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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 Dec 1980

Vol. 95 No. 6

Casual Trading Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

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

When the Occasional Trading Bill was before the Seanad it was explained that there were problems connected with the drafting of legislation to regulate roadside and street trading. I am glad to say that these have been resolved and the Bill we are considering contains everything that is necessary to eliminate the undesirable features of outdoor trading and ensure that such trading can again be a useful service instead of the nuisance it often is.

This Bill and the Occasional Trading Act, 1979, give statutory effect to the main recommendations of the Restrictive Practices Commission who made a study of both occasional and casual trading.

Roadside trading has become a nuisance because the traditional market place in the middle of the main street fouls up traffic and local authorities seldom, if ever, have been able to remedy this situation. Equally bad problems arise when traders set up shop on the side of main roads. Complaints have been made not only about the traffic problems but also about the debris created by these traders; unfair competition arising from the fact that these traders have lower selling costs than shopkeepers; possible loss of jobs in the distributive trades; evasion of taxes; and failure to give fair and reasonable services to consumers.

The complaints are often exaggerated, but I am satisfied that there are complaints which have to be remedied. It is not my intention to put fair and honest street traders out of business or make life unreasonably difficult for them. It is an unfortunate fact that there are quite a few members of the population who, for one reason or another, live in mobile homes and have no other means of earning money than by selling out of doors; and there are others who have fixed abodes but who choose to be street traders. As many of them currently operate, they create problems and they are not making reasonable contributions to public funds, but there is nothing essentially wrong with their way of doing business.

The Casual Trading Bill proposes to take all the powers needed to regulate outdoor trading and to impose fair and reasonable charges which are designed to offset some of the competitive advantages enjoyed by the traders and to contribute to the cost of administering this legislation.

It is proposed that, with a few exceptions, the Act will apply to retailing on public roads and streets, other places to which the public have access as of right, and any other places which local authorities designate as casual trading areas. Every casual trader will have to take out an annual licence which, apart from two classes of traders, will cost £100 and, when a local authority designates a casual trading area, an additional £20 per annum will be payable to the local authority for a permit to trade in the area. A separate permit will be required for each designated casual trading area and, if a trader wants to trade at more than one place at the same time in the one casual trading area, he will need a separate permit for each place. I am taking power to vary the fees either generally or in respect of specified classes of traders and I would like it to be known that I intend to make use of this provision if, in the light of experience, it seems fair and reasonable to do so. In so far as possible I will take account of such factors as charges on the rates arising from casual trading and the capacity of some classes of traders to pay more than others.

The holder of a licence will be required to display it or a copy of it wherever he is trading, but if he is trading in a designated casual trading area he will have to display his permit instead. I do not propose to anticipate debate on Committee Stage but I would just suggest that, unless we introduce a system of identity cards for all the population, this is as far as we can go towards making it possible for consumers and other interested parties to identify a casual trader with a view to contacting him at a later date to get after-sales service or for some other reason.

Local authorities are being empowered to designate any land, including a public road, to which the public have access as of right and any land occupied by a local authority as a casual trading area. By agreement, one local authority may designate land in another authority's area. The designation of trading areas will be a reserved function within the meaning of the various Management Acts — that is to say it will be the elected local representatives rather than the officials who will take the decisions. The authorities will be required to take into account the proper planning and development of their areas, amenity orders, traffic problems and all other matters they consider relevant when considering trading sites. The proposed procedure is laid down in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 the scope of which is being extended for this purpose. This has the merit of avoiding new legal and administrative procedures.

It is proposed that a person may appeal to the Circuit Court and no further against a local authority's designation of an area because it would be extravagant if the authority's development plan, amenity orders, and so on, could be subjected to lengthy and vexatious litigation when it performed what is, basically, the executive function of suiting local outdoor trading to the overall plan. For the same reason, a person will not be free to appeal further than the Circuit Court in connection with a decision to extinguish a market right — a subject I will be referring to shortly.

A local authority may make by-laws in relation to the control, regulation, supervision and administration of a casual trading area. It is specified that an authority may limit the area a trader may occupy but, beyond that, an authority is free to cover whatever things are necessary to suit casual trading to local circumstances. It will be noted that, so far as specified in the Bill, the only income of a local authority is the £20 permit fee, but Senators will know that local authorities do not need the authority of this legislation to charge rents, tolls, stallages and, perhaps, other charges which would be directly related to the cost of providing facilities for, or servicing, street trading areas.

It is proposed that a local authority may acquire a market right by agreement or compulsorily and, here again, we are extending the scope of existing local government legislation to prescribe the procedure. This was one of the things that delayed the circulation of the Bill. Local authorities had acquired market rights from private persons in the past but I am told they were unable to extinguish the market right or change the location of the market or take any measures which would tailor the public marketing arrangements to suit modern conditions.

We are providing that a local authority can continue a market or fair under their own management or may extinguish the market right and provide alternative facilities in the same vicinity and comprising or including facilities reasonably suitable for the holding of a market. What this means is that a local authority could substitute a casual trading area for the market.

Most of the other provisions in the Bill are fairly commonplace in legislation of this type and at this stage I need to refer only to two other matters.

The first of these is the role of the Garda Síochána in enforcing the Act. We are giving the Garda the same powers as authorised officers who will be appointed by me and by local authorities. In addition, we are giving the Garda power similar to those they enjoy under the Street Trading Act, 1926 — powers to arrest without warrant in certain circumstances and powers to seize and detain vehicles and goods used by people contravening the Act. The Street Trading Act applies only to Dublin and 26 other urban areas who have adopted it but the Bill will extend the powers of arrest and seizure to the whole State. The Garda asked for these powers. Local authorities who made submissions to the Restrictive Practices Commission urged that these powers are needed in certain circumstances. For example, if a casual trader, or a group of them and their customers are creating a traffic hazard, that is something which should be dealt with immediately. Another case would arise where the owners of vehicles and other goods were not immediately identifiable — arrest and/or seizure would solve this problem.

The final provision of the Bill is the section to amend the Occasional Trading Act, 1979. I wanted to ensure that charities, hospitals, schools, sporting organisations by whom — or on whose behalf — sales were organised would not be bothered by either the Occasional Trading Act or this Bill but it was brought home to us that a trader who made a contribution to a charity or other worthy nonprofit making cause could avail of the statutory exception and we would seldom, if ever, be able to prove where the rest of the profits were going. For that reason we have provided to tighten up the provision in the Occasional Trading Act and the corresponding part of the Casual Trading Bill.

I am satisfied that the Bill contains all the fair and reasonable provisions needed to confine outdoor trading to suitable places and to regulate trading at those places. I commend the Bill to the Seanad.

We are in agreement with this Bill which gives effect to the main recommendation of the Restrictive Practices Commission. I am aware of the great need for this Bill. For a number of years established traders in the community had very legitimate grievances as did the trade unions. We had a position under which people operating in normal premises in towns and villages were facing unfair competition. They were in the business of having to pay rates through the rating system to provide maintenance for their properties, to pay taxes in the form of income tax, and to collect tax from those who worked for them through the PAYE system. They had an obligation to their workers who in turn had reasonable conditions about which the trade unions were concerned. With this structure of overheads they were faced with a type of competition which was not giving them equity.

For that reason there was a spate of representations to public representatives all over this country, which I am sure is part of the reason why we have this Casual Trading Bill before us this afternoon. It provides the necessary balance for a more equitable trading position from now on. On the other hand, the section of the community who have been trading on the roadsides and on the streets are also part of our Irish way of life and have been for many generations, and it would be unfair to go too far in penalising them in turn for the type of activity in which they are involved. This Bill sets a fair balance to protect the side of the community that has been affected, without unduly penalising those who are involved in roadside trading.

The licensing fees referred to by the Minister are reasonable and could not be complained about. I agree with his remarks, too, about main thoroughfares. The inadequacy of the road system, the extent to which houses are built on main roads and the extent to which traders are there are all dangerous. I do not believe that these traders should be allowed to trade on main thoroughfares. They are a hazard to themselves, to their own children, to motorists, and they are a hazard as well in the sense that if a motorist is stopping at one of these roadside traders on a main thorouthfare, the build up of traffic that can occur may result in loss of life. It is a very serious matter.

I am glad to hear reference made to the necessity to ensure that when these traders move from sites the areas they have left are kept in good condition. The role of local authorities will be very important in the administration of this in terms of by-laws. County councils, especially since their involvement in planning, are very capable of assuming this role, especially if in major towns the local authorities can be effective in designating special areas for this type of trading. That will be an immense advantage, because one of the problems on fair days and market days in some of our towns is that there is a considerable amount of traffic congestion because trading is taking place in the centre of areas of very heavy traffic. For some years there has been a very big anomaly in this area. There has been a lack of equity. There has been a tremendous will to see Government introduce a Bill to control the matters about which we are speaking. This Bill gives effect to that, and I welcome it.

Being a believer in the old dictum caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, I do not have much sympathy for people I see purchasing at stalls from these streetside vendors. However, they are a fact of life and we must do something about them. This Bill should include a provision for after sale service, which is practically non-existent at present in regard to what one purchases in these places.

It is important that the Bill contain a requirement that these vendors should display their licences or their permits. Perhaps the Minister would indicate why he only wishes them to display permits in the casual trading area rather than their licences. They should display their licence as well as the permit. Local authorities should discourage individuals setting up on streets and try to channel all this activity into trading areas. Most local authorities have at their disposal some open spaces, they may be fair grounds or established market places. Local authorities should try to channel all these casual traders into such areas and have an established, recognised trading area, rather than have them popping up from day to day in the most unlikely places. Local authorities have a great opportunity in this, apart from responsibility for a certain amount of better planning in regard to the areas under their jurisdiction. County managers should insist that these traders would act in a responsible way and be channelled into an area where local people could do whatever business they wanted to do there.

On Committee Stage we will have a greater opportunity to go into this matter, the matter of fines and that sort of thing, for supplying false information. We welcome the Bill. I wonder if it gets over the problem which I believe exists in certain towns in Ireland, where there was, by old charter, perhaps dating back to the 15th or 14th century or even earlier, an established right or what was taken as an assumed right for a person to set up a market stall in any part of a town. Will section 8 of the Bill get over that point in toto? It says that the local authority may acquire any market right in respect of a market or fair in its functional area. Perhaps the Minister would say whether he is confident that section 8 will get over this problem?

Business people have a very big grievance with regard to roadside trading, particularly in the Border area. It was more through an accident than anything else with our entering into the EMS and the change of currency and the breaking away from sterling, that brought that situation about. Prior to that, in Border areas, every day a new outfit had set up. They were selling wirelesses, blankets, you name it, they had it. These people are gone now. We no longer see them because of the change of money.

Traders had a genuine grievance about this in so far as they were in competition with this type of business which, to them, was unfair competition. Somebody set himself up on the road with a van, he had no permit and he succeeded in selling his wares and the local business community suffered a great loss. I believe that situation will come back again. Our currency may tighten itself up. If it comes back, there is nothing in this Bill to prevent that happening again, other than a £20 permit, which I think is not sufficient because these people move to where they can sell their wares. They move to cattle marts, football matches and to any place where there is a large number of people and they succeed in doing that.

I do not think that the Bill goes far enough to protect the ordinary trader. He is one of the people who is not exempt from rates, and his rates, even in the past three years, are increasing at the rate of 11 and 12 per cent per year. There should be some protection in the Bill. Maybe I say that as a trader, but I know that a number of complaints have been made.m The Minister's constituency has not that problem. They are not as near to the border as the rest of us are.

With regard to county council planning, I do not think that at any time they infringed the plan of the county council because they are only there temporarily. In most towns in rural Ireland there is a given day that a number of people visit, perhaps on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Casual traders are there on whatever day the town is busy and they set themselves up on the main street or where most people are passing. They are a menance to the traffic passing through these towns. There will have to be some firm direction given to local authorities on this issue.

At the other end, John Citizen wants to buy something cheap. These people advertise their wares, washing machines, cookers, drapery or even food and vegetables. If they sell something defective they are not there when the customer comes back and there is no guarantee. We are obliged to protect people from themselves, although it is difficult. Something will have to be done to protect them. Food sales may be all right. They come from Killybegs to my own town, which is about 120 miles away, selling fish, and a number of people buy it. An ordinary merchant selling fish is haunted by health inspectors but roadside traders are not responsible to anybody. The Bill does not go far enough in that regard.

There is an aspect of the Casual Trading Bill which will have to be handled very carefully. It deals with circumstances which arise at marts. Formerly, fairs were held on the streets in towns when markets were held exclusively for the sale of goods which were home produced, agricultural goods or goods which were processed in conditions which were suitable and useful to the purchaser. These people have the opportunity of seasonally displaying goods at the fair or market. They are anxious to provide a service for people who wish to provide themselves with vegetables, corn, seed potatoes and so on, in the spring. People who bring them there and put them on the market do so because it is where farmers are congregated and it is an opportunity for farmers to buy their wares.

I know one market where people congregate to sell donkeys, whereas at a cattle market they sell ponies, vegetables and certain goods associated with the livestock services and veterinary medicines. These people should not be classified in the same category as fly-in and fly-out people, who put down their bits and pieces of canvas without anyone knowing who they are or what kind of goods they have, whether valuable or shoddy. These are the people to whom the Minister is anxious to apply this Casual Trading Bill. I hope there will not be any conflict in his opinion or in the administration by his officers or by the Garda Síochána with regard to the people to whom I have referred who are associated with agricultural life. They should not be mixed up, in the minds of the administrators, with the other kind of person whom we all feel the Bill should apply to. I hope that circumstances will not arise where the Minister would have the Bill going through each House and becoming law without considering this aspect of it. What Senator Reynolds said about rural areas is true. People have come into various market towns when markets had a greater agricultural content than they have now. Nobody knew who they were or where they came from. They sold goods, ostensibly new, but which were sub-standard. The Minister should take cognisance of these circumstances as they arise and apply recognition to that aspect of it, which is important. I welcome the Bill.

The Casual Trading Bill has not come before its time. I recall a debate some months ago on similar legislation. At that time we were pressing for a Bill to cover casual trading. I am glad to see that it has eventually emerged and that we have the opportunity of making a few comments on it. It sets out to provide a framework within which casual traders have to operate. Equally, it attempts to protect the interests of the public and to organise casual trading in a manner which will be satisfactory from the point of view of the general public and the local authorities in the different counties. There is a general feeling, shared to some extent with members of the public, that casual traders offer a service that may not always be available from the established outfits. That is something which is highly questionable. There were three main areas where it was necessary to establish a code of behaviour, certain regulations to provide protection: first of all, the necessity of ensuring that the sites from which casual traders operate would be so regulated as not to cause a traffic hazard or a danger to the public. There is the necessity to ensure — I do not know if we have done it in this Bill — that the standard and quality of the article made available for sale will be such as not to put the public at a disadvantage. We must also recognise that there was a need to correct the situation because the casual trader had a distinct advantage in cost and so forth as against the established traders in local towns. The established traders were faced with the casual trader who arrived overnight, pitched his tent and offered various articles for sale, in competition with the local operators.

The local shopkeepers and traders were ratepayers, they were providing employment and their industry, their business and the livelihood of many of their employees were being put at risk by the activities of the casua; traders. As things operated up to now, the casual trader had a distinct advantage over the established trader.

The casual traders on many of our public roads and highways created a traffic hazard. I see them in my own part of the country operating at the sides of some of our principal roads, drawing the attention of passers-by, lines of cars queueing on either side and creating a danger and a hazard to other road users. The Bill will, to a very great extent, rectify this danger.

Senator Markey asked a few moments ago to what extent would this Bill get over a problem that some local authorities and local councils have had to deal with — the rights of casual trading that apparently exist under some ancient charters in many towns. A local council in my own county had difficulties on this score, and while we will have a detailed discussion on section 8 of the Bill, perhaps the Minister would indicate if there is adequate power within the provisions of section 8 to enable local authorities and local councils to get over the difficulty which has been created by ancient charters providing rights to casual traders to operate in designated areas in certain towns. It is necessary that there should be a fair measure of muscle in the Bill to ensure adherence to its provisions.

When one talks of fines of £5,000, of confiscation of goods, and the sale of these goods, these penalties are very sweeping. Perhaps the Minister feels they are necessary. I would like him to indicate if sweeping powers are being vested in the Commissioner of the Garda to impose these fines. In somewhat similar legislation, we have been reluctant to do that in the past. But by and large, the measure is welcome, it is necessary and I hope that when it is enacted it will deal effectively with the problems that undoubtedly exist in this field at the present time.

I welcome the Bill which is attempting to tackle a very difficult job, the regulation of casual trading. There is one particular reason why I welcome it. Perhaps it is not one that has been emphasised very much by other Senators and perhaps not very much emphasised either by the Minister's introductory speech. There is a side effect of casual trading, which is the dirt and rubbish created on the streets. Casual trading is only one of the causes of dirt and rubbish in the streets, but we have an extremely serious problem of a dirty image, particularly with tourists. Unfortunately, one says particularly with tourists, because we seem to have accustomed ourselves to dirty streets, to debris and to waste paper all over the place. A very important aspect of regulating casual trading would be that the dirt or debris results would form an important part of judging whether or not people get licences and permits, on the record of cleanliness that they have.

I stress this because for years I was in a position of dealing with hundreds of young foreign visitors to Ireland every year. Before they left, as a sort of market survey, we always asked them to write their impressions of the two or three months' stay in Ireland during which we would have arranged for them to travel around the country. In almost 100 per cent of the essays which were generally favourable to the country they did remark, in a slightly bemused manner, on the extraordinary high level of acceptability among Irish people of the dirt in the streets everywhere. To most continental Europeans, certainly anybody from Northern Europe, it struck them as being quite astonishing that we could tolerate such dirt all over the place. That is one aspect that I hope attention will be paid to when we are attempting to regulate casual trading. I realise that not for one moment was dirt the main reason why this Bill is being brought in, but I would like to upgrade that reason if you like and appeal to the Minister to give special attention to that whole area.

I was very struck by the compassion and the interest the Minister displayed in people who for one reason or another live in mobile homes and have no other means of earning money than by selling out of doors. Obviously there are people who depend on this kind of job to make a few bob. Indeed it is also true that traditionally there has been a great deal of colourful character associated with casual trading and obviously nobody wants to see that die out. However I believe that the character and the colourful qualities of casual trading are far outweighed by the evils resulting from it, certainly in this area of debris in the streets.

I have not very much more to say on the Bill except that I am very glad that it excludes horticultural and home-produced produce. A very pleasant part of any journey through Ireland in the months of June or July is the possibility of buying strawberries or other fruit on the roadside, people's produce of which they are justly proud. I am very glad that that has been excluded.

In the difficulty which the Minister mentions of following up casual traders and tracing them for possible come-back on problems he mentioned briefly that unless we introduce a system of identity cards it would be very difficult to copperfasten any attempts to trace people. I do not know what would be the objection to a system of identity cards in this country. It is common practice in most European countries that everybody carries an identity card. In the Bill we should not immediately shy away from that just because it would cause a difficulty to introduce them right across the board. For example I know that people who are concerned with under-age drinking, consider that identity cards for the population as a whole would be a greater help to publicans in this matter.

That is really all I want to say on the Bill. I want to re-emphasise that I feel the debris in and the dirt of our streets are an appalling example to young people. It is saddening to see how used we have all got to it, and I hope there will be a lot of emphasis placed on that aspect when this casual trading is regulated.

Like other Senators I wholeheartedly welcome this Bill. For too many years we have had to put up here with the type of trading now to be prohibited under the provisions of this Bill. I am delighted to see it being introduced for a few reasons, one of which would be that for many years the type of merchandise being sold by these people was of very questionable quality. In a lot of cases their origin was questionable and in many many cases, particularly in electrical goods, the merchandise was downright dangerous. The standard of the electrical goods meant that they would not pass any test by any good electrician. They were definitely the cause of many problems and constituted hazards in many homes. Hopefully, with the provisions of this Bill we will be able to regulate not alone where people can trade but also that it will mean we will be able to regulate not alone where people can trade but also that it will mean we will be able to regulate the type of merchandise sold by these casual traders under licence. There is no doubt, as Senator Hussey said, that there is a joy in seeing somebody trading casually but in an orderly fashion, particularly in the horticultural field when people can buy fruit and vegetables at a reasonable charge straight from the farm or producer.

I would just like to ask one question regarding the definition of casual trading. What is the situation regarding a supermarket or a major store which leases space to people other than the owners of the store? It is becoming increasingly widespread that in many of the larger stores the owners lease half of their premises at certain times of the year — at Christmas or Easter — to people who sell seasonal items. Will people who take space in these stores be considered casual traders, will they have to have a licence, or are they covered by the fact that they are operating from within a store, shop or retail outlet of any description?

That the traditional markets will be capable of being maintained is a very good thing. In many country areas people who run such ventures as country markets, people like the ICA and so on, do so in an orderly fashion on some Saturday mornings or other occasions throughout the year. Such people provide a very useful local amenity. From the point of view of regulation of trade anybody in business will wholeheartedly welcome this Bill. Indeed the public should welcome its introduction because it will mean that if they buy from a casual trader in future they will know that that casual trader has been licensed, that if he deals in shoddy goods, in goods which are of questionable origin he will be fined heavily, also that he can lose his licence if he in any way deviates from the appropriate regulations. Therefore the public will be protected.

I too welcome this Bill. in the past two years we have seen quite an expansion in the incidence of casual trading, which has not contributed anything to the country as a whole. At present there are certainly casual traders who seem to congregate in large numbers, squatting on property, be it in public or private ownership. They seem to place themselves above the law. As many speakers have pointed out this constitutes unfair competition to the ordinary merchants whether they be hardware, grocers or whatever. I want to compliment the Minister for tackling this problem. It is not fair that people can come in, set up a business and not contribute, as do the ordinary merchants and traders. These casual traders pay neither rates nor taxes. Indeed I doubt very much if they pay VAT which, on some of the merchandise they sell, would be as high as 40 per cent. It is easy to give a customer a good bargain if one does not have to guarantee the goods and if one does not have to pay VAT. At present in country towns traditional traders are subjected to severe pressure not alone from this kind of questionable activity but from the appearance right across the country of the multinational retail outlets. In many counties there are price cutting wars going on in which the small independent family grocer, or trader has very little hope of competing. Any regulation endeavouring to bring some kind of fair play back into the market must be welcomed.

In recent years we have had several measures designed to protect the customer, many of which possibly emanated from the EEC. However with this particular breed of itinerant traders the consumer has absolutely no protection, good, bad or indifferent. These people are allowed to park on our major highways or arterial roads. It is quite common for drivers to stop on impulse, as it were, without giving any kind of warning or indication. This must surely be the cause of some accidents and certainly of many close shaves. This practice must be discontinued.

Most Members will be familiar with and conscious of the difficulty the police will have in enforcing this Bill because one is dealing with people—I think it is fair to say from observing them—who have scant respect for the law. Therefore the Garda should be given the widest powers possible when people set up camp in a prohibited area. I would invite any Members of the House to put themselves in an ordinary merchant's shoes, somebody who maintains a shop and a shop front. One can understand his reaction when he finds, perhaps, a black plastic canopy or some kind of van on the kerb, two feet away from his shop, even excluding daylight from his premises, not to talk of this inhibiting customers from going into his store. This happens practically every day in county towns. At present the police seem to be incapable of moving these people on. Indeed, the police should be capable of confiscating their vans, indeed the lot, just to move them out of a place.

I do not believe that any particular section should be allowed to dispose in public of merchandise whose origins certainly in many cases are questionable. This is a well-known fact. People in the trade will say that the only way articles can be sold at the knocked down prices sometimes obtaining is because the merchandise is hot, has been stolen, is stolen property of whatever. I see no reason why the House should be any way lenient in this respect or condone that kind of operation. I hope that the Minister will examine the problem carefully and realise the difficult people with whom he has to deal.

Of late, there appears to be mixed up with these itinerant traders a small number of ordinary people, in the main farmers or market gardeners offering fresh vegetables for sale. Over the past year these people have fallen into the same category and, I think, have been treated in much the same way by the Garda. I do not blame the Garda for doing that. I am glad that the Bill takes account of this because this year I am sure the imports of vegetables will be in the region of £7 million, with imports of over £3 million of potatoes alone. These are absolutely and completely unnecessary imports. Our young farmers and others who are prepared to grow first-class quality vegetables should be encouraged to make them available to the consumers in as short a time as possible. The people who sell their own fresh produce to the consumer should be encouraged. When this Bill comes into operation I hope county councils and licensing authorities will make adequate provision for the encouragement of the direct sale of vegetables to the housewife. This would be one way of eliminating our outrageous vegetables import bill.

It is true to say that throughout the country local authorities have experienced difficulty in dealing with this category of people, the casual trader. I sincerely hope that it will be possible for them in the coming financial year to allocate adequate finance for the acquisition, surface dressing and servicing of areas appropriate to this kind of trading. I would be quite happy to see street traders of any category provided I was satisfied that they contributed their normal share of tax and that they did not constitute unfair competition for the people who have to meet sizeable taxation and rates bills at present.

I have been many years in public life and this is the first year in my area that it has come to my notice that ordinary merchants, whether they be grocers or hardware merchants, are finding it extremely difficult and complaining about the burden of the rates. This never happened before, in my experience. These people certainly need to have a break. It is just not good enough that in latter years, not just on market days but at any old time, casual traders can trade on their doorsteps, almost hindering their customers in free access to their premises. I hope this Bill will have a speedy passage through the house and that its implementation will at least give some encouragement and hope to a very hard pressed sector of our community, the ordinary merchant.

I also welcome the Bill, as have other speakers, and look on it as at least a start in solving a problem which has been worrying the community for some time. I can foresee certain difficulties ahead which will probably come to light when the Bill comes into operation. This Bill will be welcomed also by a lot of the small retailers. Indeed Senator McDonald spoke of some of the reasons I was going to mention. One of them is that the retail trader, in a fixed position, feels that he or she is contributing to the community because they are paying their rates and taxes. In this case the casual trader will be paying a licence fee which one might contend will probably offset the rates. But then there is the question of paying taxation. Most small shopkeepers have to pay income tax, which amount is usually arrived at by assessment. To prove the figure they usually use the invoices of the supplier of the goods sold. Similarly with regard to value-added tax, they trace back the tax by the purchases and are allowed the value-added tax on the invoices. The question I want to ask is: will they give similar treatment to the casual traders? Are they likely to be followed up in this case because, if so, it will be fair treatment but probably it will also elucidate the source of some of the supplies sold at present. On the question of specification and the following-up on the quality of goods supplied, I presume they will display their licence. Presumably it will bear its number or something readily identifiable through which people will be able to follow-up and make a claim, if necessary. Taking the Bill all in all it is a good step and I welcome it.

Like other Senators I welcome the Bill. Every Senator who has spoken has referred to the problems experienced by the ordinary retailer or shopkeeper trying to compete with this casual trading throughout the country. Something had to be done about it, and this Bill is the answer. I wonder does the Bill go far enough? There are people who might be described as van traders who go around the country in vans selling produce, furniture and so on. I am not so sure that such people are covered by the provisions of this Bill. Perhaps another Bill should be introduced to cover them and their trading. In my opinion they are more dangerous than the people who trade in the market square or on the side of the street. They are people who go into houses, up dark laneways, knocking at doors and offering furniture, produce or whatever it may be they have for sale. Not alone do they offer items for sale but they insist that the article they offer be purchased. By one method or another they insist that the person makes the purchase. Nine times out of ten the victim is the housewife. These people usually know when the man of the house is away from home. Indeed these people do not remain at doorways but insist on coming into the houses.

I saw a programme on television recently about some of these people venturing into a house, exerting so much pressure on the housewife to make the purchase that she did so at a much higher price than she would have paid for the same article in a shop. In addition, the article sold was of a much inferior quality to that which would be sold in the shops. There is sufficient proof that this type of trading is going on on a large scale. In our smaller towns especially one sees these vans passing daily piled high with items of furniture. We know this type of trading is going on, but how it can be controlled is another matter. I am sure we would have to involve the Garda in some way or another because of the intrusion on the privacy of the individual. Many reports have been made to the Garda in this regard and they have taken some steps. But it is not sufficient to inform the Garda because they have not the adequate manpower to control this type of trading.

Some kind of legislation must be introduced to eliminate completely this type of trading. I do not think imposing a tax on such traders would be effective because they would then put up the price of the article and sell away as heretofore. So some other means must be employed to ensure the elimination of that type of trading. Also there should be some supervision of trading in the market square. The condition in which such squares are left after a market day is deplorable, with articles scattered around, fruit trodden into the ground and secondhand clothing thrown into corners. The onus should be on those people who sell articles in the square or streets of a town to clean up after their trading. The onus should not be on the county council but rather on the people who carry out the trading. If they do not do so they should not be allowed to trade in the streets or in the squares of such towns. I regret to say that the Bill does not cover the whole area of casual trading. It constitutes a small step in this direction only. It does not take into consideration the people about whom I have been talking, and they are the people who must be caught.

I should like again to thank Senators for the manner in which they have received this Bill, and also to thank all those who have contributed to this debate. I think there is a notion in some people's minds that this Bill is designed — if you like — to put certain people out of business. One Senator made reference to the services traditionally provided by certain people who have been operating over a period at fairs, markets and so on. It is not intended to restrict anybody in any way. It is a measure to regulate a situation which has gone out of hand completely. We are hoping that many aspects of the present position will be rectified, many aspects which cause, say, traffic hazards, unfair competition to conventional traders and so on, that all of that will be dealt with by the provisions of this Bill. If the powers contained in the Bill are properly enforced we should see an enormous improvement in the present position. We all accept — as has everybody who has spoken on the Bill — that there is a tremendous need to have the matter properly regulated.

I shall deal briefly with some matters raised by the Senators who contributed to the debate. Senator Staunton and Senator Reynolds referred to the traffic hazards being caused at present by these traders. We hope the Bill, when implemented, will eliminate that kind of thing. The power to provide areas for "setting up shop", so to speak, will be in the hands of the local authorities, the elected representatives. I think that we would all accept that they are sensible people, people who have a responsibility to the community, that they will exercise their powers in a sensible, reasonable way in selecting areas which they regard as being suitable for this type of trading. We would also expect that they would try to provide under other statutory powers they have suitable facilities for this type of trading, for matters like having water laid on to sites, having provision made for sanitation, for the clearing of debris, as mentioned by Senator Hussey and other Senators. They would be providing the areas where these people would operate and would attend to matters of that kind. We all agree that it is terrible to walk through towns on market days and fair days when these people collect to sell their wares and see the way they leave things after them. They leave cartons, papers and all sorts of debris around the place. We will be glad to see an end to that when this Bill is enacted. We see the same thing in our main thoroughfares, and I am glad Senator Hussey referred to this. I am certain that the powers in this Bill will help to eliminate that kind of thing.

Senator Markey asked what will be allowed under the permit in relation to a trading area. First of all every person who carries on casual trading will have to have a licence. Then he will apply to the local authority for permission to trade within specified areas. He has to have his licence and then it will be up to the local authority to decide whether they can regulate him by providing a specific trading area where he can operate.

Senator Markey also mentioned the question of after-sales service. This is regulated by the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act. As has been mentioned by many Senators, a great number of these people sell inferior goods and there is no protection for the consumer. Because of the fact that they will now have to display a licence, it will be easy for people to take a note of the number on the licence and get the name of the person, and then they will have the means of getting some redress. They will be in a position to follow them up. In the debate in the Dáil one Deputy related an experience he had where he had to pursue one of these people on behalf of a client. The matter went on for some considerable time but he found he was not able to track down the individual concerned. He had been asked by his client to try to get some redress for him because of the fact that he purchased an inferior product from one of these traders.

Senator Markey also raised the position in relation to rights conferred by charter hundreds of years ago. He wondered if the Bill would give the local authorities power to acquire market rights either by agreement or compulsorily. We are satisfied that the Bill will solve that problem. We are giving the authorities power to acquire market rights either by agreement or compulsorily. When an authority acquire these rights they can allow the traditional market to continue as before, or extinguish the market right. If it is decided to extinguish this right, section 9 (3) (a) says that they shall not do so unless they provide alternative facilities reasonably corresponding to the market or fair in the same vicinity. This will solve many of the problems the local authorities have at present in dealing with some of these people.

Senator Reynolds raised the question of traders who come in from other areas. He was referring, I presume, to people who come in from the North of Ireland. I am aware of cases where traders — and this is not related to the Border — are bringing furniture and other materials from England and putting them up for sale here. We have no authority at the moment, under EEC regulations, to restrict these people but, under the Casual Trading Bill, they will have to apply for licences and permits 30 days in advance. They will be subject to the same discipline as home-based traders. Because of the fact that we are introducing this legislation we will be able to prevent that type of trader from operating in the easy fashion traders get away with at the moment. It will not be as attractive in the future for that type of trader to operate here.

I referred already to the question raised by Senator Hussey in regard to hygiene. I presume that the local authorities will take cognisance of the current situation and, when they are issuing permits, will try to ensure that they attach suitable conditions to be taken out by the people who are carrying on this type of trading; that they will be regulated and that attention will be paid to hygiene and so on.

Senator Kilbride seemed to be under the impression that persons selling horticultural or agricultural produce were restricted in the same way as the casual traders will be under this Bill. This is not so. They have a partial exemption. There is a nominal charge of £5 per year for a licence but otherwise it is intended that these people will be restricted to the same extent as other casual traders will be.

Senator Howard does not seem to be too happy about the penalties which it is intended to provide for. Considering that it is possible to have a £5,000 fine, we believe the Bill has gone a long way to try to show these casual traders that we are serious about taking the necessary action to ensure that casual trading will be carried on in a regular and regulated way. It will be up to the courts, of course, to ensure that the fines are dealt with properly, and I am sure we can rely on them to take the necessary action when charges are brought against these casual traders.

The authority given to the Garda in relation to the seizure of goods, and so on, will be welcomed by everybody. They have the right to seize the goods, to sell them, and so on. I am sure the Garda will be glad to exercise this authority because they, more than anybody else, together with business people who are affected so much by these people, have the greatest headache with regard to the way these people operate. The authority given to them in the Bill will certainly help to eliminate many of the abuses, and I am sure they will be glad to exercise in a reasonable way their full authority in dealing with them.

Senator Lanigan raised the question of people who rent space in supermarkets and other premises for the sale of goods. These people are regarded as occasional traders and are required to take out occasional trading permits if they occupy a shop or hotel for a period of less than three months. They are covered by the Occasional Trading Act which was enacted a short time ago. If they are in the premises for less than three months, it will be necessary for them to have an occasional trading licence in order to carry on with the sale of goods. In reply to a query by Senator Lanigan it will help to ensure that the consumer will be protected and that the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act can be enforced where these people are concerned. It will also make it easier to enforce after Acts which cover things like the standard of materials these people sell. The Bill will help to protect consumers on that score.

With regard to the questions raised by Senator McDonald I have referred to the authority given to the Garda, and I am hoping that will have the desired effect. Senator McDonald also referred to standards and to the protection of the consumer, and I have already dealt with these matters. Some questions were raised in the Dáil regarding the Minister's right to refuse to grant or revoke a casual trading licence. We have this authority and, if we find that somebody has offended in any way, we can refuse to give a licence.

Senator Jago mentioned the unfair competition provided by these people, and he mentioned in particular the question of taxation. The fact that a trader will have to display his licence means that the Revenue Commissioners will be in a position to know him and, like every other person in business, he will be expected to pay his fair share of tax.

I think that covers most of the points raised by the Senators. I am grateful for the manner in which they have accepted the Bill. I wonder could I have all stages of the Bill this evening. We are most anxious to have the legislation enacted as quickly as possible. It should have been introduced a long time ago. We are under pressure from the traders' associations, from people in business, and we are most anxious to get all stages of the Bill this evening if possible. Senators have been most generous in their welcome for the Bill. Senator McDonald said he would like it to have a speedy passage through the House. I would be grateful if Senators would facilitate us by giving us all stages.

Question put and agreed to.

It has been suggested that we might take Committee Stage on Friday.

That is agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 19 December 1980.