It was perhaps appropriate that on the day the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill passed its final Parliamentary (if only formal) hurdle that ENA were chairing a conference of local government officials on the issue. In fact we were able to announce it as it happened to the delegates who will soon be charged with implementing it. The Bill will receive Royal Assent at the end of the month and will come into effect in October. The new Act proposes wholesale changes to the £5.6bn scrap metal industry, the principle recipients of stolen metal. In particular it will introduce:
A robust licensing regime that is funded by the industry
Stronger Local Authority and Magistrates powers
Tougher police powers to tackle those who break the law
Strict rules on proof of ID for the seller and the metal
The Bill introduced by Richard Ottaway, Conservative MP for Croydon South was taken through the Lords by former Crime Prevention Minister Baroness Browning. Richard first spoke about his proposed Bill at an ENA Well Connected event last May at Lancaster House. It was also appropriate that Angela Browning was able to guide the Bill through the Lords so smoothly. She had spoken at ENA’s Parliamentary Summit on Metal Theft when still a Minister the previous June, something that marked the beginning of ENA’s Parliamentary campaign for legislative change.
It has been a long journey since then and there are many Parliamentary heroes who have made a difference. Graham Jones Labour MP for Hyndburn, who introduced his own Bill has been a stalwart ally, so has Chris Kelly Conservative MP for Dudley South, who with Graham set up and co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Metal Theft, which ENA provides the secretariat for. Another long time ally and highly effective Parliamentary figure is Lord Faulkner of Worcester. He not only blazed the trail for the new cashless scrap metal system via amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, he also removed an unnecessary clause to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act that could have removed its force after five years. He did this by some deft political footwork during the Committee stage of the Bill in the Lords. The result of which is that we now, over two years after initiating a campaign, have an Act that will make a real difference.
ENA helped assemble a cross-industry, cross-sector group campaigning for a change in the law. This group has included BT, Network Rail, Church of England, War Memorials Trust and many more. We have also received an award for our campaigning by the CBI Trade Association Forum. It is a mark of the tough but ultimately fruitful journey that we have made.
However, the campaigning continues as the Governments support for the valuable work of the Metal Theft Task Force comes under threat. ENA recently raised this along with Parliamentary colleagues at a meeting with the Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne. The funding initiated in the Chancellors pre-budget report back in 2011 has now run out. We have supported oral questions to the Chancellor and Home Secretary on the subject and are now planning a meeting with the Transport Minister and the Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport Police who can explain the valuable work he leads. We believe that as the legislation takes effect in October this year there still needs to be a national coordinated effort to support local initiatives that will drive the illegality out of the scrap metal trade and has already had an impact along with the cash ban and new legislation on the level of thefts. Our fight continues.