Although the committee recommended the Private Bill for continued passage through the Houses of Parliament, they were split and had to rely on the chairman’s casting vote. And they made it clear in their special report to the Commons that they were not happy with the Bill but did not have the power to recommend wider legislation in an official capacity.
The report also makes it clear that while all parties involved support the aim of reducing crime linked to transactions in secondhand goods, the proposed legislation could create problems on this score. The committee drew attention to the fact that even the Deputy Chief Constable of Kent, Robert Ayling, admitted that provisions on a local basis to combat crime “would have a displacement effect on criminal activity”.
The committee noted that it was only allowed to consider the cases of those who had petitioned against the Bill (in this case DMG Antiques fairs Ltd, LAPADA and Kent dealers Georgina McKinnon and David Jackson-Grant), and “having no powers to summon witnesses other than those presented by the parties, [the committee] have only a limited ability to compare the proposals with others previously made”. This fact was of particular concern to Ms McKinnon, who has condemned Private Bills as legislation by “stealth” that can be introduced without those whose livelihoods it affects ever being consulted. She highlighted the fact that a similar Bill is being considered for Newcastle but not a single dealer she had spoken to there was aware of it.
The Select Committee was also worried that piecemeal legislation could cause people to break the law without knowing it. “We heard from the petitioners that, although the provisions of the Kent and Medway Bills are local, they will affect dealers who trade on a national basis. Consequently there was a concern that if the provisions akin to those in the Kent and Medway Bills were introduced in future such Bills, dealers would find themselves grappling with a number of subtly different regulatory regimes as they travelled around the country. the likelihood of dealers unwittingly committing offences against local legislation, we were told, was strong. This was a powerful argument for introducing a single, national, regulatory structure.”
The committee “strongly” believed that any proposal to decrease the market in stolen goods should decrease but not displace the market and concluded that this could only be achieved on a national basis.
And in the strongest terms, the committee concluded: “The Government should reconsider the case for public legislation to regulate the market in secondhand goods. Such legislation needs to be introduced at an early stage.”