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Ottaway seeks advice as councils report 'spiralling' metal theft

The MP whose parliamentary bill is intended to overhaul regulation of the metals recycling industry has visited scrap merchants as research reveals 88% of councils are victims of metal theft.

Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway, above centre, visited F J Church and Sons in Rainham, Essex and EMR in Erith, South East London on 6 July to learn more about the issues affecting the sector.

Patrick Church of F J Church and Sons, left, said that meeting Ottaway, whose Private Members’ Bil would reform the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (SMDA), was useful.

“We are fully supporting the bill which should create a level playing field when it comes to a ban on trading scrap metal for cash,” said Church. “Metals recycling in the UK plays a vital role in helping the country to meet its recycling and recovery targets whilst creating green jobs and reducing greenhouse gases.

“It is important that changes to legislation are implemented with minimal disruption to legitimate businesses so the industry can continue to make this valuable contribution.”

The visit came as a Local Government Association survey of 157 local authorities reported that metal theft had affected almost nine in ten councils.

Chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Mehboob Khan, said: “This mindless crime is spiralling out of control and has cost councils millions of pounds in having to replace memorial plaques, manhole covers, metal gullies, children’s playground equipment, street signs and lead from schools, council offices and crematoriums.”

Councils are urging Parliament not to miss the opportunity to tackle scrap metal theft when the bill is voted on in the House of Commons later this week.

Mr Ottaway said he was keen to work with BMRA, which hosted the visit to scrap merchants and others affected by the bill.

He said: “While the proposed reforms of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act will not eradicate metal theft altogether, it will make it harder for thieves to dispose of stolen metal, and those operating outside of the law will face tougher punishment, unlimited fines and the threat of losing their licence.”

BMRA is calling for the licensing system to be linked to a transparent national register of scrap metal merchants available to householders and businesses selling scrap metal which could be maintained by the Environment Agency in parallel with the existing permitting system.

It also wants to make sure any enhanced police powers to not disrupt the day-to-day running of legitimate businesses. It is calling for a proper judicial process where licence suspensions are necessary.

BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: “It is vital that a revised SMDA is introduced in a timely fashion with regard to regulatory changes made through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) bill.

“This has left some ‘loopholes’ in current legislation and it is vital that these are addressed by a revised SMDA before LASPO is introduced. This will negate serious disruption for individual businesses and the secondary metals market as whole.”

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