Casual Trading Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 29 March 1994

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 440 No. 7

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I support this Bill in many respects, particularly the measures [1689] proposed for large casual trading operations, but perhaps the Minister might simplify the procedures for small or traditional part-time traders.

Many sites in this city have been designated for casual trading, but this legislation appears to set aside all our work in that regard because it does not provide for the continuation of the status of designated casual trading areas provided for under the 1980 Act. It appears that all such areas will have to be designated again under this legislation and that, in respect of each new designation, people will have the right to go to court. Will the Minister clarify that matter? It would be rather silly to have to undo what has been in operation for the past 14 years and designate every square patch again.

In being critical of the Bill in respect of too many provisions for small part-time traders, I may be contradicting myself by asking the Minister to introduce additional regulations for other traders. Section 2 (2) lists the categories which are not included in casual trading and states that casual trading does not apply to selling to a person at, or at a place adjacent to, the place where he resides or carries on business. In my constituency a small car salesperson wheels out a couple of dozen cars every morning, lines them up along the two sides of the road and puts a “for sale” sign on top of each car. He is carrying on a casual motor trading business on both sides of the road day after day, to the annoyance and inconvenience of the residents of the area. As those cars are probably not taxed, perhaps I should take up the matter with the Garda but that is another matter. Basically we do not have a law to prevent this type of trading as he is operating close to his small garage. The Minister should water down the provision in section 2 (2) (b). It would be acceptable to carry on trading outside a person's premises, but it is not acceptable that a person should be allowed to use 100 yards of the road on both sides of his or her premises.

This legislation introduces many regulations for casual trading on the public road, but the Minister may say this does [1690] not come under his remit. We are homing in on only a small portion of this entire business because a great deal of casual trading takes place in private areas at Sunday markets and so on. Is it proposed to introduce regulations to cover Sunday markets on private property?

Casual trade for charitable purposes will be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. Such trade may include selling a daffodil or a rose for charity and regulations would not be desirable in such cases. I know of a school that ran a car boot sale in a public place last year, the proceeds of which went towards a charity. Casual traders who participated in the venture were charged £5 or £10 and then they engaged in private business. The term “charitable purpose” requires a tighter definition. Such ventures may be for charitable purposes but they may take place on quiet roads and the individual casual traders make a profit on their sales. I ask the Minister to respond to the points I raised.

Mr. J. Fox: Information on Johnny Fox  Zoom on Johnny Fox  I have reservations about the Bill. I recognise there is need for legislation on some activities in this area but for the majority of casual trading the implementation of this Bill will be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Many aspects of Irish life are worth preserving. Deputy Gregory spoke of the casual trading tradition in Moore Street stemming from the days of Molly Malone.

I would like to share my time with Deputy McManus.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Fox: Information on Johnny Fox  Zoom on Johnny Fox  Deputy Gregory mentioned the impact of this Bill on the Moore Street traders. It will remove a unique element of trade in Dublin which is enjoyed by Dublin people and many visitors. As a child I was amazed by the activities of the Moore Street traders and, as a politician I still view them as novel. We should not make Moore Street part of Dublin in the “rare auld times” which [1691] effectively will happen if casual trading is discouraged there.

Deputy Gregory also stated that casual traders require a taxation clearance certificate while large farmers evade tax. As a medium sized farmer I have admired the activities of traders in Moore Street and other areas of Dublin. Many country people depend on proceeds of the casual trading of home produce to supplement their income. Because of the implementation of EU law and the introduction of Irish legislation the sale of free range eggs, home baking and farm produce will be discouraged. Many people who voted in favour of ratifying the Maastricht Treaty would not have envisaged that such casual trading would be prohibited.

Many home based industries depend on country markets held on the village green or in the village hall on Saturdays and Sundays as the retail oulet for their produce, but such trade will be discouraged by the provisions of the Bill. Legislation is needed in cases where tax-paying businesses are adversely affected. Many businesses, such as supermarkets and multinationals, do not want casual traders to operate near their premises and are not concerned about the welfare of such traders. Many multinationals do not plough back profits acquired from the labour of Irish people into the economy. The small entrepreneurs who set up home based industries to make an extra few shillings are being victimised by the Bill while others evade tax through anomalies in the system. Will the Minister reconsider the position of casual traders whose business is in the interests of urban and rural Ireland and to take cognisance of those traders' livelihoods. Officials of county enterprise boards have expressed concern that many industries under consideration for grant aid will be adversely affected by this legislation. While I recognise some legislation in the area of casual trade is necessary I have some reservations about certain aspects of the Bill.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I welcome the devolution of powers to local authorities in [1692] the legislation. As a member of a local authority I am aware of the restrictions on local authorities in ordering business to suit the needs of the community. It has been difficult to strike a balance between the needs of local established businesses, casual traders and consumers. Extra resources have not been allocated to local authorities to enforce the additional powers devolved to them. That is a general phenomenon in local authorities which will lead to major problems whether in the area of sanitary services, environmental controls or whatever. Additional responsibilities are being given to local authorities to perform complex functions without the allocation of additional resources to meet those demands. In the last decade there has been a massive cutback in the level of employment in local authorities. The thin spread of resources will not be capable of meeting new demands on local authorities. It is important for them to have facilities to make exemptions and make sure amendments will be tabled by both sides in that regard. Local authority members are in the best position to know local needs and what areas should be exempt from legislation. Under the Bill there is no direction to local authorities on fixing fees, although I am open to correction on this. There is a danger of distorting the market unless there is some framework that is nationally applicable in terms of fees.

Deputy Fox raised the question of country markets. I hope that well-established country markets that operate in parish and community halls will not be directly affected by this Bill. The Minister should clarify whether this is so. To specify how important this question is I will cite an article in the local paper:

Country markets are very much a part of rural life in County Wicklow, with popular markets located in villages and towns such as Blessington, Roundwood, Delgany, Arklow, Wicklow, Greystones and Kilcoole. As well as providing a necessary outlet for many producers to sell home produce, such as cakes, jams and vegetables, [1693] these markets are now also regarded as one of Wicklow's main tourism draws — literally thousands of cars travel into the county from Dublin every weekend to experience this traditional aspect of Irish country life.

I have no problem with that. The headline of this article states: “Country markets will have to close”. In that front page article there are a number of quotations from a member of the senior Government party who explains the legislation to the public by saying it is simply an exercise in bureaucratic craziness to close off potential businesses by crude and ill-thought out legislation. He states that it is a classic case of both the baby and the bath water going out the window — I think he has mixed up his metaphors. He believes that the draconian red tape associated with this Bill will frighten lawabiding citizens from working at country markets. Clarification is needed on this aspect. This is either true or it is scare-mongering of the worst kind and very damaging because it greatly frightens people who see an important and vital role for country markets. The Minister should respond on this matter. Scare-mongering of this type should not be allowed.

Country markets in counties such as Wicklow have a very important role in village and town life as well as in sub-urban parts of the county which are included in the greater Dublin area. They provide a focus for much activity relating not only to food and produce but to flowers and crafts. This is the kind of development we should encourage. There is a huge number of attractive open air markets in Europe. We cannot always operate open air markets due to weather conditions, but there is a certain open air dimension to the markets and we should ensure that is not destroyed by unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy.

Everybody in the House recognises that something must be done about casual trading, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether draconian measures will create more problems than they solve. I do not believe that is the Minister's [1694] intention. When a Member of the Oireachtas makes extremely disturbing statements that are recorded in the local paper I have to make my case here. I could not support measures that would have such an impact at local level. I am satisfied that the indoor country market is secure, but it is important to put that on record. The interests of people who work in traditional country markets and people who enjoy the pleasure of shopping in them must be protected.

Mr. Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  I welcome this Bill and acknowledge the urgent need for such legislation. The Minister said that fair trading was defined in advance of the 1980 Act as “reasonable and effective control, with a need for the casual trader to make a more realistic contribution to public funds”. As a member of a local authority I am very much aware of the contribution made by the trading sector to the economy and to the income of county councils. It is reasonable that people make a contribution commensurate with the activity in which they are engaged. The Oireachtas would do well to recognise the fair complaints that emanate from the self-employed, particularly small shopkeepers and rural publicans, about the difficulties they experience in undertaking their business. I recognise this is not a matter for this Bill but it should be favourably considered by the Government. In so far as this Bill goes some way towards redressing an imbalance, I welcome it.

Shopkeepers and publicans frequently complain that they are under duress from excessive powers of the Revenue Commissioners and social welfare inspectors. While there is a need to keep tabs on illegal activity, there is a widespread belief that powers in this area are too great. The 1980 Act provided that people employed by these traders should be fairly treated in terms of their employment, and that is to be commended. Some people believe that some of the major national and multi-national chain stores have become so adept at side stepping legislation on employment that the [1695] conditions of their employees have not significantly improved.

Deputy Noel Ahern and other speakers outlined the widespread concern about traffic and other environmental problems that have arisen from uncontrolled casual trading. A recent case in my county was dealt with by Clare County Council on Monday of last week. In this case huge difficulties were created by casual traders at the Cliffs of Moher. In that location, which is visited by many tourists, people frequently played music, tape recorders and radios were played, generators from ice-cream and chip vans drowned out the noise of the sea and rubbish was strewn in the area. Complaints were made that tourists were put under duress to purchase goods and to pay to look through viewing devices through which they would more clearly see the cliffs.

The county council sought to regulate these activities but unfortunately there was strong opposition to its efforts. People who had been berated for the last 20 years for their activities in the area were defended and a lobby came to their rescue. Great opposition was mounted to the efforts of the county council in regulating these activities. Eventually the county council closed off the right of way, leaving free access for those who wish to visit the cliffs. This is an example of the difficulties created by casual trading. There are countless examples of casual trading severely impinging on the commercial life of an area.

Under the 1980 legislation a trading licence is required from the Department of Enterprise and Employment and a permit is required from the local authority. I welcome the fact that the Minister is not only giving power to the local authority to decide where trading should be permitted and the conditions involved but is devolving responsibility to the local authority for the entire system. Some of the exemptions under the Act gave rise to difficulty for local authorities and the enforcing agents. A number of cases which came before the courts illustrated [1696] the inadequacy of the legislation, and this is being dealt with under the current Bill.

The proposal in section 2 to limit the exemption provision has been criticised by many sectors. As I understand it, three of the original eight categories, the licensed auctioneer, the door-to-door salesman and people collecting for charity, will be exempt from regulation while the other five categories will be subject to it. I welcome the provision which will allow local authorities to provide for other exemptions for certain activities in a specific place. It is difficult to understand some of the concerns expressed about this provision. I commend the Minister on his willingness to place this power in the hands of local authorities and hope his example will be followed by several of his colleagues. There is a very great need to devolve more powers to local authorities.

It is clear from the contributions that experience varies from place to place. Deputy Gregory referred to the position of street traders in Dublin. These traders have certainly added to the colour of Dublin and I would not be sympathetically disposed to those major store owners who seek to get rid of them for certain reasons, one of which is very close to my heart. I very much welcome the provision which will enable local authorities to provide for other exemptions as the Minister could not possibly have provided for the conditions which apply in different areas.

The proposal that a licence cannot be issued within five years of two or more offences being committed was enshrined in the 1980 legislation. While on occasion it came in for considerable criticism, fortunately it passed the test in the Supreme Court, something we have not come to expect in certain cases. It is impossible to argue against this provision on grounds of justice.

I welcome the Minister's undertaking that tax clearance certificates will not pose a difficulty for legitimate casual traders and that the Revenue Commissioners will make suitable arrangements to ensure that, apart from [1697] exceptional circumstances, no casual trader will be refused a licence. Unfortunately, this has not been the experience of many legitimate casual traders who have tried to get a C2 certificate: getting it can be very difficult and tortuous for many people. On balance, I welcome this legislation which will amend what the Minister and many other people perceive as weaknesses and shortcomings in the 1990 Act. I am very glad to support the Bill.

Mr. Clohessy: Information on Peadar Clohessy  Zoom on Peadar Clohessy  While I agree in principle with the Bill, I should like the Minister to level the playing pitch. It is appropriate that county councils should have direct control over the issuing of casual trading licences as the income from them will benefit the creation of jobs.

There are two categories of casual trader, the first are outsiders who set up stalls in towns on market day and sell radios, televisions, electric tools, etc. Nobody in the town knows these people or from where they have come. They do not contribute to the local economy in any reasonable way and in some cases their vehicles are registered outside the State. They are a hazard to local shopkeepers who have to pay taxes and rates. The second category are local people who sell fruit, vegetables, home-made produce, fowl and garden produce at local markets on Wednesday or Saturday mornings; their fathers and grandfathers sold produce at these markets. They sell their produce so that they will have a few pounds extra to cover household expenses during the week. The Minister should differentiate between those two categories of traders.

As Deputy Fox said, Moore Street has been a trading area for centuries. Dublin people have traded in Moore Street for generations and they have contributed in their own right to the State. The Minister should differentiate between different categories of traders. I do not understand why a young lad who sells newspapers or an old woman who sells herring or mackerel at a street corner on a Friday morning should have to have a tax clearance [1698] certificate. These people are engaged in a traditional activity and the Minister should look favourably on them.

The Limerick market, a beautiful place, is visited by many people on a Saturday morning. Before Christmas people selling turkeys were approached by health inspectors and officers from the Revenue Commissioners to ascertain if they were registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and whether the places in which the fowl had been kept were up to EC standards. It is ridiculous that people selling 15-20 turkeys should be asked such questions. In general I support the Bill and ask the Minister to consider the points I have made.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  I welcome this Bill. The 1980 Act attempted to introduce some order into the casual trading area. It is timely that we should review the operation of that Act in the intervening 14 years. The 1980 Act had two distinct aims, one of which related to a loss of business by established traders to casual traders who, unlike established traders, did not contribute to State funding or pay local rates. I recall very well the demand to rectify this anomaly. At that time established traders experienced difficulties in keeping their prices as low as those of casual traders who did not have the same overheads, rates, income tax and VAT.

There was also a demand from the trade union movement to rectify this anomaly. It believed that if established traders could not compete with casual traders employees would be made redundant. In larger cities and towns employment was trade union organised and the rates of pay of employees in established businesses had to be kept at a certain level. There were good reasons for the introduction of the 1980 Act.

Even though under the 1980 Act local authorities could introduce a licensing system, the then Department of Industry and Commerce also had the power to issue licences. It is appropriate that local authorities be responsible for issuing licences and I do not see the need for any [1699] trader to apply to the Department of Enterprise and Employment now or in the future. I am happy that this work is being devolved on local authorities.

When I was Minister for the Environment there was strong demand for devolving powers to local authorities. Speeches on this Bill indicate that some Deputies want to return power to central Government but it is appropriate that the issuing of licences be dealt with by those on the ground. Circumstances in towns and counties may vary and, therefore, the members of local authorities are in the best position to judge what is right for their own areas.

I was amazed to hear Deputies McManus and Fox from my constituency, refer to country markets. It would appear that some Deputies did not bother to read the Bill or even the Minister's speech. This legislation does not propose to interfere with country markets. We are well aware of the benefits of the country market system which has been built up over many years and is a great attraction for many people in the county as well as for visitors from abroad. Because Wicklow is so near to the capital city many thousands of people will visit our county from now until the end of summer. Nothing in this Bill will interfere with country market operations. I have read the Bill and the Minister's speech and I am sure he will confirm that nothing in this Bill will interfere with county market operations when replying to Second Stage. Church hall sales and country markets are a feature of country life and will not be interfered with.

I have some reservations, not about country markets, but markets which because of their proximity to main roads create traffic hazards in villages and towns. On a Sunday people travelling home from Brittas Bay to Dublin for instance may experience severe traffic difficulties with delays of up to two hours because of large markets operated both from within the county and outside it. This affects not only people returning to their homes but people trying to get to hospitals, airports and so on. It also [1700] affects fire brigades and ambulances that may be required to travel through rural parts of Wicklow where these markets are held.

I hope local authorities, on being given these powers, will ensure that main roads such as the N11 will not be obstructed because of an overflow of traffic and the chaos created by these markets. I realise this is mainly a matter for the Garda but because of the movement of gardaí from small rural villages, where these markets are generally held, there is not the manpower to introduce some order to these occasions. I hope the Minister will ensure also that local authorities provide sufficient parking spaces and that no unnecessary obstructions can occur, particularly on any of our national primary roads.

I am aware the Minister intends to considerably reduce the number of exemptions to approximately three, namely, selling by a licensed auctioneer, door to door selling and charity sales. The selling of agricultural and horticultural produce, the selling of sweets and chocolates at public events, the selling of ice cream and newspapers, the selling of fish by crews and selling at markets or fairs held with the authority of a Statute or franchise will no longer be exempted. It should be emphasised that these activities are not being prohibited in this Bill. The licensing authority, which will be the local authority, will have the power to issue licences to people operating in that area. If the licence fee is considered to be a way of raising funds for the local authority, there might be an inclination by members of local authorities, particularly at Estimates time, to increase those fees. I hope the Minister will ensure that they cannot be increased unduly.

I suggest that the selling of fish could have been exempted. I represent two fishing towns, Arklow and Wicklow, and we all know that fish are not inclined to follow any law as to when they arrive in an area and when they can be caught. There is a glut of mackerel or herring at particular times of the year and selling fish on street corners has been practised in towns for centuries. It is a long standing [1701] tradition which does not adversely affect the local fishmongers to any great extent because they usually make their own arrangements with the local fishermen. A person wishing to sell a few dozen herrings in a box on one or two Fridays in the year should not be required to obtain a licence to do so.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The fish would be gone off by the time he would get the licence.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  That should not happen if the person is living in Wicklow or Arklow because the local authority is located beside the harbour.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  They had some trouble with the rod licence, let alone the fish.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  I hope that there will be no interference in this practice. If the activity was regular there might be a need for a licence but when it occurs on only one or two occasions the local authorities should understand that it is a longstanding practice, one which I hope will continue for many years.

On the requirement for a licence for the selling of strawberries and fruit, many areas in my constituency, and particularly in Wexford are known for their production of strawberries. During the summer, when young children are not at school, they sell the excess strawberries on the side of the road. That seasonal practice is welcomed by most people who travel through these counties and I hope there will not be much bureaucracy attached to such an insignificant level of trade. During the summer before last, which was a good summer, commercial strawberry growers could not sell the excess strawberries to the factories and carried on trade in opposition to the small producer who sells strawberries at the side of the road. The commercial growers moved strawberries from one area to another. The issue became a major one, but the main trade so far as roadside trading is concerned is the sale of fruit from small plots. There has been some criticism of the requirement of tax clearance certificates for these traders. I do [1702] not think anyone in this House nor any of the many people in the PAYE system, would advocate that people be allowed operate a trade and make a profit without paying tax. If that necessitates the production of a tax clearance certificate, so be it. Whether you engage in trade in a small or larger way, if you make a profit on operations, then you have a responsibility to pay some in the form of taxation——

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Unless you are selling strawberries in Wicklow.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  Well, if you are selling two or three punnets of strawberries on the side of the road in Wicklow, I say more luck to you. Perhaps a child cannot make a few bob any other way, that is the way it is done, and the type of trading to which I am referring——

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Nice strawberries they are too.

Mr. Kavanagh: Information on Liam Kavanagh  Zoom on Liam Kavanagh  The best. However, if you engage in casual trading, moving from town to town, you should add to the tax yield.

I am glad that the Minister does not intend to include festivals and regattas under the provisions of this Bill, some of which take place around this time of year. Yet the impression appears to have been given that casual traders at an event like the Wicklow Regatta, with which the Minister will be familiar, or others, fall within the provisions of this Bill. On most occasions it is very difficult to extract money from people who travel from Dublin to Wicklow to participate in such events whereas many Wicklow people who travel to Dublin part with much of their money in shops and businesses in the capital. I hope that no barriers, such as the payment of high fees or the necessity for licences, would cause us problems in that respect.

I welcome the removal of the dual system and the devolution of power to local authoriites under the provisions of the Bill. If newspaper reports are true it appears that the Minister for the Environment [1703] does not want to see some TDs removed from that devolution process. I do not think there is any real opposition to the proposal.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  I congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill since casual trading has been part of our culture, particularly in rural areas, since pre-Christian times.

I am delighted the Minister is present. I am glad that local authorities will have some say in issuing licences to casual traders since they are familiar with local happenings. I might refer to the matter of casual trading at fairs, in particular to a fair day in Tubbercurry when casual trading takes place——

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  With sandwiches and mugs of tea.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  Yes, indeed, and which has been the case for as long as I can remember in that town and for hundreds of years. It is known as the old fair day, which takes place, I think, on the second Wednesday in July when casual traders from all around the country come to the fair. I should not like to see that event removed from our calendar and I would very much welcome Sligo County Council granting licences for casual trading on that day.

Like the previous speaker I have seen casual trading on our national primary roads about which I am most unhappy because it causes great obstruction to passing motorists. In that respect I am glad that Sligo County Council is doing its best to find a halting site for those who have been trading on our national primary roads in recent years.

The Minister referred to the sale of religious objects. The House will be aware that missions are held in all our churches every five years approximately when a stall is erected for the sale of religious objects. It would be unrealistic to expect such traders to apply for a licence to trade outside all churches because they could be in Donegal this [1704] week and attending a mission in Cork in two weeks' time.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  A man sells them at the Reeks, with photographs of St. Patrick.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  These people should not have to apply for a licence so that they can continue to sell religious objects. People should be allowed to sell fish immediately after fishing boats arrive at piers. Whenever we are at a seaside resort, we all like to buy fresh mackerel, herring or whatever other fish comes in from the fishing boats. I hope that the Minister will continue to allow fishermen to sell fresh fish when they arrive with their haul.

I also hope that the old fair days, when casual trading took place, will be allowed to continue, especially at festivals. A number of people should have a designated area within which to sell their farm produce.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The hundred early York cabbage plants.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  I welcome this long overdue Bill whose provisions, in the main, are well-intentioned and practical.

Markets and fairs have been a part of our history and heritage. While they may have changed in nature over recent decades from the old fair days and markets held at the end of the last century and the first half of this one, they remain part of our history and should not be discarded. It is important to preserve the very best of those markets within the new commercial trading conditions that constitute life in villages, towns and cities.

I have memories of visiting many great, and small, cities of Europe in which market-places form a central part of urban life. We all have memories of those markets, their colour, life, vitality and the bustle around them. We have often asked why we cannot have markets like those in continental Europe. Despite the many changes in their many thoroughfares and buildings, and the damage to many city walls around Europe, their [1705] inhabitants have been sufficiently intelligent and practical to realise the importance of markets to their towns and cities and have retained them as constituting an important place in their commercial life. We should do likewise, there is no reason we cannot do so and benefit.

Representing Limerick, I have had a long interest in markets. Limerick is the capital of the golden vale, the most fertile part of the country. Indeed Limerick city could be described as a market town since it had an abundance of markets over the centuries. When I grew up in Limerick they were very much part and parcel of the life of the city. Indeed I have fond memories of the fowl market, the milk market, the hay market, the potato market and many more, some of which have died out. However, one still survives, the main market in Cornmarket Row, whose name indicates that a market was held there. Close by that market there was a laneway called White Wine Lane, white wine meaning milk, demonstrating how the commodities sold there influenced the names of streets and thoroughfares in the city around those markets. The market in Cornmarket Row has survived to the present day.

I am a member of Limerick Market Trustees, a body established in 1852, which for almost the past century and a half has served the city by owning and controlling those markets. Therefore, I have an interest in this Bill. Limerick Market Trustees comprise 27 members and a management staff: nine members from Limerick City Council, of whom I am one; nine members from Limerick County Council and nine members from Limerick Chamber of Commerce. I have a keen interest in the provisions of this Bill because as a member of Limerick Market Trustees I am responsible for the ownership and control of the markets in Limerick.

During the past three decades we have been bedevilled with the problem of trying to control the spread of the market. The central market has moved from Cornmarket Row to a three-quarter acre site into the surrounding streets. The problems referred to by Deputy Kavanagh [1706] abound in Limerick. Other traders come into the side streets and there is great difficulty in collecting tolls from them, in controlling the flow of traffic and the nature of the goods sold there. By and large I support markets and I visit them as often as I can because I get a great buzz from going there. One of our best Limerick poems, written about the market, “Limerick Town”, by John Francis O'Donnell, is one of my favourite poems. I love the markets. Many of our artists go there to paint it.

Despite changes in city life and renovations in the market people go there in increasing numbers. It is an old tradition that I would like to see continued and supported because it has much to offer. People like going to the markets, they like their exuberance and like meeting their neighbours and shopping from country folk. It is a two-way exercise. People from surrounding counties come in to sell their goods and wares and people from the city buy from them. I support the whole concept of markets.

There is a need for flexibility, as Deputy Kavanagh pointed out. Sometimes we have ad hoc or spontaneous trading on festival days, holidays or special occasions when traders come to the city and use the assembly of many people to sell their wares. I am not opposed to that, I am not opposed to people using their initiative to increase sales of commodities. By and large people behave well in the cities, they do not obstruct or harass people or interfere with the movement of people through our streets. Sometimes people sell small goods, trinkets, metal pieces, leather work and so on. They do not damage our city trade; they add to the bustle of city life and should not be excluded.

The Minister will be interested to know we are in the process of completing work on the renovation of our city markets, including the impeccable restoration of the market house in Mungret Street, Limerick. This has been a major task involving first class stone masons and bricklayers. The market house has been meticulously restored. Even though I am critical of some building work, of designs [1707] and restoration work, generally I am happy with the work there. The market house has been restored to its pristine condition. Work is almost complete and I hope the Minister will soon be invited to open it. The architect, Roddy O'Leary, has been painstaking in ensuring that the work is done. I hope the Bill, when enacted, will help us to control trading in side streets and also that those people will pay their due tolls to our city.

I would like to see one amendment to the Bill. I know this is not the time to speak on amendments but, perhaps, you would give me the liberty to ask the Minister to do it for me. As a member of the Government I cannot be seen to put down too many amendments, as I may get my knuckles rapped by our Whip, Deputy Ferris.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Not in the year of European elections.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  If I were to do a Jim Mitchell on this I would incur the wrath of my Whip or the Minister. I am very meek in asking the Minister to take one amendment on board. Section 11 (1) states:

A local authority may appoint officers of the local authority to be authorised officers for the purpose of this Act, ...

I suggest that section 11 (1) be amended as follows:

A local authority may appoint officers, including officers of the local authority, to be authorised officers for the purpose of this Act, ...

In other words, I want the local authority to delegate that authority to a member or members of Limerick Market Trustees to carry out that function for them. If the Minister can accede to my request I would be happy and it would not alter the content or thrust of the Bill. Apart from that point it is a good Bill.

I heard Deputy Gregory speak on the Bill and perhaps it will be possible to accommodate some of his views. He has [1708] had a long interest in street trading and has been loyal to Dublin street traders. I would not have the same knowledge of street trading in Dublin although I admire their work. Dublin street traders have a culture of their own which I have read about in sociological studies. I have an interest in those kind of people and people who have different occupations, as they enrich our lives. Those of us who are involved in humdrum jobs do not understand fully the difficulties people have in making a living. We are often cocooned from the realities of life. It is a tough life for people who try to make a living on the streets. They have to live by their wits, they have to be ingenious, resourceful and determined. While we see them as characters and people who are different in their attire and in their occupation, they are human beings, they have to struggle against their environment and market forces to survive. Despite the fact that I am getting older I am always on the side of the weak person. I am in favouur of people being allowed to live and let live.

Street traders do no damage to the Chamber of Commerce or to the large multinational companies involved in retailing and wholesaleing. This is a good Bill, the main provisions of which I welcome. If there are any further amendments I hope the Minister will take them on board on Committee Stage. The Bill has my full support and I shall contribute further on Committee and Report Stages.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  There are two aspects of casual trading which take place in towns and cities throughout Ireland. We have traditional market trading where people come to town and sell their farm produce or crafts. I am not in favour of eliminating such trading and neither is it the intention of this Bill to eliminate such trading. We also have another type of trader, the fly-by-night who comes to various towns, particularly in summer, to sell all types of goods in competition with shopkeepers. The crib of shopkeepers and rate-payers is whether they have the same trading opportunities as those trading [1709] in a casual fashion. Casual traders do not have to provide permanent accommodation and do not have overheads. They are resented in many rural areas. The section in the Bill which states that before a casual trading licence is issued a tax free certificate will have to be produced will be welcomed by conventional traders and will legitimise the street trader.

Dublin Deputies spoke about street trading being a tourist attraction in areas such as Moore Street. We should be slow to interfere with that. For hundreds of years in Galway a farm produce market has been held on a Saturday morning. It is also a tourist attraction. Local people avail of it to carry out their agricultural type business. The pitches in that market have been handed down from generation to generation. The traders are well known and, in turn, they know the exact requirements of their customers.

In other towns there is friction between casual traders and local communities. In Clifden local traders are not happy with the influx of street traders in the summer. Hoteliers, guesthouse owners and shopkeepers depend on the short tourist season for survival. There is a genuine demand for some form of control to be exercised over casual street traders who move in large numbers into the town where they compete unfairly with the local traders. In other towns such as Gort, casual traders will arrive on a Friday when the town is full of people attending the livestock mart, they will move to Athenry on a Tuesday and, in general, follow the market around from town to town. They have an unfair advantage over people trading in a conventional way.

Roadside traders, usually highly professional travellers, are a new breed in many rural towns. They are people of no fixed abode who travel from place to place. They cause great resentment. While travelling to Sligo recently I saw a number of such traders trading in farm implements and other such items unsuited to roadside trading.

I am not sure whether the provision regarding the tax clearance certificate [1710] applies to trading in one place or whether it enables a trader to trade in one town on one day and another town on another. Such a trader could have a prime location every day of the week and trade at prime times under advantageous trading conditions. I am not sure how this provision will be implemented to ensure they do not have an unfair advantage over conventional traders. Perhaps the Minister will clarify that aspect.

If there is a competing interest for a similar trading licence in the same location what will be the deciding factor in allocating it to one trader or another? Will the person be obliged to certify the items they will trade in or are they free to trade in different items on different days? Will specific guidelines be laid down stating what items may be traded?

This Bill gives us an opportunity, which we may not get again for a long time, to raise questions and carefully analyse the points raised. Members will be able to table amendments and tease out points on Committee Stage.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I welcome the warm response to this Bill. I regret that some Members have been slightly hysterical in their over the top reaction to some aspects of it. Lest Deputy Gregory thinks I am referring to him, I am not, but to the former leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Dukes who obviously did not read the Bill.

Some Members commented on country markets. A former Member commented on country markets and is quoted in the Wicklow Times of 11 March 1994: it is no wonder he is no longer a Member if he is so ill-informed on the contents of the Bill. Let me nail the lie in the newspaper that country markets will be affected by this Bill. Unfortunately, democracy has not been well served by its elected representatives. Indications have been given to citizens, who would not read the legislation in draft form about certain matters which are not in the Bill. I am referring specifically to country markets.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to [1711] achieve greater decentralisation. It seeks to decentralise to local authorities certain functions which they have sought following the enactment in 1980 of the Casual Trading Act which was found to be unsatisfactory. Following consultations with the local authorities and representatives of traders, this Bill was drafted. On behalf of the Government and with the consent of the Oireachtas, I will give local authorities the right to decide what activities will be exempt. It is proposed to exempt three categories but until the Bill is enacted its contents are no more than a proposition. In section 2, casual trading is defined and the three categories exempted are outlined: (a) selling by auction; (b) door to door selling by a person; (c) selling in respect of a charity. I want to draw Members' attention, particularly Deputy Gregory's to two subsections in section 2. Subsection (3) states:

The Minister may, by regulations, amend (whether by the addition, deletion or alteration of classes) the classes of selling specified ...

In other words, I or my successors can add to the number of exemptions set out in subsection (2). Subsection (4) goes to the nub of the point: “A local authority may, as respects its functional area”— manifestly this would include Moore Street; “by by-laws under section 7”— and the local authority draws up its own bye-laws —“add to the classes of selling specified in subsection (2)”— in other words, add to the categories that are exempt and an additional number of exemptions —“shall, in relation to the functional area, be construed and have effect in accordance with any such by-laws for the time being in force.” In other words, if a particular local authority believes it is the tradition and part of the culture of the area to exempt the selling of strawberries in Wicklow or in Wexford, to take the point made by Deputy Kavanagh, then it is up to the county council to decide to exempt such a category. That is in the Bill. We will deal [1712] with it in greater detail on Committee Stage.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  If the local authority exempts Moore Street, anybody can sell in Moore Street.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy has just proven the need for regulation; that just proves my point.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  I have proved what is wrong with the Bill.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  No. The trouble is that for years local authority members — I was one of them as I served my apprenticeship on a local authority — like youngsters growing up, were looking for independence and decentralisation to run their own affairs but when they begin to get that responsibility suddenly it is far less attractive than the possibility of being able to blame somebody else. In section 2 the local authority has power by regulation, under section 7, to add to the classes——

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  I am well aware of that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am drawing it to the attention of the House because unlike Deputy Gregory other Members do not seem to have read the Bill with the same degree of attention to detail.

Deputy McCormack said that we will have a chance to tease out the exact implications of the powers. We will have to give considerable attention to that because Deputy Dukes's contribution was over the top and quite frankly what he deduced from his reading of the Bill was ill informed. Deputy McManus welcomed the Bill but questioned who would have responsibility for fixing the level of fees. A casual trader has to get a licence from the Department of Enterprise and Employment and then has to get a specific permit from the local authority which controls the areas in which he trades. The fees for such permit vary considerably. If Deputies want to standardise the fee that seems to be a negation of the principle of decentralisation. [1713] For example, Dublin Corporation provides a considerable cleansing service for street markets in certain areas, which is reasonable justification for the high level of fees, but a local authority somewhere else may charge a lower fee but may not provide such a service. If the fixing of fees was centralised, the fees would be increased in some areas and reduced elsewhere. That goes against the spirit of decentralisation.

Deputy McManus spoke about the colour and tourism attraction of country markets. In this Bill casual trading refers only to trading in areas to which the public has access as of right, in other words, if a country market is held in a church hall or a community hall, or in another place to which the public does not have access as of right, it is not governed by the provisions of this Bill. Even if it were and the country market was held in a traditional area of the town, and Deputy Mattie Brennan referred to the market in Tubbercurry, there is nothing to prevent a county council from exempting this area. This Bill gives to local authorities the power to make up its own mind.

Deputy Noel Ahern referred to the problems in existing designated casual trading areas and what their status will be in the context of the enactment of this Bill. We can more usefully deal with this on Committee Stage, but there will be transitional arrangements to deal with that matter.

Concern has been expressed about the application procedure for obtaining licences. These will be issued by the local authorities in accordance with the regulations. While we will deal with these in detail on Committee Stage many Deputies have expressed concern about the way in which applications will have to be made and about whether a distinction will be made between the seasonal casual trader who trades in one commodity, such as fish, and the professional casual trader who moves from one place to another. I will address these issues in considerable detail on Committee Stage.

[1714] Like previous administrations, the Government, because it wants to widen the tax base, in issuing licences to run a pub or to act as a book-keeper, adheres to the principle that those who wish to engage in economic activity from which they will derive their main source of income have to be in the tax net. Like everybody else in the tax net, they will benefit from the provisions in the tax code in terms of exemptions and if engaged in business activity they will be able to offset their running costs against profits.

At the request of my party colleague, Deputy Costello, I met the casual traders in Moore Street whose concerns were articulated eloquently by Deputy Gregory in this House. Given their socio-economic background they do not have the same resources as the professional casual trader operating in a modern business environment. I am not concerned only about those who trade in Moore Street but also about those who trade south of the River Liffey in Thomas Street, Camden Street and parts of Meath Street who hold their pitch because of tradition rather than because of a licence issued by the local authority or a decision to get involved in business.

For this category the application procedure will be the least of their problems. It is their perception that they will encounter difficulties in respect of the tax clearance certificate. I have noted the concerns expressed by members of my own party and others. Some people are worried about the requirements they will have to meet in terms of book-keeping to qualify for a tax clearance certificate and about who will mind them once they are told to wander through the corridors of Dublin Castle to seek out the sympathetic revenue commissioner to allay their concerns.

I do not intend to take Committee Stage in this House until I am satisfied that I will be in a position to answer these questions. An official of my Department met with a deputation from the Casual Traders Association yesterday, 28 March — I was not available to attend the meeting — at which they raised the following [1715] issues: the question of tax clearance, fee guidelines, the display of casual trading licences and, rather interestingly, the establishment of a tribunal at national level to resolve disputes between a casual trader and a local authority, particularly a casual trader who may be operating in a number of local authority areas and who believes he did not get a fair hearing from the local authority. I am not adverse to this concept but I would like to examine the implications. This could be administered in conjunction with the Association of Municipal Authorities, for example, as I want to retain the principle of decentralisation and local councillors being involved. If we can allay the concerns which have been expressed by casual traders and allow the local authorities to be involved I will be open to that suggestion.

The Casual Traders Association also suggested that the local authorities should be obliged to provide proper facilities for casual traders, for example, toilet and washing facilities. The response of local authority members will be to ask who will pay for these facilities? Local traders who pay insurance and rates to the local authority are obliged under commercial and labour law to maintain safety and hygiene standards for their employees and the public. Casual traders should be required to do likewise.

Given the number of court cases, that dissatisfaction has been expressed by the local authorities and concern has been expressed to me directly by casual traders about the way they are being treated by one local authority as against another, the system has not been operating satisfactorily. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the 1980 Act and to give local authorities the power to decide how this activity should be conducted at local level. I do not see central Government having an intrusive function in this matter; it will have a role to ensure fairness. I do not think the local authorities are so devoid of intelligence or creativity as not to be able to come up with imaginative ways to accommodate different kinds of traders.

[1716] We are talking here about the romantic side of casual trading — the Molly Malone syndrome — but there is a less romantic side as mentioned by Deputies McCormack, Bell and others. It would appear that there is a certain kind of casual trader who arrives on market day but does not sell products such as home made products or vegetables but rather electrical goods, clothing and other commodities in direct competition with established traders. It has been alleged and argued by established traders who have their rights that they compete on unfair terms. There is no evidence that they pay any tax to this State; in some cases vehicles are registered in another jurisdiction. We must strike a balance between the needs of the commercial retail community, who make the only direct contribution by way of commercial rates to the revenue of existing towns, and those of existing casual traders. We must also recognise those in traditional street markets in Dublin, Cork and other places who got much publicity because of points made by Deputies in this House.

I have listened to the contributions. I am open to considering amendments and clarifications of regulations that are part and parcel of the legislation. For that reason I suggest that we do not take Committe Stage for a number of weeks, with the agreement of the Whips. I will have further consultations with interested parties to consider what changes and amendments could be brought in by me on Committee Stage, and I will be open to suggestions that might arise from all sides of the House in that respect.

The 1980 Act was a considerable advance on earlier legislation. However, following representations from a number of quarters that Act was seen not to be working satisfactorily which led to the drafting of this Bill, also in consultation with interested parties. Nobody seriously questions the principles of devolution and decentralisation, but fears have been expressed about how it will work. Let us look at those fears about possible consequences.

For the first time the activities of casual traders are being brought into line with [1717] those of anybody else seeking a licence to carry on business here by requiring some form of tax clearance certificate appropriate to the trade in which they are engaged. Subject to that principle being accepted I am prepared to look at the detail of such clearance certificate and if necessary, in advance of the enactment of this legislation, have consultations with the Revenue Commissioners so that they understand what the parameters of a tax clearance certificate would be. I do not want to put anybody — certainly not a legitimate trader — out of business because of legislation but I make no apology to those forced out of business because they want to continue to trade but not to pay tax. I hold no brief for such people, nor do I think anybody in this House does. However, I invite the House to participate constructively in this debate and I will certainly not bring in legislation that will have an effect that I do not intend. I am, therefore, open to amendments and I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Vótáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The question is: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”. As only one teller has been appointed for the níl side, I declare the question carried.

Question declared carried.


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