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As Richard Ottaway’s Scrap Metal Dealers Bill went before Parliament for its second reading on Friday, July 13, that member of parliament, police and Government have repeated why changes are needed to the law to better tackle metal thieves.
Mr Ottaway (Croydon South MP), Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther (ACPO lead for metal theft) and Home Office Minister Lord Henley met on Thursday, July 12, to outline the scope of the bill and to explain why, despite recent success in metal theft operations around the country, legislative reform is necessary. Mr Ottaway has so far received cross-party support for his Bill, as well as the backing of the metal recycling industry’s trade association (BMRA), energy and network organisations, the Church of England and War Memorials Trust.
He said: “Metal theft is a distressing and destructive problem that affects individuals, communities and businesses right across the country. Aside from the carnage caused by thieves targeting our transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, we are too often seeing the desecration of our churches, war memorials and crematoriums.
“I am pleased that my Bill has the backing of War Memorials Trust – protectors of the relics of this nation’s heroes. I welcome their support and applaud their excellent campaign In Memoriam 2014 in partnership with the SmartWater Foundation to protect memorials at risk of theft or damage.
“The scrap metal industry’s existing regulatory regime, under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, is outdated and no longer fit purpose. And that is what I am seeking to reform by empowering local authorities and police with a more robust and enforceable licence regime for all who deal and collect scrap metal.”
Amy Davidson, from the Trust, said: “Metal theft has had a devastating impact on some war memorials and communities across the country as inscription plaques and statues are stolen from the memorials paid for and put up by communities to commemorate and remember their loved ones killed in conflict. The charity sees Richard Ottaway’s Bill as a means to tackle metal theft and hope that it might be successful in reducing the number of these devastating crimes.”
The Bill will seek to introduce a number of new measures, including the following:
– application process for any individual or business that carries on business as a scrap metal dealer to get a licence – which local authorities can refuse
– power for local authorities to vary and revoke licences
– power for police to close unlicensed premises
– a requirement for all sellers of metal to provide verifiable ID at point of sale which is recorded and retained by the dealer
– a ban on cash transactions for all scrap metal dealers without exception – including those who conduct house to house collections and motor salvage operators
– a single national publicly-available register of all scrap metal dealers, hosted by the Environment Agency; and
– definition of scrap metal dealer to include motor salvage operators, thereby bringing that licensing scheme within one new scrap metal licensing regime.
DCC Paul Crowther, ACPO lead for metal theft, spoke of Operation Tornado, a government-funded voluntary initiative led by British Transport Police which requires dealers to take photographic ID and proof of address for all transactions and keep a record of sales. These are two measures proposed in Mr Ottaway’s Bill.
He said: “I very much welcome the proposals outlined in Richard Ottaway’s Bill, as they will fill the current gap in our powers to deal with the minority of dealers who support metal theft or operate outside regulations.
“Within British Transport Police we are proud of the work being done to tackle metal theft and have seen significant reductions in offending during 2012, but there is still much more to be done.
“Activity such as Operation Tornado demonstrates what can be achieved on a short-term basis and is making a real difference. But this must be sustainable in the long term and Tornado mainly impacts those recyclers who are working within the law and who sign up voluntarily, leaving the rogue dealers who do not to continue working with impunity.”
Lord Henley said: “We are working closely with Richard Ottaway to ensure his Bill delivers a stronger and more effective licensing regime for the scrap metal industry, replacing the outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.
“But new laws must be supported by effective enforcement so I welcome the success the police and BTP have already achieved to crack down on these unscrupulous thieves. Through the work of the National Metal Theft Taskforce and the partnership work of Operation Tornado we are now seeing significant reductions in metal crime. The bill will build further on the action we have already taken to ban cash payments by metal dealers, increase fines, give police new powers of entry to scrap metal yards and will provide law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to bring even more offenders to justice.”