Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Metal Theft debate last night - 'The Export Problem'

Following last nights debate on Metal Theft and Richard Ottaways MP's private members bill backed by the Home Office, I wanted to write about the containerisation for export of stolen metals which seems largely ignored.
Graham Jones in Parliament -
Link to speeches and written questions - Metal Theft
It is right that we tighten the regulations on the scrap metal industry here in the UK. However the flaw in this argument is the evidence of metal being stolen for export.

Collected at a discreet locations, containerised and taken directly to ports bypassing the scrap metal recycling industry in the UK. The international price of metal is beyond statute and beyond the influence of government. So long as prices are high people will be willing to take the risk and find new ways of profiting from this crime.
For this reason I think we may well begin to see an increase in the export of stolen metal, as profiteering criminals seek to circumvent the regulated scrap metal industry in the UK. I believe it is happening already. Electricity Northwest informed me of a container opened up at Hull which contained stolen non-ferrous metals.

I recently met with a representative of Calor Gas who told me about the estimated 200,000 of their bottles disappear every year. 4,000 a week. Calor Gas claim they have approximately 50% market share and therefore this figure represents half of the disappearing gas bottles yet seizures by UKBA or the Police are few and far between.

Investigations by Calor Gas point to much of it going overseas. A recently seized container at Thamesport contained a staggering 1,500 gas bottles which were bound for Africa. These bottles were not empty.

At a London scrap yard an individual was arrested for dangerously smashing off the tops of gas bottles to appease illegal exporters. I am concerned by the PQ responses I have had from the Home Office on investigating stolen metal for export. UKBA have an intelligence led approach but if there is no intelligence, then we have porous borders. I have written to them but as yet to receive a reply.

However a Parliamentary question has revealed that the Environment Agency has estimated that the total amount of ferrous scrap exported is approximately 8 million tonnes a year.

The Environment Agency has not inspected any scrap metal exports from England and Wales since 2009.

Its intelligence-led approach to tackling waste crime means that containers are only inspected when there is reason to suspect that the contents are being shipped in contravention of the regulations.

The Environment Agency has no intelligence to suggest that scrap metal has been being exported illegally since this date and has therefore not targeted these containers.”

It would appear that the numbers of container checks of exports is minimal and the Home Office admit they don’t collect data on the amount of metal being seized by the Border Force.

In answer to a PQ The Home Office has stated it has no plans to review the export of stolen scrap metal.

I hope the government will listen to the concerns of my constituents and constituents of all other MP’s. Last week several kilometres of overhead power lines were stolen from east Lancashire, evidently by people with knowledge, a degree of professionalism, expensive equipment and people unlikely to spend hours burning off the plastic casing. It is my belief this cable may well find itself going diorectly into a containerised export channel.