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The Bill, which is due to have its next reading in the House of Lords before the end of the month, could soon be law, affecting all trade in the county – and it could provide a template for further legislation nationwide. Aimed at preventing the sale of stolen goods, particularly at car boot and secondhand car sales, the Bill has drawn all secondhand goods, including art and antiques, into its net.

The difficulty is that no expert advice from the trade was sought in drawing up the provisions of the Bill with the result that burdensome and impractical measures forcing sellers and buyers to complete a detailed registration process for sales over £100 will become compulsory.

LAPADA, the association of art and antiques dealers, has campaigned vigorously against the legislation as it stands, pointing out that dealers – and more importantly buyers who value their security and confidentiality – just over the county borders in Surrey and Sussex will not have to register transactions.

Detailed talks with those drafting the Bill have led to a large number of proposed amendments: auctioneers associations have already received undertakings which would amend the bill to their satisfaction. However LAPADA say the threat to the trade is still very real, and the association is in the process of lobbying support in the House alongside other campaigners. So far Sittingbourne and Sheerness MP Derek Wyatt has expressed most sympathy, but he may not be available to speak at the relevant time.

Cabinet enforcer Mo Mowlam has indicated that a “gap in the system” where only Private Bills, such as this, do not have have to conduct an assessment of their likely impact, needs to be addressed. But even if this rule changes, it may be too late for the Kent Bill. LAPADA are keen to point out that the success of this Bill may well lead to further legislation elsewhere in the country, so it is important for the trade to act now. Chief executive Malcolm Hord urges all dealers to write to their MP.