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22 Mar 2001 : Column 542

Kent County Council Bill [Lords] (By Order)

As amended, considered.

4.11 pm

Mr. Speaker: The House is to consider the Kent County Council Bill followed by the Medway Council Bill. It may be helpful if I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the two Bills and the amendments thereto are virtually identical. The Chair will allow reference to the Medway Council Bill while we are debating the Kent County Council Bill, but thereafter any debate on the Medway Council Bill should be limited to matters peculiar to that Bill.

Clause 2

Appointed day

Mr. Speaker: I call the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) to move amendment No. 15, which is grouped with amendments Nos. 18 and 16.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): I seek clarification, Mr. Speaker. I have been told that the amendments are acceptable to the promoters of the Bill. Is that true?

Mr. Paul Clark (Gillingham): As the sponsor of the Bill, I inform the House that the promoters are willing to accept this group of amendments.

Mr. Wyatt: Do I need to move the amendment, Mr. Speaker? I am unsure of the form.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman needs to move the amendment. Other Members may wish to speak to it.

Mr. Wyatt: I wish to move the amendment formally, Mr. Speaker.

Amendments made: No. 15 in page 2, line 6 leave out

and insert--

No. 18, in page 2, line 11 leave out 'three' and insert 'six'.

No. 16, in page 2, line 15, after 'newspaper', insert--

Mr. Paul Clark: I beg to move promoters amendment No.1, in page 3, leave out line 42.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take the following: promoters amendment No. 2, in clause 6, page 4, line 29, leave out 'his business' and insert--

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Promoters amendment No. 3, in clause 8, page 7, line 18, at end insert--

Amendment No. 41, in clause 11, page 8, line 11, after 'trading', insert 'in the county'.

4.15 pm

Mr. Clark: I shall be brief, as the three promoters amendments are all linked and will rectify a problem with book dealers. The intention of the Bill was to exempt such dealers from legislation, in so far as the business is related to books. As drafted, the effect of the Bills on dealers who sell other goods, for example, maps or prints, would be to require records of the transactions relating to books also to be kept.

These promoters amendments would make it clear that no record-keeping would be required for books, even if the dealer is registered to sell other types of second-hand goods. The information held by Kent police did not reveal that there was a problem with stolen books. In fact, only five thefts of valuable books were recorded in a 12-month period. In addition, no consumer complaints about second-hand books can be found on the records, so there does not seem to be a problem with that side of the trade.

Mr. Wyatt: I seek clarification about the wording. I am confused as to whether the "squat trading" referred to in clause 11(1)(c) refers to trading in the county. We hope that it does and, if so, I am happy to accept that.

Mr. Clark: The promoters are willing to accept amendment No. 41 as they have no problems with it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5

Registration of dealers in second-hand goods

Mr. Wyatt: I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 4, line 19, leave out 'three' and insert 'four'.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to take the following: amendment No. 26, in page 4, line 20, at end insert--

Amendment No. 45, in clause 12, page 10, line 33, leave out first 'business address' and insert--

Amendment No. 46, in clause 12, page 10, line 33, leave out second 'business address' and insert--

Amendment No. 47, in clause 12, page 10, line 39, leave out 'business address' and insert--

Mr. Wyatt: My only concern is that we do not want the antiques trade to be charged for registration. We want

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to ensure that there will be no charge to traders and that the council will pay the charge. I understand that that is acceptable to the promoters.

Mr. Paul Clark: After some consideration, the promoters have decided that the amendments in the group are acceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 26, in page 4 line 20, at end insert--

Mr. Paul Clark: I beg to move promoters amendment No. 5, in page 4, line 26, leave out (7) and insert (8).

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to consider the following: amendment No. 28, in page 4, line 42, leave out from 'entry' to 'by' in line 43.

Amendment No. 29, in page 5, line 17, leave out '£10' and insert '£100'.

Promoters amendment No. 6, in page 5, line 17, leave out from 'than' to end of line 19 and insert--

Promoters amendment No. 7, in page 5, line 23, at end insert--

Promoters amendment No. 8, in page 5, line 24, leave out '(7)' and insert '(8)'.

Promoters amendment No. 9, in line 36, leave out '(4)' and insert '(5)'.

Amendment No. 33, line 36, leave out from 'amount' to end of line 44 and insert--

Amendment No. 30, in page 5, line 38, leave out 'jewellery, watches'.

Amendment No. 32, in page 5, line 38, leave out 'photographic equipment'.

Amendment No. 31, in page 5, line 40, leave out ', musical instruments'.

Promoters amendment No. 10, in page 6, line 2, leave out '(4)' and insert '(5)'.

Promoters amendment No. 11, in page 6, line 3, leave out '(4)' and insert '(5)'.

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Promoters amendment No. 12, in page 6, line 21, clause 7, leave out '(4), (8) or (9)' and insert '(5), (9) or (10)'.

Promoters amendment No. 13, in page 6, line 39, leave out '(4)' and insert '(5)'.

Promoters amendment No. 14, in page 6, line 42, leave out '(4)' and insert '(5)'.

Amendment No. 42, in page 10, line 5, clause 12, leave out from 'him' to end of line 6.

Amendment No. 43, in page 10, line 8, leave out from beginning to end of line 10.

Amendment No. 44, in page 10, line 11, leave out from beginning to end of line 13.

Mr. Clark: Amendments Nos. 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are drafting amendments as a consequence of various small issues that relate to changes elsewhere.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 relate to the levels and items required to be recorded by those involved in the second-hand trade. The Select Committee heard detailed evidence and arguments from the promoters, petitioners and their counsel, and witnesses over some 11 days, so detailed consideration was given. The Committee decided that the Bill should continue but with certain amendments, the most significant of which relates to the records which must be kept by registered dealers in second-hand goods. These two amendments relate to that.

Dealers are required to obtain the name and address of the person from whom the articles were acquired. An exemption is provided for articles which, in the reasonable opinion of the dealer at the time of the transaction, will be sold or offered for sale at a price of less than £10. However, that is not to apply to any electrical or battery-powered goods or to any medium on or by which sound, images and other data may be stored and recorded. This is intended to reduce the bureaucracy, but will not exempt those low value items frequently sold, such as audiocassettes and CDs. It may appear to hon. Members that those are relatively insignificant items, but the recovery of smaller items often leads police to those involved in thefts of more valuable items.

The petitioners argued that antiques should be exempt or that the threshold for record-keeping should be raised to £50. The problem is that antique dealers also trade in works of art and collectors' items, and the existing legal definitions to be found in VAT legislation are too complex and would make the legislation unworkable. Since then, the promoters have introduced an amendment which tackles the problem differently, but will raise the threshold for most antiques to £50. Therefore, the proposals in amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are that the £10 threshold be retained for specified items similar to those requiring records when the dealer sells items for £100 or more. Again, the law of thresholds must be maintained for those items identified by the police as most frequently stolen.

Consequently, as the Bill stands, all electrical and battery-powered items will need to be recorded, together with items for use with electrical items such as CDs and computer games. That will remain the case for the reasons that I have outlined. All other items will need to be recorded if, in the view of the dealer when purchasing

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them, they would be sold on for more than £10. The effect of our amendment is to raise the financial limit in respect of those goods.

The £10 limit will still apply to goods listed in the amendment, namely vehicle parts, jewellery, watches, photographical equipment, sports equipment, equestrian equipment, boating equipment, musical instruments, tools, bicycles, firearms and gardening equipment. All other items, including most antiques, would not need to be recorded if their onward sale is believed to be at less than £50.

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