Friday, 28 October 2011

My Campain to combat Metal Theft

Since my debate in Parliament with the minister and my Twitter exchange with Channel 4's Jon Snow, the issue of metal theft has taken on more national and local significance. Channel 4 TV followed this up with a 'Fact Check' (follow the link on Ch4's website).

The Accrington Observer carried a front page headline this week highlighting the issue. On the 23rd of November I will, in partnership with the Energy Networks Association be tabling a Private Members Bill to amend the law and bring in restrictions.

Thefts are occurring from our nation infrastructure; overhead power lines, substations, railways, BT, gas and water, from our local infrastructure; grates and gates, park benches, graves and public art, and individuals and organisations; from back yards, lead theft from roof's and all the metal in abandoned and empty dwellings.

It's happening to more and more people and when it does, there is a sad realisation that no-one is immune. That it anyone is vulnerable. That upsetting the voltage by removal of copper at a substation that happens to provide you with electricity may well double the current to all your electrical devices causing them to overheat and burn out. Boilers, electrical cabling running alongside gas pipes, TV's. For those affected it has brought them in to a three way argument over responsibility. You, your insurers and the electricity provider.

It is right to assume that scrap metal merchants will be at the forefront of the distribution problem and that police enforcement is almost impossible given so much metal is in existence.

At the debate I highlighted six points. Each of the changes was accepted by the minister.

From Hansard
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Sep 2011 (pt 0005) - Scroll to near bottom

I call on the Government to consider making the following changes.
  1. They should amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. Instead of the current registration scheme, the UK needs a robust licensing regime, with scrap metal dealers paying a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence.
  2. Property obtained through theft should be regarded as criminal assets; that would allow the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to apply.
  3. In line with alcohol licensing powers, police authorities should have the power to search and investigate all premises owned and operated by a scrap metal dealer, and to close scrap metal dealers where criminally obtained materials are discovered.
  4. We should restrict trade in scrap metals to cashless payments, and introduce a requirement that scrap metal must not be sold or processed until payments have been cleared. Photo identification and CCTV should be used to identify sellers of scrap and their vehicles.
  5. Magistrates should have powers to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from re-opening, and
  6. Criminal gangs should be charged in a way that is proportionate to the consequences of the crime, not the scrap metal value. I ask the Minister to use all his efforts to ensure that something is done before it is too late.