Backbench Business — [Unallotted half day] — Metal Theft

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:50 pm on 7th February 2012.

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Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons) 7:50 pm, 7th February 2012

I beg to move,

That this House
notes that metal theft is becoming a serious issue for the UK;
welcomes the Government’s announcement on introducing a cashless system and higher penalties;
is concerned that the comprehensive package of measures which is needed to address this issue is not being introduced at the same time;
believes that to effectively stamp out metal theft there needs to be a radical change in how the scrap metal industry is regulated;
and calls on the Government to introduce a number of additional measures as a matter of urgency, including a robust licensing scheme for scrap metal dealers to replace the present registration scheme, a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence, greater police powers to close unscrupulous scrap metal dealers in line with alcohol licensing, police authority to search and investigate all premises owned and operated by scrap metal dealers, use of photo identification and CCTV to identify sellers of scrap metal, and their vehicles, vehicle badging for mobile scrap metal dealers, and magistrates’
powers to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from re-opening.

First, may I express my thanks to the hon. Members for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and for Worcester (Mr Walker) for co-sponsoring this topical Back-Bench debate and to the Backbench Business Committee for allowing Members of this House to debate this issue tonight? I also wish to mention my hon. Friend Mr Watson, who first raised this issue back in 2010. I understand that just last night, in the other place, metal theft was once again the subject of much discussion.

Metal theft is at epidemic levels. Industry is being hard hit by daily thefts and the general public are not only horrified at the escalation and cost, but disgusted at the theft of Britain’s heritage; reports of war memorials being desecrated have shocked the nation. We have seen lifeboat stations without communications, and last month Llandough hospital in Wales had to cancel 80 operations because of cable theft. Remote rural broadband services across Britain are too frequently knocked out. The Energy Networks Association claims that there has been a 700% increase in theft from the energy networks between 2009 and 2011. The Association of Chief Police Officers conservatively puts the cost at £770 million. I believe that a lack of accurate reporting—there is no specific crime code—probably means that the true cost is higher, but Deloitte puts the figure more conservatively at between £260 million and £600 million.