HC Deb 13 May 1985 vol 79 cc1209-44

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected for debate with the Second Reading instruction No. 1— That it he an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to insert a clause preserving any pre-existing rights of succession vested in street traders and that, subject to such rights, any vacancies for street trading licences be advertised— and instruction No. 4— That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Part V. Clause 54 and Schedule 2.

7.14 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It falls to me to move the Second Reading of the Bill, which is not a task I undertake with great relish. Perhaps I can make a few points by way of preamble. First, it should be noted that I am the first chairman of the GLC to move such a Bill in the House, and I trust that I shall not be the last.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

You will.

Mr. Banks

Although the Greater London council is officially the promoter of the Bill, it is acting only as an agent, so hon. Members should direct their barbs not at me, but through me to the boroughs which introduced the Bill. The GLC has a direct link only with clauses 3 and 4. All other clauses have been inserted at the request of the London boroughs by the Association of London Authorities and the London Boroughs Association.

Under the terms of the Local Government Bill being discussed in another place, this could be the last Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill. If it is, the London boroughs will lose an efficient and convenient method of promoting legislation. Indeed, clause 85 of the Local Government Bill removes the effective realisation of Londonwide legislation. If that Bill becomes law, it is likely that the House will be presented with a hotch-potch of legislation promoted by anyone or any combination of 33 London boroughs. Clearly, the Government are no more interested in the efficient promotion of private Bills than they are in the efficient local government of London.

Most of the Bill is non-contentious. Hon. Members will have received a letter from the head of the GLC's administrative, law and parliamentary branch setting out in clear detail its provisions. Therefore, I shall mention those clauses only briefly. Clause 3 seeks powers to make a charge for dealing with applications for varying the terms, conditions or restrictions to existing entertainment licences. Clause 4 seeks new powers to serve a notice on each property owner and occupier on whose land adopted flood defences are situated to incorporate the adopted features into the flood defences of London so that alterations may be controlled. There are rights of appeal under the clause, and payment of compensation where appropriate. The GLC and its predecessor authority, the London county council, have done excellent work in flood prevention in London, and the Thames barrier is a unique technological tribute to both authorities.

Clauses 5 to 9 were inserted at the request of the LBA, supported by the ALA, and are designed to help to prevent footway collapse in London's streets, which include many vaults and cellars. Unfortunately, this is happening too often now as heavier and heavier lorries use our streets.

Clause 10 seeks to exempt from the licensing codes that control massage establishments premises which are run —[Interruption.] I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I must stand somewhere else, because it is a little difficult to concentrate in view of what appear to be interesting conversations being held just below the Gangway. Clause 10 seeks to exempt from the licensing codes that control massage establishments premises that are run by persons registered under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960 or by registered medical practitioners. Since the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1984, the LBA arid the ALA have accepted that premises used by members of bodies which specify qualifications and require their members to observe professional standards for the practice of chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy or acupuncture should also be exempted, and clause 10 provides that.

As for clause 11, the London Boroughs Association, primarily at the prompting of Westminster council, seeks to make amendments to schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 which relates to the licensing of sex establishments. I understand that the Home Office has objected. Rather belatedly, the London boroughs have submitted evidence to the Home Office to justify the provisions contained in the clause. I believe that that evidence will convince the Ministers. If not, they will make their feelings known in Committee.

The Greater London council is not involved in this part of the Bill and has no evidence to offer in support of the boroughs. Clause 11 seeks to establish control over the sex-related use of premises—for example, sex encounter establishments. These are establishments with which I am sure neither you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, nor I am acquainted. Clause 11 brings them within the provisions of schedule 3 to the 1982 Act. I shall leave hon. Members to read in the Bill the definitions of a sex encounter establishment. Because of my sheltered upbringing 1 could not bring myself to read them.

Secondly, the 1982 Act referred to premises which were involved "to a significant degree" in the selling or hiring of sex articles. The definition of "to a significant degree" has led to a considerable amount of argument, mostly between lawyers, at great expense to the ratepayers. One thinks of bookshops and video shops which sell some sex articles but which at the moment are able to avoid control under schedule 3 to the 1982 Act. The London boroughs wish to delete "to a significant degree" and substitute "includes the" in order to provide for the control of shops selling some sex articles.

Thirdly, the London boroughs want, quite rightly, to charge licensing fees in order to cover the reasonable cost of inspecting sex premises. Fourthly, the boroughs wish to have the same powers of forfeiture and seizure of apparatus and equipment — the mind boggles at that point — under schedule 3 to the 1982 Act as are currently provided under the Cinematograph Acts. Fifthly, the boroughs seek to allow a sex establishment to continue only until a licence determination has been made but not until an appeal has been completed. Hon. Members will be delighted to know that part IV will be withdrawn. If the House gives a Second Reading to the Bill, the necessary amendments will be included in the filled-up Bill to be placed before the Committee. A working party has been set up to examine the nature of part IV. I hope that it will produce an agreed report at a later stage.

I now turn to part V, about which hon. Members have made representations to me. It deals with the regulation of street trading. I spent a little time upon describing the earlier parts of the Bill in order to demonstrate that it contains much that is worthy and commendable. However, part V has led to controversy. Market traders have expressed considerable opposition to it. I congratulate their organisations upon their assiduous campaigning. The London boroughs have made a very good case for the rationalisation of the street trading laws. If one looks at schedule 2 to the Bill, one sees there is a widely different pattern of street trading regulations throughout London. Therefore, some conformity in the regulations is necessary.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman prepared at a later stage, if the Bill is given a Second Reading, to make amendments in order to cover the arguments and representations which have been made? This would help hon. Members to know what the prospects at a later stage might be.

Mr. Banks

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I hope to be able to answer on behalf of the sponsors most of the objections that have been raised by right hon. and hon. Members. This is a matter upon which the House will wish to express a view. I shall listen very carefully to hon. Members. I have full authority to give assurances before Committee. This is one of those rare opportunities when the House can influence legislation in a real way, perhaps by means of the strength of the arguments advanced by hon. Members.

As I have already pointed out, part V is highly contentious and a number of representations have been made. As a result of the detailed discussions I have had with my hon. Friends the Members for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), for Peckham (Ms. Harman), for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) and with traders in my own borough, Newham, I can signify on behalf of the sponsors their acceptance of the first instruction relating to the rights of inheritance and advertising. It seems to us to be perfectly reasonable that there should be a right of inheritance over market trading. The necessary amendments will be tabled in Committee. The first instruction is therefore acceptable.

Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that it is very important for him to set out, for the convenience of the House, the extent of the inheritance provisions.

Mr. Banks

I am accepting on behalf of the sponsors the first instruction on the Order Paper. There will be further discussions between the representatives of the market traders and the boroughs to secure an acceptable form of wording before Committee and they will take place in the light of the first instruction. It is not for me to set out the extent of those provisions. It is for the representatives of the boroughs and the market traders to reach agreement. We accept that it is the principle of inheritance which has most exercised the market traders.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Following the earlier interventions, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I press this point a little further, because it causes immense anxiety among those who are most directly concerned. The proposals involve a break in tradition. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's assurance needs to be couched in more precise language. Just to say that acceptance of the principle is hereby acknowledged is not sufficient at this stage. The hon. Gentleman understands that this issue crosses party lines and that anxiety is felt on both sides of the House. Therefore, I am sure that he wishes to help the House with a much more concrete assurance which specifically states that the rights of direct inheritance and succession will be restored.

Mr. Banks

I thought that I had already said that. I can only accept what appears on the Order Paper in terms of the wording of the first instruction. There is nothing else for me to accept, apart from the first instruction and the principle that there will be the ability to pass on through the families of the traders the market licence for the market stalls. That seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable assurance.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

I know only too well that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to be helpful on this issue. However, as I read the first instruction it puts the situation back to what it was before the Bill was introduced. It refers to the pre-existing rights of succession. If that is the case, many hon. Members will be satisfied. However, the hon. Gentleman muddied the waters more than a little by going on to say that these matters will be discussed between the promoters of the Bill and the market traders. If the law is not to be changed, is there any need for discussion?

Mr. Banks

The need for further discussion seems to be that hon. Members have not fully understood what I have said. I have said that we accept instruction No. 1. That must be comprehensible to all hon. Members as I assume that the words in the instruction mean the same to everyone. It means that we can go back to the pre-existing position. What else do hon. Members want?

Mr. Vivian Bendall (Ilford, North)

I am a little confused. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can enlighten me. Why, then, is further discussion needed?

Mr. Banks

Because it is in the Bill and I am introducing the Second Reading debate. I have said that we accept instruction No. 1. I do not know what more the hon. Gentleman wants. I want to get on, but I am being delayed by all these interruptions. If we are accepting instruction No. 1, someone will have to produce the necessary amendments for the Committee stage. I should have thought that even the hon. Gentleman could understand that.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

I understand that my hon. Friend has accepted the instruction in my name and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and others to the effect that the pre-existing rights to succession vested in street traders will be preserved. That is the principle that we want but it is not in the clause. Discussions will therefore have to take place to ensure that provisions are drafted to meet that principle. I think that we should be satisfied with that.

Mr. Banks

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for spelling this out so that everyone can understand. The Bill is silent on the subject of inheritance. Amendments will be needed in Committee because we have said that we are restoring and preserving inheritance. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind but that the boroughs have entirely conceded the market traders' case in this respect.

I cannot accept instruction No. 4 in the same unqualified way, but I hope to satisfy the hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) that it is unnecessary. Personally, I do not believe that the boroughs consulted the market traders adequately. From the evidence that I have, there seems to have been scant consultation with the London-based Federation of Street Traders Unions and little, if any, consultation with the National Market Traders Federation. [Interruption.] I do not wish to break up any cross-Chamber discussions, but I should like to continue.

Representatives of the London boroughs have told me that they sought consultation on the London Boroughs Association working party report in June 1983 but received no response and that they also received no response when they produced the draft Bill. I do not know exactly where the breakdown in communications occurred or whose fault it was, but there has been considerable muddying of the waters and possibly some misunderstanding. The market traders seem to have been left in the dark for rather a long time, which no doubt exacerbated certain unnecessary fears on their part. I am sure that most of them, as honest, hard-working traders, accept the need for some regulation for the benefit of both traders and shoppers.

The GLC has tried to act as an honest broker to bring the various parties together and I believe that we have made considerable progress. With a little more time, I know that we can reach an overall agreement, so I hope that the House will give the Bill a fair wind today.

Many of the clauses in part V of the Bill are unexceptionable but necessary and, I believe, could be accepted by boroughs and market traders alike with certain amendments. It would be a great shame to lose perhaps the last chance to achieve some rationalisation of street trading in London by throwing out the whole of part V. Clause 37 deals with definitions, clause 38 excludes the City of London and clause 39 concerns offences for trading without a licence. All those provisions have been agreed, so there seems to be no problem there.

Clause 40 deals with the designation of streets. At present, in inner London there is a right of appeal to the Home Secretary. If the clause is passed as it stands that right of appeal will be removed. We have a Minister from the Home Office with us today and we understand that the Home Office does not wish to be the appeals authority for the whole of London. In fact, appeals are rarely made, but market traders in inner London see the right of appeal as an insurance policy. I am sure that no one wants the Bill to go through without making provision for an appeals authority. Speaking from years of experience of local government, I would not wish to leave it at local council level, but I believe that there must be a right of appeal. This will be a matter for discussion between the traders and the boroughs, but I have the authority to say that the clause will be amended in Committee to preserve the right of appeal.

The Home Office, of course, may object. It would help, therefore, if the Minister of State will tell us today whether the Home Office is prepared to accept a responsibility which has not proved particularly onerous in relation to inner London.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Will the hon. Gentleman be more explicit and make it clear that the Bill will not go through unless there is a right of appeal? If the Home Office will not accept responsibility, who will do so if the GLC no longer exists? Unless the hon. Gentleman can give those assurances, my hon. Friends and I will not be satisfied.

Mr. Banks

I should very much like to answer that directly, but it is not in my power to do so at present. I have invited the Minister to comment and I hope that he will do so. The Home Office would not be taking on a great deal of responsibility. I am sure that the Minister does not wish to jeopardise the Bill, in view of what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey has said.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)

In general, the Government's view is that an appellate power devolved on the Home Secretary is a rather unnecessary way to handle an appeals procedure which should be dealt with at a much more local level. That there should be an appeals procedure in the Bill, however, will no doubt be hotly debated in Committee.

Mr. Banks

The appeal could be through the Greater London Council. It would delight me no end if the Minister could tell us that the Government intend to drop their proposal to abolish the GLC. There would then be ample machinery for appeals. I hope that that deals with the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. I see the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. Apparently he is not satisfied, so the Government are now jeopardising the Bill.

Ms. Harman

If the Home Office will not accept the responsibilities that it ought to accept and refuses to allow the right of appeal to the Home Office, will my hon. Friend assure the House that the clause will not go through unless an appeals procedure can be achieved with the designation of a body agreed by the street traders associations and the sponsors of the Bill. It must be an independent procedure which commands the support of the street traders. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the right of appeal will not fall if the Home Office reneges on its responsibilities?

Mr. Banks

Yes, I am empowered to give such an assurance, which will undoubtedly meet the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. I believe, however, that the appeals procedure would be better exercised through the Home Office. If the Home Office refuses to extend its present appeals function in inner London to cover greater London, that will be a great pity—but if that happens we shall certainly table the necessary amendments in Committee to satisfy traders that there will be some form of independent appeal.

Mr. Simon Hughes

It is important to get this point clear. Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that unless that can be agreed between the sponsors and the traders clause 40 will go?

Mr. Banks

The hon. Gentleman has a funny idea of what negotiation is all about. He seems to be saying that, if we do not entirely accept what the market traders are likely to put to us, the whole clause should go. I believe that we should find a mutually acceptable appeals procedure. It is a very strange appeals procedure which does not satisfy all those likely to appeal to it. The hon. Gentleman is pushing us rather hard, especially as it is not for me to negotiate the fine print while on my feet. I should have thought that my acceptance of the principle would satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bendall

For many years there has been a problem in the licensed taxi trade about not having a right of appeal. The Transport Bill has just dealt with the matter, and the clause involved an appeal to the magistrates court. Could the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance perhaps in that direction?

Mr. Banks

On the surface of it, having just had that idea bounced at me, a form of legal appeal would seem to be acceptable. However, I ask hon. Members to be reasonable. Such things would need to be considered. I am not trying to be evasive and I am not trying to duck the issue. I am trying hard to concede the principle without crossing the "t's" and dotting the "i's" here. Clearly one is not in a very good position to do that now.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Does the hon. Gentleman have in mind an appeal to the courts, or a judicial form of appeal?

Mr. Banks

In the final analysis, an appeal that ends up in the courts is better than an appeal that stops short of them. That must be true for all appeals. We all have our own opinions about the independence of the judiciary, but by and large it seems to be more independent than most other institutions that I can think of immediately unless there is to be an appeal to the GLC. However, we might not be around to hear it. But of course I accept the hon. Gentleman's point.

Clause 41 relates to applications for licences. With regard to subsection (3), the boroughs concede the case against the countersigning of photographs. They consider that to be unnecessary, so that also will be removed from the Bill. Subsection (4) (a) refers to a licence being granted only to someone aged 18 or over. The market traders want to see a reduction to the age of 17. There is, of course, a problem, because the age of legal majority is 18. However, I understand that in miscellaneous provisions the Government seem to concede the age of 17, so it seems only reasonable to accept that age. After all, market trading is an arduous business and if someone can pass the business on to a son or daughter at an earlier age he or she can no doubt then enjoy some well-deserved retirement. Therefore, that, too, will be conceded. With regard to subsection (6) (e), the boroughs have conceded the point about on-storage facilities.

Clause 42 relates to the duration and terms of licences. Unfortunately, this is another sticky one. At present, those conditions are covered by byelaws. I understand that under the Bill it is proposed that the boroughs should specify the conditions. I hope that hon. Members have noticed that licences in general will be extended from the present one year to three years. That is clearly welcomed by the market traders. But, of course, the market traders want to retain terms and conditions that are determined by byelaws. The boroughs have not yet conceded that point, but in my discussions with them I have been assured that if more time is given for consultation there will be an amicable outcome. It is a generalised statement, but I am convinced that there is good will here to meet the point. If hon. Members want my personal opinion, it is that I have sympathy with those who want to see the conditions retained through byelaws, as that seems to be a much neater and more precise way of dealing with this aspect of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Hughes

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the difference between the byelaw procedure and the regulations procedure is that the byelaw procedure has an appeal system built into it. I should like him to say that by the time the Bill leaves Committee the clause will have settled for the byelaw rather than the regulation procedure. We need to know that there is an appeals system under this clause, just as we have been told that there will be one in the other clause.

Mr. Banks

I can gladly help the hon. Gentleman. In everything that we do, there must be an adequate and acceptable appeals procedure, so I accept that. However, I ask hon. Members to give the boroughs and market traders a little more time in which to come up with something that is mutually satisfactory. But in principle I should like to see appeals procedures written into the Bill throughout. That is the only way that hon. Members can be satisfied that the Bill has a fail-safe mechanism.

Clause 43 deals with the revocation of licences. It is generally acceptable—this goes back to instruction No. 1 — with the exception of the silence on inheritance. I have said that we have accepted instruction No. 1, so it has been restored. In those circumstances, I hope that we shall not have to go over the ground again.

Mr. Bendall

What sort of convictions does the hon. Gentleman anticipate under paragraph (e) ? The words used leave it very wide, and could mean that for drunken driving the trader would lose not only his driving licence but his licence to trade.

Mr. Banks

I cannot be as precise as the hon. Gentleman would like me to be. However, I should have thought that in principle we would want those trading commercially to be of a fit and proper character in all respects. We know that there are certain criminal offences that preclude applicants from securing other licences. However, I cannot be more precise than that. We should not want invidious requirements to be written into this part of the Bill that are not normal in other areas of licensing where there are certain disqualifications.

Mr. Bendall

Perhaps the phrase "serious criminal offence" might be better.

Mr. Banks

It is a very interesting point. Some would take issue with the phrase "serious criminal offence". There would be instant divisions in the House if hon. Members started talking about what constituted a serious offence during the miners' dispute. This is a difficult area. The hon. Gentleman is reaching out towards a solution, but we have not yet reached it.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bow and Popular)

I was involved in a campaign to ask a local authority not to renew the licence of a trader who had been committing the offence of selling racist literature and of inciting racial hatred. I should not want a situation in which such a refusal to renew the licence was impossible.

Ms. Harman


Mr. Banks

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Hon. Members must not intervene in the interventions of hon. Members.

Mr. Banks

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I gave way immediately. However, if you wish me to preface my giving way with a few sentences, I shall do so.

Ms. Harman

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Banks

I give way to my hon. Friend.

Ms. Harman

My hon. Friend started by saying that in general he thought that clause 43 was acceptable. Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) deal with revoking licences if there is not enough space, if the trader is trading in a class of articles that is not approved, or if a licence holder has persistently failed to trade for the number of days specified in every week. But clause 45(1) (c) (ii) seems to say that it is impossible to appeal against those three grounds of revocation. That is a genuine query. If there is not the same right of appeal, there should be.

Mr. Banks

I am being asked some very detailed questions. While hon. Members make their speeches, I shall seek advice and answer the points raised when I reply to the debate. I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind that I shall reply to their points later.

Ms. Harman

Does my hon. Friend accept that a provision to revoke a licence on the ground of a person having committed an offence that makes him unsuitable is rather vague? It is always best to have a schedule that will lay down which offences render someone unsuitable. Everything that is not scheduled would not render someone unsuitable. That would be better than having subjective definitions of such words as "serious".

Mr. Banks

I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend's suggestion. Perhaps we could start with the Ten Commandments and then work our way through the various other crimes enshrined in the criminal code. However, I accept that we cannot leave the matter open by using a word like "serious". These are matters of detail that can be settled in Committee. My hon. Friend's suggestion of a schedule that specifies every offence would mean a rather large Bill.

Mr. Colin Moynihan (Lewisham, East)

A more general but important point that has worried street traders is that clause 43 (1) (e) contains the words or for any other reason. Surely with that phrase in the Bill, there is no point traders in appealing to a court.

Mr. Banks


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate seems to be turning into a prolonged Committee stage. It might be better if we were to proceed in our usual fashion, which is for hon. Members to have the opportunity to make their own speeches and for the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) to have the opportunity at the end of the debate to reply to the points raised.

Mr. Banks

For that relief, much thanks Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to be as reasonable and as accommodating as possible so that the House can give the Bill a Second Reading.

I agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) that all legislation should be as precise as possible and not open to wide interpretation. Although a Minister might say, "This is in my mind," unless it is enshrined in legislation someone else will come along with a different interpretation that was not in the Minister's mind. Therefore, we want the Bill to be as precise as possible and not contain the vague generalities contained in this clause.

Further discussions are being held on clause 44, which relates to the grant, renewal or revocation of licences. The differences of opinion are not great and I am confident that the discussions will prove satisfactory.

Mr. Dykes

I hope that you will accept my apologies, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for rising when you have suggested that we follow the normal procedure. However, an important point arises on this clause. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) for tolerating such a large number of interventions.

There is anxiety among street traders that, although clause 45 sets out the appeal's procedure — I am not grumbling about that — it nevertheless contains a provision that the borough councils would not be obliged to conduct a hearing at the request of the aggrieved party. It may be going too far to reverse that completely, but will the hon. Gentleman give a partial undertaking that that wording will be reconsidered following discussions with the agencies concerned so that the hearing can be rendered permissive at the request of the aggrieved party?

Mr. Banks

I shall come back to that point when I reply to the debate. The principle appears to be a good one After all, we are dealing with people's livelihoods. They should have ample opportunity to put their case to, and to be satisfied that their case has been heard by, an independent body.

Clause 46, dealing with temporary licences, is acceptable to the traders — unless hon. Members have information that has not been given to me.

On clause 47, the market traders rightly thought that the use of waiting lists offered the possibility of corruption. The boroughs have agreed to withdraw that. It is tied in with instruction No. 1, which allows for inheritance and advertising. Therefore, in a way, clause 47 is now redundant.

Clause 48 deals with fees and charges. The boroughs expressed a wish to vary fees, but the market traders believed that that would lead to an administrative nightmare and they strongly objected to it. I understand that the boroughs have offered to drop the differential charges based on goods sold. That should meet the traders' objections. However, it will be subject to further discussion under clause 48(1) (c).

We come now to the exciting bit—clause 49, which deals with receptacles and containers. The boroughs are willing to concede the traders' request that they do not have to use only the receptacles provided by the boroughs. The boroughs have realised that this is unreasonable.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the provision in clause 48 for differential charges to be based on goods has been dropped?

Mr. Banks

I have dealt with that, but I think the hon. Gentleman was talking at the time, or being talked to or at. He missed what I said, which was that my latest information is that the boroughs have offered to drop differential charging based on goods sold.

Clause 50, dealing with offences, provides new powers to deal with unlicensed trading. That is as much in the interests of the market traders as it is in the interests of the local authority. There have been some objections to subsection (1) (e), which requires traders to produce their licences, duly signed and bearing a photograph, if requested by an authorised council officer or a constable. But, of course, that subsection provides for a reasonable excuse for not being able to comply with subsection (1) (e). Again, "reasonable" is the word that lawyers love to hear because it means fat fees. Indeed, the lawyers tell me that that is true. The Bill is designed to help local authorities and market traders, not lawyers. The boroughs have offered to amend clause 50 so that market traders are required to produce their licence only when they are trading. There was some thought that they might get knocked up at 3 am by a police officer or an inquisitive council officer and be asked to produce their licence. The clause also allows a reasonable excuse to be offered.

Clause 51 concerns the power to remove receptacles and I understand that there is no problem with it. Clause 52 concerns the employment of assistants. Clause 52(1) provides for licence holders to employ an assistant provided that the licence holder is in attendance. On the face of it, that seems unreasonable, as the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) told me elsewhere. The clause is designed to prevent traders from holding several market licences in different London markets and therefore trading at different times and places. That is all the more likely if we are restoring inheritance.

Traders who trade at different times and at different markets deprive local consumers of a service and deny access to others who might wish to trade but cannot because the local authority tells them that all the pitches are notionally full. The stalls at Stratford market in my constituency are always present on Friday and Saturday, but they are not on other days when they might be. The traders might be trading elsewhere. That is to the disbenefit of local consumers. There is a danger here because we have agreed on instruction No. 1. The boroughs have a strong case, but they are making it badly. However, what they are trying to achieve is reasonable.

Mr. Cartwright

I am grateful for the reasonable way in which the hon. Gentleman has presented clause 52, but I am worried about it, as are street traders. It gives the local authority a sweeping power, as does clause 43(1) (d) which provides that a trader might lose his licence if he has without reasonable excuse failed personally to attend at the fixed position to which his licence refers at all reasonable times". What is a "reasonable excuse"? What are "reasonable times"? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that these are sweeping powers and that there might be better ways in which to deal with the problem?

Mr. Banks

I can only agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have said all along that the use of such words leads to insecurity and doubt. Perhaps I may return to that matter later. If the House concedes that the boroughs have a good case, it must be possible to produce acceptable wording in Committee. The boroughs have a case, but it is not well put in the Bill. I am not responsible for the Bill's wording, and I am grateful for that.

Clause 53 concerns savings and clause 54 deals with the repeal of local enactments relating to street trading. I understand that traders are worried about the transitional period and that the boroughs are more than ready to extend it. That is a matter for discussion. Schedule 2 demonstrates far better than I can the patchwork of current street trading regulations in London. We should not allow that to continue. If the GLC is abolished, this is perhaps the last opportunity that we shall have to get some form of regulation.

Street trading is an essential and colourful feature of commercial life in London. Part V introduces a more coherent pattern of trading. I hope that the answers that I have given on the hoof satisfy hon. Members that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, although I shall endeavour to answer hon. Members' questions. I have mixed pleasure in moving the Bill's Second Reading, but I can say one thing with great confidence — that the GLC still remains the finest and most progressive local authority in the land.

8.5 pm

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I cannot go along with the latter comments of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), but I congratulate him on being elected the final chairman of the GLC and on his distinction in moving the Bill's Second Reading in that capacity. I understand that Winston Churchill said that a majority of one is enough.

I take issue with the hon. Gentleman's assertion that one of the great benefits of the Bill is that it will standardise street trading in London. East London is different from south-east London, which is quite different from west London. To impose a common approach is a great mistake and characteristic of the present GLC.

Instruction No. 1 should not have been necessary. We are all suspicious of the Bill. It should not have been allowed to be presented in its present form. There were no consultations between the GLC, national bodies and street traders until the Bill was produced.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway


Ms. Harman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Greenway

I shall give way on no point. It is difficult for the hon. Member for Newham North-West to negotiate on his feet, but I must congratulate him. He did awfully well. He was put in a most difficult position by the GLC. The GLC must take responsibility. The Bill has been before Parliament for a long time—I have had a blocking motion on it for well over six months.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his earlier decision?

Mr. Greenway


Even on Tuesday, the GLC told the street traders that it was prepared to make concessions, but it was not prepared to give them anything in writing. That is what has upset street traders so much, and rightly. It is quite wrong that this Second Reading debate should be turned into a Committee stage, as it would have been but for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, simply because preparation for the Bill has been so bad.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

I shall not give way to anybody.

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Gentleman is being churlish.

Mr. Greenway

I have undertaken not to speak for too long because many others wish to get in. The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has known me long enough to know that I am not churlish. I am trying to make a fairly rapid speech so that others can speak.

My attitude to the Bill is mixed. The measure has some good points, but I am strongly opposed to parts V and VI in relation to street trading. Unless the promoters are prepared to withdraw those parts, I shall divide the House against the Bill, and I warn them to watch out.

I am concerned at the failure of the Bill to tackle other areas which could have been dealt with, including parking problems in London, in particular residents' parking, and the harassment of shopkeepers who are not street traders. Both those issues could have been dealt with.

I welcome the provisions dealing with sex shops and therefore I do not oppose those provisions. I have explained that I oppose parts V and VI, and it is not respectable for the GLC or the promoters to seek to lever the House into accepting what is not acceptable by including provisions such as those dealing with sex shops.

Mr. Soley

The hon. Gentleman is getting into a muddle. He cannot oppose what he claims to oppose without at this stage opposing the whole of the Bill. He may wish to oppose bits of the Bill in Committee, and that will be different. He should be aware that any lack of communication has not been the fault of the GLC. That is the concern of the LBA and Westminster.

Mr. Greenway

I was referring to correspondence with the GLC. I understand that there is nothing to prevent the hon. Member for Newham, North-West from agreeing to delete parts V and VI and allowing the rest of the Bill to stand. Then the important provisions relating to sex shops would remain and we would not oppose the Bill. The responsibility is that of the promoters.

Soho is highlighted, and rightly so, in the provisions dealing with sex shops. St. James' and St. Ann's school in Soho has been known to me for 28 years; it was formerly St. James' and St. Peter's school. In the days of the Windmill and other local theatres, the atmosphere was calmer and more suitable for the schoolchildren than is the case today. It is a disgrace that children must run the gauntlet of three or four sex shops to get to school. We must tighten the law in that respect. The Bill, without parts V and VI, would do that.

Other sex shops exist outside Soho. Indeed, there is one quite near the House. They have proved to be totally offensive to people, who see massive notices announcing, for example, "Explicit sex" and advertising videos and so on. Small children walk past, and there are heavy bouncers on the doors. That is not acceptable in our society and something must be done about it.

I have received a letter from the headmaster of Soho parish school. He has to live with that situation and try to give the children in his care a proper education. He writes: My school, with 110 children aged between three and eleven is in a short street with three sex establishments and a fourth in process of construction. One is next to our main entrance. These unregulated activities are a constant offence to families bringing children to and from school. Men touting for customers constantly harass parents and staff. Children hear offensive language and must walk past displays for topless bars and suggestive pictures. Our visitors are propositioned by the prostitutes who operate from these premises. Perhaps the worst aspect of the street is the fact that a high proportion of unbalanced characters are attracted to it. Groups of men stand about the narrow pavements which we must use whenever we take children out on visits. Noisy crowds of football supporters and young tourists regularly gather here, and from time to time I have to call the police before children can leave the building to go home. Regulation of this is desperately needed. As I am sure you are aware behind all of this lies a wide range of criminal activity, from pick-pocketing to traffic in hard drugs. It is a matter of considerable anxiety to us that all this happens outside the school gates. It would be a shame if the attack on street traders in parts V and VI were allowed to put the other excellent legislation in the Bill in jeopardy. I hope that those parts of the Bill can be withdrawn so that the rest can stand and sex shops brought under control.

The Bill will do nothing about parking, especially the massive double parking that is occurring all over London. The system of residents' parking has largely broken down in Westminster and elsewhere, and the system as it operates in Westminster and some other boroughs would be useless in boroughs such as Ealing.

People are paying perhaps £45 a year to park their cars, though one house may be issued with a number of parking permits. That is cluttering up the streets, but the Bill does not attempt to deal with that. I know of one three-storey house the occupants of which have six cars, each with a permit to park. Perhaps a provision could be added to the Bill at a later stage to deal with the parking problem. Issuing parking permits only to ratepayers, and not to fly-by-night residents, would probably get to the nub of the problem.

Perhaps the Bill could be made to apply to matters affecting shopkeepers as well as street traders. In Ealing and other boroughs some shopkeepers have suddenly become harassed for putting wares outside their shop, although they have been doing so for some years. I accept that wares should not be placed outside shops if the pavements are narrow, but there should be no objection where pavements are wide. I measured the pavement at one location where a complaint had been made and found it to be 30ft wide. Perhaps we should leave well alone, and the hon. Member for Newham, North-West might wish to comment on that when he replies to the debate.

I will explain why I feel so strongly about parts V and VI relating to street traders. Costermongers, street traders and so on are represented by, and run in, families in London and elsewhere in Britain, and that has been the situation for many generations. That is well known and well established. The public like that state of affairs. They know the families on the local pitch and respond to them.

I have had the honour of teaching many a barrow boy from King's Cross, east London, south-east London and elsewhere, and I assure the House that they and their families are the purest gold. They are often what might be called the cement of the local community. To damage them in the way that the Bill seeks to do is not a process with which I could live.

Having been in discussions with street traders, I know that there are at least four points on which they would not budge, and I support them in their view. I will make those four points. First, the nominated relatives clause is, they say, far too restrictive because it would remove rights gained in previous legislation. It is normal for the next of kin to take over. That has been the case for generations, and to seek to disturb that pattern is a big miscalculation.

The second point concerns the loss of right to appeal to the Home Secretary against a London borough's decision on street designation or de-designation. It would mean that the street traders could be thrown out with no appeal. I wonder whether the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) was finally accepted—that an appeal to a magistrates court would be the right way forward.

Thirdly, there is the provision whereby a trader has to be in attendance personally at all reasonable times at his designated stall or pitch. That has not been mentioned. It will mean that the licence holder cannot leave anyone else in charge. I do not believe that any playing about with words will alter that situation. Street traders are honourable people. They would feel vulnerable if that provision were allowed to become law. Who is to say what "all reasonable times" means? At some point the matter will come before a court of law, implying that there would have been a prosecution and serious damage to someone. I cannot stand by and see that go through without my opposition.

Under the fourth provision, which has been touched on only too lightly, a trader is prevented from holding more than one licence, thus preventing him or her from expanding the business. According to my researches—I have talked to people out on the pitches—that means that they would be allowed only one 9ft by 3ft barrow, and all wares and scales would have to be on that barrow, by law. That must be severely restrictive. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West did not refer to that. It is completely unacceptable. On those grounds alone, parts V and VI are complete nonsense.

With respect, I did not think that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West made an adequate case for people being prevented from having a second, or another, licence in another market or even another borough. I could not go along with what he said on that. It is sad that there has not been adequate discussion.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that there has not been adequate discussion. I do not think that I have been so long on my feet in the House since I was elected in 1983. I thought that I was going on for far too long.

I cannot accept that the problems that he is referring to are the responsibility of the GLC. I think that I have understood the mood of the House quite quickly. Hon. Members are scurrying backwards and forwards across the Chamber. I think that it might be of some assistance to the House if I say that I accept instruction 4, or words to that effect, to leave out part V altogether—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] Hon. Members should not cheer too loudly. I shall submit better drafted new clauses in Committee. I feel that there are some clear inadequacies in the Bill. I do not want to take responsibility for them here. Therefore, all the matters relating to street traders will be taken out of the Bill and resubmitted in Committee. I refer to parts V and VI—[Interruption.]

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Greenway

The people in the Gallery—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's speech must not extend beyond the Bar of the House.

Mr. Greenway

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West for responding to the pressure that was put upon him, and for sound reasons. He has responded in a handsome way. It is sad that the Bill ever came to the House in this form and that one of the finest groups of people in London and beyond — the street traders—has been so disturbed and distressed. It need not and should not have happened. But the House of Commons has spoken; democracy has spoken. I am glad to have had some part—

Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

Does my hon. Friend accept that the solution that has been presented to the House enables the Bill to proceed with other clauses that are essential to the good of London, particularly the sex establishment clauses, which Westminster city council in particular is promoting?

Mr. Greenway

I believe that the Bill should proceed. As I always said, parts I to IV are thoroughly sound. I accept that.

Mr. Spearing

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that those parts of the Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has now withdrawn for the time being and subject to further discussion and consultation were initially the responsibility of the London Boroughs Association and its leading authority, Westminster city council? Had the consultation that has taken place almost around the Floor of the House occurred properly at that stage, we would not have been placed in the position in which we found ourselves tonight.

Mr. Greenway

Let me be clear about what the hon. Member for Newham, North-West has agreed. If I heard him aright, he has agreed to withdraw parts V and VI totally. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] As that is so, I thank the hon. Gentleman and the House.

8.26 pm
Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

I have been very concerned about the Bill because in my constituency there is a thriving market —East Street market—which has been there for many years. It is important not only for the street traders and their families who depend on the market, but for the people who live in my constituency who use that market. That has not been mentioned in the debate. It is not only about the rights of street traders, although that is of paramount importance, but about the rights of people who want to use the market and the services that the street traders provide.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), upon whom it fell to promote the Bill, knows of my concerns because I mentioned them to him before the debate. I am grateful to him for taking those concerns on board. It is important to note at this stage that it is vital that we have a Greater London council that can put forward Londonwide legislation on behalf of all the different boroughs. However, the villian of the piece that produced the unacceptable parts V and VI of the Bill was the London Boroughs Association, particularly Westminster city council, which has waged a war on its own street traders. That council is the villain of the piece, but through the procedures of the House it fell to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West to introduce the Bill, including those parts.

Therefore, I absolutely deplore the cheap statements made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who sought to mislead the House and imply that somehow it was the GLC that had responsibility for the Bill, in its substance and conception, which is not the case. The letter that the hon. Gentleman is holding up will show, on page 3 — if he has read it—that the GLC promoted the Bill only on behalf of the London Boroughs Association.

I have spoken about the importance of the rights of street traders and the rights of those who use the markets. During the negotiations on the Bill, I have been grateful for the briefings that I received from the street traders association. I share the concern of members of the association. It is to their credit that they have managed to bring their case to the House, despite the complexities of the Private Member's Bill procedure — an extremely mysterious procedure involving Opposed Private Bill Committees and Instructions—and despite the attempts by the London Boroughs Association and Westminster city council to mystify the procedure to prevent the traders from putting their case. They have understandably felt insecure about the suggestion that these clauses should be included. Rights of succession which they have enjoyed for 20 or more years were threatened suddenly, without proper consultation or argument. That is why they are here in such numbers and should be welcomed by the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and I tabled an instruction about the right of succession. That is one of the main reasons why my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West has agreed to withdraw the clauses. When seeking to argue its case on why my hon. Friend and I should withdraw our instruction, the only point which the London Boroughs Association placed before us as argument was that it was a unique provision in inner London and in licensing legislation. The association must do better than that. If it is going to ask the House to take away a long-standing right, it has to argue its case. The association has failed to do that. If the lack of arguments in the letter from the London Boroughs Association reflects the way in which it consulted the street traders, I am not surprised that we have ended up with such a misplaced piece of legislation.

I was concerned about the lack of a right of appeal against a de-designation of a whole street market. We are talking about taking away many people's livelihoods and an important amenity, without any right of appeal.

I was concerned also about the revocation of the licence of street traders under clause 43. There seemed to be no right of appeal for those whose licences were revoked under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). The cases covered by paragraphs (g), (e), (f) and (i) are so wide that they can be subject to any interpretation. Hon. Members have already referred to paragraph (e) which allows revocation where the licence holder is unsuitable to hold the licence by reason of having been convicted of an offence or for any other reason". That is not good law. We should not allow it. If we say that a person's livelihood will be taken away, we should say why and give that person a proper right of appeal.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Harman

I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has just appeared in the House.

Mr. Bruinvels

In Leicester, one of the striking miners' groups came into the market and was pelted with rotten fruit by various market stall owners, who were informed by Leicester city council that, because they were acting in that way, they could lose their licences. Presumably, under the terms "for any other reason" those people would have lost their licence. That is wrong. I am delighted that the hon. Lady agrees.

Ms. Harman

I said that if people's livelihoods were to be taken away, the grounds on which that was done should be specified in a schedule and they should have a right of appeal. However, an assault on other people who were lawfully using a market might well constitute a ground on which licences could be suspended or revoked. We are not dealing with that. We are going to agree that the grounds should be specified by and agreed between the market traders and the GLC.

I shall not go through all the objections to the measures, because my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West, on behalf of the GLC, has made concessions. I congratulate the street traders on their campaign. It is unfortunate that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West, had to introduce the Bill with such objectionable provisions when, in fact, those measures came from the Conservative-controlled London Boroughs Association, and in particular Westminster city council.

8.34 pm
Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

I declare an interest as the. unpaid parliamentary consultant to the National Federation of Market Traders and, obviously the representative of the city of Leicester market, which has the largest covered market in Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has discussed various points in part V which have concerned me. I have been lobbied substantially by people from all over the country because various stall holders felt that they would lose their livelihood under these measures. This worried me especially because I have had the experience not only of regularly going to the Leicester city market but of working in the market and meeting many of the people who were concerned that their futures would be at risk.

Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn Hatfield)

Does my hon. Friend agree that many of us who represent constituencies close to London feel strongly about this issue, because many of our constituents have the benefit of shopping in London markets and a number of them are street traders? We are grateful for the concession that has been made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).

Mr. Bruinvels

This is a major point. The Conservative party is the party of small businesses. Many of our market traders are small business men fighting bureaucracy and trying to achieve a decent living, but they have had great difficulties with this Bill. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will be delighted at the news that we have heard tonight. I am a little worried as to whether the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) can formally withdraw the parts. We shall hear more on that as we proceed.

I wish to place on the record the objections that came from the Leicester branch of the National Market Traders Federation. The chairman, Graham Chambers, itemised the points of concern and said that in no way did the federation want the Bill to proceed. He referred first to the Abolition of currently enjoyed appeal rights. Those rights are limited anyway, but they would have been further eroded by these measures. Secondly, Mr. Chambers referred to The requirement to carry an identity card with photograph at all times. We are not yet in a police state, thank goodness. The requirement to carry a photograph is a strange way of running one's business. The name of the business has to be put on the side of the stall, but the federation felt that it was wrong to require a photograph.

Mr. Mikardo


Mr. Bruinvels

Thirdly, Mr. Chambers objected to The local Council's right to know where equipment is stored when not in use. The federation wanted me to object forcefully to that measure. The fourth point stated: The requirement for a licence holder to be in attendance in person at his stall at all reasonable times. Many hon. Members accept that there are occasions when the main stallholder cannot be at his place of work. Great family businesses are involved, and a family may run two or three stalls in the same market. Unfortunately, as luck has it, those stalls may not be together and the operators may have to move all over the market. It would have been wrong to insert that provision.

Fifthly, the federation objected to Fines of up to £400.00 for street trading offences such as failing to clear up trade refuse. That is an incredibly high sum. Why do market traders pay for their licences in the first place if they must pay as well a fine for not clearing up refuse? Street traders are honourable people, and they do their best to clear up. Of course, there will always be rubbish at the end of the day in all street markets. Street traders pay rates for the rubbish to be taken away. They become indignant when told they will be fined up to £400 for not clearing up the refuse. This measure would have been unacceptable to them.

The proposal about the compulsory purchase of market stalls by the council was another worry. The stallholder would have lived in fear, not knowing whether his licence was to be renewed from week to week or whether he was to have real tenure in the market. Market stallholders and their families have carried on a great tradition in this country for many years. It would be shocking if suddenly, for no apparent reason, they could face a compulsory purchase order.

I have referred to the unpleasant incident in Leicester when a number of striking miners entered the market trying to collect for other striking miners—of whom, thank goodness, there were only 30 in the Leicester area. Some of the stallholders had had enough. They wanted to carry on with their business, and the striking miners effectively prevented business from being conducted. I do not blame those stallholders who threw tomatoes and rotten fruit at the miners. The miners were preventing people from doing their shopping.

Mr. Soley


Mr. Bruinvels

Another point of concern was the loss of licenses for any other offence, whether connected with the market or not. That was very wrong. It might be that the stallholder had not paid his rates—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must refer to Leicester only incidentally. We are discussing a Bill about London.

Mr. Bruinvels

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am referring to the London boroughs, too, but I have the Leicester market on my mind because that is where I operate from. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I appreciate the stallholders' problems. I digressed for a moment in order to give you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House, the opportunity to learn about the situation in Leicester.

I was also concerned about the loss of the right to transfer the licence to the next of kin upon retirement. Stallholders' families traditionally occupy the same site for hundreds of years. Stallholders may wish to asign the site to their son or grandson, whom they will have trained in the market over the years. The provision would have meant the end of that tradition. Young people learn by experience and by regular attendance in the market. The children and young people who stand in for their fathers or grandfathers at the stall would not have been allowed to inherit it under that provision.

Mr. Banks


Mr. Bruinvels

Of course it is "If'. My constituents, and those of other London Members, were very worried about those provisions.

The provision about "nominated relatives" appears to be far too restrictive. There was also the loss of right of appeal to the Secretary of State against the London boroughs' decision on street designation or de-designation. The provision to the effect that a trader would have to be in attendance personally at all reasonable times caused great concern, as did the provision that prevented traders from holding more than one licence, which would have prevented traders from expanding their business. The Conservative party is the party of the small business. Everyone should have the opportunity to expand his business.

I tabled an instruction — it has not been called —seeking to give the street traders the right of appeal to a magistrates court against the revocation of a licence to trade.

Mr. Tony Banks

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely it is not in order for an hon. Member to refer to an instruction that has not been called. I made a concession earlier so that the debate could be truncated, but I might as well not have done so. The debate is going round and round.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If an hon. Member were to go round and round for more than a sentence or two, I would stop him.

Mr. Moynihan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you clarify a technical problem? As we are debating Second Reading, is it not out of order for the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) to seek to withdraw parts V and VI of the Bill, and is not that action technically totally ineffective?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Perhaps I can help the House. I understand the way in which the debate has been proceeding, but we are debating the Second Reading of the Bill together with instructions 1 and 4. There may have been indications that certain things may happen during the course of the debate. That does not alter the course of the debate. The debate will continue on a broad front for as long as the House wishes. If any hon. Member wishes to move instructions 1 and 4, and if there is time, we may come to a conclusion upon them. At the moment, however, we are debating the Second Reading together with instructions 1 and 4.

Mr. Greenway

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During my speech it was virtually agreed with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that the Second Reading would be agreed, but he gave his word that parts V and VI would not be proceeded with.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That will be a matter for the House to decide in due course. At the moment the House is debating the Second Reading. In no way can I or should I alter that debate because certain things have been said during the course of it.

Mr. Banks

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am responsible for the Bill in the House. Effectively, the GLC is the promoter, although, as you have made clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is not responsible in this case. I do not know whether, speaking as the representative of the GLC, I carry any weight when I say that, as far as the GLC is concerned, parts V and VI of the Bill will not appear in the same form in Committee. I understand that we are now debating the Second Reading, and that the provisions will have to be withdrawn in Committee. However, I have given all the assurances that I can give. Instructions 1 and 4 are not as comprehensive as the assurances that I have given. Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not think that we need any more points of order. I hope that the position has been clarified. We should now proceed with the debate.

Mr. Greenway

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The situation is not as I had thought. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is not saying that the promoters have agreed that parts V and VI are to be wiped out altogether.

Mr. Banks

That is exactly what I said.

Mr. Mikardo

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not understand the difficulty. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has made it clear that he is willing to accept instruction 4. That being so, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) has been abusing the procedures of the House and wasting his own time. He has made a long and passionate speech against the provision that is to disappear. The position is clear. Instruction 4 is to be accepted, so there is no point in talking about the contents of parts V and VI.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With his long experience, the hon. Gentleman will know that this is not the first time that we have debated matters for some hours after the promoters had made their position clear. There is nothing that I can do to pre-empt the debate. We had better get on with it.

Mr. Simon Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you clarify the procedure? I accept that we are debating Second Reading and the two instructions. I understand that we have first to take a decision on Second Reading and then there has to be time left before 10 o'clock—the end of the appointed period—for a debate, if necessary, and a decision, if one is required, on one or more of the instructions.

I understand that that does not apply to the whole of part VI because instruction 4 relates to only one of the clauses in part VI. It also includes the schedule. More importantly, because the promoter has said what he is happy to accept, and the view of the House on that is now clear, the procedural advice that we have to take is that after giving the Bill a Second Reading we should move and pass instruction 4 but we cannot move both instruction 1 and instruction 4. If we move and pass instruction 1, instruction 4 will fall and the intention of the House, which the promoter has accepted, cannot be carried out.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I am grateful to him for helping me on that. The only thing that I need to emphasise is that this debate cannot continue beyond 10 o'clock. If the House wishes to come to a decision on Second Reading and on an instruction, it has to be completed before 10 o'clock.

Mr. Mikardo

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House is grateful for your ruling, but does that not mean that if, say, by 9.30 the debate on Second Reading has not been concluded you would be willing to consider a motion to close the debate to permit instruction 4 to be moved and carried? I doubt whether there would be much debate on it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Chair is never prepared to rule on hypothetical questions. I think that I am getting the sense of the House and I shall keep a close watch on the situation, but I cannot commit the Chair at this stage.

Mr. Bruinvels

I find it very confusing having to follow so many points of order. I was under the impression that we were debating Second Reading and I thought that I was in order in putting forward the views of the National Market Traders Federation, and traders from Leicester. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), who is unable to be present tonight, wishes to support the instruction, and the views expressed by my hon. Friends and me.

I wanted to be constructive. I felt that the House was partly reassured by some of the announcements and signs from the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). However, until he can withdraw part V, we are still on Second Reading, so I feel that I must proceed with my line of argument.

I wish to highlight the point that the National Market Traders Federation was not trying to be disruptive to the Bill. It had accepted other parts of the Bill, but is trying to find common ground for agreement on further amendments so that it can withdraw opposition to the Bill on the specific points that I have itemised. I tabled an instruction that has not been called, so I feel that I am entitled to make my views known.

I make it clear that the National Market Traders Federation is grateful for some of the concessions that it has been given through negotiation, and I know that the London Boroughs Association has been trying to help me, as has the GLC administrative law and parliamentary branch, which, in an important letter that I received only a few days ago, made it clear that it is consulting representatives of the London boroughs, on whose behalf the GLC is promoting the Bill's provisions about street trading. This letter comes from the head of that unit. It is clear that the GLC is acting on behalf of street traders.

Assuming that parts V and VI are withdrawn, the street traders will be happy to go on trading. They will feel that there is less bureaucracy around them. They simply want to get on with earning a decent living. They already have enough difficulties filling in tax and VAT returns. Recently they told me that they considered part V was ill-conceived and unnecessary.

I look forward to seeing the hon. Member for Newham, North-West withdraw part V, subject to the approval of the House. The National Market Traders Federation wants to go on trading and wants the shopping public not to be intimidated. I look forward to the market traders getting on with doing a job and encouraging and helping the country to get good value for purchases made in street markets all over the country.

Mr. Murphy

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

8.56 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

I do not intend to spend much time on the speech made by the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels). However, if I were a member of the National Market Traders Federation, I would pay him not to represent me, and I should do so for two reasons. First, he has no understanding of the small business men's position. He talked about the Conservative party being their representative but seemed unaware that the bankruptcies and receiverships among small businesses are greater than ever before — between 10,000 and 15,000 a year on the latest figures.

More important, the hon. Member said that at one time people in his area threw fruit at miners. Much as I understand the feelings behind the strike, and both sides of it, the hon. Member must know that it is an offence in law to throw objects, whether bricks, fruit, vegetables or anything else. If anybody had been caught doing that, they would have been taken to court and charged with assault. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not blame them for doing that. In other words, he said that he is willing to support people who break the law when they do it on his behalf. It is an incredible position when somebody who claims to be a supporter of law and order is one of those who undermines it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has moved the Bill in an exceptionally co-operative and flexible way. I do not know any hon. Member who has presented such a technical Bill so well. This is particularly so as my hon. Friend, although he is a GLC member, is not responsible for all of the Bill, because many parts of it came from local authorities.

My hon. Friend has accepted instructions 1 and 4. He has withdrawn part of the Bill and will submit new clauses in Committee, and that is sensible. There have been major representations from outside the House today. These have come from street traders who are anxious about certain parts of the Bill. That anxiety was well-known in advance. I must be one of the few hon. Members representing a London constituency who, although he has many street traders in his area, has been visited by only one today. He was extremely helpful and filled me in on some of his concerns. I was able to give him assurances that we might be able to meet those in Committee.

Let us make it clear how we got ourselves into this situation. This part of the Bill, which my hon. Friend has now withdrawn, is largely the responsibility of the London Boroughs Association and Westminster city council—two Conservative-controlled bodies.

Let me read to hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), a letter from the London Boroughs Association, dated 13 May 1985: As far as the established markets are concerned, we would hope that on reflection traders would endorse what we are trying to do. Suggestions that there has not been adequate consultation cannot be sustained: I know that this will go on the record and I hope that people outside the House will take it up because many in the traders groups feel strongly about it. The letter continues: we wrote to the Federations representing street traders as long ago as June 1983, and sent them a copy of the working party report which led to these proposals. Unfortunately we received no reply on that occasion, nor when we wrote again 12 months later, well before the Bill was deposited. In other words, Westminster city council and the LBA are blaming the street traders for not having co-operated.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West pointed out correctly, it was the GLC that had to step in to try to clear up the mess. What he has done today in a flexible and co-operative manner is to get the Conservative party off the hook. If I were to blame him for anything, it would be only for that.

I wish the hon. Member for Ealing, North would vote against this. If he did, I would have notices about it all round Soho. Every householder in Soho would be writing to me about the sex shops because they would all get letters telling them exactly what the hon. Member for Ealing, North said. The hon. Member is never a man to let the facts get in the way of his prejudices. He is the Rentaquote of the Ealing Gazette. That is what his participation in the debate is about. He is desperate to get into the Ealing Gazette. It does not come into my area and I do not read it. If the hon. Member is so desperate to get into the Ealing Gazette, he must be very worried. I suspect that he will be playing centre forward next, or perhaps outside left or outside right, or anything else that will get him out of the political mess that he has got himself into on this Bill.

Mr. Bendall

I have been involved with the street traders for six or eight months in regard to the Bill. It is only recently that meetings have taken place, yet I have been exchanging correspondence with all the people concerned over six months. Why does it take so long for consultation?

Mr. Soley

That is exactly my point. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Will he take the matter up with his Conservative colleagues in the London Boroughs Association and Westminster city council? Or is he trying to tell me that the LBA and Westminster city council are not Conservative-controlled? I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wants to come back again.

Mr. Bendall

I am trying to tell the hon. Gentleman that this is a Bill to do with the powers of the GLC. There have been efforts to have consultations with the GLC for six months, but they have happened only recently.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

The hon. Member is drowning.

Mr. Soley

He is not just drowning; he has drowned. He has probably got the letter from the LBA before him. He should read the penultimate paragraph. The only people who could be blamed, apart from the LBA and Westminster city council, are the very people that Westminster city council and the LBA are blaming—the street traders. I do not take that view. If the hon. Gentleman does, he had better make that clear to the House.

We must consider who will deal with Bills like this if the Government go on with the abolition of the GLC. In a couple of years, if something like this is needed, there will be Bills from every local authority in London. It is nonsense. I have sympathy for the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Shaw). He served on the abolition Committee, as I did. It was clear then that the last thing the Home Office wanted was the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, but the Home Office has been dropped in it by the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Lord Whitelaw spelt out clearly that the Home Office did not want to take on questions in relation to the police and the fire brigade. Now we have another example, illustrated by the Minister's intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member of Newham, North-West, of the Home Office not wanting to get involved in appeals. I can understand that. In his contribution the Minister must tell the House that some sort of appeal system will be supported by the Government and that it is in a form acceptable to the various groups involved. I do not want to give an absolute commitment but I would be concerned about it going through the court system. I am not sure if the court is the right way to deal with it at the first stage. It may be, but I would need more convincing about it. On the other hand, if the Home Office is saying that it will not be involved and that it does not want the courts to be involved, the Minister must tell us who should be responsible. We would welcome clarification on that from the Minister.

If there is not an appeals system and if the GLC is abolished, the danger is that there will be different regulations in each area. Therefore, a trader who moves from one area to another will have to adapt to different regulations. Only the other week the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, on Report on the Sexual Offences Bill, told me at great length why it was impossible to have different regulations in one local authority from another to deal with kerb crawling. If the Minister believes that each area must have different regulations, he should have a word with his hon. Friend to find out who is making the policy in the Home Office, and whether there is to be one policy or many contradictory policies.

I support the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) that, rather than dealing with offenders by using the "serious arrestable offence" definition, it would be more appropriate to have a schedule of offences listed to the Bill. I suspect that the Minister may agree with me about that. A definition of "serious arrestable offence" may omit minor offences, which would not come under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 definition but which could be serious for street trading—for example, dishonesty. A schedule attached to the Bill may be the best way of dealing with that. I am open to arguments, and we shall discuss the matter in Committee, but I should welcome the Minister's views on that.

There has been considerable feeling about the Bill, not merely because of the street traders' views on it, but because of the sex shops in Soho. Most people understand the difficulty facing residents there. I received many letters about it recently when people suddenly discovered that I was speaking in this debate. It is a matter of considerable anxiety and clearly it is difficult to legislate for. As I have said on previous occasions, there is a case for giving local authorities byelaw powers to deal with particular problems in their area, especially those relating to sexual offences. As with the legislation on kerb crawling and with activities connected with prostitution, there is much to be said for having local byelaws to deal with the problem rather than introducing national legislation which affects all areas, regardless of whether there is a problem. I do not believe in spreading the imprint of the law widely, if it is possible to avoid it.

We welcome the Bill. At the end of the day everybody will support it, even the hon. Member for Ealing, North, who has fled the Chamber, simply because there are too many good aspects of it to lose. Most, if not all, Conservative councils in London and the Conservative London Boroughs Association want it. The Greater London council rightly adopted the Bill because they felt that it was right for London as a whole, and wanted to make some amendments. Because my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West handled the matter so well, the Bill will pass through Committee, drastically amended, but better because of it. For that reason the House owes a debt to my hon. Friend.

9.7 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)

I shall briefly speak on behalf of the Government. It is only right and proper that I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), both on the present position which he holds for a short but undoubtedly distinguished time, and on the way in which he moved the Bill. It is not a difficult measure to move, especially if one does not have direct responsibility for it. He handled the brief that he was given with great dexterity and care.

The debate has been peculiarly difficult because there have been many exchanges and many suggestions of change. It is right for me to concentrate on two or three issues, on which the Government wish to comment. The Bill is a general miscellaneous Bill and, like previous general powers Bills, contains a package of proposals. Some of its provisions have clearly excited some comment, and many of them have excited support. The hon. Gentleman and colleagues have generally agreed that contentious issues should be withdrawn and the provisions re-examined.

Since the introduction of the Bill, Departments with an interest have pointed out to the promoters the points to which the Government object in principle. I shall deal with them briefly. Departments have also made several suggestions as to how the drafting might be improved, which are being considered by the promoters. However, taking the Bill as a whole, our objections to it are not so great as to deny it a Second Reading. It is only right that the arguments for and against some clauses should be considered in Committee. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West allowed that to happen by saying that parts V and VI would be withdrawn. No doubt there will be discussion in Committee about what might replace them, if that is the intention of the promoters.

I might add in parentheses that instruction 4 does not specify action in relation to part VI.

Mr. Simon Hughes

indicated dissent.

Mr. Shaw

That is wrong. It is important that, whatever decision the House makes tonight, it must reflect the agreement reached earlier.

I shall deal only with the provisions on which the Government have reservations and which have already featured in the debate. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) chided me about appeal procedures. The problem is that, in part, the Bill is a residuum of other legislation. In the Local Government Act 1982, appellate procedures were not fully described, and it is not easy for us to decide suddenly on the Floor of the House that there should be an appellate procedure while none exists in the parent legislation.

I intervened earlier in relation to section 48 of the 1982 Act, which deals with street cleansing. It contained the odd provision that the Home Secretary was in the appellate position. I am not sure why that was the case, but it was in the Act. I said that the Government do not wish to continue to have that function, and the Bill removes it. Therefore, I do not object to that clause. However, it will be for the Committee to decide how broadly the appeal procedures should be applied. Clause 45(1) (c) states that the magistrates court is a route for licence conditions. That might be a suitable route for appellate procedures under other clauses. However, I must tell the hon. Member for Hammersmith that that would depend upon whether the clause in question is derived from parent legislation which allowed appellate procedures. That is a technical matter that can be discussed fully in Committee. The hon. Gentleman was right to say that the appellate procedure could be important in garnering general approval for the Bill. Obviously, I do not object in principle to appellate procedures.

The Government have some specific comments to make on clause 11, which will widen the definition of a sex shop in schedule 3. My hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler) stressed the improvements that they believed the clause would provide. Among other things, it seeks to bring what are described as "sex encounter establishments" within the controls set out in schedule 3 of the Local Government Act 1982. I appreciate the anxiety that lies behind the proposal, but I must remind the House that, only three years ago, Parliament considered and rejected a similar proposal during the passage of that Act, on the basis that it might amount to the licensing of premises which were merely fronts for prostitution. However, the Government do not object to the principle of that part of the clause if it can be proved that there is a real and pressing need for sex encounter establishments to be brought within the licensing system and therefore made the subject of regulation. With that in mind, my officials have been in touch with the promoters of the Bill, and we hope to reach a decision on the need for the clause before the Bill goes to Committee.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am grateful for the Minister's earlier remarks. Will he confirm that the boroughs have submitted evidence to his Department to justify that clause?

Mr. Shaw

I confirm what the hon. Gentleman says. The boroughs have submitted a deposition of view to which my officials will pay close attention. I expect that we shall reach an accommodation before the Bill goes into Committee.

However, we have some reservations about the drafting of clause 11. We can deal with that, too. If we decide that the proposals in clause 11 are justified by the evidence, we shall seek to iron out in Committee, as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West would wish, the other difficulties.

Another purpose of clause 11 in relation to schedule 3 is to widen the definition of a sex shop. Schedule 3 makes provision for the licensing of sex shops and defines them broadly as premises whose trading consists to a significant degree in the supply of sex articles. If we adopted the provisions of clause 11, the definition of "sex shop" would be widened to cover any premises used for any business which included the supply of sex articles. Thus, even ordinary news agencies which stocked only a small number of the rather milder "girlie" magazines might be classified as sex shops. This matter ought therefore to be looked at in Committee.

Provision is made for the licensing requirement to be waived. I have little doubt that in practice London boroughs would not require ordinary news agencies to be licensed as sex shops. Nevertheless, such premises could still be so classified. I imagine that many of them would object, with good reason, to this. There is provision for boroughs to charge for considering applications for the waiving of licences.

Mr. Banks

A great gulf does not divide us. The House generally accepts that we need to be as precise as possible over the definition of a sex shop. For example, it would not be appropriate for greengrocers and general traders to stock vibrators, but that could happen. It is a possibility. One sees so many articles in shops. It is because of the difficulty involved in applying the existing provisions that the boroughs have sought to widen the definition.

Mr. Shaw

I shall not seek to follow the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, who has extensive knowledge of these devices. There are problems of definition in the application of clause 11. That is why we said to the promoters that we were not happy about the clause as it stands, but I believe that the problems can be resolved. We are ready to discuss with the promoters the nature of the problems that are involved.

We are also conscious that there are those, especially in areas such as Soho, who will seek to use any device which might enable them to circumvent the provisions of schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. We shall want to examine whether there is a gap in the law and, if so, we shall seek a means to deal with it which draws an acceptable balance between catching those whose premises ought to be licensed and safeguarding the interests of the bona fide traders.

We have already held preliminary discussions with the promoters, but we are not yet convinced, on the basis of those discussions, that there is a gap in the law. If, however, the Bill is given a Second Reading, we shall seek to hold further discussions with the promoters to try to take the matter further before Committee.

In view of the concessions which have been made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West on behalf of the promotors, I welcome very much his decision on part IV, which deals with amusement arcades and which he said he was prepared to withdraw. It is not a part of the Bill which the Government could support. His withdrawal has strongly influenced me in determining that the remainder of the Bill should go forward to Committee. The hon. Member's concessions on parts V and VI have already been noted and, it would appear, have been extremely widely welcomed in all parts of the House. With those few words, I shall now be silent and will see the Bill through its Second Reading.

9.19 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

This debate has presented us with a few unusual opportunities. This has been the first opportunity for the House to congratulate itself upon having among its number the chairman of the Greater London council. My view, and that of many hon. Members, is that the GLC should still be in existence after his term of office. The battle over the GLC is not yet lost. There has also been an illuminating illustration of some of the bits of information that the hon. Member has acquired on his way to becoming the chairman of the GLC. Over the months and years I have seen what is on stalls in East street and other street markets, but I have never seen the combination of articles which the hon. Member for Newham, North West (Mr. Banks) asserts are available in some places in London. Perhaps funny things happen north of the river.

More importantly, today we have seen the will of the House, almost in unison, putting right legislation that should never have come forward in that form. Earlier this session, the Government introduced the Civil Aviation Bill. It was clear that there had been no consultation even with their own party. It was equally clear that no support would be forthcoming from the Opposition. The Government therefore had no choice but to withdraw the Bill—and a good thing, too.

The Bill before us today is inaptly named, because it was not instigated by the GLC, although it covers the Greater London area. It was initiated by the London Boroughs Association, which represents only some London boroughs and at most one of the inner London boroughs in which street trading is most relevant. The views presented also did not represent the views of Members of Parliament of the same party as those governing those boroughs. When asked, the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) and others expressed clear dissatisfaction and dissent. The GLC, as the county authority, was given the job of proposer.

There has been a great deal of inaccurate talk, to put it mildly, about such dialogue as took place. An assurance was given that there would be consultation with the Home Office and with the National Federation of Street Traders, but correspondence shows that that consultation did not happen at the stage at which it was promised.

Rightly, therefore, there was a strong reaction from the community of people who saw their interests and their contribution to the life of the capital threatened in an unparalleled fashion. There was intense lobbying of Parliament by street traders from many boroughs, not least —I say this jealously because it is important to my borough—those from the borough of Southwark. As we saw at the meeting in the Grand Committee Room on the Government's proposals to remove the guarantee relating to the transfer of GLC housing stock to the boroughs, people whose interests were threatened came along and made their views known. On that occasion, representatives of the ex-GLC estates in Southwark clearly outnumbered those from any other borough. I believe that the same is true on this occasion and I compare my experience with

that of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). Johnny Wallington, Secretary of the Federation of Street Traders, is himself a Southwark trader. He and other street traders have justifiably led the fight, but it should never have reached this stage.

A series of instructions were put down by Members in all parts of the House seeking a satisfactory outcome on street traders and street trading. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and I went for the jackpot and put down an instruction to remove part V of the Bill. We also said that clause 54 and schedule 3 had to go. In our view, it would be much better to get those provisions out of the way and then reintroduce elements that people regard as important rather than compromising with assurances which probably will not deliver the goods. To claim some small measure of historical credit in advance, I hope that when the history of the battle for the streets and street traders of London is written, the Southwark and Bermondsey and Woolwich instruction will be seen as the instruction that got street trading back on the rails where it should always have been.

I have a few important comments to make. I shall refer first to the importance of the issue, and then raise a few technical matters that I hope that the Minister and others will respond to. Inner London is desperately short of businesses, jobs and opportunities for youngsters who wish to work where they were born and brought up. One obvious way of giving a youngster a future is to enable him to go into his family's business. My constituency has lost 20 per cent. of its population in 10 years, and other constituencies will have lost similar numbers. People have moved away because the jobs just are not there. Thus, threats to the prosperity of the inner city must be resisted.

The inner city has, above all, serviced and fed this nation's capital. Borough market, which is a wholesale market, and the old Covent Garden market have produced the goods to be sold on the streets. Street trading has been part of the employment and service tradition of our capital. Some of those who came to lobby us were the third generation to be involved in street trading. Some have carried on the same stall, on the same pitch, selling the same goods for years. I think, for example, of Hodges the fish stall in the Blue in Southwark and of many stalls that are part of our essential commercial fabric. One need only go down The Lane on any Sunday morning to realise that it was the same 10 or 20 years ago. The place is packed, because people want to shop there. Indeed, that place was chosen by a television programme in order to illustrate the other day the vitality of that part of our heritage.

It is important to ensure that every job is preserved for our youngsters and their families. Before I came to the House, I was involved in running a youth club just off the Old Kent road. We tried to get an employment project going and we considered what we could do to give teenagers work. Their first choice was to run a market stall. They saw that as representing security and as something that would reward effort. They believed that if they worked hard, they would do well, and that if they did not work hard, they would not do well. They could see the relationship between input and reward.

It is important to defend ourselves from unjustified attacks that are not supported by most of the London boroughs and to try to increase opportunities for trade, particularly in food and vegetables. If there is no trade in London, people will not want to live here and if no one lives here, what is the point of having such a capital city?

At present the Government are trying to abolish the GLC. It is always necessary to have safeguards against the possibility of a local authority abusing its power. That is why appeal procedures are important. If a borough suddenly decides to de-designate a street market, it is always important that the people should be able to say that they want to challenge that. It is always important that they should be able to say, "You can't suddenly deprive us because you want to build a hypermarket or supermarket, or because you want to close the road." I should prefer the appeal to go to the county tier of government and to an elected tier.

Similarly, if a borough council turns down a planning application, I prefer the matter to go to an elected strategic planning authority. A Government Department with a Minister of the Crown should not be the responsible body. To some degree I make my next remarks mischievously, although there is an element of truth to them. When appeals go to the Home Office from boroughs such as mine, where the Tory vote may be 5 or 10 per cent., it is ludicrous that the decision should be taken by a Tory Minister. Of course, the situation could be quite the reverse in other boroughs. But the point is that it is much better for such appeals to go to an elected authority that can take into account proper views. If there is a prospect of some reincarnation of the GLC, I hope that that body rather than a Department will act as the court of appeal. That point should be borne in mind.

I do not question the integrity of those in the court system. My argument is that all that the courts do is review whether a decision was correctly arrived at. They do not allow someone to challenge the decision. If someone goes to the magistrates court for a review of an administrative decision, that person wants to ask whether the arguments were considered and whether the court can intervene. That is not what this sort of appeal system is about—the de-designation of streets, refusal of licences and so on. We must have an appeals system where the merits of the case can be heard and argued, with notice of the arguments given to the parties concerned. One thing that we do not have in our appeals system in a planning case is a provision to ensure that the appellant knows exactly what he is arguing against.

I wish to draw one parallel. Until recently the Home Office was in charge, indirectly, of the licensing of London cabs. That responsibility has now been transferred to the Department of Transport. The decision on who should hold a cabbie's licence is taken by a commissioner. I have been trying for months to find out the criteria set out in a document in the Department of Transport for someone being refused a licence. Perhaps someone has committed an offence and his licence is revoked. The return of the licence is discretionary. The livelihood of a cabbie could be lost for five years, but he will not know the criteria used in the decision to withhold his licence. It will not be good enough to have a similar provision for street trading and market stalls. People need to know the exact criteria and arguments. They need to know the conditions with which they are required to comply.

Mr. Bendall

I refer the hon. Gentleman to new clause 7 of the Transport Bill, which was passed in the House the other evening, which does alter matters.

Mr. Hughes

I was not aware of that. If it improves the position, it will be welcomed by the large number of people who serve our community in London as cab drivers.

We are left with the anomaly that the Bill has been trying to do two things — it has tried to produce a common system yet excluding the City of London, and not do what the Government have said for months they want to do, which is to allow decisions to be made by the boroughs. If Southwark wants to continue a certain practice, it should be able to pilot a Bill. It is important to start from the premise that the interests for which people have fought over the years will be upheld. The consolation for me and others who have participated tonight is that that will now be the position. The people who felt that their livelihoods were threatened know that there is no longer the threat that existed at seven o'clock this evening.

People may think that being a street trader is an easy life. If they stop to think, they will realise that it involves work out of doors in all weathers, and that is not easy. They will also realise that it is not a cheap way to operate a business. There is not a lot of space for the market stall. The trader does not obtain any business if he is not there.

I shall cite some figures that show the cost clearly. A 3 ft 6 in by 9 ft stall in The Lane in Southwark costs about £960 a year. Comparable rent for a shop in the Old Kent road at one end of The Lane—a shop that is 50 times bigger than the stall—is about £1,140 a year. Therefore, it is not cheap and it is not easy. It is not reasonable to say that the traders should be restricted as to whether someone can help them or whether they can leave the business to buy stock for the stall on a good day. There must be flexibility. Small business men are trying to run their businesses. They need to be able to do so in a way that allows their businesses to develop as they wish. Their investment brings their rewards. That is as it should be and why the markets are relatively healthy. After tonight, we shall have a Bill that improves drainage facilities, regulates sex establishments and ensures that the environment in central London is improved. We shall also have a Bill which no longer threatens some people's proper interests. They will be assured that their case has been vindicated. I hope that the House welcomes that on behalf of hundreds of such people, their families and successive generations.

Hon. Members might like to take with them as a postscript the thought that the stall at the entrance to Westminster tube station has been there since 1923. It is run by one of my constituents and has served hon. Members well. It would have been folly to abolish the right to run such stalls and the right to inherit them.

9.36 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I represent a good many stallholders in Brixton market and tabled instruction 1, which I shall later ask leave to withdraw.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will take account of some of my constituents' worries because, although parts V and VI are to be withdrawn, I understand that other provisions will be put forward.

I have consulted my local authority — Lambeth — which has been extremely helpful and made constructive suggestions. It has been much more helpful than the London Boroughs Association and the solicitor to Westminster city council, who wrote to me in not very helpful terms about a compromise about rights of succession. I want existing rights of succession to be preserved. They are not terribly generous and exist only if somebody is in business on a stall when he dies, makes a nomination in favour of a relative before death and that option is taken up within 10 days of death. It is not a wide-ranging power, but it should be preserved in the Bill, in whatever form it reappears.

One of the limbs of instruction 1 is the advertising of vacancies for stalls. Lambeth borough council is anxious that ethnic minorities should have the proper right to engage in market trading. The present pattern of trading could conceivably exclude people who have, or whose parents have, come relatively recently. West Indians in Brixton and Asians in other parts of London could be prevented from getting into a market if the network is closed. The advertising of available market licences is much the fairest way in which to proceed and it is preferable to the discretionary power to keep a waiting list.

As the Bill stands, by 31 December 1986, a local authority will have a chance to de-designate a street as a trading street. That means that streets could be de-designated in the next couple of years and there could be no appeal against the decision. That would be wrong.

Clause 43(1) provides the power to revoke certain licences on the grounds, for example, that the street is overcrowded or that the local authority has prohibited trade in a certain class of goods. Such revocations are not subject to appeal.

That is wrong. It would be too easy for a local authority to say that a street was overcrowded and then be able to pick and choose between one trader and another. There must be a right of appeal against any such decision, although I agree that some of these decisions need not be examined in magistrates courts. They involve decisions about social policy and are amenable to be decided by the Home Office or Department of the Environment under the appeals system that now exists on planning matters. I insist on behalf of my traders, however, that rights of appeal are preserved in respect of all revocations of licences and not just on certain grounds.

Proposals exist in the Bill for disqualifying a market trader on the grounds that he has committed an offence of for "any other reason." I was not convinced by a letter that I received from the secretary of the LBA, who wrote to say: unsuitability to hold a licence due to conviction or any other reason is well precedented in all licensing legislation during recent years. That is not true. I was concerned, as Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, with licensing under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Estates Agents Act 1979. We used a formula which is much more appropriate for the grounds on which a person can lose a consumer credit licence, which might be a much more serious matter than losing a market trading licence.

I refer my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West to section 25 of the Consumer Credit Act, which seems to contain the right formula. It says that a person may lose his consumer credit licence if he commits any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, or violence"— that seems acceptable as a precedent—or if he contravened any provision under this Act"— relating to matters special to consumer credit—or if he practised discrimination on grounds of sex, colour, race or ethnic or national origins in, or in connection with, the carrying on of any business"— and finally—if he engaged in … practices appearing to the Director General of Fair Trading to be deceitful or oppressive, or otherwise unfair or improper". That definition of an offence or conduct enabling a person's licence to be taken away is sufficiently narrow and relevant to be incorporated in street trading legislation, instead of the broad disqualification in the Bill as drafted in relation to "any offence" and "any reason."

Another matter in the Bill which causes traders concern is the ability of the local authority to ban or debar traders from trading in a particular product in a particular licensed street. Some traders fear that a big commercial interest which wants to develop a shop or trade in a specific item might try to influence the local authority to debar street traders from trading in that product. That would be anticompetitive—which should influence the Minister—and it worries me and market traders. Assurances should be built into the Bill, when redrafted, to ensure that such anticompetitive practice cannot take place.

Some people believe that market trading is an easy occupation. It is not. It is often carried on for a lifetime. Indeed, among the many people who have come to lobby me today have been traders of 20, 30 and 40 years' standing.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

Members of a trader's family will often trade in a street market for more than a lifetime, carrying on over successive generations. Many families in my constituency have traded in the same street market—indeed, in the same location in that market—for up to 120 years That reinforces the point that my hon. Friend has been making about next-of-kin provisions.

Mr. Fraser

My hon. Friend is right, and the trade over the generations builds up a tradition of quality, honesty and accessibility. The public know that these traders are not here one day and gone the next. They are trading from one generation to the next — sometimes, as my hon. Friend points out, for over a century. They pay expensive fees and are subject to the sort of restrictions which do not apply to most traders who operate from shops.

One must recognise the great discipline that already exists among market traders, and the responsibility that they have to show. There are restrictions that are not shared by many other people in commerce.

I am not against a recasting of the Bill that preserves the rights of appeal and of succession, provides for the advertising of pitches and ensures that traders are given a reasonable deal, providing the right balance between the long-standing interests of market traders and those of the community. At the moment the Bill is not drafted in the right way. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West has dealt with the matter so constructively, and has given us the chance of redrafting in Committee.

Mr. Bendall

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

9.45 pm
Mr. Tony Banks

I shall say a few words to sum up, and then no doubt we can move to a speedy conclusion.

The general debate has been good and interesting. One would not have thought that on a Bill termed the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill, we would have so much live excitement. We have seen the House operating in perhaps its most effective form. There has been a genuine debate, which has allowed hon. Members to put the various points that have been expressed to them by their constituents. We are now reaching a stage where honour is satisfied on all sides.

A general powers Bill is perhaps something that hon. Members do not fully understand. The GLC puts the Bill before the House but the provisions within it are given to the GLC by the London boroughs through the London Boroughs Association. My council assumes, initially anyway, that the boroughs have done their job properly. Having heard the comments made this evening, I believe that it is clear that the London Boroughs Association has not done its job in the efficient way in which it should. That bodes ill if Lady Shirley Porter gets her hands on the powers that she will have if the GLC is abolished.

Let me say, so that no one misunderstands, that the GLC received the various provisions under part V. The council had no option but to put them forward. Since the Bill was published, it has been moving might and main to try to fill in the serious gaps that the Bill presented. Clearly, much more time is needed. Therefore, it is more sensible and seems to answer the points of not only hon. Members but the market traders, that on behalf of the promoters I should accept instruction 4, which deletes part V. One takes into account all the points that have been made by my hon. Friends the Members for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who were assiduous in their pressures upon me, saying just how deformed the Bill was. Therefore, I am delighted—

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

In view of the words that the hon. Gentleman used in the earlier part of the proceedings, when he referred to part V, will the assurance that he has just given be translated into an undertaking that the GLC will agree to exclude part V by amending the Bill?

Mr. Banks

With all due respect, the hon. Gentleman is seeking to slow things up. He has not been in attendance throughout the whole debate. He must know the correct procedures. I trust that we shall now give the Bill a Second Reading without a vote. I have said that we shall accept instruction 4, which should be moved formally. That will mean that the House has given an instruction to the Committee, not the hon. Member promoting the Bill. I suggest that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) brush up on his procedure. If he stayed a little longer he might understand the matter more fully.

We have had a very interesting debate.

Mr. Fraser

I shall not move instruction No. 1. There will be some redrafting, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has given me an assurance that the rights of succession will be protected in that redrafting.

Mr. Banks

Absolutely. I give a categorical assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) so that he can assure his constituents. In my borough of Newham not only is there a right of succession within the immediate family but the council has transferred the licence to others outside the family when it is clear that the concern has been part and parcel of the business. The right can be extended a little further.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his concessions. They will mean a great deal to traders outside London who were afraid that, if the measures had been introduced for London, they would have spread. We have received many representations from traders on that point.

Mr. Banks

My hon. and learned Friend assiduously attends to the interests of his constituency. He serves Leicester well by his presence in the House. I am happy to have that placed on the record.

The Minister made a number of points on clause 11. On the interpretation of a sex shop, I had the impression that, at a later stage, as commerce develops, one might go to a street corner trader and ask for two pounds of King Edwards and—to use the immortal words of the barber —"a little something for the weekend, sir". I am sure that we can reach agreement on clause 11 as well.

With the various assurances which have been given and excepting instruction 4—I trust that it will be moved formally—I hope that the House will give the Bill with its important provisions a Second Reading without a Division.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed


That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Part V, clause 54 and Schedule 2.—[Mr. Simon Hughes.]