With the Legal Aid Bill due to be considered in the House of Commons next week, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has reiterated its concerns that itinerant collectors will get special treatment in the Legal Aid Bill.
As it stands, the Bill includes measures to ban the scrap metal industry from trading in cash, but an exemption allows itinerant collectors such as rag and bone men to continue trading in cash.
The BMRA is calling on a further amendment to ensure itinerant collectors are also subject to the cash ban.
BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: “This exemption is providing a loophole for unscrupulous dealers while penalising legitimate metals recyclers who have spent hundreds of millions of pounds complying with environmental legislation at fixed sites.
“The Government is essentially giving itinerants special treatment by allowing them to continue to trade in cash.
“Not only does it undermine the purpose for banning cash in the first place – to make it more difficult to dispose of stolen metal – it will also damage those metals recyclers who are complying with a cash ban because the hundreds of thousands of small businesses and householders who sell scrap items every day will now take their business to collectors who will continue to pay cash under this exemption. There is a real risk that it will lead to the closure of compliant businesses causing job losses and a drop in recycling rates.”
Ian Hetherington also warned that any restrictions on cash trading must be implemented alongside a fundamental reform of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 if it is to have the desired effect on the rate of metal theft.
He added: “Banning cash will only serve to bolster the black market while illegal or unregulated sites are allowed to trade. A cashless industry can only work when we see a demonstrable reduction in the number of illegal sites which will otherwise continue to trade using cash.
“Regulatory reform designed to clamp down on the rash of illegal scrap metal sites much be brought forward without delay. Tougher sentencing for offenders and stronger police powers of entry at illegal sites could both be introduced right now and would have a real impact on reducing metal theft without adversely affecting the law abiding majority.”