HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1561-6

Lords Amendment: No. 5, after Clause 6, in page 7, line 34, at end insert:

"A.—(1) No person (other than a person selling, offering or exposing for sale or depositing for sale any foods, goods, provisions, articles or things at any market or fair for which a toll, stallage or rent is payable) shall use any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall or other erection whether on wheels or not or any vehicle or any container used with or without a stall on the verge or lay-by of any road to which this section applies or on any land adjacent to and within 15 yards of such verge, lay-by or road for the purpose of selling, offering, depositing or exposing for sale any food, goods, provisions, articles or things whatsoever other than newspapers.

(2) If any person contravenes the provisions of this section he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds and to a daily fine not exceeding five pounds.

  1. (3) (a) This section applies to roads of any of the following descriptions—
    1. (i) all trunk roads and roads which are classified as principal roads by the Secretary of State under the Local Government Act 1966;
    2. (ii) any other county road, or part of a county road to which the highway authority may by order apply this section.
  2. (b) Before making an order under this subsection the highway authority shall cause to be published once in each of two successive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in the locality in which the road is situated, a notice stating the general effect of the intended order and stating that within a period specified in the notice (not being less than twenty-eight days after the first publication of the notice) any person may object to the application by sending notice of his objection and of the grounds thereof to the highway authority.
  3. (c) If, before the expiration of the period specified in the notice, any objection to the application is received by the highway authority, the highway authority shall consider any such objection and shall afford to any objector an opportunity of being heard by the highway authority before making the order.

(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to—

  1. (a) any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall or other erection or any vehicle placed on private property by or with the consent of the owner of such property and with the permission of the highway authority;
  2. (b) any building erected or work constructed with the consent of the Secretary of State in pursuance of section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 or of any other statutory provision or any scheme made pursuant to a statute;
  3. (c) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from a vehicle when in use solely for the purpose of itinerant trading with the occupants of the premises adjoining any verge or land referred to in subsection (1) of this section;
  4. (d) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from any premises used as a shop or as a petrol filling station pursuant to a permission granted or deemed to have been granted under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or any order or regulation made thereunder or in respect of which an enforcement notice cannot be served under section 87 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 by virtue of subsection (3) of that section; or
  5. (e) the sale by the occupier of land used for agriculture or horticulture, and from such land, of the produce thereof, unless in relation to any particular location on such land a magistrates' court on the complaint of the highway authority under section 43 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952 determines because of the use thereof for the purpose of such sale would adversely affect the safety of persons using the adjoining road that the exemption conferred by this paragraph shall not apply to that location 1563 or that the said exemption shall not apply until any condition imposed by the court in relation to access to or facilities for the parking of the vehicles of persons likely to frequent the said location in connection with such sale has been complied with.

  1. (5) (a) In giving their permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section the highway authority may attach thereto such terms and conditions as they think fit.
  2. (b) Where an application is made to a highway authority for a permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section then unless within twenty-eight days from the date of the receipt of the application the highway authority give notice to the applicant of their decision on the application the provisions of paragraph (c) of this subsection shall apply in relation to the application as if the highway authority had refused to grant the permission applied for.
  3. (c) Any person aggrieved by the refusal of the highway authority to grant permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section or by the terms and conditions attached thereto may appeal to a magistrates' court and on any such appeal, the court may—
    1. (i) if the appeal was against a refusal by order direct the highway authority to withdraw such refusal and to issue the permission for which application was made;
    2. (ii) if the appeal was against the imposition of terms or conditions direct that the permission shall as specified in the direction, have effect either unconditionally or subject to such modified terms and conditions as may be so specified.
    3. (d) Any breach of any terms and conditions imposed by the highway authority under paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be deemed as regards liability to a fine equivalent to a contravention of the provisions of this section.

(6) In this section—

  1. (a) the expression "container" includes any basket, pail, tray, package or receptacle of any kind whether open or closed;
  2. (b) the expression "private property" does not include common land or unenclosed moorland;
  3. (c) the expression "vehicle" means a vehicle of any description drawn or propelled along roads whether by animal or mechanical power."

Mr. Guy Barnett

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

So far as the aims of the amendment are desirable, they can be met by existing general legislation. The Opposition withdrew this clause after putting it down in Committee in this House; it was then reintroduced in another place.

Local authorities already have powers to control activities on highways. Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 they may ban parking or restrict waiting. They may make traffic regulation orders to prevent danger to traffic or damage to the highway, for preventing the use of roads in an unsuitable manner, or for preserving or improving the amenities of the area through which the road runs. These powers may be cumbersome, but they do exist, and may be used in partciular problem areas, and authorities may take action against those who obstruct highways under Section 124 of the Highways Act 1959.

All these powers apply to highways, and do not prevent activities—such as roadside trading—which may take place on private land alongside roads. They do not, therefore, cover the area within 15 yards of the verge to which Clause 7(1) refers. The question we must consider is whether it is desirable that all roadside trading throughout the country—apart from certain exemptions in the clause—should be prevented by a blanket restriction.

The Government explained their position in Committee, in the House and in another place, and they have remained consistent. We acknowledge that roadside traders can be a nuisance, and that occasionally they can even be a roadside hazard, although we have found relatively little evidence of roadside trading causing accidents.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

The Minister referred to blanket powers. Will he confirm that if a local authority has private legislation containing these powers there is nothing to stop it bringing them in.

Mr. Barnett

The hon. Gentleman is correct. It is open to local authorities to promote local legislation and to include, if they need them, the provisions contained in existing local Acts. I recognise that this may be a greater problem in certain parts of the country than it is in others. Where it is a particular problem, it is open to the local authority to promote legislation to cope with it.

The roadside trader can provide a useful service, and we have relatively little evidence that roadside trading causes accidents, although I recognise that the position varies from one part of the country to another.

The Government have remained consistent in being opposed to blanket legislation, not least because they are afraid that a blanket position of this kind would make it extremely difficult for enforcement to be properly carried out and might lead to unnecessary bureaucracy, to which they would be opposed. For that reason I move for dismissal.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

I appreciate why the Minister might, at least on this occasion, be hesitant about increasing bureaucracy, particularly as it relates to local authorities, and I am sure that on all sides of the House we would agree with him on this issue. However, I hope he would agree that the one defect with local Acts is that they apply in a local area. This means that one could end up with about 40 local Acts which have slightly varying provisions. That is the difficulty for the trader who is trying to conform to those Acts. If he is mobile, as indeed he might be, he might expect to trade in more than one area, and it is difficult enough, as I am sure the Minister would accept, for traders to keep up with the volume of legislation, particularly when the hon. Gentleman's Government are in power. If traders are to keep up with 40 local Acts as well, the burden will become almost impossible. That is only one of the defects of leaving this matter to local Acts.

Another defect is that not every local authority will wish to go through the procedures of bringing in a local Act. There are two aspects that I would briefly mention, as is reasonable at this hour with the volume of business that we have in front of us. A large number of arguments can be brought forward, and the Minister has mentioned some, in support of the objectives in this part of the Bill. One of them is unfair competition. I do not generally believe that competition is normally in any way unfair. But in this case there might be competition between people who come and go, who perhaps do not conform with the normal hygiene and other regulations, and people who are trying to conform with the regulations. I am thinking particularly of the catering trade and transport cafes. I am sure the Minister is concerned that there should be proper provision along the main routes for drivers. People who are trying to compete and provide the hygiene standards which, to be honest, have not always been provided in transport cafes would naturally resent the occasional trader who took advantage of the inevitable slowness of authorities in enforcing hygiene regulations. To that extent, I think that competition for some roadside traders can be unfair.

But the other and perhaps more serious issue is in respect of litter. I am sure the Minister is aware, as all of us are, of the very serious problem of litter along roads. We are not actually talking about motorways in this context, but some rather frightening statistics have been produced about the amount of litter that is collected from motorway divides and along the routes of motorways. We must also bear in mind the cost of collecting the litter.

When we think of the cost to local authorities of enforcing legislation, as envisaged in this part of the Bill, we also have to take into account the cost to local authorities of dealing with the consequences of not having that control. I suggest that one of the major consequences is the problem of litter. It would be very difficult, as I am sure the Minister will recognise, even if we provided all the necessary litter bins and all the signs, to ensure that the public do not discard wrapping papers, tin cans and all sorts of other stuff on the verges of the roads.

If, however, one has a measure of control over the trading operations likely to give rise to litter, the litter can at least be localised in the sense that one can ensure that it will be left largely in places where one can provide not only the maximum number of litter bins, notices and so on—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.