THE Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, which seeks to slash the high
rates of metal theft from churches and memorials, has been approved
by MPs, and will now go before the House of Lords.
The Private Member's Bill, first put forward by the Conservative
MP Richard Ottaway, will establish a national register of
scrapyards, and ban cash sales of scrap metal. The Church of
England has campaigned strongly for the Bill, and bishops have
lobbied MPs to back it (
News, 2 November).
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, wrote to all
MPs last week, before the Bill's Third Reading in the House of
Commons, asking them to support the Bill to give "help and hope
needed to communities whose local memorials and places of worship
continue to be targeted by metal thieves".
The Church of England agrees with the British Legion, police,
rail industry, scrap-metal trade, Home Office, and Environment
Agency that the Bill, if it becomes law, would make a substantial
difference to metal thefts.
If passed, all scrap-metal dealers would require a licence to be
able to operate. They would also be obliged to verify the identity
of anyone selling metal, and all cashless transactions would need
to be recorded.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP,
said: "It is a great relief that the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill has
now cleared all its stages in the House of Commons. By making
dealing in metal cashless, it will prevent the situation where
thieves go out in the night, strip churches of the lead off their
roofs, and in the morning take the metal to the scrapyard, get paid
cash, and disappear.
"By forcing dealing in metals to become a business-to-business
dealing, it will do much to stamp out this despicable crime. In
recent years, far too many churches and communities have been
desecrated by this despicable offence."
Anne Sloman, who chairs the Church Buildings Council, said: "We
now stand a real chance of making a significant impact on the
scourge of metal theft, which has had such a devastating effect on
churches . . . causing damage not just to the structure of the
building, but to morale."
Criminal damage worth an estimated £27 million has been
inflicted on churches in England since 2007. The dioceses that have
been worst affected by metal thefts during 2012 are Salisbury,
Winchester, and Chelmsford.