Supporters of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill (SMDB) say they are “seriously concerned” the reforms could be killed in Parliament on Friday.
There are fears Tory backbencher Philip Davies could “talk out” the Bill at the third reading, prolonging the debate in the Commons, and preventing it passing to the Lords.
Davies has described the bill as “gesture politics”, saying it would not make any difference to metal theft without laws for tougher sentences.
The bill is being piloted through Parliament by Richard Ottaway MP, and is supported by the Labour opposition and much of the scrap sector.
Supporters of the Government-backed Private Member’s Bill, including industry figures, are holding discussions with Davies to convince him to drop his opposition. But backers of scrap reform fear the MP for Shipley will not be swayed because of what is seen as his ideological opposition to regulation. They have said the future of the legislation is now “precarious”.
A source said Davies was the now “only person on the planet” opposed to reforms which would introduce a council licensing scheme for all dealers.
But supporters of the bill said it would give authorities powers to close yards and would provide the evidence required to pursue prosecutions. They said recent guidance meant there were already tougher sentences being handed out.
Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) said it would hold discussions with Davies ahead of Friday’s debate.
He said: “With the introduction of a ban on buying scrap for cash in our midst, the proposed reforms are now even more urgent. BMRA has continually argued that simply banning cash will not have the desired effect on the theft of metal whilst illegal operators continue to buy scrap for cash and whilst itinerant collectors and vehicle salvage dismantlers remain exempt from the cash ban. There is a real risk that legitimate businesses will see a drop in trade causing job losses and closures.”
Hetherington said it was vital the bill became law and was implemented as quickly as possible.
Davies was also criticised by the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, who said the reforms were necessary to tackle lead theft from churches. He said if the bill failed now “the consequences will be very damaging and seriously frustrate both law enforcement and the trade”.