MPs have told the government that banning cash from the scrap trade will not be enough to tackle metal theft.
A Labour Party motion passed by the House of Commons calls on the Government to urgently introduce a number of further measures including a “robust” licensing scheme to replace the current registration scheme; a licence fee to fund regulation; and police powers to close scrap yards and search any yard.
The motion also called for compulsory CCTV, photo ID requirements and magistrate powers to add licensing conditions and prevent closed yards reopening.
The Opposition Day debate was introduced by Graham Jones MP, whose private members’ bill to implement similar requirements was kicked out when the Government refused to back it in January.
Jones told MPs metal theft was at “epidemic levels” and could be costing the economy £700m a year.
“We have seen lifeboat stations without communications, and last month Llandough hospital in Wales had to cancel 80 operations because of cable theft,” he said.
Jones said licensing should come before a cash ban to provide traceability and a legal framework.
“Cash is king for one reason and HMRC needs to wake up to that, as the Treasury is losing millions in revenue. A sting article in the Daily Mail last week exposed the size of the problem in the industry, as 40% of the dealers approached accepted metal that the undercover journalist told them was stolen. Shockingly, none of them reported this alleged crime to the police, and this is simply not good enough,” he said.
Lib Dem junior Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said the Government was acting as fast as it can to tackle the problem. Legislation, while necessary, was not enough, and the Government was working with police to strengthen law enforcement with its £5m taskforce led by British Transport Police.
She said the Home Office was looking at how to improve the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
The Home Secretary said in January the Government would seek ban cash from scrap trade through an amendment to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill.