue in operation in the functional area of a local authority to which, upon the commencement of this section, it applies until, but only until—
(a) the expiration of two years from such commencement, or
(b) the designation under section 7 of this Act by the authority of land in the area as a casual trading area.
whichever should first happen and, as respects a person who immediately before such commencement was the holder of a street trader's certificate under that Act for the time being in force in respect of the area, notwithstanding subsection (2) of this section, the said subsection (2) shall not apply in relation to the person in so far as he was such holder.".
This section provides for the repeal of the Pedlars Act, 1871, the Hawkers Act, 1888, and the Street Trading Act, 1926. Is the Minister confident that he will be in a position to eliminate those charters and letters of patent which seem to have such strength in law?
It is proposed to repeal those Acts in so far as they apply to occasional and casual trading. It is proposed also that the licences, permits and certificates issued under these Acts should run their course and that the persons concerned should be exempt from requirement to obtain casual traders' licences in the interim.
Leaving aside the question of equity, the cancellation of existing licences, permits and certificates and the concurrent issuing of licences under the Bill, there would arise very difficult administrative problems. Another consideration is that while the Department will be geared to issuing licences almost as soon as the Bill is enacted, it would be unrealistic to expect local authorities to designate casual trading areas for some months after the enacting of the legislation.
The position is that the charters and so on can be extinguished under section 9, subsection (2). I am satisfied that this provision will work.
May I ask a question on the Bill?
Not at this stage.
I should be grateful if the Minister would answer one question.
We have left the Bill for today.
Is there any intention of bringing in ministerial amendments for Report Stage for the purpose of dealing with appeals against decisions to withdraw licences and so on?
Not at the moment.