Politics: Fried onion men of St James's saved by MP

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The Independent Online
IN THE stillness of the hot summer air the stench of fried onions was overwhelming. The hot dog sellers were making the most of yesterday's fine weather to ply their trade on the tourists strolling through St James's Park.

A small group of policemen were doing their best to move them on but as soon as they disappeared round the corner, the street traders moved back into position.

A private member's Bill designed to close the loophole giving lenient treatment to unlicensed traders inside the Royal Parks was yesterday thrown out in the Commons and the problem will now continue at least until next autumn.

On streets outside the Royal Parks, council officials have the power to seize illegal traders' cooking equipment and they can be fined up to pounds 1,000. But once inside the parks, which as privately owned land are not covered by the legislation, the traders can only be fined pounds 200 and their equipment cannot be confiscated.

Peter Brooke, the Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, has put forward The Royal Parks (Trading) Bill to close this loophole and give greater powers to the Royal Parks police.

The Bill, which was drawn up in consultation with the Royal Family, was killed off after Eric Forth, the Tory MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said he would object on principle. Mr Forth is a fierce critic of the procedure for private members' Bills, saying that if they all got through there would be hundreds of new laws every year.

A spokesman for the Royal Parks said the failure of the Bill yesterday meant yet another summer of unpleasant smells and tourists being duped into risking their health with unhygienic foods.