The Bishop of London, Anne Sloman, the chair of the cathedral and church buildings division of the Church of England, and myself have had numerous detailed discussions with a number of Ministers on the issue of metal theft from church property.
Incidents of metal theft, including vandalism of war memorials, in the church diocese of York have increased by 61% in the past year alone. Would the hon. Gentleman be willing to meet me to talk about how we can help parishes in my constituency that are suffering from such crimes?
Metal theft is a huge issue that concerns church leaders across all faiths in Northumbria. Does my hon. Friend agree that the punishments for those who steal from churches and churchyards should be both severe and a proper deterrent?
As became clear in our recent debate on metal theft, there is a general desire across the House for the courts seriously to consider deterrent sentences for what is a despicable crime.
This crime is a threat to some of the greatest buildings and monuments across Britain. Is there any possibility of grants being made available to churches so that security can be improved to protect against it?
As may come up later, those churches that use SmartWater or that install roof alarms have found that the incidence of metal theft has been substantially reduced. SmartWater and roof alarms are not necessarily that expensive and I hope that all churches will look at how they can improve security to deter metal theft.
We are in continuous discussions with English Heritage about what can be done in replacing lead roofs, but 60% of grade-I listed buildings in this country are Church of England churches, and there are some restraints as a consequence of those listings.