Clamping down on scrap metal theft

James Brokenshire has said that the Government is pressing ahead with implementing new laws to toughen up the response to metal theft and is examining further proposals to bring the regulation of the scrap metal industry up to date.  James’s comments came during a Parliamentary debate highlighting the impact of metal theft on communities and the steps being taken to prevent the crime from occurring.

During the House of Commons debate on Monday night, MPs highlighted the damaging impact thefts had had on churches, monuments and community facilities – including last year’s theft of the commemorative plaque from the Sidcup war memorial - as well as the disruption caused to the rail network by thieves stealing signal cabling often at great personal risk.  Eight people were killed in 2011 while trying to steal metal. 

Replying to the debate as Home Office Minister for Crime and Security, James told MPs that the Government had already taken action and would be taking further steps to combat the crime.  This included investing £5 million to establish the national metal theft taskforce led by the British Transport Police.  Enforcement action by the taskforce since the start of the year had already led to the arrest of almost 400 suspects and the recovery of hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash and significant volumes of stolen metals.

Legislation had also been passed into law last month to prohibit cash payments for scrap metal, to improve police powers of entry into unregistered scrap metal sites and to increase the financial penalties for offences under the current Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. The new measures are expected to be brought into force by the autumn. 

In a further development Richard Ottaway, the Member of Parliament for Croydon South, has announced that he will be introducing a Private Members Bill to create a more robust, local authority administered regime to regulate the scrap metal industry and clamp down on unscrupulous dealers.  The draft legislation is expected to be debated in Parliament in July.  James Brokenshire said that the Government welcomed this initiative and would be working with Mr Ottaway on the proposals which he hoped would receive widespread support.

Speaking during the debate, James said:

“The damage, destruction and vandalism to our local communities, businesses and transport infrastructure are what cause us such concern and, in many cases, rightful outrage and anger when we are confronted by this crime.”

The full transcript of the debate on Monday 18 June can be found at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120618/debtext/120618-0004.htm#12061855000002