A scrap metal prevention bill will be introduced in the House of Commons.
The private members’ bill, introduced by Labour MP Graham Jones would abolish cash payments for scrap, introduce a dealers’ licence fee to fund regulation, make photo ID mandatory for sellers and give police powers to search any scrap-yard and close any yard where stole material is found.
The bill comes in response to growing concern from business, politicians and the public over an epidemic of metal theft partly-caused by high prices. Thefts are estimated to be costing UK business £770m a year. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “determined to put a stop to this really appalling crime”.
Jones said on his blog: “This bill will achieve much without any punitive regulation. It contains no measures which can be regarded as economically damaging red tape – as at its very heart is the intention to reduce costs to businesses affected and consequentially reducing the burden on the public pursue incurred through damage to infrastructure.
“This regulation would allow legitimate, law-abiding and socially responsible scrap metal dealers to flourish. Indeed, some scrap metal dealers already perform much of the requirements of this bill as best practice.”
The announcement of the ten-minute rule bill comes days after director general of the British Metals Recycling Association Ian Hetherington warned MPs against a “knee-jerk reaction” to the epidemic of metal theft. He told the Transport Select Committee inquiry into railway cable theft the industry was “very worried” legislation banning cash would drive legitimate business into the illegal trade.
He said: “Our concern here is that it’s tempting for politicians to reach for new law to demonstrate their power. There is a danger that Government under stress will reach for what they think is a silver bullet. The reality is, it is a much more complex issue.”
The BMRA supports the introduction of photo ID requirements for sellers and a crackdown on illegal operators to stem the outlets for stolen metal.
Other measures in Graham Jones’ bill include handing magistrates powers to add restrictions to dealers’ licences and prevent yards re-opening; allowing stolen property to be regarded as criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act; and sentencing metal thieves according to the “consequences of the crime, not the scrap metal value.”
Energy Networks Association chief executive David Smith welcomed the bill: “The current legislation is unfit for purpose. This Bill has huge potential to be a vehicle for the change in the law we need to see. There must be urgent action if we are to avoid more lives being lost.
“Only by stopping the means of benefitting from the crime can we stop the mindless acts of criminals.”