Regulations on hawkers and dai pai dong are to be loosened in the wake of growing demand to give new life to the trades. Lawmakers welcomed the government initiative, although one said more should be done to ensure the rules did the most possible to create jobs and benefit the economy. Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Council's food safety and environmental hygiene panel yesterday, the undersecretary for food and health, Gabriel Leung, said: 'Recently, there have been views from the community to retain and revitalise the hawking trade because of its traditional characteristics.' He said the now defunct Urban Council stopped issuing new hawker licences in the 1970s with the aim of reducing the number of hawkers by natural attrition. There are currently 6,589 hawkers with fixed-pitch licences and 546 licensed itinerant hawkers. Professor Leung said the government wanted to explore the feasibility of reissuing licences and relaxing the requirements for transferring them, while ensuring the trade did not make the streets dirty. Deputy Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Alice Lau Yim said the number of fixed pitches remained unchanged. The government would issue licences to new hawkers on vacant pitches or allow licensees of adjacent pitches to use vacant ones, Ms Lau said. The government has also proposed, with the nod of district councils and the government, to lift restrictions on dai pai dong so new operators could continue operating when a licence holder dies. There are only 28 licensed dai pai dong hawkers across the city. Under current requirements their licences can only be transferred to holders' spouses. The government also proposed issuing 30 new licences for ice cream hawkers; there are now 28. Lawmakers will meet hawker representatives next month to discuss a review of the licence system. Liberal legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan said people would love to see more dai pai dong. 'They are so vital to the culture of Hong Kong. Now that you said you have to seek more views from district councils, can the government take a more proactive role?' But Wong Yuk-man, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, said that the government was not doing enough. 'The change in fact is very little. The policy continues with stringent controls on the hawking trade without an emphasis on the economic issues and people's livelihood. There is no breakthrough. How many job opportunities can you create with these proposals?' he asked. Meanwhile, Democratic Party legislator Kam Nai-wai went to Central yesterday with police and officials from the Transport Department and Lands Department to discuss the granting of licences to eight hawkers who have been selling cigarettes illegally since 1989. Licences were previously granted to them by the Customs and Excise Department. The Urban Council, now the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, then took over licensing responsibility and refused to renew their permits.