A Home Office review of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 has backed retention of the legislation but refused to add to its powers, to the dismay of metal recyclers.
The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) had called for a range of new measures, including the reintroduction of the Metal Theft Taskforce, outlawing all cash payments and tightening licensing regulations.
The review was not due until 2018, but in 2016 the BMRA and others persuaded the Home Office that there was sufficient evidence to take an early look.
Home secretary Amber Rudd has now decided that, as a piece of legislation, it is fit for purpose. Part of its reasoning is a downward trend in metal theft from 62,997 offences in 2012-13 to 12,970 in 2016-17.
However, on 6 December, the BMRA said the latest property crime data from the Office of National Statistics for 2016-17 revealed that metal theft had increased in the last quarter of the year.
At that time, Robert Fell, BMRA chief executive (pictured), said: “Judging by the reports we are hearing, this figure must have continued to rise since these latest ONS data sets were collated, especially as metal prices have soared in recent times.”
While the Home Office says it will not implement measures sought by the association, it is “keen” to work with interested bodies to better understand metal theft and to consider whether more can be done within the existing legislation.
It says that the call for greater enforcement of the regulatory regime is an operational matter for the police and local authorities.
In response to the Home Office’s announcement, the BMRA said: “The Government has chosen to take the path of least resistance, thereby ignoring the pleas by the many victims of crime to strengthen the Act.
”Since the review was announced, we have repeatedly warned that, as metal prices recover, the reports of metal theft will rise – and they have done, significantly.
“Having ignored these requests for the Act to be amended, and those made by other key stakeholders, the Home Office must be prepared to be held accountable for soaring metal theft figures and any resulting injuries to members of the public.”
But it said it would “gladly take up the Home Office’s offer to help it identify what can be done within the existing legislation to address the serious shortcomings of the Act”.