THE decision to hold a Continental Christmas market in Douglas was defended in Tynwald.
Onchan MHK Peter Karran (Lib Van) asked a series of questions about the revenue generated by the market, whether it contravened bye-laws and whether work permits had been issued to the stall holders.
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin replied that while there was not detailed information on the direct benefit to the Exchequer, the venture had resulted in an estimated 320 bed nights for those traders visiting the island and associated expenditure totalling about £25,000.
A further £7,400 was paid direct to the Office of Fair Trading for the non-resident trader licences issued. Additionally, goods and services were purchased from local businesses including food, event security, insurance and fuel for generators.
Mr Shimmin said no work permits were issued as an administrative exemption was granted which he said was properly dealt before the fair arrived, with the names and addresses of all traders provided to his department and spot checks carried out.
He told the court: ‘While my department was not responsible for attracting this event, I am supportive of it as a means of trying to stimulate interest and bring additional business into the town centre, which hopefully has brought benefits to both retailers and the public.
‘Initial feedback showed the event has been a great success, with good feedback from both the public and retailers.’
Brenda Cannell (Douglas East) described the market as ‘splendid initiative and a wonderful event’.
Her only gripe was that Villiers Square might have been a better location rather than along the town’s main shopping thoroughfare.
The Minister replied: ‘It’s nice to see some Christmas cheer!’
He said the Town Square/Villiers Square site had not been made available by its owners.
There was less festive cheer from Richard Ronan (Castletown) who asked how much money had stayed on the island. He suggested that before ‘inviting foreign markets’ over we should be promoting Manx produce with a ‘street fair of our own’.
Mr Shimmin replied: ‘Would I prefer everybody to buy local? Of course I would.’
He said there had been more spaces available for local traders in the market but there were not all taken up.
‘I’m not really sure why there is so much opposition,’ he added.
He said the decision on whether or not to allow the fair to go ahead was a matter for Douglas Council. All traders were issued with a street trading licence under the terms of the Pedlars and Street Traders Act 1906. Mr Shimmin said VAT will be payable by any island-registered trader taking part in the Christmas market, he added.