Manchester City Council Bill [ Lords] and Bournemouth Borough Council Bill [ Lords]
Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Shadow Minister, International Development; Cotswold, Conservative)
My hon. Friend usefully draws attention to that paragraph, but somewhere else the report notes that competition is one of the causes of complaint. On the whole, the number of complaints in any local authority area is fairly low, so it seems to me that every sponsor of such a Bill—Tony Lloyd has spoken in support of his Bill—has to make a crystal-clear case as to why their Bill should be revived.
Like the Government, the Opposition have no particular view officially about whether the Bills should be revived. I have no problem if they are revived; if the House in its wisdom votes in favour of their revival and they go into Committee, I have no problem with that. Even if they go through Committee, pass their other stages and are enacted I shall have no problem with it. However, when we discussed the matter on
As to whether the Bills should be revived, I was delighted to hear from the Minister at the Dispatch Box that we shall have new guidance from his Department when it has taken evidence. That is really important. Evidence is the key to the whole matter. I repeat even more strongly that it is up to each local authority area that brings forward a Bill to produce evidence of why it needs those powers. All too often in this country—in this place, if nowhere else—we tend to rush into legislation because there is a perceived problem. There may indeed be a small actual problem, but one has to consider whether it is sufficient to warrant a change in legislation.
There is no doubt that a change in legislation would make the act of peddling a very different craft—if we can call it that—from what it is at present, so I was pleased to hear that the Government have embarked on gathering evidence from any interested party. Once they have the evidence they will produce guidance, which will run along some of the useful lines to which the Durham report alludes.
We need better methods of enforcement and of issuing certificates. The certificates need to be clear; they need to include a photograph and to be held on a national database. They should be enforceable across the country, so that a pedlar moving from Manchester to Canterbury to Bournemouth can be apprehended and prosecuted if he is misbehaving. We want clear laws that are easily interpreted and operated, so I was delighted to hear about the guidance.
I was delighted to hear that the whole licensing regime will be considered. At present, the local police force issues the licence—or in fact, it may not be the local police force, as the hon. Member for Manchester, Central said. That police force would be relying only on Criminal Records Bureau information, not even local knowledge of the person and whether they are a true and fit person to hold such a certificate. We need to tighten up that procedure.