A get-out-clause in the Government’s proposed scrap metal cash ban has been described as “baffling” in the House of Lords.
As MRW has reported, the proposed legislation has been attacked by the metal recycling sector for a clause that exempts “itinerant” metal collectors registered with the local authority from the cash ban.
The Government amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was agreed by the Lords.
But Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab), a vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Metal Theft, said the reasons behind the “baffling” exemption had not been properly explained.
Faulkner said the exemption would “mean that the sale of metal to an itinerant collector will not have to be recorded, whether it is a householder getting rid of some unwanted domestic appliance or a metal thief using the itinerant as a way of getting into the chain”.
He added: “By proposing that exemption, the Government is opening up a serious loophole that could undermine much of the benefit that their move towards cashless transactions will create”.
Faulkner said the exemption, which came to light when the Government amendment was published last week, had caused alarm in the industry.
He quoted a response from Sita that said: “There is no reason why a cashless system cannot be implemented by bona fide itinerant collectors, along with the rest of the scrap metal industry.”
Home Office minister Lord Henley, in response to the criticism, said the exemption would affect a “modest number of individuals who will be known to both the police and their local authority” and will be bound by environmental and waste regulations.
“Most importantly, no itinerant collector will receive cash from the scrap metal industry on which they are reliant for selling scrap to. Travelling around the streets picking up scrap, they will, when they take it on to the scrap yard, have to have that payment made not in cash but by some other means. Their transactions will be traceable for the first time, with the scrap metal industry recording details of the transaction and the payment method and to whom that payment is made.”
BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: “As it stands, this bill sends out a message that itinerant operators can operate outside the law. It provides a loophole for other unscrupulous operators and serves to undermine a legitimate industry that has spent hundreds of millions of pounds complying with environmental legislation.”
He expressed concern at the speed with which the proposed cash ban could be introduced.
The proposed exception would apply to itinerants registered for an exemption order under section 3(1) of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
Henley said the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was “no longer fit for purpose”, and that the Government will “look at all legislative opportunities in the new session to see how we can revise [the law]”.
Other measures in the current amendment include revision of police powers of entry, and increasing fines for dealers involved in metal theft.