ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour, SC, has said more efficient legislation is needed to properly regulate the domestic scrap metal industry.
Armour made this point as he opened debate on the Scrap Metal Bill 2022 in the Senate on Friday.
He hoped the law could be proclaimed before December 31 "to enable persons who currently hold (scrap metal) licences under the existing Old Metal and Marine (Stores) Act to resume business in the shortest possible time."
Against this background, Armour urged senators to support amendments made to the bill in the House of Representatives, which passed it on Wednesday.
He reiterated this will "enable us to deem those licences currently issued and in existence now, which expire on December 31, 2022, to be able to be regulated by this new law."
Recalling that efforts to regulate the industry began back in 2013, Armour said the Old Metal and Marine Stores Act of 1904 (under which the industry falls) is outdated and has several flaws, such as no enforcement capacity.
Against this background, he declared, "Modern legislation is necessary in order to adequately address the multiplicity of issues with which this industry is grappling at present."
He said the bill's intention is to reflect the industry "as a well-regulated, modern economy and which legislation strengthens current crime-fighting initiatives in relation to the criminal activities plaguing the industry."
While scrap metal provides viable business opportunities for several small and micro-industries, Armour observed the industry has also witnessed "a concurrent increase in the larceny of various metals that support the country's critical infrastructure on a scale which has threatened our very national security capacity."
The Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT), TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) were all victims of the theft of millions of dollars' worth of cable and iron pipes.
The private sector was not spared.
Armour said in June, the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) called on police to stop thieves who were targeting businesses in Port of Spain that had copper lines attached to air-conditioning units on the rooftops of their buildings.
"Significant also, in the scourge of illegality associated with this industry, is the proliferation of illegal scrapyards, money laundering and concealment of illegal firearms."
Armour hinted that prosecutions might arise from some of those matters.
He said, "Significant amounts of copper have been recovered from containers, which at August 12, had already been cleared for export and that process is ongoing as we gather here today."
Armour reminded MPs that because of the illegal actions of some people, Government took a decision in August to shut down the domestic scrap-iron industry until February 28, 2023.
Through a legal notice in September, he continued, limited exports of scrap metal were allowed.
Armour also said under the bill, copper is not regarded as scrap metal. and its export from TT is forbidden. He added this particular measure will be in effect for at least a year.