Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Government chaos on tackling Metal Theft - Letter to the Home Secretary.

Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

I am writing to you to highlight the lack of recent progress made by the Government on its efforts to tackle metal theft.

Presuming that the Government honours its commitment to the introduction of cashless payments for scrap metal and penalty increases, Parliament and the public more widely still have been given very little assurance that the full package of measures is going to be introduced, and in a timely manner.

My friend the Hon. Member for Delyn recently received a written answer following a question regarding the Motion which was passed unopposed by the Commons on the 7th February, which called on the Government to license the scrap metal industry, to give the police greater powers to search and close criminal yards, to introduce mandatory photo ID and CCTV use, to introduce vehicle badging and to give magistrates powers to restrict dealers’ licences. Importantly, the motion called on the Government to do this as a matter of urgency. Over one month on we are non-the-wiser as to the vast proportion of the measures.

The response given by the Minister could have been written even before the motion had been passed and David Hanson’s question tabled. It was vague, non-committal and palm in the face of people across the country that have campaigned to get even this far on the issue of metal theft. Notably, the large part of the response concerned the £5 million metal theft taskforce – something that was not even mentioned in the Motion passed on 7th February.

I am concerned that the promises made, and the positive signals from the Government simply served the purpose of deflecting or temporarily calming public protest. There have been remarkably few developments since the Government began answering every enquiry by stating that they were “looking at a range of measures”.

Members of the Government have on numerous occasions concurred with my belief that metal theft is a crime which must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. The Olympics is obviously the most high profile forthcoming test of our national infrastructure, but every day that action is put off, trains are delayed and national heritage is vandalised, scrapped and melted down for profit. The effected industries and the public want more detail on what the Government are doing.

On the issue of the £5 million earmarked for a metal theft taskforce, I am concerned by the lack of detail or direction. Does it yet exist? If it does what has it done? Who is the head of it? When does it meet? Where is the money being spent? and what are the Government looking to do once its money and time run out? Not only has little progress seemingly been made, but the taskforce appears to have moved backwards.

Commitments to action must be backed up with a credible threat. It has been one month since the Commons unanimously passed a motion calling on the Government to change the law as a matter of urgency. But this problem has been around for a long time, and the public expect more leadership and direction. It is the will of Parliament and the public that the Government introduce the measures specifically mentioned in the Motion, so I urge the Government to a) confirm they will introduce all the measures mentioned in the motion; and b) inform the public how and when they will introduce those measures.

Yours, Graham Jones MP