New scrap metal law to hit Travellers hard

4 November 2014


THE Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 becomes law on 1st October, with enforcement to begin on the 1st December.

The Act, which will replace the old 1964 rules on scrap metal trading, is supposed to bring about “much needed reform of the scrap metal sector” and to “effectively tackle unscrupulous operators”.

There is evidence, though, that Gypsies and Travellers will be hit hardest by the new law, which requires anyone trading in scrap to apply for a separate license in every local authority in which they operate.

Councils will have the power to decide who is, or is not, a suitable person to be working in the scrap metal trade.

There is a long list of reasons why a council may decide to refuse a dealer a license. Previous offences related to scrap metal will be considered, as will any previous refusal of an application for a license.

The local authority will also consider “whether the applicant has demonstrated that there will be in place adequate procedures to ensure that the provisions of this Act are complied with.” The broadness of this part of the Act would seem to give councils enormous and potentially arbitrary power over people’s ability to do business.

Cash payments for scrap are already banned in England and Wales. For Travellers, however, the most galling part of the new law will surely be the need to acquire a license for every area in which they work.

Under schedule 1 of the Act, a scrap metal collector must have a license to collect in every area in which he or she operates, and a fee- which is set by the local authority- must be paid for each license. A collector who operates across different areas will have to pay an indefinite number of fees for an indefinite number of licenses, and there are fears this will price many out of the trade entirely.

Many Travellers may not be aware of the full implications of the Act until enforcement begins in December.

It is also unclear whether a council will expect a dealer to have a license if they are simply travelling through the area, and not collecting or selling scrap there.

Bill Kerswell, who lives in Shropshire, has been in the scrap metal trade for over 50 years. “This infringes the human rights of Gypsies and other Travellers who have traditionally carried on the scrap metal trade,” he said.

“From metal working in the Middle Ages they have come through hundreds of years- recycling metal, selling metal, using metal, sorting metal- and this law is going to effectively kill off their lifestyle because they will have to pay for a license in every borough or county which they travel through,” said Mr Kerswell.

“Every single aspect of Gypsy and Traveller life is being squeezed from all directions. It’s as if their main objective is to take away the Traveller’s way of life,” he said.

Travellers’ Times contacted the Home Office regarding the new law, and whether they had considered how it might impact on Gypsies and Travellers: a spokesperson was unable to comment on the record about this.

The Home Office spokesperson did state that “"The Scrap Metal Dealers Act will build on the work the government has already taken to tighten the net around rogue metal traders. 

“The Act, which is due to come in to force on 1 October 2013, significantly improves the regulation on the industry by supporting legitimate operators and promoting good practice, while also providing sufficient powers to tackle unlawful operators.”