Metals recyclers have warned of confusion and poor enforcement after a cap on licence fees was dropped from proposed new scrap dealer laws.
The news came as the Home Office confirmed that a ban on cash in the scrap trade would come into force on 3 December. The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, being steered through Parliament by backbench Tory MP Richard Ottaway, passed committee stage last week with mostly minor amendments.
But concerns have been raised about the removal of the cap on the amount that councils will be able to charge for compulsory licences under the new laws.
A spokeswoman for Ottaway’s office told MRW that such a cap could prevent some councils from recovering their costs and “tempt [other councils] to hit the upper limit even when it is not needed”.
But she added that councils would have to pay attention to Government guidance, which would “ensure consistency of approach and licence cost across all local authorities and avoid a postcode lottery scenario”.
Director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) Ian Hetherington warned that variations in fees would “lead to confusion and potentially to ‘gold plating’ of the regulations by some councils and poor quality enforcement in others - a highly unsatisfactory outcome”.
He said the BMRA would be pressing Ottaway and the Home Office to incorporate a “strong framework of guidelines”.
But Mark Schofield, director of JB Schofield scrap merchants, based in Huddersfield, warned that, without a tiered fee system, charges could have a disproportionate impact on small traders which, in turn, could affect the entire scrap supply chain.
Other amendments to the Bill included a redefinition of scrap to include all metals apart from gold and silver, meaning that catalytic converter metals would be covered by the regulations; and an increase in the period merchants would have to keep records for inspection from two to three years.
The cash ban was passed by MPs in April through an amendment to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill.
Hetherington told MRW that his members feared that unequal enforcement of the ban and an exemption for itinerant collectors would create an uneven playing field.
“Businesses could be harmed if enforcement is lax,” he said.
Industry leaders also fear a period of instability following the cash ban and before the Scrap Metal Bill comes into law, possibly around spring 2013. In the run up to the ban, the BMRA plans to raise awareness about the changes throughout the industry and among councils, the police and businesses which sell waste metal.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill is back before MPs for the report stage and third reading on 9 November 2012. Hetherington said BMRA would be working hard lobbying MPs to support the Bill and get the best outcome for the industry.