Waste boss and chair of the Environmental Services Association David Palmer-Jones has ratcheted up the pressure on opponents of scrap sector reform ahead of Friday’s crucial third reading of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill.
Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Sita UK, issued an open letter calling on politicians to back Richard Ottaway MP’s proposed new licensing regime. The intervention comes after supporters told MRW they feared an attempt to kill the bill by MPs “talking out” the legislation.
Philip Davies told MRW he would not try to do so, but, together with fellow MP Christopher Chope, has tabled nearly 80 amendments.
Palmer-Jones said: “Britain is close to scrapping a golden opportunity to finally crack down on the metal thefts plague that is causing a blight on our country’s economic and cultural infrastructure from church roofs and war memorials, to railway and telecoms networks.
“We urge MPs across all political parties to unite and prevent recent attempts to derail a crucial piece of legislation, the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill that is due for its third reading in the House of Commons this Friday 9 November. If it is passed into law, the country will have a compulsory licensing regime for all scrap metal dealers that would make it far harder for stolen metal to be transacted with no questions asked, coupled with tougher penalties for rogue traders.
“If the Bill fails then we will be left with an unlicensed regime which is a recipe for metals theft to continue largely unabated.
“Preventing the Bill’s passage through Parliament will be seen as an act of betrayal of the sector and those organisations and families who have suffered at the hands of metal thieves.
“SITA UK, along with the rest of the scrap metals sector, and those parts of society especially hard-hit by metal theft - transport, infrastructure, the Local Government Group, the Church of England and the War Memorials Trust – along with the law enforcement agencies, have all long campaigned for tighter controls on the handling and management of scrap metal as the only sure way of combating the epidemic of metals theft that has beset the UK over the past few years, causing huge economic damage and emotional distress.
“The first step was taken earlier this year with the introduction of cashless payments for scrap metal, due to come into force on 3 December.
“The Home Office also pledged to amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, an outdated piece of legislation described by the then Minister of State Lord Henley as being “not fit for purpose”. Its intended replacement, the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Richard Ottaway MP with cross-party support, receives its third reading in the House of Commons on Friday 9 November.
“While the majority of Members of Parliament have joined with the industry in acknowledging the crucial importance of the Bill in combating metals theft, we are dismayed to learn of the objections raised by Philip Davies MP against the Bill, and in particular his stated intention to derail the Bill on its passage through the House of Commons on Friday.
“While tougher penalties for thieves are a necessary deterrent they are wholly ineffective without a robust regulatory system underpinning the entire sector. Stolen metal can only be converted into ill-gotten gains through a business transaction with a scrap yard. Dealing with the theft itself without cutting this crucial link will do nothing to reduce the incidence of metal thefts. Letting this Bill fall by the wayside will be waving a green light to thieves. Enough is enough. It is time to act.”