Tuesday, 12 February 2013

In the last hour the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill passes through Parliament

My national campaign to tackle metal theft about to get Royal Ascent

In the last hour the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill has successfully passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords and will soon become law following Royal Assent.

Back in autumn of 2011 I began a national campaign in Parliament to combat this scourge and followed it with a private members bill.

It received universal support from industry, the media and the police.

Politics kicked in and the success of my campaign which reached a national crises with a series of unsavoury thefts and daily thefts crippling Britain's infrastructure receiving a high media profile. The government rather than back my bill made last minute changes to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill to be seen to be doing something to combat metal theft - half baked measure to increase sentences and outlaw cash transactions whilst failing to tackle the 1964 licensing act.

The government ultimately squashed my private members bill in April 2012 to much consternation. Only then to support Richard Ottaway MP (Conservative) to bring forward an identical private members bill. Congratulations must go to Richard for taking this Bill forward.

In conjunction with Chris Kelly MP (Con) an All Part Group (APPG) on metal theft to deal with the many issues that arise from changes and as co-chairs there has been a desire to tackle wider issues as well as monitor the legislative process.

The bill proposes a whole-scale reform of the £5.6bn scrap metal industry, which is the principal outlet for stolen metal.

Metal theft is no petty crime. We hear regular reports of metal thefts that target our energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, cutting off power and vital services to communities, putting people’s lives in danger.

Even more sickening, however, are the attacks on our churches, crematoriums and war memorials. It is particularly fitting, therefore, that my Bill will make it onto the statute books in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of World War One.

The Bill will implement a rigorous licensing scheme that ensures every sale of scrap metal is accounted for, and that all people trading in scrap are doing so legitimately.

Its key features include punitive, unlimited fines for the most serious breaches of the Act, cashless trading for all scrap metal dealers including mobile collectors to ensure maximum transparency, and the power for police to close rogue traders.

In its revised form my amendment to target mobile collectors was accepted in committee stage; mobile collectors must have a large vehicle badge carrying important licensing information helping the public identify rogue traders.

Only yesterday an unlicensed was crawling suspiciously around my late grandmothers estate again looking to aquire metal items. Numerous metal items have been stolen from the empty property.
1. All metal traders must have a Council licence - and a large vehicle badge
2. Those that fail a fit and proper persons test will denied a licence
3. Police will have powers of entry and ability with magistrates to shut yards immediatly
4. The fines have been increased
5. Metal cannot be bought and sold for cash

It is an important piece of legislation that has won the backing of leading organisations and charities including the Royal British Legion, War Memorials Trust, the Church of England, Network Rail, BT, the Energy Networks Association, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, Arts Council England, Tate Galleries, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Local Government Association and the British Transport Police.

The conversations within the APPG will continue as the measures contained in the Bill are enacted. The APPG will also continue to support the case for ongoing funding of the Metal Theft Taskforce (£5m). A question I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on the floor of the Commons. The Treasury’s position that whilst Operation Tornado and task force have been hugely successfully continuing funding is in doubt which questions the government’s commitment to sharing intelligence and best practice and combating metal theft beyond that that passes through scrap metal yards.