It has been interesting to follow the debate about scrap metal. When I was a callow trainee teacher decades ago, a charming little truant sent to me for detention in a Suffolk school informed me that he didn’t need an education because “me dad’s in scrap, and we’re loaded”. I didn’t think to check at the time the fate of the local church roof and war memorial – perhaps I should have done.
With ACPO estimating that metal theft costs the UK £770 million a year, proposals have been made to update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 – including a requirement for dealers to register with the Home Office (or some department thereof – that should be an interesting queue in Whitehall), to provide proof of identity, and – most controversially – to stop using cash. Sound familiar? Much as both parties would abhor the comparison, these amendments would put Steptoe in the same category as Sotheby’s. If you’re minded, in these Twitterish days of everyone getting a say on everything, there is even an e-petition you can sign to show your support for cashless scrap.
The British Metal Recycling Association supports some of the proposed amendments, but not the cash one on the basis that it will drive the trade underground (literally in many cases, as railway lines and metal-lined coffins are two of the main targets for metal thieves). We have heard just this argument before, notably with the introduction of the AML requirement, but surely the concern that some slippery customers will always find a way around a law is no reason not to pass that law in the first place.