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Ministers already drafting new laws for scrap trade

Ministers and Home Office officials have begun drafting laws to overhaul the regulation of the scrap metal trade, MRW has learned.

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The legislation could be published as soon as this month, and replace the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (1964) by the end of the year.

Representatives from the scrap trade have been included in top-level discussions about overhauling the regulatory framework for the industry in response to the metal theft crisis. It is thought new legislation could include a single national registration scheme for dealers.

There have been growing calls for an overhaul of the laws since MPs passed controversial legislation to ban cash transactions for scrap and increase the fines for trading stolen metal.

MRW understands the measures will not be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech, but will be introduced through a Private Member’s Bill with Government support.

The details could be published in late May, with ministers said to be keen to get the legislation passed “sooner rather than later”. One source close to the talks said there was a sense of urgency from the Government. “Don’t expect a long consultation on this,” the source added.

Talks include representatives of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), as well as non-BMRA scrap traders, and other industries affected by metal theft.

Ian Hetherington, director-general of the BMRA, told MRW he was “disappointed” the legislation would not be included in the Government’s agenda for the next Parliamentary session.

The move would create “uncertainty” about the process, he said. “We want to see this brought in with the minimum possible delay.”  

Sources said there was general agreement on the aims of the new legislation with no major stumbling blocks.

Concerns from industry over the itinerant collectors’ exemption in the recent cash ban legislation could be assuaged by a national scrap merchant register that would eliminate the itinerant classification.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will introduce a new licensing regime and overhaul the outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act at the earliest possible opportunity.”

What the BMRA wants to see in the new laws:

Ian Hetherington said the BMRA wanted to see “radical reform” of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. The trade body wants a single, national licence to cover everyone involved in “collecting, purchasing, processing and selling discarded metal”. Hetherington said a new licensing system “must close off all the current loopholes”.

BMRA also wants a new national register to be “open and accessible” to householders and small businesses selling metal. Hetherington said the range of measures being proposed by BMRA was broadly supported by representatives from the energy networks; telecoms; rail and the police. But he said it was too early to say whether BMRA’s proposed reforms would make it into the draft legislation.

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