‘Law threatens scrap business’

LC Hughes scrap dealers, Bicester.No cash for scrap.Tony Hughes, manager.'121105M-D111
LC Hughes scrap dealers, Bicester.No cash for scrap.Tony Hughes, manager.'121105M-D111

New laws to halt cash payments for scrap metal could harm legitimate dealers, a Bicester firm fears.

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Bill aims to stop the theft of items such as manhole covers, copper cabling, roofing lead, public memorials and artworks.

But Gareth Hughes, of the LC Hughes Partnership in London Road, said the new system coming in next month could unfairly 
penalise small family firms. He also said dealers were not being given the necessary advice to 
adjust to the new system.

He said: “The situation is that from December 12 we can’t pay cash for scrap.

“The worrying part is how we’re going to keep paying our customers, who don’t like the idea of being paid by cheque and can’t always be paid by electronic means.

“It just seems to be happening very fast and they’re not letting the people who need to know what’s going on.”

He added: “I’m all in favour of new legislation, but the message is not being put out.

“It will be safer for us and it will crack down on a lot of crime, but it isn’t helping our business.”

He said Barclays was introducing a new kind of payment system to address the problem, but said it may not suit smaller firms. He added: “One of Barclays’ own conditions is that you have to be a member of the British Metals 
Recycling Association (BMRA).

“That’s £1,000 a year. There are other benefits but it’s more for the big boys.”

He said every scrap yard in the county had already signed up to a voluntary scheme introduced in July, which required a passport or driving licence to be produced for every metal sale.

But the new law, which had a successful third reading in the Commons last week, has been welcomed by Bicester MP Sir Tony Baldry.

Sir Tony has spoken out previously over lead thefts from church roofs in his role as Second Church Estates Commissioner.

Speaking on Friday last week, he said: “It is a great relief that the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill has now cleared all its stages in the House of Commons.

“By making dealing in metal cashless, it will prevent the situation where thieves go out in night, strip churches of the lead off their roofs and in the morning take the metal to the scrap yard, get paid cash and disappear.

“By forcing dealing in metals to become a business-to-business dealing it will do much to stamp out this despicable crime.”

Other features of the bill include giving local authorities the power to revoke scrap metal dealers’ licences, and requiring sellers to produce identification.

Ian Hetherington, director general of the BMRA, welcomed Friday’s ruling. He added: “BMRA has long argued that a ban on cash alone will not have the desired effect on metal theft without a robust regulatory framework to back it up.

“We have worked tirelessly with government and other organisations across UK industry to bring about the necessary reforms.”

The bill will be reviewed in three years’ time.