Casual Trading Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I congratulate the Minister on bringing forward a Bill to update the 1980 Act. Indeed, that Act was introduced by a former colleague from west Mayo, a former Minister of State at the then Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Mr. Denis Gallagher.

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the primary purpose of the Bill is "to achieve greater decentralisation, efficiency and flexibility in the regulation of casual trading". When the then Minister was introducing the 1980 Act he said the purpose of that legislation was to provide for the control and regulation of casual trading. From my limited knowledge of this sector, that Act has been an abysmal failure. In teasing out the provisions of the 1980 Act local authorities have in the main found it an extremely costly exercise in fruitless litigation. The rate payers in Westport have borne the loss of £10,000 in legal expenses in trying to implement the provisions of that Act. Many cases have been taken to court and I am sure the Minister has included amendments to ensure a level playing pitch that meets the needs of the established trader and the casual trader in modern day trading.

Casual trading provides a very valuable service in our towns and cities. Families have been involved in casual trading for many years and have made their livelihood from it. Casual trading adds character and colour to towns and villages. Visitors look forward to visiting markets where traders erect a stand in the town or village square and try to sell their produce, or crafts, locally produced butter, cheeses and other food items.

I support casual trading but there has to be a level playing pitch. Most casual traders are responsible people. They come to town to trade on what is inevitably the busiest day of the week and they clean up when they have finished. They travel from town to town and have set pitches in each town. These people have a constitutional right to make a living and we must not do anything in legislation that would interfere with their rights. Otherwise we would involve the local authorities in court actions and I am sure the courts would vindicate their rights to make a living.

No business can operate without regulatory controls. Normal business is subject to such regulations. There are so many in some instances that it inhibits people going into business in the first instance. A person in business has to comply with the planning requirements, employment law, health and safety regulations, Revenue in all its dimensions and so on. People who set up a shop, whether they own it or lease it, have to comply with regulations but heretofore a great many of those engaged in casual trading escaped.

This Bill, together with previous legislation, is an attempt to level the playing field and for that reason I welcome it. Most casual traders are legitimate operators who buy their merchandise from wholesalers which in itself creates employment here. Unfortunately, a number of casual traders operating throughout Ireland obtain their goods in a dubious fashion and the origin of the goods would be difficult to determine. The clothing industry is a case in point; one hears of a Hiace van driving up to containers in South William Street or other wholesale areas, loading up and driving away. The abolition of VAT at the point of entry makes it attractive for people to purchase these goods.

Consumers who purchase televisions and other electrical equipment of doubtful origin from casual traders from the back of lorries or cars have no protection. While the Minister of State, Deputy O'Rourke, should be congratulated on updating the legislation in this area, consumers do not know who they are buying from because the requirement to exhibit the casual trading permit is ignored. I have yet to see a permit exhibited on any stall.

I welcome the proposed changes. Section 2 defines casual trading. It does not cover three categories of trading, namely, the sale of goods at auction, adjacent to one's house or business or for what might best be described as philanthropic purposes. It also enables the Minister and the local authorities to add to the exempted categories of trading not covered by the definition of casual trading. The Minister may alter or delete these classes.

Under the 1980 Act a longer list of classes of trading were exempted. These included the sale of agricultural and horticultural produce, including livestock, by the producer or his servants or agents acting on his behalf and the sale of fish by a crew member who caught them.

There was an ancilliary provision whereby a person who sold this produce, having purchased it from the producer, was obliged to obtain a casual trading licence at a much reduced fee of £5 whereas the normal licence fee was £100.

I ask the Minister to clarify that a local authority will be able to add the sale of agricultural and horticultural produce to the exempted classes and that only the Minister will have the power to delete or alter these classes. Local authorities would like to continue the custom of encouraging people who live in rural areas to sell their spring cabbage plants, apples and strawberries in towns. I am thinking in particular of the market that is held in my own town on a weekly basis at which calves are sold and turkeys and geese in the run up to Christmas. Country markets are well established at which housewives add to their income through the sale of home produced cakes and other items. These markets are based mainly in premises which will not be affected by the Bill but occasionally they take the opportunity to sell in the open. I foresee the local authority of which I am a member adding to the exempted class the sale of the locally produced produce. People will be concerned when the Bill is put into effect that an activity engaged in on a weekly basis or in the run up to Christmas will not be curtailed.

The Minister indicated that local authorities had asked him to control the sale of such produce. I have no doubt that representations were made. The Minister made the point that it was difficult to prove in court that produce was produced locally. I see no difficulty in inserting a provision similar to section 3 (4) under which there would be an onus on the defendant to prove that he was the producer. I do not support those who sell imported agricultural or horticultural produce. We have many fine fruit and vegetable shops which have to buy their produce in the markets in Dublin. Casual traders should not be placed in a position of advantage.

I welcome the proposed change in section 4 whereby a person will have to apply to a local authority rather than the Minister for a licence and will have to produce a tax clearance certificate. It is right and proper that powers should be devolved to local authorities, who know the people who sell in towns on a weekly basis, to make the decision as to whether a permit should be granted. It is also important that the local authorities should outline the fees to be charged for such a licence.

It is right and proper that tax clearance certificate provisions should apply to this activity. The Minister indicated that no one will be denied a tax clearance certificate on the first occasion. They will have 12 months to put their affairs in order when they will be required to produce a further tax clearance certificate. No one could object to this in principle. Similar provisions apply to publicans and bookmakers. I have yet to see anyone who makes an effort to pay his fair share of tax being closed down by the Revenue Commissioners. In my experience the Revenue Commissioners are sympathetic and helpful and give people time to put their affairs in order by allowing them to make payments in instalments.

The provision under which local authorities will be required to notify the Department of Social Welfare that a licence has been issued marks a new departure. Those who operate legitimate businesses in competition with the established shopkeepers have nothing to fear. Those who suggest that this provision is unfair or discriminatory must have something to hide. Servants or agents are entitled to protection under the social welfare and employment codes.

Under section 7 local authorities will be able to make by-laws. Heretofore they issued casual trading permits. I welcome this provision which is linked to section 8 and 9. Those are the two provisions that have been adjudicated on most often by our courts to date. I welcome the provision that a person aggrieved by any measures introduced by a local authority can, in the first instance, appeal them to the District Court.

I particularly welcome the provisions under the Occasional Trading Act, 1979. Small businesses, particularly those in towns away from the administrative centre of each county, are already under pressure because of the multinationals established in most of our major towns. The activities of traders who have successfully used the Occasional Trading Act has caused untold damage. Before the Minister announced that he intended to make it mandatory for these people to produce a tax clearance certificate, I had intended to ask him to consider doing that. These people hold hotel sales, invariably on a Saturday or Sunday when officials in the Department who have the authority to check on their veracity are not at work. They are, in the main, from England and they come here and hire a hotel or hall. One such sale in my area was, fortunately, cancelled, but other towns were badly stung when people from England came into this country selling furniture and taking deposits when they said they did not have sufficient quantity to supply the goods there and then. However, none of the goods ordered was delivered. The Minister for Justice took action in those cases. It is necessary to root such people out of society because they are doing no favours to the consumer or small shops who have such large overheads.

I congratulate the Minister and hope to say more on Committee Stage.

I welcome the Bill which takes account of a changed situation.

In the past year there have been many protests about the increase in VAT to 21 per cent, particularly from the clothing and footwear industries which have been going through a very bad phase. The competition they often have to face from casual traders is not taken into consideration. It is important to be fair to both sides because casual trading is often part of the character of a place and I have no objection to that. I was interested to hear the last speaker refer to the fact that large containers come to Dublin city where they are met by vans which then take the goods to different parts of the country for sale. I wonder about the attractions of that and if a source of revenue is being missed. Also this might constitute unfair competition. It is desirable, therefore, that tax clearance certificates are mandatory, even for casual traders.

The Bill also refers to a certain sensitivity by the Revenue Commissioners on the question of tax clearance certificates for people involved in casual trading. Such traders, although knowledgeable about the financial side of things, are sometimes illiterate, necessitating a certain amount of sympathy and understanding on the part of the Revenue Commissioners. Such people have come to me for advice in their dealings with the Revenue Commissioners, my experience has been that they are sympathetic and I would welcome a continuance.

The last speaker mentioned the holding of sales of goods such as china, cutlery, leather or suede clothing by people travelling from one town to another. There is a certain gullibility on the part of consumers when it comes to evaluating what these people are selling. There is a certain enthusiasm about these people and people feel they are getting a bargain although often the quality of the goods is questionable. However, these sales can have a devastating effect on small towns because they suck a great amount of money out of the local economy. Wherever these sales operate it is important to ensure they are legitimate and that the Revenue Commissioners are aware of what is happening. People in legitimate trading complain vociferously to me about outside traders coming from England with large containers and taking revenue from the local economy. The legitimate traders say they are paying rates and trying to do everything above board and that it is not fair they should have to compete against casual traders.

The Bill states that casual trading means selling goods at a place, including a public road. I assume the draftsmen were conscious of the Roads Bill which clearly defined the type of activity regarded as casual trading and which would be legitimate on public roads. The type of venture involving a succession of caravans setting up outside a town and creating unnecessary congestion would not be entertained. The Roads Bill defined what was acceptable by way of casual trading and included trading of a product over a short term of which there was a tradition, for example, strawberries in Wexford or early potatoes in other locations. It is not emphasised in this Bill and I do not think it is the intention — I would not like it to be the intention because it would contradict the principle of what we were trying to achieve in the Roads Bill — to allow casual trading at the side of a main thoroughfare involving any product. The term "casual trading" needs to be properly defined and perhaps on Committee Stage we can discuss further the matter of casual trading along public roads.

I welcome the measure which provides for the devolvement of the licensing functions to local authorities because they empathise with local communities, are aware of what is happening in the area and are in a strong position to enforce the regulations. The revenue which accrues from licence fees is not a great fee generator for local authorities. In the past few years additional duties have been devolved to local authorities, but they have not received a corresponding increase in finance from the Department of the Environment, which normally had that responsibility. Their enhanced role involves additional spending by the local authority which must come from their scant resources. That has a knock-on effect because it creates pressure within the local authority in respect of funding for road maintenance and other services which the authority is expected to provide.

If a local authority is operating on a low budget in terms of finance from casual trading, a mechanism should be put in place whereby the money from the imposition of fines could revert to the local authority, but I am not sure if that is feasible. We must achieve a sense of balance in regard to the cost of trading licences; and it may be necessary to spell out in regulations an acceptable level of fee for such licences.

The Minister mentioned areas of casual trading which do not come under the term "casual trading", and he referred specifically to cooked food. We are all conscious of hygiene and are concerned about the operation of mobile chip vans which operate at venues attracting large crowds. The health boards should monitor the operations of such trailers. While the Minister stated that cooked foods are outside the scope of casual trading, the type of food those operators sell is often questionable. On the other hand, a small bakery, for example, must comply with more rigorous regulations under the health boards. Similar controls and regulations should apply to the operators of chip vans. In recent times we opposed EC regulations in the area of food because we felt they were too strict.

There are many travellers and traders in Limerick but they also frequent other parts of the country to sell their wares. What regulations apply in that regard? It can cause problems for people in those areas.

The Bill tries to achieve a balance and bring about equity and fairness in the area of casual trading and I commend it in that regard. Section 14 provides that a local authority shall maintain a register of licences, including, as appropriate, details kept in electronic form. I presume the term "electronic form" means a computer.

I believe the Garda carry out their duties in regard to casual trading very sensibly and effectively. I am sure none of us would like to see the market disappear from the landscape. Those involved in casual trading give an area an identity, generally in a focal point in town or village. I welcome the Bill because it will mean that such trading will be carried out fairly and that competition will not be unjust or impact on people operating similar businesses at local level. I support the Bill and look forward to dealing with amendments on Committee Stage.

I welcome parts of the Bill, but have reservations about other parts of it. I welcome the fact that the legislation is being updated and that the various functions in respect of licensing will be centralised under a single authority, namely, the local authority and that we are giving to a single body the function of regulating provisions in respect of casual trading.

Casual trading in the open air along the roadside, in the marketplace or on the street is the oldest form of trading in existence. It has a particular history, especially in Dublin. The ancient tradition of Molly Malone is well known. I am still trying to get her statue removed from the corner of Grafton Street to its proper place.

Back to the Deputy's constituency.

I knew the Minister would agree with me. It should be brought back to Moore Street where it belongs and where the tradition is strongest in this city.

By and large traders in Dublin deal in perishable goods. Of the 270 licences which are in existence, 170 are for trading in fruit and vegetables and jewellery. The personnel engaged in such trading are mostly women. It is particularly a female tradition passed from grandmother to daughter and granddaughter. Many elderly women are involved in casual trading. The quality of these women, who are the salt of the earth and colourful both in dress and language, is what gives Dublin and Moore Street its character. Indeed they should be paid to stand out in the open air in all types of weather all year round, trading goods in a friendly manner. Moore Street is a major tourist attraction. It is inevitable that when tourists come here they visit that area.

Moore Street has much potential as a tourist area in the context of our history, and ethos and it yields an economic return, any legislation we introduce should not put out of business the dealers who make Moore Street the attraction it is. While I acknowledge the desirability of updating the existing legislation on casual trading, I would warn that the crude implementation of this legislation could change the face of Moore Street, render illegal the operation of legal traders and bring to an end a tradition that is in the footsteps of Molly Malone.

When the Casual Trading Act, 1980 was introduced it resulted in the operations of many traditional licensed traders being made illegal because they were unable to find pitches. The local authority were charged with the responsibility of allocating the pitches in the area of Henry Street, Moore Street and Cole's Lane. Moore Street was a designated area, Henry Street ceased to be one and 13 sites were allocated in Cole's Lane — a designated area near the Ilac Centre and adjacent to Henry Street and Moore Street. The City Centre Businessmen's Association objected to those designations, fought the matter through the courts for ten years and lost but in the process the operations of many traders were rendered illegal with some traders being sent to prison or having to pay fines. During that time I was sent to prison for seven days following a protest so I am aware of what can happen when legislation of this kind is introduced in a crude fashion. We must not run any such risk in this new legislation.

Moore Street traders who, as I have said, are mainly elderly women, deal in perishable goods such as fruit, vegetables and fish. Under this legislation they will become official self-employed business people. They will have to satisfy the Revenue Commissioners that their tax affairs are in order. They will have to produce VAT returns, invoices and account for overheads. It will be a daunting task for those elderly women who have no office premises and no business roof over their heads to put together the necessary accounting and business practices to ensure that their affairs are in order. That is the encumbrance we would be placing on them in this legislation. Such bureaucracy may cause those women to throw in the towel. I do not wish to be disparaging towards them, but they are ordinary women and may not have had much formal education. It would be a disaster for tourism if the rich heritage of Moore Street was lost.

I invited the Minister for Enterprise and Employment to meet the Moore Street traders. He met them on Thursday last when they expressed their fears to him. The Minister agreed to continue to consult with them. The meeting was attended mainly by women from Moore Street — 95 per cent of the traders in Moore Street are women. The Minister said he would seek to ensure that the legislation is implemented in a sensitive manner.

Once this legislation is passed responsibility for its introduction will be passed to the local authorities. They will now have the dual function of granting permits which will cost each trader £350 and of granting licences costing £175 which at present is the responsibility of the Department. The traders will have to pay in excess of £500 for a permit and a licence and they will also have to pay a commercial rate to the local authorities for storage purposes. The women in Moore Street are paying a certain amount already and have to work in difficult circumstances.

The 1980 Act was not intended to deal with the people I am talking of but to deal with a plethora of activities that had proliferated throughout the country during the 1970s when goods were being sold on the roadside on the outskirts of towns, villages and cities. It was suspected that much of the merchandise on offer such as electrical appliances, hi-fi equipment, carpets and so on, had been smuggled. The legislation bears the hallmarks of provisions to deal with such operations. It was intended to deal with the big operator and large penalties were provided for including £500 on summary conviction and prison sentences. This Bill seeks to impose stiffer penalties that bear no relation to regulating a traditional trading area for the perishable goods of flowers, fish and so on which has operated in Dublin for centuries. Consequent on the 1980 Act the local authority took on board the intent of the Bill and decided on the designations. The business community decided the Act was to provide for them and objected to the designations. The 1980 Act was not implemented until 1983 and since then the matter has been hauled through the Circuit Court and the appeal Court. It was not until 1993 that the business community finally accepted Cole's Lane as a designated area. During that time the 13 women who had pitches on Cole's Lane were penalised, declared criminals, subjected to fines and imprisonment. Their perishable goods and prams were taken to Store Street Garda Station. Those traders who were operating legally up to 1983 were once again operating legally in 1993. That was a disgraceful episode resulting from the introduction of legislation intended to update the then legislation which was focused on the business community and did not cater for the needs of those traditional traders in perishable goods. The result was chaos.

People pay approximately £500 for licences and permits and commercial rates apply for storage facilities. Stalls and materials have to be stored close to the Ilac Centre. Those charges are paid to the local authority. There are costs involved in transporting goods to and from the market. If perishable goods are not sold during the day they may be useless the following day. Those are the difficulties being experienced.

Under the Bill the procedure is being streamlined. Powers are being given to local authorities and traders will be obliged to sign an official register. A tax clearance certificate is also being introduced. I welcome the Minister's remarks that there will be no witch-hunt in terms of arrears. Tax problems will be sorted out in a sensitive fashion and people will not be prevented from getting a licence due to examinations of previous activities. Questions arise as to how tax clearance certificates will be obtained and how the matter will be dealt with by the Revenue Commissioners. Will people have to get professional advice on the matter? A brochure should be issued explaining the new procedures and how people can operate without incurring great expense.

Under the Bill the licensee's name will be forwarded to the Department of Social Welfare. I am concerned about this. I know of a woman who will continue to work after retirement age and while such people would not have applied for social welfare in the course of their working lives when they reach 66 years of age they believe they are entitled to the old age pension regardless of whether they remain working. I would not like to see women put out of Moore Street as a result of this provision. A similar question arises in the case of widow's pensions. These issues should be considered. We do not want people to believe we are trying to get at them because they are acting illegally, which is not the case.

For the first time many people will have to deal with invoices and VAT and will have to keep accounts, matters about which they have no experience. In many cases they will not have to pay tax because, certainly in Moore Street, many of these people are not making much profit. By introducing this provision we may cause unnecessary concern. These issues should be considered and an explanatory brochure issued to all casual traders.

Another major area of trading in my constituency is The Hill, North Cumberland Street, where there are 43 sites. The majority of trading in the city takes place there and in Moore Street. Much development has taken place under the designated areas scheme and incentives are given for apartment developments. As a result this area is now surrounded by new apartment blocks. I am concerned that with their new powers, local authorities will get rid of existing trading sites. There is provision for alternative proposals, but that may involve a different area. I am concerned that the tradition that has existed for centuries in this area will be brought to an end.

I welcome this legislation. It is time one authority was given responsibility for this matter. The Department of Enterprise and Employment should ensure, before full responsibility is handed over to local authorities, that the legislation will be implemented sensitively in terms of existing sites.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I welcome this Bill which will be of assistance to local authorities. Under the Abattoirs Act, passed some years ago, local authorities were obliged to appoint a veterinary inspector. On many occasions I asked the Minister when regulations would be introduced to allow local authorities to charge fees to recoup the cost of this service, but they still have not been introduced. To add insult to injury we discovered at our last county council meeting that the sheep dipping service, the only source of veterinary charges on farmers, had been dispensed with. The Government decided to abandon the concept of sheep dipping, and consider it no longer necessary. The sheep industry is very important, although the Minister may be thinking only of sheep dipping committees, which is a different matter.

There are many sheep farmers in my county.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Sheep dipping is a very important aspect of sheep farming. Not alone are there no regulations allowing local authorities to charge for veterinary services under the Abattoirs Act, but they no longer receive income for sheep dipping.

I do not believe the Department would hand over responsibility to local authorities if there was a great deal of money involved. I am concerned that the charges imposed by local authorities will not meet the costs incurred. Generally Departments hand over liabilities, but where there is money involved they retain responsibility. I hope this Bill will not be implemented in the same way as the Abattoirs Act.

The Bill will be of help to local authorities in dealing with people, who are not the traditional travelling type, but who arrive in Hiace vans and sell gates etc. at cross-roads or in fields and refuse to move or co-operate. Local authorities have incurred major costs in bringing such cases to court. Because the process is so long people on whose land these traders are trespassing feel the local authority is doing nothing to help them. However, it should be remembered that when the county manager goes to court he has to follow all the slow procedures involved. By the time the case is heard much havoc will have been caused in the locality. Sometimes these traders move on when they hear the case is due to be heard in court but sometimes they do not. Under this Bill these traders will no longer be able to thumb their noses, so to speak, at the local authority.

Section 2 provides that casual trading does not include "selling to a person at, or at a place adjacent to, the place where he resides or carries on business." Will the Minister say if a shopkeeper will still be able to display his goods on the street, which is adjacent to his premises, without a casual trading licence? What is meant by "adjacent"? Deputy Quill brought us on a wonderful trip through Cork today and gave us a history of wine and cheese. Many people in Carlow sell strawberries on the roadside. This is a lovely sight— it means summer is here and there has been some sunshine. Under the Bill only farmers who can sell adjacent to the place where they live can sell their produce. Farmers who live on a byroad would have to sell their strawberries on a main road. If the word "adjacent" is deemed to mean within ten yards of a premises, these farmers will not be able to sell their produce. I do not know if it is wise to insist that everyone has to get a casual trading licence. A farmer who sells strawberries should get a casual trading licence, but will he be entitled to sell his produce on the roadside under this Bill? Under the Roads Act national primary roads have to be kept clear of all obstacles, which is important. This Bill could have an adverse effect on what is regarded as normal in rural areas, for example, selling strawberries on the roadside.

Section 4 provides that an application for a casual trading licence must be made to the local authority not less than 30 days before the first day on which it is intended to engage in casual trading. A person may require a licence within ten days. Under the Bill people who sell sweets and chocolate at public events such as sports meetings and concerts, those who sell ice-cream, newspapers and religious objects and fishermen who sell their catches will require casual trading licences. I regard the sale of fish by fishermen as part of the tradition of seaside areas. Further consideration needs to be given to the 30-day period as some people may require a licence sooner than that. Will the local authority have the power to change this requirement?

I presume casual trading includes the selling of chips from vans. The vast majority of people, especially those who have just left the local pub and worked up an appetite, welcome these vans but other people regard them as a nuisance. They should have to cease operating at certain times at night. I know old people who do not go to bed until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. because they will not be able to sleep because of the noise caused by people around the chip van outside their house. Consideration should be given in the Bill to the operating hours of these vans. It is grossly unfair that people who want to go to bed at a normal hour cannot do so because they know they will be wakened later by noise. I have failed in the past to get a satisfactory reply to this issue and I hope progress can be made in this regard under the Bill.

Most towns have an area designated for casual trading. While it was difficult initially to get casual traders to move to the designated area in Carlow town, it has now been accepted. Will the Minister say if a businessman will be able to let members of the public use his yard without any charge to set up in opposition to those who are using the local authority designated site? I am not sure from my reading of the Bill if they will be able to do this but it seems it is possible. We will have been very careless if under this Bill a person can open a private site across the road from a local authority designated site. Though the cost of the licence may be small, the cost of running the site may be very expensive.

One could talk about the relaxed way of life in rural Ireland, but it must be accepted that the law in this area needs to be tightened. I welcome the Bill in general and hope the Minister will respond to my questions in his reply.

I warmly welcome this Bill. The difficulties caused by casual trading in large new satellite towns have been a source of major concern. This Bill recognises the defects in the 1980 Act following the report of the Restrictive Practices Commission which identified a development in illegal trading that needed to be addressed. The Bill also recognises the experiences gained since 1980 and attempts to introduce more equity to the whole sector of casual trading which is very much an integral part of normal trading activities.

In the implementation of the new Act it is not the Minister's intention to excessively penalise people such as the Moore Street traders, to whom Deputy Costello referred, or the sellers of strawberries on the side of the road mentioned by Deputy Browne. We need to strike that balance and address the profitable activities of traders who are not paying their fair share and who do not operate on a proper licensed basis. I hope the Act will address a number of those anomalies that have become all too apparent in various parts of the country.

The licensing arrangement under section 4 is a reasonable method of control at national and local level. It will be effective and local small traders will find their local authorities more understanding of their trading activities. The local authorities in my constituency do not appear to have implemented the 1980 Act in full. They need to tackle the problem of illegal trading on the outskirts of the large new housing estates, which is addressed in detail in this new Bill and which I welcome. It is not the intention to involve the small trader, to whom I referred earlier, in the need for proper regulation. However, when one compares the activities of the corner shop owner, the small trader, the small electrical shop owner or the small furnishing operation with the illegal sale of electrical goods, furnishings, carpets or, as referred to earlier by Deputy Hughes, the booking of large hotel rooms on a Sunday to sell goods when enforcement officers are not as vigilant as they might be, it is clear that substantial profits are made with no contribution to the Exchequer, thereby creating a most unfair trading practice. Many of us have had representations based on the ever increasing commercial rate, and this Bill will ensure that the balance is redressed.

Section 7 concerns the issue of by-laws and is an effective and pragmatic way of dealing with the whole area of casual trading. The new powers proposed in section 13 are desirable. As recommended by the Department of Justice and the Garda Síochána, a superintendent can make an instant and realistic decision if someone is substantially abusing the normal casual trading practice. I am referring to people selling vans or other expensive products.

A practice prevalent in my constituency is trading in car components. It is generally accepted that a high degree of car stealing is related to this particular trading activity. When car components are sought by various members of the settled community, the component not in stock in what are effectively mini-breakers' yards on the side of the road, may be available within a matter of days because the particular car will be stolen and dismantled. A number of these illegal, unsightly trading activities take place in Dublin west in relation to the car industry and it is most unsatisfactory. I am glad that under section 13 the appropriate powers will be vested in the superintendent who can make an on the spot judgment and seize goods or vehicles that he perceives contravene the intent in the Act and its various sections.

The level of fines was referred to by Deputy Costello. While many of the small traders with a traditional background will be concerned about the severity of fines, they are not intended to be directed at them. On Committee Stage I hope the Minister will accept amendments which will try to distinguish between the genuine small trader, such as those in Moore Street or the people who sell strawberries on the side of the road in Wexford. They should not have to bear the brunt of the penalties under section 15. Perhaps the scale of fines should be related to the estimated value of the goods or some other acceptable working mechanism that would introduce equity to the area of illegal trading.

I welcome the Minister's proposals to streamline the workings of the courts in dealing with this whole area. The Garda Síochána experienced difficulties in processing various cases against those committing offences. A reasonable balance is being struck and the streamlining of the workings of the courts is desirable.

As the Minister outlined, the Occasional Trading Act, 1979, must be an integral part of this Bill in that the various sections and regulations and workings of the two Bills will be merged. It will, I hope, exclude the possibility of a test case in the courts which would have a negative effect on the intent of the Bill which, I hope will pass speedily through the Dáil and Seanad.

This Bill is a step in the right direction. I hope the new local authorities in County Dublin will tackle the problems in the area of casual trading. It has been a source of difficulty for them but they have not effectively tackled the issue. There has been a whole plethora of excuses and deferrals of decision making and the local authorities will have a greater commitment to tackling unacceptable trading activities. This Bill will also go a long way to address the stolen goods dimension of casual trading. That is an important provision. The casual trading of goods by a small minority has dragged the overall aspect of casual trading into disrepute, which is most unacceptable and unfair to those genuine casual traders. A form of limited regulation at national and local level is desirable because of the inherent mobility of casual trading.

I hope the Bill will have a speedy passage. I have no doubt that if it requires fine tuning and amendments on Committee Stage the Minister will be receptive. Deputy Browne mentioned the sale of fish, which would be regarded as a profitable traditional activity. Those who engage in this practice should make their fair contribution because a fishmonger with a shop, having made considerable investment in refrigerated storage, incurs much greater overheads.

The casual trading in fish at our fishing ports is desirable and should be allowed to continue, but we must ensure that fishmongers are placed on an equal footing. Those who engage in this type of casual trading should be brought within the system and make their fair contribution.

I, too, welcome this Bill whose primary purpose is to achieve greater decentralisation and efficiency in casual trading and ensure a more flexible approach in regard to regulations. It is intended to devolve the licensing function from the Minister to local authorities and to provide for the use of by-laws as the means of regulating and controlling casual trading. Another of its purposes is to limit the catalogue of casual trading activities and effect general improvements in enforcement of the relevant regulations. Those are the main characteristics of the Bill, some of which I should like to deal with in greater detail.

The devolution of functions to local authorities will afford them greater powers in regulating activities that take place within their jurisdictions. We all believe in affording local authorities greater control over their local affairs, especially within the three new Dublin local authorities where there is a more positive attitude to local government, a great feeling of expectation on the part of the general public. Much attention could be focused on the needs of those three new local authorities. Local authorities constantly engage in the supervision and resolution of difficulties experienced by certain sectors of the community who engage in casual trading. They have greatest knowledge of who is doing what and the best manner in which to deal with it.

In south-west Dublin there is an enormous problem associated with casual trading engaged in by the travelling community. This causes great difficulty, particularly when local communities are requested to assist in their resettlement. The casual trading aspect of their activities tends to cause friction. It would be most beneficial if local authorities could segregate large casual traders into separate areas where they could be more effectively controlled, thereby preserving the good will of the settled community to travelling families.

Another matter to which local authorities could devote greater attention is the dangerous points at which casual trading takes place. It is absurd to see people engaged in casual trading causing great danger to the motoring public and, sometimes, to pedestrians. This practice tends to be more prevalent on primary roads when, without warning one comes on a casual trading point. If large numbers of people become involved it can cause major traffic problems. Knowledge of such casual trading points would be immediately available to the relevant local authorities who could take immediate action. The location of casual trading points should be considered very carefully when the by-laws are being drawn up.

The next matter to which I want to draw attention is the devolution of functions to local authorities in regard to the ever proliferating caravans in urban areas from which people sell food in very unhygienic surroundings. These vans give no appearance whatsoever of having running water or any means of ensuring that the food they sell, the type of cooking utensils they use, or the practices in which they engage while distributing such food comply with current standards of health and hygiene.

The litter spread in local authority areas resulting from casual trading is of the most offensive kind. One can see large areas strewn with rotten food, litter and various waste material for the relevant local authority to gather. A person has made his profit, pocketed the loot and walked away, leaving the local authority to tidy up the mess. No doubt local authorities could devise some means of recouping expenditure for the work of cleaning up after casual trading.

In the drawing up of by-laws, the first task is the definition of areas of casual trading. We must be sensitive to traditional areas for casual trading. We must not create new areas without providing back-up support, enabling casual trading points to be serviced by the local authorities with regard to general hygiene, control and safety. The by-laws should ensure immediate control of the cleaning up aspect, stipulating that the onus will be on casual traders to ensure that no expenditure is incurred by local authorities.

Vehicles must be considered in the by-laws. For example, there could be a van towed by a lorry, or a van towed by a van, when the absurd circumstance could arise that the vehicle without any engine would be the one from which casual trading took place. However, the vehicle with the engine could be used also for the purposes of casual trading. Each could be detached from the other, making two separate selling outlets. It is essential to deter some clever, ingenious people from getting around the regulations.

I would like to draw attention to newspaper selling. Will the Minister define casual trading in order to enable local authorities understand precisely the scheduled list of activities. For example, is the selling of newspapers at a corner or a pitch, as it is often called — regarded as casual trading. Can one be a casual trader on the move or a casual trader in a particular area. There are many examples of street trading outside shops. In the Liberties and in Moore Street in Dublin, casual trading activities take place on the street adjacent to normal retail outlets. On occasions legitimate retail outlets may be put in serious danger if the by-laws do not take into account the relationship between casual trading and the normal retail outlets.

How do we complement services such as the control and the quality of food sold in public places? How can we tie in those regulations with the provisions of the Bill? How will we enforce consumers rights when a person purchases goods from a casual trading point? How can we ascertain from whom the article was purchased? What are the conditions of sale and what rights do people have when some of the purchases are not in accordance with the normal rules governing the sale of goods? Has the Director of Consumer Affairs the same control over goods sold by casual traders? Has the consumer the same rights as in the case of goods sold in normal retail outlets?

Can we be assured that all the goods sold by casual traders will have safety warnings visibly displayed? Who will deal with the safety aspects of such goods? Trading in scrap cars is disruptive when it takes place in urban areas especially when many such cars suddenly appear in a type of breakers' yard. Many people queue outside such premises seeking spare parts. How can we deal with the difficulties that arise from that type of trading?

The issue of waste disposal must be dealt with in regard to casual trading. Will those who knock on doors and offer to dispose of waste be considered casual traders? The Bill may not be too specific but it should allow local authorities sufficient flexibility to deal with those borderline cases.

There is also the problem of traffic jams which arise as a result of casual trading. Garda must be consulted in the preparation of by-laws to give advice regarding the control of casual trading. One could spend hours in a traffic jam in small provincial towns caused by casual traders. Is it legitimate that national primary or secondary roads should be blocked simply because of casual trading? If a group was protesting the matter would be dealt with differently or if somebody simply blocked the road the law could be enforced in a more effective way. Controls must be considered.

The selling of strawberries is a traditional and welcome sight on the roadways in summer. However areas in Wexford and in County Dublin are totally unsuitable for the sale of potatoes particularly when five or six cars suddenly come to a halt where one least expects them. The Garda, and local authorities should be given flexibility to deal with these occurrences. I presume that the selling of vegetables from door to door will be considered as casual trading. Will self employed breadmen who sell from door to door be classified as casual traders? If so, do we need to take them into account in the legislation?

A traditional and welcome sight in fishing towns and villages is the selling of fish on the quays from the boats by fishermen. Must we control and define where the selling of fish should take place? On occasions casual traders sell fish which has been bought on the market in Dublin. Should we encourage the sale of fish near the point where it is caught?

We have to consider whether the selling of team colours in O'Connell Street and in the vicinity of sporting events is casual trading, even though they may be rare occurrences. The sale of goods at religious shrines will have to be considered. It is worth making a number of points on fees for trading licences. We should regulate the fees so that they reflect the turnover of the person using the licence. It is essential that there should be some evidence of compliance with tax regulations.

The Bill provides that a licence or permit be displayed, as in the case of a taxi driver. A plaque showing the name, photograph, registration number and essential details as to how one could follow up an inquiry should be visible to the public when trading is taking place.

Under section 7 a local authority may make by-laws to control, regulate, supervise and administer casual trading, designate areas where activity may take place, regulate access, fixing of fees, and the enforcement and procedures. Attention should be paid to the question of enforcement. When a local authority creates a by-law I hope it will bear in mind the question of enforcement. We are all aware that unless there are adequate enforcement measures all the intentions of the Bill will come to nought.

Registration of traders is essential so that we will not have a proliferation of various types of casual trading. We should strike a balance between the nature and type of activities. Perhaps we should limit the amount of activity in a defined area to a certain number of traders. If the numbers are controlled there will be fair as well as casual trading. Licence fees should be related to the size of the enterprise and likewise with fines. There is no point in levying fines which are beyond the capability of the trader to bear.

Unfortunately a minority of people brought discredit to casual trading but the majority of those engaged in casual trading are reasonable people. We must focus attention on the areas which this minority bring into disrepute. Through the implementation of the provisions of this Bill, and with the assistance of local authorities, a type of trading will be established that will give nothing but a good service to the people. The type of casual trading we see in nostalgic films and on television will die out completely if we deal with it too harshly. We are striking a balance by maintaining what is good and dealing with that which is not acceptable. I welcome the Bill and assure the Minister of my support for most of its provisions.

I welcome the Bill but would like the Minister to assure me that local authorities will not go overboard in implementing the finer points of law in its provisions. There is need to regulate casual trading which is as old as tea and is part of our heritage. As a small boy going to school in the village of Goleen I remember an old man with a pony and cart being at the fair once a month with a few boxes of fish which he sold. He provided a service to local farmers.

Since then casual trading has blossomed into big business. The pony and cart has been replaced by Hiace vans and everything from a needle to an anchor is sold. Local traders are affected and resent casual traders whose business sometimes is allowed to get out of hand. Small shopkeepers are paying rates and if they only put in a new door or window in their premises they are saddled with an exorbitant valuation. This makes it impossible for some of them to carry on their business. That, coupled with an influx of casual traders, has a detrimental effect on the business life of rural areas.

By all means we should preserve the status quo as far as casual trading is concerned. I was disappointed to note that the Minister proposes to remove the sale of agricultural and horticultural produce by the producer from the list of exempted activities. I fail to see what damage a farmer could do by selling his produce to the public. He should be exempted. It is a well known fact that he gives a service to the community which the people want. When people visit tourist resorts in the summer they are cute enough to know where farm produce is on sale. They are anxious to buy fresh vegetables, free range eggs and so on.

Also removed from the list are the sale of sweets, chocolates, etc. at public events such as sporting events and concerts. We cannot all attend football or hurling matches in Croke Park much as we would like to. Usually one can buy sweets, oranges, applies and soft drinks inside the sports grounds and replenish one's stocks at half time. I invite the Minister down to my neck of the woods in south-west Cork — in the Mizen Head, Beara and the Kilcrohane Peninsula, where he can attend a football match — we do not play hurling in my part of the county — go horse racing or attend a bowls competition.

I cannot wait.

He would see how life goes on in rural Ireland. Part and parcel of any family Sunday outing is to buy sweets, crisps or soft drinks from the traders. The traders are willing to come with their trailers to all the local weekly events and they provide a very badly needed service in remote rural areas. Will the Minister reconsider this section?

I do not know how many Members have the opportunity to attend a mission. I invite the Minister to a mission in my parish of Goleen, it will start on 19 March 1994.

That would be a disadvantaged area.

It is a disadvantaged area, unfortunately, and we are still trying to eke out an existence. I see nothing wrong with erecting a stall outside the church which sells religious objects to the general public. There is no shop within 25 miles catering for goods of this type. Naturally the mission only comes to the parish once every five or ten years and they are not as frequent as when I was a boy, yet they are part of our heritage. Will the Minister continue to allow the sale of pious religious objects from stalls outside a church during the mission as usual?

There is no more popular sight than a deep sea angling boat landing its catch on the quay. Visitors like to go to the quay side to buy the lovely fresh fish. I detest the attitude of Members who are trying to stifle the sale of fresh commodities. According to the law there is nothing wrong with sending this fresh fish to the market in Dublin or Cork or to the auction halls in Castletownbere or Union Hall. Castletownbere is 50 miles from some of the little fishing ports in west Cork and Union Hall is up to 40 miles away. These part-time fishermen have very little to live on as theirs is a seasonal activity during the months of June, July, August and perhaps September. There is nothing nicer than to buy a fresh lobster or cray fish from the fisherman who has just come in from the lobster pots. Nothing could be better with a glass of Guinness or a glass of wine than fresh lobster. The Minister must visit my part of the county to enjoy the specialities we can provide. He would then take a different view about exempting the sale of fish by the crew who catch it.

Is it on the menu this evening?

If I had my way, fish would be on the menu morning, noon and night but I am not on the restaurant committee although the Deputy probably is.

The fishermen have only outboard motors on their fishing craft. Visitors love to come to west Cork and the west year in, year out, the same people supply them with the lovely fresh mackerel or the beautiful pollock and this creates the atmosphere of the area.

These areas are crying out for development of the tourism industry as it is an activity from which locals can earn an income.

Debate adjourned.