Government throws out scrap metal theft bill


A Private Member’s Bill that threatened to introduce cashless payments for scrap metal dealers, has been rejected by the House of Commons.

However, the Government still intends to introduce its own legislation after deciding not to proceed with the Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill put forward by Labour MP Graham Jones that passed its first reading in November.


He said: “We have a split in the Government between the Home Office ministers who want action and ideologues in BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) who think that stopping the theft of war memorials is somehow damaging red tape. We will now not likely see legislation before the Olympics, possibly not until 2013.”

However, the Government intends to keep looking at the issue and will look to introduce its own legislation in due course.

British Metals Recycling Association director general Ian Hetherington welcomed the move. He said: “The theft of metal is a huge issue for our industry and so we genuinely welcome the Government’s increased focus on it.

“While we agree with many of the proposals in the Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill, there were some details which we felt would not help to solve the issue. We welcome the opportunity to continue to advise and work with Government and the relevant authorities on this issue to stamp out metal theft.”

He reiterated the BMRA’s recommendations to combat metal theft. These measures include:

  • Reform of the existing Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act (1964) to ensure anyone selling metal is required to produce photo ID and that scrap metal yards are required to use CCTV to monitor transactions
  • Overhauling the current system of licensing and permitting for scrap metal dealers with resources allocated to effectively enforce it. For example, at present scrap metal dealers must register with local authorities, while permits/licences are issued by the Environment Agencies. The BMRA recommends one system with a single national register of scrap metal dealers and the reduced administration would free up resource to enforce legislation
  • An increased focus on clamping down on the current rash of illegal and unlicensed scrap metal yards which provide an outlet for stolen materials and represent a significant environmental risk
  • Greater consistency in police activity – a single, national approach which recognises that although theft is a local issue, the disposal of stolen metal can take place anywhere in the country
  • Introduction of tougher sentences for metal theft where its consequences impact on national infrastructure or on cultural institutions
  • Greater investment on the part of asset owners, in collaboration with police, insurance companies and others to secure assets and design out crime
  • BMRA believes the introduction of cashless trading in the current environment would create further problems by fuelling the black market for metals. It says it is an option worth considering once the large number of illegal and unregulated metals recyclers operating in the UK have been eliminated.