New legislation proposing tougher regulation for scrap metal dealers has taken a significant step forward after it was backed by MPs.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill will go before a parliamentary committee in September after it got cross-party support at its second reading and remains on course to become law by autumn 2013.
The private members bill, put forward by Conservative MP Richard Ottaway, would beef up regulation of the industry by local authorities and completely outlaw cash payments by scrap metal dealers, a process which is already underway.
A cash ban is set to be introduced under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 but house-to-house collectors and motor salvage firms are exempt from this.
Ottaway told MPs about a police raid on a scrap yard in Croydon which led to a 38% fall in metal thefts.
He said: “This backs up what the police tell us: that the scrap metal industry is the main outlet for stolen metal. It also exposes the failings of our current legislation, which was crafted more than half a century ago.”
The bill was backed by several MPs including Conservative Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell who was a victim of metal theft when the metal plaque on his father’s grave was stolen.
But other MPs feared the proposals might encourage criminality rather than prevent it.
David Nuttall, Conservative MP for Bury North, feared small, legitimate dealers might be prompted to join the black market to escape additional regulation.
He said: “Well-meaning measures lead to more stress on the natural environment, more business costs, more criminality and the people who it is designed to hit will just carry on as normal in a thriving criminal world.
“There is therefore a real danger that the bill will not be as successful in tackling the problem as its promoters hope.”
David Hanson, Labour MP for Delyn, said metal theft might not be prevented by the proposals because stolen metal would be sent abroad instead.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill will:
- Replace the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.
- Empower councils to refuse, vary and revoke scrap metal dealers’ licenses and charge them a fee to cover the costs of the licensing service. The licenses will last for three years.
- Force metal sellers to produce verifiable identification which is recorded and kept for two years by the dealer.
- Set up a new national, public register of scrap metal dealers run by the Environment Agency and
- Hand the police powers to close unlicensed premises. Dealers would face unlimited fines for trading in cash, being unlicensed or failing to record their dealings.