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The Bills, which have divided the Trade, have proved unpopular with some dealers who fear that the extra bureaucracy and restrictions involved will blight their business without fulfilling their aim of reducing crimes such as burglary and handling stolen goods.

While there is clear Government support for the Bill and it looks certain to be adopted as law, several MPs who initially supported it now have their doubts about how effective it may prove. While none argues with the crime-beating aims of the proposed legislation, more than one member who spoke in the debate last Wednesday questioned the logic of its introduction, and especially as a pilot scheme. Why, asked North Thanet MP Roger Gale, if the 1991 Yorkshire pilot scheme has been such a success, has a nationwide policy not been introduced? He said his own investigations in Yorkshire had shown that the legislation had not worked, in which case, why were similar restrictions being introduced piecemeal in Kent?