HC Deb 22 May 2000 vol 350 cc807-22 '(1) Appropriate Language. An appropriate language in section 4(4)(b) is one of the following: (2) Reasons for Seizure. The reasons for the seizure are that the person having possession or control has committed a Park Trading Offence, namely (insert offence). (3) List of Items Seized. (List the items seized) (4) Rights and Liabilities. The person having possession or control and from whom the thing or things were seized shall be informed that—
  1. (a) the Secretary of State may retain the thing or things until the conclusion of court proceedings;
  2. (b) the Secretary of State may sell the thing or things and use the proceeds to pay his costs if the person having possession or control is found guilty of an offence;
  3. (c) the court may order the thing or things to be forfeited and destroyed if found guilty of an offence;
  4. (d) the person having possession of the thing or things may make representations to the court about their disposal before the court makes an order.'.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Last Wednesday, I was interrupted by the Government, who were obviously nervous about further debate on the Bill. We could have covered the ground in a short time then. However, I can assure the House that I shall not take up the whole hour that has been allocated.

The amendments, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) so ably moved, raise some important issues. Clauses 4 and 5 are likely to have unintended consequences. We want to achieve the highest catering standards in our royal parks.

It emerged that there are insufficient vendors of such goods in the royal parks, as the Minister said: Licensed traders are losing a significant amount of business. Their turnover has been substantially reduced—by about 50 per cent. since the mid-1990s.—[Official Report, 17 May 2000; Vol. 350, c. 373.] He added that illegal traders are proliferating and making as much as £1,200 a day. I asked him how clauses 4 and 5 will deal with the problem in practice, as the parks police will be able to seize the carts but not the perishable goods. So the Bill contains a deterrent against the parks police acting effectively and pre-emptively by seizing carts as soon as they pass through the gates. I cannot understand why they seem to tolerate carts being set up, large queues forming and vending taking place. Why do not they seize the illegal carts as soon as they enter the parks?

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

I may be able to help my hon. Friend. I understand that the Bill will require an arresting officer to separate the imperishable machine from its perishable contents. He may have to remove the boiling fat to impound a vendor's machine.

Mr. Chope

I am sure that my hon. Friend's reading of the Bill is correct, and I suggest that the Government rethink the proposal. They should amend the Bill before it goes to the other place to enable the parks police to seize perishable goods as well, or the lacuna will defeat the object.

In the past month, I dealt with a constituency case relating to gypsies. The police on the ground have to deal with the legislation passed by the House; and passing legislation raises people's expectations—in this example, those of people affected by gypsies. As soon as the gypsies arrive, the police say, "There are all sorts of practical constraints on what we are able to do. We need hundreds of officers. Where shall we move the vehicles to? What shall we do about the women and children and access for the emergency services?" When I visited my local police station I was told, "Unfortunately, the legislation that you passed in the House of Commons is not much practical use in this situation." I fear that we are entering the same territory with these provisions.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

How can the Minister guesstimate the daily turnover of the average trader in a royal park when he is unable to tell us the prices of their products or the volume of their daily sales?

Mr. Chope

I hope that the Minister can answer my hon. Friend. Government spokesmen have been quick to say that rip-offs take place, but I cannot understand whether the general public are deterred from buying goods from authorised vendors because of the price or because there are too few such vendors in the parks. Both explanations are possible, but people seem to choose to buy from illegal vendors despite unclean conditions and what the Minister would describe as rip-off prices.

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)

In this week of the Chelsea flower show, when the prices of hamburgers and hot dogs at Chelsea are higher than those charged by vendors in the royal parks, who is committing the rip-off? Might it not appear that those selling the hot dogs and hamburgers have a rather competitive commodity?

12.15 am
Mr. Chope

My right hon. Friend makes a good point.

One of the problems may well be that the royal parks must recover from the licence fees that they charge their authorised vendors sufficient money to be able to continue their other responsibilities. If we burden the parks police with the extra expense involved in having to look after the goods that have been seized, and storing them so that they can be restored if the courts make an order in due course, how will the additional costs be recovered other than by the imposition of increased fees on authorised and licensed vendors? I suspect that one of the biggest rip-offs in the royal parks now is caused by the fact that the licence fee that authorised vendors must pay is far higher than it should be, and that, if it were lower, charges to customers could be reduced.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying rather wide of the amendment.

Mr. Chope

I accept your reprimand, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)

Nevertheless, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend is right, in the strict terms of the amendment, to draw attention to the issue of enforceability. As you will know, that issue has punctuated consideration of our governance of the royal parks throughout our dealings with the subject. I refer again to the 1872 and 1926 Acts that I mentioned earlier, and, in particular, would ask my hon. Friend to recall Second Reading of the Bill, when precisely this issue was raised.

Mr. Chope

I shall leave my hon. Friend to make his own speech, which he is extremely well qualified to do. I observe that he has brought some thick tomes into the Chamber. My point is limited to the practicality of what the Government propose. I fear that, in due course, there will be a demand for fresh, amended legislation, because the Bill in its current form will not achieve the purpose that the Government intend.

What could be simpler than this? Anyone who is a potential illegal vendor takes his cart into the park; as soon as he enters the gates, he should be arrested. It should be possible for both the cart and the perishable items on it to be seized and taken away. If that happens regularly, it will not be long before people do not even bring their carts in.

I suspect that the parks police will be inhibited about seizing the property as soon as it enters the park, because they will not know what to do with the perishable items. If the vendor sells some of those items, there will be less of a problem for the parks police to pick up later. As a consequence, the parks police will not be so quick to make seizures and the illegal trading will continue, as will the £1,200 a day that these people can make.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

I am at a loss to understand what all the fuss is about. I pass these vendors hundreds of times, and I have never been tempted to buy the disgusting, revolting, smelly rubbish that they sell. Why on earth do we need legislation?

Mr. Maclean

Very tasty, I think.

Mr. Chope

I am confining my remarks to the context of this group of amendments. I know that engaging in a Second Reading debate would not find favour with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker; that is why I am not challenging the principle of the Bill. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), I am a great believer in the marketplace. I suspect that at present there is insufficient legitimate provision of hamburgers and—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is about to do what he said he was not going to do.

Mr. Chope

I am sorry that my hon. Friend tempted me in that direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Leigh

I apologise.

Mr. Chope

No, I will accept the responsibility.

I know that many of my hon. Friends are keen to speak, but let me tell them that I think it would be worth while if, in this curtailed debate, we allowed the Minister sufficient time to answer some of the points that have been made.

Mr. Nicholls

We were told earlier that we do not need to have this debate as this matter is uncontentious. We can do no better than look at the headings on Madam Speaker's selection list of amendments to realise that nothing could be further from the truth. The first is: Powers of seizure, retention and disposal of property. I cannot think of anything more contentious than seizure of privately owned property, which is retained and disposed of by the state. Amendments Nos. 6, 28, 22 to 25 and 7 deal with that issue, but if the legislation had been properly thought through, it could have been addressed in the Bill.

The amendments deal with the legislative brutality of the Bill. Clause 4 could be straight out of Monty Python. It states: A park constable who reasonably suspects that a person has committed a park trading offence may, subject to subsection (2), seize anything of a non-perishable nature. When policemen try to seize anything of a non-perishable nature they do so at their own risk.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, consider what might happen if you were a special constable and you went into the park to try to seize goods of an non-perishable nature. That may seem unlikely, but it makes the point. You may be confronted by a hot-dog van. I have never prepared hot dogs in a royal park—it has never come to that—but I assume that it requires a vat of boiled fat. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) seems to think that hot dogs are greasy. What is a policeman supposed to do? Is he supposed to say that he will seize the vat but not the fat? Is he supposed to require the fat to be emptied out of the container before he can seize it? Is he supposed to do that himself? Is he supposed to require the person to whom it belongs to empty the fat for him?

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Under the new schedule that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) has tabled, is the policeman required to ask the vendor to remove the fat in a western variant of Serbo-Croat?

Mr. Nicholls

I knew my hon. Friend was going to ask me that, and I am grateful to him—I will see him afterwards. I shall deal with new schedule 2 later. Although it is the inspiration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), I am not sure that it is as good as the other amendments in the group.

Mr. Bercow

Amendment No. 28(c) refers to an assessment under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. There are important arguments about the seizure of property and the rights of the private person, but why should a constable imperil his health in the removal of said property on the assumption that he is wearing a pair of gloves and a mask?

Mr. Nicholls

The formula to be used on these occasions is to say that my hon. Friend will make his own speech in his own way. I shall come on to the COSHH regulations, because they are relevant under paragraph (c) of amendment No. 28. Before I get there, however, it is important to consider the dilemma that will face an officer who is about to seize goods of a non-perishable nature.

There is no requirement in the legislation for an officer to do that. It merely says that he "may": it does not say that he shall. It does not require him to seek the assistance of the person to whom this equipment belongs. There is a right at common law for any officer making an arrest in the execution of his duty to require a passing member of the public to help him in that seizure. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough is a barrister, so he can confirm that. It seems inconceivable that a policeman could require some passer-by to help him to seize an errant hot-dog van with a view to getting rid of the fat, so that he is left with equipment of a non-perishable nature.

I say that not in a misplaced attempt at levity, but to make the following point. I did not always have to come here to earn a living. I used to have an honest day job: I was a lawyer. I was a humble country lawyer—well, a country lawyer. One of the things that I had to do was deal with legislation passed by the House which simply had not been thought through. This legislation has not been thought through in any shape or form. The idea that the legislation enables a policeman practically or safely to go around arresting and seizing equipment owned by hot-dog vendors is nonsense.

Mr. Maclean

I had a feeling that my hon. Friend was about to pass on. Before he does so, has he an answer to the question that was posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) when we debated the matter the last time? What advice does he give to the policeman, or to the chestnut seller who finds that his hot brazier has been confiscated and then must find somewhere to put his hot nuts?

Mr. Nicholls

I know that the formula on this occasion is not to follow my right hon. Friend, but it is a fair point. The legislation is for all practical purposes unworkable. If any hot-dog vendor was concerned that his equipment would be seized, he could ensure that the perishable and non-perishable elements were so intermingled as to make it impossible.

To be fair to my right hon. Friend, he has in his amendments anticipated the problems that the measure would cause. I draw the House's attention to amendment No. 28: Where a park constable exercises his powers— one might say at his peril— under subsection (1) above he shall— (a) ensure that he provides facilities for the safe removal from the park of any perishable material by the person having possession or control. Indeed, but how is that to take place? I do not blame my right hon. Friend for posing that question. He puts down the obligation, but had the matter been properly thought through by Treasury counsel, that would have been addressed. I know why it has not been addressed. I will come to that point, but the next point that my right hon. Friend makes is so absolutely self-evident that one wonders again why the Government did not deal with it themselves.

The amendment says that the park constable shall give to the person having possession or control a document, in an appropriate language. I can see from new schedule 2 that a number of languages are selected for that purpose. They include English, French, Spanish, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Azeri, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Estonian, Georgian, Greek, Hungarian, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovene, Turkish and Ukrainian. I wondered how that would address the situation of a hot-dog seller who had decided to diversify into curry. I did not understand why there was no reference to Urdu, Gujerati, or a language such as those. I understand from my right hon. Friend that he chose that formula because the Minister had opined that the legislation was being introduced on the assumption that all dodgy hot-dog vendors are Albanian.

If I made such a remark outside the House, or even inside it, I would be accused of being racist, but my right hon. Friend has had to draft legislation to deal with the Minister's preconception and, indeed, obsession with the idea that anyone who is trying to earn a modest living as a hot-dog vendor in a royal park is likely to be able to understand only eastern European languages. I find that remarkable. The only criticism that I have of my right hon. Friend is that it seems that he has not considered that the various languages that he has listed in new schedule 2 may not be sufficient, but it is a fair point all the same.

The next point is perhaps the most important in relation to amendment No. 28. It says that the park constable shall (c) not remove any article until he has performed an assessment under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations that the removal of the thing or things would not create a hazard for his or others' health and safety. When I read that, I felt young again. I felt that my lines were going—I felt young and vital. I recognised those very words from all those years ago, when I was the Minister in charge of the Health and Safety Executive. Once upon a time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border, too, was young. I think that he is casting his mind back to those days, when he, too, was responsible for assessments under what are now known as the COSHH regulations.

12.30 am

Those who are not familiar with the COSHH regulations might think that they cover not so much vats of fat as vats of sulphuric acid. However, that is not true. As many small business men know, any substance on their premises that might be hazardous to health—even vats of stored water—have to be assessed under the COSHH regulations. That issue has not been addressed in the Bill. Are we really in the business of requiring our brave police officers to have to arrest hot-dog vendors without performing the type of assessment under the COSHH regulations that people in other situations are required to make? I think not. The issue should have been addressed in the Bill, but it has not.

I am not sure that the drafting of amendment No. 28 is exactly right. However—to be fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border—what is one to do with a Bill that is so woefully drafted that one has to bolt on provisions that should have been thought through in its very philosophy?

Mr. Bercow

May I direct my hon. Friend's attention to amendment No. 25, one of the possible merits of which is that, in seeking to limit the period in which the non-perishable goods remain confiscated from the vendor, the vendor will thereby at least have the chance to make his own legitimate living—whereas if clause 5 were not to be amended, the likelihood is that, for a very significant and possibly unlimited time, while the vendor was struggling to pay the costs due to the Secretary of State, he would be prevented from making a living? That cannot, on the face of it, be justified or in accordance with the Government's protestations of supporting the underdog.

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend is exactly right, and he takes me on to the next amendments in this group. His mistake, however, is to impute to the Government a desire to help small business men to stand on their own two feet. He says that he is not sure that the clause will enable them to do that, but I think that he is being misled by his own good intentions. I do not find anything in the Bill—in its structure or its ethos—that indicates for one moment that the Government are trying to help small business men. What they are trying to do is to suppress small business men. That is what the Bill is all about.

A moment or two ago, I said that I had been trying to work out what it was about the thinking behind the Bill that was so defective that the Government would propose the legislation, but overlook considerations of practical points such as COSHH regulations and the appropriate language for the warning document. I think that it comes down to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border said a little earlier about the danger of consensus. The Bill was never meant to be scrutinised. The mind behind the Bill—if one can talk about such a thing in relation to this Bill—never considered the legislation's practical consequences, such as the dangers inherent in requiring police to go round confiscating such equipment and the effects of such action on small traders. The Bill was not drafted for that purpose.

The Bill was drafted to be passed on the nod. It was drafted on the assumption that the Government had only to propose mild-sounding legislation—the type that enables some hon. Members to make cheap remarks about people who have to earn a living in a far harder way than hon. Members have to—that could be passed not so much on the nod as on the sneer. That is the way in which this legislation was designed. What my right. hon. and hon. Friends and I have tried to do is to show that that is simply not acceptable, and that we are right to perform our duty of scrutiny.

Mr. Swayne

My hon. Friend has mentioned the suppression of small business men. He will be aware that the Bill's supporters have alleged that the vendors who will be affected by it are, far from being small business men, the representatives of organised crime—the mafia has been mentioned. Does not that in itself constitute a hazard of which the arresting officer would do well to be aware?

Mr. Nicholls

It may do, but one must bear in mind the fact that when the Home Secretary was working up his policies for a new Government for a new millennium, he saw squeegee merchants as public enemy No. 1. For all I know, they may now have diversified into selling hot dogs in royal parks, but they were providing a service. I have never felt threatened by a squeegee merchant. I find it quite useful to have my windscreen cleaned when I am at a level crossing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am not sure that those merchants are the subject of the amendments before the House.

Mr. Nicholls

I accept that. As so often, my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) tempts us down forbidden ways. The same thinking that made squeegee merchants a substantial public threat underlies the idea that someone who is selling economically priced burgers might also be a substantial threat.

What do amendments Nos. 22, 23, 24 and 25 do? Nothing very revolutionary or extraordinary. One might have thought that their provisions would have been contained in a Bill that sanctions the seizure and disposal of other people's property. Amendment No. 23 says: Proceedings arising from subsections (1) to (3) (including appeals) shall be concluded within a period of three months, after which the charges shall be withdrawn, or the appeal deemed to have succeeded. That merely means that someone whose equipment has been seized should be prosecuted within a reasonable period. That principle goes with the grain of British law. It does not go with the grain of nobbling the police to go easy on people who are trying to demonstrate about one of the most ruthless criminal regimes in the world, but it goes with the grain of English common law. If someone is not prosecuted within a reasonable period, that should be an end of the matter.

What happens to a person's property if they are not prosecuted? Under the Bill, nothing will happen to it. The state has seized it and that is the end of it. Amendment No. 25 says: If the Secretary of State has retained a thing under subsection (3)(b) for the period of 60 days from the initiation of proceedings relating to the offence (including any appeal), he shall return it to the person from whom it was seized. Again, that does not strike me as a revolutionary proposition. If we take people's equipment away from them and then not use it—the mind boggles at the idea of the Secretary of State doing a bit of trading on his own account—surely there should be some provision for its return. The amendment does just that.

I would like to think well of the Minister. I have known him for a number of years and I would like to think that he has listened to the debate and will cast his mind back to the principles that he once held dear. I hope that he thinks that a Bill that he is putting through the House to seize private property might benefit from the inclusion of some provision for the return of that property. It might benefit from having some decent British lawfulness built back into it.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

Does my hon. Friend think that the Bill is getting at the wrong people? Last Wednesday, the Minister pointed out that very little cash is found on the people concerned, because there is a system of runners to take the money back to those who control them. He said later that the police should make every effort to get the racketeers who lie behind the trade.—[Official Report, 17 May 2000; Vol. 350, c. 374.] Does my hon. Friend think that we might just be scratching the surface—the poor innocents who are handing out the hot dogs—rather than getting at the big men with the money who are running those illegal businesses?

Mr. Nicholls

I try to wrestle with the concept of Mr. Big—the sort of person who slips £1 million to somebody for changing party policy. I understand that big money can sometimes be involved, but I do not think that there is big money involved in flogging hamburgers. Perhaps I chose the wrong trade when I went into law.

Mr. Bercow

My hon. Friend is a very sophisticated fellow, but I fear that he is missing one point. Is not his advocacy of the amendments characterised by moderation and reasonableness, rather in the style of the advocacy of our hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) in support of the Bill, whereas the stance and style of the Minister, for all his other attractive qualities, has been characterised at heart by a deep-rooted and snobbish disdain for the traders?

Mr. Nicholls

There is consistency in some things, as my hon. Friend is right to point out. It is perhaps a sign of the times that those small traders—the sort of people who cannot afford to pay £500 to go to a Labour party fund-raising function—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now straying way wide of the mark. I would be grateful if he would come back specifically to the amendment.

Mr. Nicholls

I was simply trying to make the point—I accept that I did not do so appropriately—that the Bill, with all its inadequacies, says something about the attitude of the party that proposed it to people who are in as small a business as this.

I would like to think that the Minister would build back into the Bill some sense of fairness and practicality. If not, there remains the other place. We know that the other place was not thought to be a problem for a Bill of this sort. It was thought that, following the creation of a house of cronies, there would be no scrutiny. The other place has surprised us all, and probably even itself. When it looks at this debate, I think that it will say that this is a cause worth championing. I hope the other place will see it in that way.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

This has been an important debate. My right hon. and hon. Friends have tried to address whether the clauses as drafted have the desired effect, or whether—because there appears to be no power to seize perishable goods—there is some practical imperfection that will render the operation of the police in implementing the Bill almost impossible.

When I first read the Bill, I had a similar concern. The practical answer is that, in reality, this presents no difficulty. As the Minister has said, within the City of Westminster—where the power already exists—police officers or council officials invite the trader to have the perishable goods removed. Because the goods have value, they are, by and large, removed.

I contrast the powers given to the police under the Bill with the more general powers of the arrest of illegal traders who are, for example, causing an obstruction. I have referred to my practical experience more than 30 years ago of dealing with such traders. In those days, the police did not have a power of seizure. The practical solution was that, if a hot-dog trader was arrested for causing an obstruction somewhere in the west end of London, it was perfectly natural that he would take his cart and the perishable goods to the police station. Otherwise, the chances were that it would not be there when he came back. No power of seizure was required for that practical solution.

The power of seizure adds an important weapon to the armoury of the authorities. The hot-dog stand will be taken off to a police station while the person's arrest is properly documented, whereupon he will take the cart away with him to pursue his illegal trade further. The power of seizure means that the trader no longer has that opportunity, as the police will seize the item at the police station, and the perishable goods can be removed.

12.45 am

I understand that there appears to be a practical difficulty, but the arrangements in the City of Westminster seem to work perfectly normally. The Bill will replicate those arrangements in the royal parks, and I hope that my hon. Friends will be persuaded that no substantial practical difficulty exists.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) asked why items should not be seized as they arrive in the royal parks. The answer to that splendid suggestion is that, under the royal parks regulations, traders commit no offence until they start to trade. One benefit that might emerge from tonight's debate is that the House may revisit some of the issues involved. Reframing the powers available to police, and the offences for which prosecutions may be brought, could make the campaign against illegal traders even more effective.

Mr. Chope

Schedule 1 to the Royal Parks and Gardens Act 1872 makes it an offence to drive or wheel into a park any vehicle, barrow, truck, or machine not admitted therein by the rules of the park. Does my hon. Friend accept that?

Mr. Greenway

I do, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) said that stepping on the shrubbery or the gardens is also an offence, and I accept that, too. However, my understanding is that that is not classed as a trading offence, so the powers that the Bill gives to the Royal Parks Constabulary would not apply to that particular offence. I believe that that also applies to the point raised by my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friends have raised important, practical issues. Some of the matters that they have raised go beyond the scope of the Bill, and need to be dealt with on another occasion.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Alan Howarth)

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond, in the few minutes that remain for this debate, to a number of matters raised by Conservative Members. Our proceedings on the Bill might have been more extensive if less time had been spent discussing the principle of the guillotine, but the amendments and the new schedule allow me to respond to the concerns raised, in a spirit of practicality, by Conservative Members.

Amendment No. 6 is exciting, as it would delete two major clauses. However, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), who tabled the amendment, explained that he drives his coach and horses with an intent to probe, rather than to wreck. The powers of seizure, retention and sale provided in the two clauses that his amendment would knock out are essential. Fines alone, or fines plus the possibility of forfeiture in due course, would not be enough to deter the activity with which we seek to deal.

I remind right hon. and hon. Members that the powers that we seek are broadly similar—in practical terms, they are identical—to those that Parliament very recently enacted in the City of Westminster Act 1999.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) wanted to know, very reasonably, a little more about the evidence that we have about the size of the problem and the extent of what I termed the rip-off. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) made a sedentary intervention on this. At his best—he is customarily at his best at this time of night in the Chamber—my hon. Friend's sedentary interventions are worth, I venture to suggest, more than the standing interventions of a great many Opposition Members. He is a close observer of these matters, and he told the House that one is liable to pay around £4 for a hot dog or hamburger. However, the advice that I have from the Royal Parks agency is that the charge could be £7, and that on occasion charges of £12 were sought from innocent tourists. We would all agree that such extortions are not acceptable.

Last Wednesday, I was asked about the nature of the offences that we will designate as park trading offences. Subject to the passage of the Bill and the approval of Parliament, we shall designate regulation 4(6) of the 1997 regulations, which says that no person using a park shall carry on any trade or business in a Park, offer anything for sale or hire or expose or have in his possession anything for the purpose of sale or hire therein. I hope that that deals with the point.

It may help hon. Members if I deal with another point that has exercised the House considerably. I refer to the powers that constables will have to deal with perishable food. A number of right hon. and hon. Members debated this matter under something of a misapprehension. Constables will have the power to seize non-perishable items—that is made plain in the Bill. They are likely to ask the person who they consider to be committing a park trading offence if he wishes to take the perishable items away. If the person so invited does not wish to take the goods away but abandons them, they may be removed by the constable to avoid a litter problem in the park. To spread litter in the park is itself an offence under the regulations. Officers of the Royal Parks Constabulary, or, indeed, Metropolitan police officers, should they happen to be in the park, will have the power to deal with perishable items. I am happy to be able to reassure the House on that significant point.

I was then asked to comment on the possibility that the barrows, having been confiscated, would be allowed back into circulation. It was suggested that the Government would get nothing like their real value, because of deterioration—

It being four hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 6, Noes 227.

Division No. 205] [12.54 am
Gill, Christopher Swayne, Desmond
Hayes, John
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Tellers for the Ayes:
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Mr. Eric Forth and
Nicholls, Patrick Mr. David Maclean.
Ainger, Nick Butler, Mrs Christine
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atkins, Charlotte Campbell-Savours, Dale
Austin, John Cann, Jamie
Banks, Tony Caplin, Ivor
Barnes, Harry Casale, Roger
Beard, Nigel Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Clapham, Michael
Bennett, Andrew F Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Berry, Roger Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Blizzard, Bob Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Clelland, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Clwyd, Ann
Bradshaw, Ben Coaker, Vernon
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Coffey, Ms Ann
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Cohen, Harry
Browne, Desmond Colman, Tony
Burden, Richard Connarty, Michael
Burgon, Colin Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Crausby, David Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Laxton, Bob
Cummings, John Lepper, David
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Levitt, Tom
Dalyell, Tam Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Darvill, Keith Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Linton, Martin
Davidson, Ian Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Llwyd, Elfyn
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Lock, David
Dawson, Hilton McAvoy, Thomas
Dean, Mrs Janet McCabe, Steve
Donohoe, Brian H McCafferty, Ms Chris
Doran, Frank McDonagh, Siobhain
Drew, David Macdonald, Calum
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) McDonnell, John
Efford, Clive McGuire, Mrs Anne
Ennis, Jeff McIsaac, Shona
Etherington, Bill McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Fisher, Mark Mackinlay, Andrew
Fitzpatrick, Jim Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Flint, Caroline McNulty, Tony
Flynn, Paul MacShane, Denis
Follett, Barbara Mactaggart, Fiona
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McWalter, Tony
Fyfe, Maria Mahon, Mrs Alice
Galloway, George Mallaber, Judy
Gerrard, Neil Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Gidley, Sandra Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Godsiff, Roger Martlew, Eric
Goggins, Paul Meale, Alan
Golding, Mrs Llin Merron, Gillian
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Moffatt, Laura
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Grogan, John Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hain, Peter Mountford, Kali
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Olner, Bill
Hepburn, Stephen O'Neill, Martin
Heppell, John Perham, Ms Linda
Hesford, Stephen Pickthall, Colin
Hill, Keith Pike, Peter L
Hinchliffe, David Plaskitt, James
Hope, Phil Pond, Chris
Hopkins, Kelvin Pope, Greg
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Pound, Stephen
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Humble, Mrs Joan Prosser, Gwyn
Hurst, Alan Purchase, Ken
Iddon, Dr Brian Quinn, Lawrie
Illsley, Eric Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Rammell, Bill
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Rapson, Syd
Jamieson, David Rendel, David
Jenkins, Brian Rowlands, Ted
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Roy, Frank
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Ruane, Chris
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Savidge, Malcolm
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Skinner, Dennis
Keeble, Ms Sally Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Soley, Clive
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Stevenson, George Tipping, Paddy
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Stinchcombe, Paul Touhig, Don
Stoate, Dr Howard Trickett, Jon
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Stringer, Graham Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Stunell, Andrew Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Walley, Ms Joan
Temple-Morris, Peter Ward, Ms Claire
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David Woolas, Phil
Webb, Steve Wray, James
Whitehead, Dr Alan Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wilson, Brian Tellers for the Noes:
Winnick, David Mr. Jim Dowd and
Wood, Mike Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.