Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The fight against metal theft has been a remarkable success

The fight against metal theft has been a remarkable success in the relatively short time since I first introduced my Private Member’s Bill to the Commons, and the Government’s decision eventually to legislate. It is remarkable that according to the Government there has been a 45% reduction in overall metal theft, and a 75% reduction in theft from Network Rail property.

We have also for the first time seen a de-coupling of the rate of metal theft and the price of copper. This is a phenomenal success, and I cannot recall any other piece of legislation being as successful in such a targeted way.

I recently attended a meeting of the APPG on Metal Theft in the Commons with a number of industry representatives and the Minister who is now responsible, Norman Baker. The legislation was described by the Minister of being an example of the law at its best. It is targeted, proportionate, and effective. It protects the legitimate trade, whilst also discouraging theft because selling it on is now much more difficult.

One interesting point which was made by a representative of BT was that they have seen an increase in the instance of metal being exported out of the UK, particularly ending up in Eastern Europe. There is always a risk with regulation to prevent crime, that there could be an element of displacement.

I have made this point in the past, and have in fact written to the Home Secretary on two occasions pointing out the potential danger of this. I met with Calor Gas during the first stage of my private member’s bill, and they told me about the number of their canisters that were ending up being exported from the UK.

So clearly there is a problem, and a pattern of criminal behaviour which has the potential to increase if steps are not taken. Off the back of the last meeting we are now in the process of arranging a meeting which will discuss specifically the issue of exports of scrap metal for criminal processing abroad.