HC Deb 16 February 1994 vol 237 cc942-3
14. Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has had on the control of car boot sales.

Mr. Baldry

We regularly receive correspondence on the subject of car boot sales from those who are concerned about the problems that badly managed events can sometimes cause and from others who regard car boots sales as a useful activity which is already adequately regulated.

Mr. Griffiths

As the Federation of Small Businesses fears that the abolition of market franchise rights will harm traditional village and town markets, what steps will the Minister take to ensure that honest market traders and consumers are protected from the minority of car boot sale cowboys?

Mr. Baldry

There is a battery of regulation and legislation already in place which can be used to control car boot sales. It may be helpful to the House if I state that the Acts are the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Theft Act 19768, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions.) Act 1976, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Local authorities already have a wide range of powers to manage car boot sales. One wonders what further regulation the Labour party wants. Does it simply want to ban car boot sales altogether?

Mr. Lidington

Will my hon. Friend please bear it in mind that well-managed car boot sales provide a useful source of income to many charities and voluntary organisations? Will he try to avoid producing yet more well-intentioned legislation, which ends up letting the villains escape and trammelling decent people in yet more burdens of red tape?

Mr. Baldry

As I have already made clear, there are at least eight Acts of Parliament that apply to the control of car boot sales. My hon. Friend makes a good point that there are large number of organisations, including voluntary and charitable organisations, that find car boot sales a useful way to legitimately raise funds.

Mr. Vaz

What is the real reason why the Government have reversed their policy on market deregulation from their statement contained in a letter from officials to the National Association of British Market Authorities on 11 March 1991? Will the Minister confirm that a change in franchise rights will allow car-boot cheats to thrive at the expense of honest traders? It will be a crooks charter. Does not he accept that that failure to reimburse local authorities for any change in franchise rights would, in the words of his officials, infringe the European convention on human rights as it amounts to expropriation without compensation? When will the Minister clear up that mess?

Mr. Baldry

I am somewhat boggle-minded at the idea that removing archaic rights given by the Crown many years ago to local authorities is somehow in contravention of the European convention on human rights, but I believe that anything can be said at Question Time. The point that the hon. Gentleman makes is completely bogus. The only right that market franchise rights give to a local authorities is to be able to object to a market being within six and two thirds of a mile on that day. As most car boot sales take place on a Sunday, it follows that market franchise rights have little, if any effect, in controlling car boot sales.