Friday, 11 November 2011

Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft

On Tuesday I will be introducing a bill to the House which will go some way to cracking down on the crime of metal theft.

Metal theft is endemic in this country. There have been 6 fatalities and over 50 serious injuries this year alone, plus the disgusting story recently regarding the theft of a war memorial. The reason that this war memorial was stolen, sold and scrapped, is because the regulatory framework surrounding metal recycling is so weak, that in combination with the soaring international price of metal – it effectively creates incentives to steal.

This bill will achieve much without any punitive regulation. It contains no measures which can be regarded as economically damaging red tape – as at its very heart is the intention to reduce costs to businesses affected and consequentially reducing the burden on the public pursue incurred through damage to infrastructure. This regulation would allow legitimate, law-abiding and socially responsible scrap metal dealers to flourish. Indeed, some scrap metal dealers already perform much of the requirements of this bill as best practice.

You can support my Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft on the 15th November by signing the epetition.

There are six key elements to the bill:

Firstly, we need to 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.

Second; property obtained through theft should be regarded as criminal assets. This would allow the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to apply.

Third; 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.

Fourth; trade in scrap metals should be restricted to cashless payments, and there should be a requirement that scrap metal must not be sold or processed until payments have been cleared. Photo identification and CCTV should be mandatory to identify sellers of scrap and their vehicles. This is a policy which has been successfully introduced in France.

Fifth; magistrates should have powers to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from re-opening.

Finally; the Theft Act and related Acts should be amended so that suspects caught should be charged and if found guilty, sentenced in such a way that is proportionate to the consequences of the crime, not the scrap metal value.

This bill has huge support from industry and politicians of all parties. The only people who stand to lose out are the criminals who are pillaging our national infrastructure, public art and war memorials; and the criminally irresponsible scrap metal dealers who trade in this ill-gotten commodity.

I have campaigned recently on Metal Theft. In early summer I met with the Energy Networks Association to gauge the scale of the problem. In September I had a debate in the Commons on the issue. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Sep 2011 (pt 0005) (Scroll to near bottom).