Metal recyclers have condemned a proposal to exempt “rag and bone men” from the scrap metal cash ban .
Parliament is today debating proposed amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to ban trading in cash for scrap metal.
One clause would mean the cash ban would not apply to “itinerant collectors” who have an exception order from the local authority.
British Metals Recycling Association director-general Ian Hetherington said the get-out-clause would undermine the cash ban and give a commercial advantage to itinerant dealers who, he said, were responsible for many of the problems associated with metal theft.
He added: “The exemption would leave a loophole in legislation which could encourage some metals recyclers to stop purchasing scrap metal from those calling at their yard, and instead to collect scrap from their sellers and thereby continue to trade in cash.”
Cashless trading in itself would not reduce metal theft, Hetherington warned.
“It is essential that the cashless trading model is implemented alongside a fundamental review of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act which is ever more urgent in light of this amendment.”
Alchemy Metals manager Nicola Guest called on the Home Office said a cash ban must include all scrap dealers. “Otherwise the true provenance and traceability of material back to its source is lost.”
She said she had contacted 14 licensing authorities, none of which had any itinerant collector exemption orders in place under Section 3(1) of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
Guest said this suggested itinerants were not registering and operating unregulated; or were operating under Section 2 obligations. Either way, the proposed ammendment would not affect them.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire defended the amendment in the Commons.
He said the provisions would “ensure that those involved in door-to-door selling must trade through a registered scrap metal dealership”.
“They will therefore be subject to the restrictions on cashless payment. That underlines the fact that those itinerant collectors need to be registered and approved by local authorities and police - another form or enforcement that needs to be focused on”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The changes we are proposing will for the first time require all those taking scrap metal to a dealer, including door-to-door collectors, to provide identification and receive a traceable non-cash payment.
“This will remove the no-questions-asked cash payments that make this such a low risk criminal enterprise for metal thieves and unscrupulous dealers.”
The Bill, which is at the report stage, is due to be debated in the Lords on Tuesday 20 March. The Labour peer Lord Faulkner of Worcester is also due to table an amendment to remove the government’s itinerants exemption.