A draft law is set to give vendors a 30-day stay of execution after an eviction order from their spot.
Declaring that the National Vending Bill is intended to remove the scourge of criminality from vending, Minister of Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds told the House of Assembly that vending without a licence will be treated as an administrative penalty rather than a criminal offence.
Symmonds stressed that prior notice before eviction is necessary and declared that the days where the police remove vendors from the streets of Bridgetown with the canine division must never dawn again.
He said: “We say that if there is an issue that has arisen where there is a need for an eviction, or removal of a vendor, or a group of vendors, that these people be treated as we treat any other business people in Barbados though, that we give them the courtesy of knowing that this is a development that is coming your way, that you can plan for it. Not that you come to work today and find that everything that you brought to work is destroyed, kicked over, spilled over, knocked bout, without reference to recovery.”
Symmonds said it is being proposed that vendors reclaim merchandise seized as a result of an eviction or relocation notice. He also elaborated that in the event of an emergency, vendors will be entitled to compensation in circumstances where there is loss, damage, or destruction of perishable and nonperishable merchandise subjected to the relocation exercise.
He said: “No longer can it be that 40 unnamed Police Officers appear on the bridge where I was selling my oranges and skin open my tray and that a Police boot squash the orange and kick away the onions, and hold a dog bite too. And Mr Speaker Sir I am not in a position to recover, that I must be in a position to recover.
“And if the state does not put itself in a position to give me back those things that were damaged, or destroyed, the state must compensate me for the value of that which was lost. That is the new deal. So that every vendor in The City of Bridgetown must feel a sense of fulfillment today to know that when they go to take up their spot six months from now, three months from now, the things that they had to endure could never happen to them again.”
Symmonds said that sellers caught without a vending permit will have to pay an administrative penalty within a specific period of time for breaching the regulations.
He explained: “It completely replaces the criminal sanction that we knew before. That administrative penalty Mr Speaker, Sir, will come in the form of a fine which will be levied against the vendor in question. And that vendor will be given a period of time within which to pay the fine.
“If the vendor chooses not to pay, or fails to pay, that vendor then has held against him, a liability to be pursued in a Magistrates Court in a civil action, not a criminal action, for the recovery of that $500 that he didn’t pay.”
Symmonds said that the bill also proposes that a vendor be given a notice in writing regarding the intention to revoke or suspend their licence and the reason why the action is being taken. He added that the vendor upon receiving the notice, will have 14 days within which they can object in writing.
“For the first time, Mr Speaker, this Parliament is not intervening in order to suppress the interest and the commercial impulse of the vendor. But the Parliament is intervening to grant the vendor rights which allow him to know why an action is taken against him, which allow him to respond to the intention to take an action against him,” he said.
The bill is also seeking to regulate vending activities, including addressing the conditions in which vendors work.
Symmonds added that Clause 5 of the legislation is going to prescribe methods to be taken for vendors obtaining licences from the Ministry of Commerce, following consultation with the Ministry of Commerce and Fisheries. The National Conservation Commission (NCC) will be empowered to issue licences independently.
The minister also indicated that a national register containing information for persons licensed to vend in Barbados will also be created.
He said the bill also supports the establishment of vending zones which would provide access to well-lit areas equipped with adequate facilities, to allow for vending at extended hours, including at nights. ([email protected])