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Scrap Metal Bill backed by bishops

02 November 2012


BISHOPS are lobbying MPs to vote for the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill when it comes before the House of Commons for its Third Reading next Friday.

The Bill, which has been tabled by the Conservative MP Richard Ottaway ( News, 1 June), seeks to give police greater powers to tackle metal theft. Its provisions include the licensing of all scrap-metal dealers. If passed in the Commons next week, it will progress to the House of Lords.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, has written to MPs with constituencies in the diocese of London, asking them to vote for the Bill. "Lead theft has had a devastating impact on England's churches," he said. "The casual way in which a stripped church roof can be sold for cash with no questions asked has led to serious damage to our church buildings. The Church of England is convinced that the measures in Richard Ottaway's Bill will make a real difference in combating this dreadful crime."

A statement from Church House said that £27 million's worth of criminal damage had been inflicted on churches in England since 2007. The dioceses worst affected by metal thefts during 2012 have been Salisbury, Winchester, and Chelmsford.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said that metal had been stolen from more than 50 churches in his diocese this year. "One church has suffered eight separate break-ins. These thefts not only damage buildings: they destroy community by demoralising the volunteers who care for these local facilities."

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, said: "I would urge as many MPs as have interest in the preservation of not only our national heritage, but also the community bonds which churches strengthen, to support the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill on 9 November."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, wrote last week to the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, who has threatened to talk out the Bill during its Third Reading, which would prevent its progressing to the Lords. Mr Davies has said that he opposes the Bill because it does not include tougher sentences for criminals.

In his letter, Bishop Baines said that the measures in the Bill "will make a substantial difference, and will curb this crime which has caused such damage to our churches. It is not legislation that has been entered into lightly, and if it fails at this point the consequences will be very damaging."

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, on Thursday of last week, whether he would "undertake to find government time" for the Bill to complete its passage through the Commons, should it be "talked out" on 9 November.

Mr Lansley responded that the Government "fully" supported the Bill, but said: "I cannot give him the undertaking that he seeks, not least because I am hopeful that the Bill will attract the House's support on the day in question."



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