The Government take the growing problem of metal theft very seriously. Last week I announced legislative measures to the House that will significantly raise the penalties for rogue dealers and ban cash payments for scrap metal. These measures are part of a coherent package to tackle metal theft. We are strengthening the law, cracking down on rogue dealers and targeting the criminals who supply them, including through the funding of a £5 million national metal theft taskforce.
Last month I visited Schofield scrap metal merchants in Linthwaite in my constituency and heard that it, too, has been the victim of metal theft. What can my right hon. Friend say to reassure reputable scrap metal merchants that it will be the criminals who are punished, not the hard-working family businesses that play a key role in our economy?
Indeed, reputable scrap metal dealers play a role in our economy, and everything we are doing is intended to bear down on the rogue scrap metal dealers who receive stolen goods rather than on reputable dealers. We are working with the British Metals Recycling Association and other industry representatives to ensure that the interests of the law-abiding businesses are reflected in the work we are doing.
Does the Home Secretary believe that the police should be allowed into scrap metal dealers in order to gain a comprehensive view of what is happening in them?
We are looking at the whole issue of strengthening police enforcement, and one of the things we are doing is undertaking a number of exercises—an example has been seen in the north-east in recent weeks—where the police have strengthened their enforcement and gone into scrap metal dealers where they believe rogue dealing is taking place.