The home secretary has said the government will seek to ban cash transactions for scrap metal and increase fines for trading stolen material.
In a written statement to Parliament Theresa May said the changes to the law are the “only sustainable, long-term solution to the growing menace of metal theft. There is an urgent need to make stealing metal less attractive to criminals, and tackling the stolen metal market will act as a significant deterrent”.
She said cash payments mean “anonymous, low-risk transactions” for thieves and facilitates “poor record keeping by the metal recycling industry and can support tax evasion”.
May said the government will also bring forward further measures in due course.
The government will add the new measures as amendments to the Legal and Sentencing Bill currently before Parliament.
BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: “The proposed ban on cash transactions as part of the amendment to the Legal Aid Bill will not solve the problem and will simply push the trade to illegal scrap yards.
“Whilst we support the long term ambition of removing cash transactions, a range of other reforms plus effective enforcement of current legislation are needed to solve the problem.”
Earlier, the Commons Transport Committee report on railway cable theft recommended the government amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act to require sellers provide ID and give police powers to inspect unlicensed yards.
The committee also recommended ministers “explore the possibility” of a trial in cashless trading, recognising concerns in the industry that a ban on cash could drive legitimate sellers away and even increase illegitimate trade as legitimate sellers turn to illegal dealers to be paid cash.