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Should Councils be able to regulate pedlars?

So far as I can gather they don't have much hope of getting anywhere, but there are various Private Bills before before Parliament being promoted by various Councils to regulate peddlars. This one from Canterbury is an example. It would give Councils sweeping powers to sweep pedlars off the streets.

Debating the issue in Parliament, the Conservative MP Chris Chope, came to the defence of the pedlars. He said:

 I think that there is a reasonable concern on the part of the pedlar community that it has not obtained a reasonable deal from Nottingham and Canterbury; and that is why I shall certainly oppose these Bills. Piecemeal legislation, which we are engaged in producing, is undesirable in principle. If we are going to restrict or change the rights, responsibilities and definition of pedlars and introduce different arrangements for issuing licences in order to test whether the requirements of good character have been satisfied and so on, it is sensible and prudent that we do so in a national context. They are all issues that have been raised in the Government's current consultation paper.

I should like the number of pedlars operating in this country to increase significantly, and that may be a by-product of our series of debates. I should like Jobcentre Plus advisers to suggest to people that, while looking for work, they might obtain a pedlar's certificate for £12.25 and trust their luck in the real world of trying to become a retailer. That activity is not necessarily suited to everybody, but in my submission it is suited to many more people than the 4,000 who are engaged in it.

We in this House should not send out an ambivalent message. Some say that pedlars are equivalent to rogue traders-admittedly, an extreme view, but one that some of the promoters of these Bills have articulated; and others of us say that pedlars are wonderful entrepreneurs who engage in the enterprise society. If we send out mixed messages, it will be that much more difficult to encourage people to go into pedlary as a profession. I say "profession" advisedly, because, as was mentioned at the very beginning of these debates, Marks and Spencer would not exist had it not been for the fact that it was founded by somebody who learned his trade as a pedlar.

We have to look at this in the national context, because an aspect that has become highly relevant since we first started debating these Bills is the significant rise in unemployment. Like me, the Minister will have regularly received people at his surgeries saying, "I've got all these qualifications and I'm eager to work", then, as an aside, "A lot of people aren't interested in getting a job, but I'm not one of those-I want to get a job." Other countries, such as Germany, have systems for encouraging people to engage in self-employment."

This is good stuff from Chope. Conservatives should wish to promote enterprise culture and defeat dependency culture. We should favour individual liberty and consumer choice. But what about the democratic argument? What about localism? If Canterbury and Nottingham wish to engage in these misguided restrictions should that not be a matter for them?


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