MP highlights metal theft problem as Bill passes in Parliament
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert visited St Nicholas Church in Bramber on Friday (8 February) to highlight the growing problem of metal theft. The church became a victim of the crime 18 months ago when lead was stripped from its war memorial.
Metal theft is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £800 million and incidences have grown with rising metal prices. Churches, memorials, farms, businesses and homes have all been affected, as well as important infrastructure such as telecommunications and the railways.
The Government has responded with new legislation placing tighter control on the scrap metal market. The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, introduced by Conservative MP Richard Ottaway, completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament last week and will shortly receive Royal Assent.
The Bill will update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 by introducing compulsory licensing for scrap metal dealers, punitive fines and increased enforcement powers for police and local authorities.
Other new measures being taken include the end of ‘no questions asked’ cash payments which have allowed unscrupulous traders to evade checks. An increase of the financial penalties means that illegal traders will now face fines of up to £5,000. The police have been granted new powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards, with strengthened law enforcement activity. The Government have also allocated £5 million of funding to a dedicated metal theft taskforce.
Mr Herbert met The Reverend John Challis at the church, the oldest Norman church in Sussex, to hear about the theft. Fortunately students from Chichester College heard about the incident and donated their time and materials to replace what had been taken. This has inspired the church to create new community projects which include inviting Steyning Grammar students to design and make candle holders for the Christmas services.
Mr Challis said: “I feel sure that other clergy will welcome any government measures that will help to combat metal theft as I do. The damage it does is often not just physical, as in the damage to our Parish war memorial, but also has an emotional effect too. 18 months seems a long time to wait for the bill to take effect but I am at last grateful to the Government that it is taking metal theft seriously and doing something about it.”
Nick Herbert said: “I heard about this theft and wanted to visit the Church to draw attention to this issue. The growing number of local incidents of metal theft have been a real concern locally, but the desecration of war memorials is particularly appalling. At least in this case there was a happy ending when students from Chichester College responded so fantastically to repair the damage.
"Many local constituents expressed their concern to me about the problem of metal theft, so I am pleased to report that something is being done about it. The Bill to tighten up on the scrap metal market is designed to make it harder for people to get away with selling metal without being able to explain how they obtained it, and so which help to deter theft."
Notes for Editors
- Information about the Bill can be found at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/scrapmetaldealers.html