More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to outlaw cash transactions on scrap metal yards.
The petition was posted on a government website and will lead to a debate in the House of Commons if it reaches 100,000 signatories.
It comes after Labour MP Graham Jones introduced a private members’ bill that would abolish cash payments for scrap along with other measures aimed at tackling metal theft.
The petition says: “Due to a significant rise in value, metal has become a much sought after commodity. This increased demand has resulted in a sharp rise in metal theft nationally.
“Historically the scrap metal trade has been a cash in hand industry. This creates difficulties as there is no audit trail, making identification of individuals who may be trading stolen metal or who may be committing tax or benefits fraud, a difficult proposition.
“An amendment to the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit cash transactions would make payment by cheque or directly into a bank account mandatory and would be a significant component in reducing metal theft.”
Scrap merchants have insisted such a move would be counterproductive. A spokesman for metals recycling giant Sims said introducing new legislation into the sector would just give those operating outside the law a further competitive edge.
“These guys will not be affected by cashless sites so you just upset the market.”