The Scrap Iron Bill: Simplified

Marsha Walker

What is this bill about?

The bill seeks to regulate the scrap metal industry.  It will replace the 1904 ordinance.

The government has closed the industry, stating that it won’t be re-opened until legislation is passed.

Why did the Government shut the industry down?

In the period leading up to this legislation there was a high incidence of copper theft, which was then sold as scrap iron.

The government responded to this problem by shutting down the entire industry, rather than policing theft and vandalization, which is already a criminal offense.

What effect did the shutdown have?

More than 25,000 persons earn an income through this industry, and they were deprived of making an honest dollar. 

This is a multi-million dollar industry which also earns us foreign exchange through the exports of metal. Furthermore it diversifies our economy from relying on oil and gas for foreign exchange.

In addition, this industry provides a valuable environmental service.

What did we disagree with in the bill?

The bill was hastily designed and did not reflect consultations held with major stakeholders. The association should have been allowed to view the bill and make comments before bringing it to Parliament.

The bill is too bureaucratic – The Minister and the Commissioner of Police must be informed of any container to be exported.  One example of the unrealistic red tape – Some 1,000 scrap iron containers are exported every month and even bed springs must be listed in the letter.

While we are in favor of regulating the industry, we are against shutting it down while seeking perfection.

The Minister and the Permanent Secretary have too much power.  The Minister and the Permanent Secretary can grant and revoke licenses at their sole discretion. In addition, they have judicial power to determine whether a person committed a prescribed summary offence.

What recommendations did we present to improve the bill?

  1. Set up an independent committee rather than allowing Ministerial control
  2. Phased regulations, especially as it pertains to record keeping and restrictions on using residential properties for operations.
  3. Remove the requirement for a person’s race, eye color and hair color to be listed during license application.
  4. Remove the waiver of a person’s right to protect their home from a politically appointed person to enter your premises without just cause at anytime of their choosing.
  5. Persons with previous criminal records not relating to this industry should not be barred from accessing licenses, especially as this industry provides a second chance for many of these people who find it difficult to find other legal forms of employment.
  6. Use organizations such as NEDCO to assist in training exercises such as proper book keeping.

Were they accepted or rejected and why?

No they were not accepted. No reasons were given.

Has the problem been solved?

Of course not.  It’s PNM.

The bill does not address copper theft directly, but rather hopes that regulation will stop copper theft.

In addition, 90% of this industry will not be able to re-open with the legislation that was passed. 

The bill was so half baked and ill considered that the AG, while presenting the bill proposed ammendments to 9 clauses and 2 schedules – it was as if an entirely new bill was being presented for debate. This was proof that the government is operating by vaps.

There remain too many unclear and dubious terms left undefined.  These raise more questions than answers.

The United National Congress team led by DPL Dr. David Lee meeting with the Scrap Metal Association.

What does the UNC propose to do now?

The law may be unconstitutional without a two-thirds majority, and the UNC will challenge it.