Amendment made: 33, in clause 10, page 5, leave out lines 25 to 31 and insert—
‘( ) any person who, under arrangements made by a person within paragraph (a) or (b), has responsibility for verifying the name and address.
‘(5) It is a defence for a person within subsection (4)(a) or (b) who is charged with an offence under subsection (4) to prove that the person—
(a) made arrangements to ensure that the metal was not received in breach of subsection (1), and
(b) took all reasonable steps to ensure that those arrangements were complied with.’.—(Mr Jeremy Browne.)
Obviously this is a key provision in the Bill and one of the key proposals intended to regulate the industry. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South and possibly the Minister to say whether they think this is the best and sufficient way of dealing with what is obviously the biggest problem that people have, namely identifying who comes and trades in scrap metal.
I ask that question because of a point made by one of the practitioners in Southwark. I am sure that he will not mind being cited and I know that he has been in touch with my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South. He is a gentleman called Tom Pratt, who runs Southwark Metals, which is a very reputable organisation based just outside my constituency, in the constituency of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). Nevertheless, it serves the whole of the borough and it is certainly very well regarded in my part of the borough.
Mr Pratt’s argument is that although this is an understandable proposition, the best way to regulate and catch people, by and large, is to make sure that the transactions must happen in certain places, namely registered sites, and that we get on CCTV the people, their licence plates and so on. He has put the argument that the best way to catch people is not by having cashless payments. He also makes the wider argument—I have argued the contrary, so I am not adopting his argument but just asking the question—that this measure is a discrimination in relation to this industry, when we are not banning cash payments across all other industries. He asks, “Why should we be singled out as an industry? Loads and loads of people pay in cash for all sorts of things. That’s how lots of business is done.” So I would be grateful for a considered reflection on the wisdom of going down this road, as opposed to going down the roads that he and other people in the industry are apparently suggesting.
I am aware that, by and large, the scrap metal industry, representatives of which have written to us, is supportive of this proposal, but it would be worth making sure that we understand that there are other views, and if they are views held by reputable, successful, concerned, socially aware and politically conscious business people we need to address them.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point. As set out in clause 3(2)(f), the local authority can take into account when determining suitability
“whether the applicant has demonstrated that there will be in place adequate procedures to ensure that the provisions of this Act are complied with.”
“Adequate procedures” include procedures to ensure that any employee who is hired does not have relevant criminal convictions that would impact on the ability of the licensee to comply with the regulation. I hope that addresses the right hon. Gentleman’s point.