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MP puts Bill before Commons to shake-up scrap trade

Scrap metal dealers will have to pay for licences and be subject to vetting by local councils before they can trade legally under a proposed radical shakeup of the industry.

Richard Ottaway MP (Con) spoke exclusively to MRW ahead of unveiling his plans to overhaul the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (1964) in a government-backed private members’ bill he introduced on Wednesday afternoon.

New regulations, which could be law by the middle of 2013, would give greater powers to local councils to vet licence applicants, charge fees and remove licences. Dealers would be required to keep more detailed records and demand photo ID from sellers.

Ottaway, who said he wanted a robust regime to clamp down on unscrupulous dealers, told MRW: “My bill will replace ineffective regulation with something that works.”

Ian Hetheringon, director general of the BMRA, said he still had concerns about local councils’ “consistency and quality of information, licensing conditions and licensing fees”.

He said the system should linked to an EA-run national register “available to householders and businesses selling scrap metal”.

Hetherington added that enhanced police powers should not disrupt legitimate businesses and powers to suspend licences must be subject to “a proper judicial process”.

Ottaway’s bill, which is still being drafted, has the support of the Labour opposition and the Local Government Association (LGA) which represents councils. Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, called for discretion for individual councils to set conditions and fees according to local needs.

But the MP told MRW fees would be capped by government to keep costs to the industry “reasonable”. He said: “The last thing I want to create is a postcode lottery that would penalise dealers working in certain areas.”

He said the measures in his bill, alongside the planned cash ban, increased police powers and unlimited fines all due in the autumn, would create “an incentive for local authorities to implement the regime in the knowledge that they will not lose out financially, and that they have the backing of the police and the courts”.

Scrap dealer Mark Schofield, director of JB Schofield, said the legislation would “produce masses of information and bureaucracy” that would “make life difficult for countless thousands of innocent customers”.

But Ottaway said the measures in his bill “don’t go much further than what is already in place”. He added: “Better record keeping for legitimate dealers is a small price to pay in return for the significant benefits they will gain from working under a more robust and fairer licensing regime.”

See Richard Ottaway’s exclusive response to industry concerns in full.

Details of the draft bill - what we know so far:

  • Licences for scrap metal dealers administered by local councils
  • Licence renewable every three years
  • Applicants vetted by councils with power to refuse and remove licences
  • Licence fee to cover costs of regime
  • Dealers required to keep detailed records of transactions
  • Removal of itinerant dealers’ exemptions
  • Greater powers for authorities to inspect yards
  • Police authority to suspend licences
  • Unlimited fines for breaches of regulations
  • Single national register to collate local authority information
  • Vehicle salvage operators brought within new regulations

Provisional timeline:

  • First reading: 20 June 2012
  • Second reading: 13 July 2012
  • Third reading: Possibly November 2012
  • House of Lords: Early 2013
  • Royal Assent: Possibly Easter 2013

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