Diary: Scrappy ruling that has angered the metal men
Phew. I almost thought the minister had told a fib. "All scrap metal dealers, whether or not they are itinerant, will be prohibited from using cash," the Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, asserted, not once but twice, in written answer printed in Hansard. On the face of it, this is untrue, and in a way people concerned about the destruction that metal thieves are causing to church roofs, railway lines and elsewhere consider to be very important.
The Government is making a widely welcomed addition to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Bill now going through Parliament, which will compel scrap metal merchants to keep a record their sources of supply and ban them from paying cash. But they have said that the itinerant traders, or rag and bone men, will be exempt.
They will be allowed to pay cash and will not have to keep records to say where they came by their scrap metal. This has provoked protests from the larger traders, who say it is discrimination, and from others who fear that it means the metal thieves still have an outlet for their loot. Why, then, is the minister claiming that "all scrap metal dealers" are to be covered by the change in the law? Is it, I ask, a change of policy – a U-turn even? Oh no, I'm told, the policy has not changed at all. What people have failed to understand is that in the Government's terminology, rag and bone men are not "scrap metal dealers" at all, they are "scrap metal collectors". If they were "dealers", the law would apply to them too. I hope that clears that one up.
A woman for Manchester
Amazingly, Manchester has never had a woman Labour MP. That may be put right now that Ed Miliband's aide, Lucy Powell, has been selected in Manchester Central to succeed Tony Lloyd, who is running for the newly created job of elected Police Commissioner. He is sitting on 10,439 Labour majority, so Ms Powell should walk it in the by-election, in November. But after Bradford West, who knows?
The Tories' talent for disaster
Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, gave a talk last night on "Disaster Resilience" – which, you will agree, what with one opinion poll putting Labour nine points ahead of the Tories and another putting the UK Independence Party ahead of the Liberal Democrats, is a quality the Government needs by the shovel full.
Ken gives the doctor a thrill
Ken Livingstone added a detail too far when challenged at the Press Gallery lunch yesterday to comment on the view expressed by a Labour MP, Austin Mitchell, that he looks "tired out". Anxious to impress the hacks with how fit and well he is, Labour's candidate for the London mayoralty announced: "I have lost a stone in this campaign. I went for my medical check-up and the doctor almost had an orgasm."
Rum do over the tombola
Long Melford, in Suffolk, is one of those lovely, picture-postcard English villages with listed buildings, antique shops, and pubs with horse brasses, where you imagine the only crime is wild rabbits raiding people's vegetable gardens, and no voice is ever raised in anger. Yet there have been shocking scenes on Long Melford Parish Council. It all started with the Long Melford Street Fair, for which local businesses gave prizes. Donors apparently intended the gifts to go in a raffle, but it is alleged that the organising committee, on which Cllr Carole Michette is a leading member, misdirected the prizes to the tombola. At a later meeting, Richard Roper, a resident not on the council, read out a statement criticising Ms Michette. This was too much for her husband, Richard, also a councillor, who shouted at Mr Roper: "One more word from you and I'll thump you."
Mr Michette later confessed to the East Anglia Daily Times: "I lost my temper and, under severe provocation, called him a 'little shit'."
He was suspended from the council for six weeks.
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