The British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) has suggested several changes to the the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act amid concern that cash transactions are commonplace and police enforcement has been cut.
Consultation by the Home Office reviewing the legislation ended in January and the BMRA has now published its response, arguing that it would be complacent to attribute “a significant reduction in metal theft” purely to the Act.
The submission claims that since funding for enforcement has been cut, meaning fewer police visits to metal dealers’ premises, there has been an upsurge in the use of cash payments in transactions.
Additionally, introduction of the Act coincided with a fall in scrap metal prices. From Q1 2012-13 to Q4 2015-16, the global demand for scrap metal fell by an average 57%, making materials less attractive to thieves.
But recent improved metal prices have contributed to an increase in metal theft in England and Wales, it warns.
“Crucially, the effectiveness of the Act has not yet been tested in a market where metal prices are rising. Without effective enforcement of the Act, metal theft will continue to blight the UK’s infrastructure and cultural assets, as the price of metal and the demand increase. Poor enforcement creates an uneven playing field and harms legitimate businesses.”
The BMRA has called on ministers to introduce a number of amendments to the Act.
It claims that holders of lawfully sourced metal, such as engineering companies or plumbing merchants, continue to demand cash for their scrap metal. They would be greatly deterred if it were also an explicit offence to receive cash for their scrap, the submission argues.
The Act should also give police and local authority officers the power to inspect vehicles used for business as mobile collectors.
It also calls for “reverse-charge VAT”, making the metal dealer responsible for accounting to HM Revenue & Customs for the tax liability. This would serve as a deterrent to metal dealers paying cash and or under-declaring on their VAT returns.
A number of changes are also suggested in the licensing regime.