by Ian Shires on 12 January, 2012
Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and Bermondsey Simon Hughes is to meet Lord Henley, the Home Office Minister of State for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, to discuss ways to tackle the epidemic of metal theft in the UK. Metal theft crime has risen sharply in recent years and is now thought to cost the UK economy as much as £700 million per year.
Simon Hughes will urge Lord Henley, the Home Office Minister responsible, to take all necessary measures to crack down on the illicit trade of stolen scrap metal.
Measures proposed include amending the Scrap Metal Merchants Act of 1964, by banning cash payments as proposed in an ongoing e-petition signed by Simon Hughes. Other potential measures include: giving magistrates’ courts greater power to remove licences from scrap metal dealers; giving the police greater power to search scrap metal dealers; classifying stolen scrap metal as criminal assets, and to make the financial punishment much more in line with the cost of the damage rather than the relatively much smaller value of the stolen metal itself.
This last point is especially important because, in the words of another MP, the theft of scrap metal worth £20 may cause £500,000 of damage or risk lives.
Walsall’s Liberal Democrat Group Leader, councillor Ian Shires, welcomed Simon Hughes’ approach to the minister saying “This aspect of metal theft has caused problems on and around J10 of the M6 near Walsall where it has resulted in the inability to use the 4th lane of the motorway at peak times increasing congestion which spills over onto local roads with the inevitable increase in risk to motorists and pedestrians alike. Add to this the disruption this causes to the lives of local people and businesses you can soon see why it’s so important to take action at a national level.”
The Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill last November, introduced by Graham Jones MP, is due for a second reading on January 20th:
Simon Hughes has called on the government to take action stating: “The cost to British society from the rising wave of metal theft far exceeds its value as scrap. Rail passengers face delays and dangerous disruptions to their journeys as a result of stolen cable. Local churches are suffering theft from their property, and statues and sculptures of immense cultural and artistic value are being robbed from our communities.
“We need to recognize that these deplorable actions are being carried out by organized criminals and that it will take a concerted effort from the Home Office, MPs, the police and local community groups to reverse the trend of rising metal crime.
“I will ask Lord Henley to be robust in proposing changes to the current laws which may no longer be fit for purpose. Tighter regulations on scrap metal dealerships, including banning cash payments, may be necessary. Such changes should not be seen as an unnecessary burden on small businesses. Scrap metal theft is the real burden on businesses and communities as it costs our economy £700 million a year.”1 Comment