Article by Andy Taylor
Head of Public Affairs, Association of Train Operating Companies
Christopher Chope MP and Philip Davies MP are planning on talking out the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill at report stage in the House of Commons tomorrow.
This private members bill, which has the support of all parties and the Home Office, is a vital step in cracking down on metal theft.
Every part of the country has felt the effect of this crime. From the disgraceful theft of war memorials, church roofs and cemetery plaques, to the stripping away of vital rail, energy and telecoms infrastructure, this crime causes daily disruption, expense and misery.
From Graham Jones' excellent work in bringing this to the attention of the Commons, to Richard Ottaway's sponsorship of the bill, the issue has gained wide support and traction in Parliament.
There have been over 2,000 incidents of metal theft on the railway in the last three years, and the problem is growing. Signalling cables and even the 25,000 volt power cables which serve our rail system are being stolen, causing around 350,000 train delays every year, affecting around 3.5 million passengers.
Train companies are working with Network Rail, British Telecom, the Energy Networks Association, Calor, English Heritage and a whole host of companies, charities and campaigns to crack down on metal theft for good.
The trade in stolen metal, driven by huge international demand, means that stolen metal commands a high price for unscrupulous traders. The reward significantly outweighs the risk as the toothless Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, or "Steptoe Act" can often demand a fine of just £500 for a £5000 haul of stolen copper.
We know Fridays are a tough day for MPs to remain in the Commons when there are important constituency matters to attend to and with by-elections coming up. But if this bill is allowed to fall, metal thieves will be given a green light to continue visiting enormous damage, disruption and cost on the country.
We will keep asking the government to give this bill the time it deserves, and any pressure you can help bring to bear on the Home Office minister responsible, Jeremy Browne MP, will also be a great help.