Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Metal theft laws come into force – both Councils and the public must be vigilant

Metal theft laws come into force – both Councils and the public must be vigilant particularly with mobile collectors that plague neighbourhoods. They should all from the 1st October have a large Council licence plate displayed prominently on  their vehicles.

All the changes to the laws on metal theft which I and the Energy Networks Association successfully campaigned for finally came into force this month, and I hope they will be the catalyst for a sea-change in the metal recycling industry and spell an end to the kind of metal theft that has claimed far too many church roofs, war memorials and electricity cables.

The law is largely based on my Private Member’s Bill, the Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill, and contain a number of my amendments regarding mobile collectors.

Police in Hyndburn this summer undertook a stop and check at my request as part of Operation Tornado, which identified 95 scrap metal dealers and collectors operating in the area. This identified early those who were at risk of failing the new 'fit and proper persons' test, and which raised awareness in the local industry.

I have spoken with both Hyndburn and Rossendale Borough Councils to ensure the law is being applied and that the authorities (Councils, Police, The Environment Agency) are vigilant in the registering of scrap metal dealers and enforcing the new licensing laws. Local Authorities must take the lead and the initiative on this if rogue metal dealers and collectors are to be tackled ; through up to date registers, and working closely with the police and EA and a public awareness campaign, Councils can reduce significantly the amount of metal stolen or desecrated.

I also want the police and councils - and particularly members of the Council's licensing committee - to be very wary of giving licenses to anyone who has a chequered past when it comes to metal dealing. The law states that licenses must be approved by both bodies, and those who have past convictions related to metal dealing or theft, and those who were uncooperative during operation tornado should be treated with caution. The committee should also take into consideration those whom are already attempting to circumvent the regulation such as the almost co-location of 'cheques cashed' businesses.

Moreover it is absolutely vital that the public is aware and does what it can to prevent the scourge of illegal metal thieves. It is unlikely that the unscrupulous elements of the metal collecting industry will disappear overnight and I expect some will continue to operate unlicensed, some will continue to accept cash on the side, and some will continue to drive around picking up metal off the streets in unmarked, unlicensed vehicles.

Crucially - If anyone witnesses metal collectors travelling around the area without large Council licence plates, then report them (and their vehicle registration number) to the police, as they are operating illegally.