Paul Crowther, deputy chief constable of British Transport Police said: "The new laws that come into place today change a number of issues in respect of scrap metal. First of all it increases the sentences that are available under the existing legislation.
"It provides powers to the police to end unlicensed scrap metal dealers for the first time and introduces a new criminal offence of trading in cash for metal, which is a very significant measure in tackling metal theft at the point where it's sold into scrap metal yards."
The new legislation is supported by strengthened law enforcement activity and £5 million which the government has allocated to a dedicated metal theft taskforce.
Some of this funding will be made available to police forces to ensure the new legislation is enforced and will provide a more level playing field for scrap metal dealers who abide by the law.
The government is also working with Richard Ottaway MP to ensure his Scrap Metal Dealers Bill delivers a stronger and more effective licensing regime for the scrap metal industry. The Bill is expected to receive parliamentary approval in the New Year.