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Scrap metal reform bill clears final hurdle

The metal recycling sector is set to be overhauled after Government-backed reforms cleared the final Parliamentary hurdle.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill (2012-13) (SMDB) was passed at the third, and final, reading in the Lords on Tuesday afternoon and is now ready for Royal Assent and could come into force by October.

The private members’ bill, piloted by Richard Ottaway MP (Con), will replace the existing 1964 Act, introducing a compulsory, local authority-run licensing regime for all scrap traders.

Ottaway, backed by ministers, police, councils, industry and much of the scrap trade, introduced the bill last year to help tackle metal theft.

Industry leaders from the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) have lobbied hard for regulatory reform and warned that without it the cash ban introduced in December would not tackle theft. Director general Ian Hetherington said it was imperative the bill becomes law as soon as possible in order to close the loopholes in the cash ban.

“The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill proposes to bring an end to these loopholes by implementing tougher licensing and enforcement to eradicate the industry of unscrupulous dealers who act as conduits for stolen metal.”

Ottaway hailed the success of his bill as a victory for communities targeted by “opportunistic thieves who know they can get rid of stolen metals at rogue or negligent scrap yards”. 

“Metal theft is no petty crime. It hits at the heart of our daily lives – grinding trains to a halt, cutting off power supplies to hospitals and other lifelines, stripping roofs off churches and schools at huge public expense”, he added.

Main points of the bill:

  • Require all scrap dealers to hold and display a licence.
  • Empower councils to refuse, vary and revoke scrap metal dealers’ licences and charge a fee to cover the costs of the scheme.
  • Force metal sellers to produce verifiable identification which is recorded and kept for two years by the dealer.
  • Set up a national, public register of scrap metal dealers run by the Environment Agency.
  • Empower police and councils to close unlicensed premises. Dealers would face unlimited fines for trading in cash, being unlicensed or failing to record deals.
  • Cash ban to include itinerant collectors.

Councillor Mehboob Khan, chairman of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said the bill was a huge step towards tackling metal theft.

He said: “Councils have long been clear that we need a comprehensive and modern system for running the metal recycling industry, with a proper licensing system to hold scrapyards to account.

“Now that the bill has passed through Parliament, we look forward to working with the Home Office and councils to make sure the system is up and running as quickly as possible.”





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