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
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
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
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
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."