I move "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill." It is the definition section, and there is a definition of the terms "street trading" and "stall trading." Street trading in general means the sale of goods, by which is meant articles of any description on any footway or highway. The word "goods" includes wares, merchandise, and other articles of any kind whatsoever. It will be seen from the general framework of the Bill that this definition includes two classes of street traders simpliciter—one a person who carries his goods in his hands, and the other a stall trader who exposes goods on a movable stall or booth.
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - STREET TRADING BILL, 1925—THIRD STAGE.
took the Chair.
I move "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill." The section provides that the Commissioner of the Gárda has power to issue street traders' certificates to any person whom he thinks fit. Every certificate granted under the Act shall be in the prescribed form and shall, unless previously revoked, remain in force for one year. There is a provision that no fee shall be payable in respect of a street trader's certificate to a person under sixteen years of age, but such certificate shall not be granted unless such person has complied with the by-laws made by the Dublin Corporation under Section 2 of the Employment of Children Act, 1903.
This section provides that a person who has obtained from the Commissioner a street trader's certificate and who desires to engage in stall trading—that is, exposing his goods for sale on a movable stall or booth—must obtain a further licence to be known as a street trader's stall licence, from the Corporation. They will be entitled to charge a fee of 5/- in respect of that, and it will remain in force as long as the street traders' certificate granted to the holder remains in force—that is, one year. The street traders' stall licence will be in a form to be prescribed by the Minister for Justice and will authorise any person to sell his wares on a stall, booth, barrow, cart, or stand in any street in the city of Dublin in which stall trading may be permitted by the police, or the Corporation, or by order of the Minister for Justice, or the licence may impose upon the holder a condition that he shall only trade in some specified street.
This section permits a stall-holder to employ one or more persons to assist him in his trade, but the Corporation is empowered to make by-laws fixing the maximum number of assistants who may be at any one time employed by the stall holder.
In sub-section (1), page 4, to add at the end of paragraph "(a)", line 42, the following words: "always provided that, when a by-law has been issued under this sub-section prohibiting trading in any specified street, such by-law shall not be revoked by the Corporation except with the consent of two-thirds of the ratepayers residing or carrying on business in that street."
This amendment has been put down at the request of a certain number of traders in the City of Dublin—not street traders—who are very anxious to have a fixed and stable policy in this matter of street trading and are anxious to know where they are. They have had experience in the past of dealing with the Dublin Corporation. When a by-law was made, the interested parties came before the Corporation and it was repealed at the next meeting. That is, apart altogether from the merits of the by-law, an undesirable state of affairs. The adoption of this amendment would, I think, cause the Corporation to be slow in making by-laws if they knew they had no power to revoke them, and cause them to give more mature and careful consideration to the representations made to them by people who wanted a by-law made. It would also secure, cause having been shown and a by-law having been made, that it could not be annulled without the consent of the people carrying on business in the street concerned. I think that is not an unreasonable proposition. If the Minister thinks it would hamper the Corporation too much, I do not propose to press it, but I think it is not an unreasonable proposition to put forward, and it is one which I hope the Minister may see his way to adopt.
If I understand the Deputy's point, he is seeking to provide that when a by-law has once been made by the Corporation, say, prohibiting stall-trading in a particular street, that it shall not be revoked except with the consent of a fixed proportion of the members.
Of the residents.
I am wondering whether in that connection the Deputy knows that the Bill provides that ratepayers will be given an opportunity of making representations before any by-law can become effective. Sub-section (2) of Section 6 provides that all by-laws to be made by the Corporation under the Section shall be deemed to be by-laws made by a sanitary authority for the purposes of the Public Health Act, 1878. Accordingly, certain sections of that Act shall apply. The effect of that proviso is that all by-laws to be made by the Corporation, whether they are original by-laws or by-laws revoking or altering original by-laws under Section 6 of the Bill, cannot take effect unless and until they have been submitted to and confirmed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. The Minister for Local Government has power to allow or disallow any such by-laws as he shall think fit, and before these by-laws can be confirmed notice of intention to apply for confirmation must be given by the Corporation at least one month before making application. During that month a copy of the by-laws must be kept in the Corporation office, and it can be inspected by any ratepayer free of charge. So that the ratepayers get an opportunity during that period of making themselves familiar with the terms of any proposed by-law and of sending in their protests to the Minister for Local Government, who, if he is satisfied that there is sufficient ground for doing it, will disallow the by-law. That would apply to revocation as well as to some original by-law. One by-law can only be repealed or revoked by another, and there will be that interval in which a ratepayer will get his opportunity of protesting to the Minister for Local Government. He can then withhold his sanction. I would consider checks of that kind adequate. To say that they cannot change their minds unless they get a majority of two-thirds would be perhaps going too far.
That majority is more or less based on the procedure when the Corporation want to change the name of a street; they have to approach the residents and get a majority. I think, of two-thirds. Broadly speaking, the difference between my proposal and the proposal of the Minister is that my proposal gives statutory protection to the residents in any street where street trading may have been prohibited. Under the Minister's proposal there is no statutory protection, but they must rely on the good nature and the fair judgement of the Minister for Local Government. They have an opportunity of making a case, but he is not bound, even if they are unanimous in wishing to prevent a change, to consider it. I do not think that is as satisfactory as my proposal, certainly not as satisfactory for shop-keepers.
I do not think it is unreasonable to say that once a by-law has been made then the people who live in the street and carry on business in the street shall be asked if they want it revoked. That is what it amounts to. In my proposal they have to be asked. In the Minister's proposal they have to go to the Minister for Local Government and the onus is put on them to prove that a change should not be made. My suggestion—and I think it is a sound suggestion—is that the onus should be put on the Corporation, or the body who wish to make the change, to prove it ought to be made, assuming that the by-law has been validly made in the first instance.
One effect of the Deputy's amendment might be that the body would be deterred from the making of a by-law which seemed to be quite desirable in itself on the grounds that if it were by any chance proved otherwise it might be difficult to get the necessary majority to repeal it. There is really no great matter of principle concerned, but I would have thought that the period of delay and the opportunity to protest to ensure that an undesirable by-law would not be sanctioned was sufficient. The other proposal would be very rigid. It would make it almost impossible to revoke any by-law, and that fact would probably have the result of deterring public bodies from making by-laws for which there seems a fair and substantial case, fearing that if any bad results began to accrue from it its repeal would be a matter of difficulty. On the whole, I am not convinced, and I ask the Deputy not to press the amendment.
After all, if the personnel of local authorities are not in the position of feeling their responsibilities to the ratepayers, and if that feeling of responsibility is not reflected in their public acts, it is a poor position, and it is better to leave this situation which will make it necessary for ratepayers to take an interest in what is going on, to follow the actions of the local authority, and to protest to the Minister and ask him to come in with his over-riding authority if something undesirable is being done rather than simply to set up this mechanical check—to make your by-law and not be able to wipe it out without a two-thirds majority, which is very large when you remember that the average attendance in a particular local authority would not be very high.
You will poll the people in the street—send round a voting paper. It is two-thirds of the ratepayers, not of the local authority.
That would make it more difficult still. I am sorry if I have been casual in dealing with the amendments. That would make me still less inclined to accept the amendment. I was under the impression that it was a two-thirds majority of the local authority.
I am afraid that the Minister's last argument has convinced me that I ought to press the amendment. Has he considered how a provision of that kind would work in Ennis from what we have heard of the local authority there? I think that any by-laws previous councils might have made in that area would have been swept away by the council that has been officiating there lately without consulting the ratepayers.
My point of view on that is, that the report about the position of Ennis is a very grave reflection on the ratepayers and electors of that area; properly viewed probably a greater reflection on them than on the members of the local authority itself.
Taking the ratepayers as a whole, I agree, but here the situation is that there might be one good shopping street in Ennis; the ratepayers in that street would be a minority of the whole in Ennis, and they might have their business ruined by by-laws made by the local authority or by a revocation of by-laws made by the local authority. I admit there is in that case the protection of the Minister for Local Government, but I prefer the statutory protection. I do not suppose anyone would be so foolish as to start street-trading in Grafton Street, but you could have a Corporation in Dublin on which the ratepayers in Grafton Street would be in an enormous minority. They could only return representatives in their own area, and even in that area they would be swamped by Clarendon Street and small streets at the back like that. It is to protect people carrying on a certain class of business, who are paying rates and taxes and rent, against the unfair competition of street traders, that this Bill is designed, and I am suggesting that this additional proviso gives a greater protection.
Amendment put and negatived.
I move Amendment 4:
In line 25, after the words "Minister for Justice" to delete the word "may" and substitute the words "shall immediately after the passing of this Act."
(Make regulations for all or any of the following purposes). That is to say, it ceases to be permissive and becomes mandatory. In this respect I am trying to impose rigidity on the Minister, which is, no doubt, altogether foreign to his nature. But I do think it very desirable, in the City of Dublin, at any rate, that the whole position of street trading should be cleared up and that the regulations should be issued as soon as possible. I apprehend that this amendment will not be accepted, but I do urge the Minister to give us some indication of what his intentions are in this matter, whether the whole matter is to be left to the Commissioners for the Corporation or whether he proposes to utilise the powers given to him under this section.
Will the Deputy say what the penalty for disobedience will be?
The penalty for disobedience will be the displeasure of the Dáil. I take it that the Minister will bow to the wishes of the Dáil, and that there will be no danger of disobedience.
The amendment, as the Deputy seems to anticipate, is considered unnecessary. The certificates of the stall traders and the registered sizes of the receptacles to be carried by street traders will have to be prescribed. The Deputy may take it that the necessary regulations bearing on these matters will be made. It may not be necessary to make regulations prohibiting stall trading or any prescribed class of stall trading in any specified street. The power is given by the Bill, but the power will only be exercised by the Minister for Justice in the event of there being definite evidence of interference with traffic, arising out of the failure of the Corporation to prohibit stall trading or any particular class of stall trading in some street. It may not be necessary to make such a regulation at all. The Deputy, in his amendment, takes it for granted that it would be necessary, and he seeks to make it mandatory upon the Minister to do it. I do not feel that the Deputy's amendment would improve the Bill, and I am not accepting it.
Having got that statement, I ask leave of the Dáil to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment 5:—
In paragraph (e), line 38, after the word "prohibiting" to insert the words "street trading or any particular class of street trading or."
I gather from what the Minister has just said that he is to make himself a sort of Court of Appeal from the Corporation. He can make regulations under this section prohibiting stall-trading, or any particular class of stall-trading, in any specified street, but I think it would be desirable for him to have that power as regards street-trading as well as stall-trading. A woman with a large basket of oranges or a number of women with large boxes of oranges may be a serious obstruction to traffic. Deputy D'Alton reminds me of fish. I think the power is one that ought to be reserved. Busy corners like the corner of Nassau St. and Grafton St. are not places where a large amount of street trading should take place. I think the Minister ought to have a revising power for that class of trade when he is taking it for stall-trading. It is a purely permissive amendment. He is not obliged to do it unless he thinks fit. He can say: "I will prohibit that particular type," or "I will not cut out newspaper selling," and so on. I therefore urge him to accept this amendment.
I wonder if the Deputy would have any objection to leaving over that amendment without prejudice?
Without prejudice, certainly.
I move Amendment 6:—
At the end of the section to add the following words: "always provided that the Minister may, from time to time, make any additional regulations, or vary, or revoke, any regulations made under this section."
This amendment is really consequential on amendment 4, because if the Minister may make regulations it is obviously necessary to give him power to vary or revoke them. As far as I can see, under this section, once the Minister has made a regulation it becomes law and he would require an amending Act to alter or vary it. I do not press this amendment now, but I think the Minister might take into consideration for the next Stage, whether it is not a desirable provision to have.
I am advised that the amendment is not necessary. Implicit in power to make regulations, there is power to vary and revoke regulations previously made. I will make quite certain of that, because there is substance in what the Deputy said, as it would be a bad position if, having made regulations, I was simply bound to them.
With regard to this section I should be glad to know if the Minister would consider the advisability of allowing smaller towns to avail of this measure; that is not to limit the application of the Act to towns of over five thousand population. Towns under that limit, having public bodies, could make very good use of the Act, and every argument used in favour of this Bill in regard to the larger towns would apply in the same way to the smaller towns, and would be a great boon to them. At present those nuisances complained of are often to be seen in an intensified form in the smaller towns.
I wish to support Deputy Sears on that point. I think it is very important that the Bill should apply to smaller towns, say, of a population of 2,000 or even 1,000. I know of some towns that are under town commissioners where street hawkers particularly prevail to the detriment of the trade of local people. There is another matter which will probably have to be dealt with in another Bill, and that is the possibilities of infection from the commodities sold. I think we will have to ask the Minister to deal specially with that. As many Deputies know, there is a great danger of spreading disease through clothing that is disposed of, and perhaps an amendment could be brought before the Minister whereby clothing and harness should be disinfected before being offered for sale. I support Deputy Sears on this point, that the Bill should apply to towns or areas where there is a population of 2,000. That would cover a good many towns in various parts of Ireland. The arguments in favour of the Bill are equally applicable, if not more so, to these small areas where people dispose of various commodities, including clothing and harness, brought long distances and very often from outside the country.
With regard to Deputy D'Alton's point about towns having Commissioners, would not any amendment of that nature be out of order? We have passed a Money Resolution dealing with the County Borough of Dublin and other county boroughs and urban county districts, and I am afraid the amendment which Deputy Sears and Deputy D'Alton desire, and which I also desire, would be lost unless you extend it to only those towns of 2,000 population which have urban district councils. I had intended to call attention to this on the Money Resolution, because it limited us so closely that we could only apply it to urban district councils. Any amendment to extend it to towns having town commissioners, I suggest, would be out of order.
May I ask could it be brought up at a later stage? The matter is of sufficient importance to have it brought forward, if possible.
I want to be quite clear as to what is wanted. Personally I have had representations through Deputies and I have had letters from various towns, since this Bill was introduced, and my own inclination is to strike out the population restriction and leave it that the council of any county borough (other than the County Borough of Dublin) or of any urban county district is empowered after due notice to adopt the provisions of the Act. Without prejudice to the view that may be taken of the matter, I would like to know whether there is anyone pressing for something more than that, whether there is anyone pressing, for instance, that this provision should be so elastic that Town Commissioners could adopt it, because if we merely strike out the population restriction the position is that the Act applies automatically to the County Borough of Dublin, and that it is open to any other county borough council or any urban council through the country to adopt its provisions. I want to be quite sure whether, if we take that step of striking out the population limitation, we will be meeting the demand, or whether there is a further demand that any town with a body at all in authority may adopt its provisions.
That would be my position—any town with a local body should have the power. I would suggest the Act should be extended to towns situated like that.
I agree that we should apply it to towns having town commissioners.
Of course, one feels cynical about the enthusiasm to adopt this Act, because the local authorities through the country, the urban councils and town commissioners, have a great many powers, by the judicious use of which they could improve the amenities of their areas of charge, and they do not use them. This power, which is simply to banish——
—Competition in the open to the local traders is enthusiastically taken up as something that is a mighty measure that will bring calm to Kerry and balm to Ballydehob. But we could consider between this and the Report Stage whether there is any reason for stopping short at the urban councils, and whether town commissioners should not be enabled to take on its provisions also.
I want to put in a word in support of the view which seems to be expressed by the Minister's last statement. While I am in favour, generally, of regulation and order in the trading operations of any community and would like to favour it even with respect to the small community of 500 people, there is another aspect that we must take into account. I am not sure whether, if we go very far in the way of giving powers to regulate street trading, we are not damaging the public interest rather than benefiting it. I think that in many cases if the whole of the trading is going to be kept in the hands of the shopkeepers of any small town, without any possibility of competition, the consumers in that small town will be mulcted in much heavier charges even than they have to pay now. There is no doubt at all that the travelling salesman, very often a regular purveyor of goods, is a benefit to the community and provides goods, especially food, much more cheaply than the shopkeepers are prepared to do. Now, the likelihood is that if this power is exercisable by local authorities these local authorities will be the shopkeepers and as a consequence any competition will be rigidly suppressed, unless we are prepared to go further and do something to replace that competition by some kind of public market to act as a check upon the unbridled appetites of the small shopkeepers. I think the suggested extension of these powers would be doing more harm than good. I say that there is a very good case for regulation and order in the matter of trading, but I think there is danger in putting in the hands of the small town shopkeeper the power to prohibit—for that is, in effect, what it will come to—the fish hawker, or the fruit seller coming in from the country, and any other types of street traders or hawkers. I am a little bit doubtful of the wisdom of extending these powers at all beyond the cities.
I think that these street traders are in no sense purveyors of food, as Deputy Johnson has suggested.
Plenty of them are.
Not in my experience. I think that that might be rather discounted. "Old clo' " men, who purchase old clothes, I suppose, across the Channel, vend them here in small towns. Serious complaints have come from urban councils and town commissioners, not with the object of suppressing these traders altogether, but with a view to obtaining power to regulate them, to see that they set up their stands in certain places so that they will not obstruct thoroughfares. I know of one small town that has neither an urban authority nor town commissioners, and these people are a perfect nuisance there, especially on fair days, when they practically hold up the whole street. I think that if there is a case at all for regulating these street traders powers ought to be extended to the smaller towns, at any rate to towns that have urban councils or town commissioners.
It is understood that I will consider the matter between this and the Report Stage.