MPs are being urged to support today’s third reading of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, which is in danger of falling foul of Commons procedure.
A range of businesses, including Calor Gas, BT, Network Rail, as well as the Church of England, have demanded action to stop the theft of metal, which costs the UK economy £770 million a year.
Church roofs, railways, telecoms installations, war memorials, street signs and even manhole covers have been targeted by thieves.
Richard Ottaway’s Private Member’s Bill will repeal the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 and introduce a comprehensive ban on cash payments for scrap metal, including for mobile collectors and vehicle salvage operators.
It has passed second reading and committee stages, but there is concern that some MPs may talk the Bill out today, meaning that it would not proceed to the Lords.
Tim Field, Head of Press and Public Affairs at the Energy Networks Association, said:
“The legislation is neither ill-conceived nor badly prepared and comes after a long process of considering the issues with the industry it impacts and the victims the crime affects.
“Let’s not forget that the legitimate trade wants this to eradicate the illegal trade.
“By requiring identity checks, proper record keeping, tighter rules on itinerant collectors and clearer rules for police entry, the Bill will be very effective at removing the illegal market in stolen metal.
“Last year saw metal theft reach an astonishing all-time high with an average of an attack a week on war memorials and 21 per day against the electricity network.
“The longer the delay, the greater the societal impact and greater the risk that an innocent life will be lost.”
When France introduced cashless payments last year, metal theft in Paris fell by 50%.
Speaking at the second reading of the Bill in July, Mr Ottaway said:
“Energy networks are now averaging 16 incidents a day, and last year British Telecom received 100,000 customer reports of faults that occurred as a direct result of cable theft.
“In the past six years, more than a third of churches have been robbed.
“Insurance claims connected with such thefts have gone up by 70%, and in 2011 they reached a record high of £4.5 million, with the total cost to the Church of England exceeding £10 million.”
Calor, in conjunction with other affected organisations, including BT, Network Rail, and the Energy Networks Association, wants the Bill to proceed.
Managing Director Stephen Rennie said:
“I would urge MPs to unite behind the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill and do everything in their power to prevent attempts by a small number of MPs to derail the passing of this crucial piece of legislation.
“The Bill is essential in clamping down on scrap metal theft and rogue traders – should it fail metal theft will be allowed to continue largely unabated at huge cost to individuals, companies and the wider UK economy.”
The cost to the LPG industry alone is £9m last year as 200,000 gas cylinders were stolen across the UK by scrap metal thieves.
The Bill will oblige scrap metal dealers to verify the ID of all sellers of metal at the point of sale and keep records of the transaction available for inspection for a period of two years.
It will also empower local authorities to licence scrap metal dealers, deny a licence unless they are satisfied that the applicant is a suitable person and revoke licences.