New crackdown for scrap dealers?

Scrap metal merchants, look out. No more cash payments. Facial identity checks. The likelihood of many more arrests. All proposals for tougher regulation of the UK's £5bn scrap metal industry - an industry that's boomed due to huge raw material demand from India and China. But it's an industry that has also seen massive metal theft from churches to railway yards to house roofs. Would new regulations work?

No questions asked

Home Office minister Lord Henley told the BBC ID checks would almost certainly be part of the new regulations. "At the moment you can just go there and sign in as Mickey Mouse or whoever. We want proper ID so there's greater transparency and a greater chain of who owns what."

But a complete banning of cash? Scrapyard trade association the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) isn't keen, unsurprisingly, on the idea; BMRA's spokesperson Alison Etherden said a cash ban is a non-starter.

"It won't stop metal theft," she told AOL Money. "There are so many illegal scrapyard sites, if you put extra legislation in place, it will drive trade to the illegal sites." And there are quite a few illegal scrapyards in the UK around - about 800; around the same number of legal scrapyards.

Cowboy clampdown

Perhaps the government should be applying more resources to chasing out the cowboys first? Even then you are still left with a £5bn industry that appears to be run almost entirely on a cash-only basis, with almost no checks or balances about who sells what. Something of an anomaly given the amount of anti-laundering regulations and general trace-ability that exist in other sectors.

But the boss of the BMRA, Ian Hetherington, appears keen for the status quo to be maintained. "Until policing of these illegal operations is demonstrably improved, imposing such restrictions on legitimate metal recyclers is untimely, unwelcome – and will not help to combat the issue of metals theft," he said in a written statement.

He went on: "It is important that the police and other authorities, such as the Environment Agency, have appropriate powers and are resourced to clamp down on the rash of unlicensed and illegal metals recyclers, who act as a magnet for stolen metals."

Let us know what you think.

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