Energy networks call on MPs to change legislation to tackle dangerous metal theft

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:01AM

The first ever parliamentary summit on metal theft will be held today as part of cross-industry approach to tackling this dangerous and increasingly damaging crime. Organised by Energy Networks Association (ENA), the summit will call for a change in legislation to address this problem in a comprehensive way.  

Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-social Behaviour Reduction Baroness Browning, spoke of the importance of infrastructure to UK Plc and the current Home Office thinking on how to tackle this crime:  

“I have been astonished by the costs incurred and damage that metal theft is causing to businesses, services and local communities across England and Wales. The government takes this issue extremely seriously which is why we commissioned the multi-agency ACPO Metal Theft working group to deliver a plan to tackle the problem.  

“Good progress is being made on a range of actions from this plan including looking at how we can develop metal alternatives and more coordinated law enforcement approaches, as well as exploring possible options for a cashless system for scrap metal dealers. 

Nevertheless, we are keen to do more and discussions are underway with a number of government departments to identify further options.”  

Hosting the Summit on behalf of ENA, Tom Watson MP for West Bromwich East, said:  

“Global commodity prices are fuelling a huge increase in metal theft. It undermines business stability. Worse, in some cases, it has even led to lives being lost.  

“It has been nearly half a century since metal theft laws were last updated. We need urgent improvements to legislation.”  

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, said:  

“Metal theft has become an increasing problem for our country’s infrastructure and the impact across energy networks, the rail system and telecoms is hindering UK Plc. But this isn’t just about society as a whole and the economy – this affects communities through loss of supply and individuals are dicing with death.  

“The current legislation is from a time of Steptoe & Son. Legislation needs updating with a robust and enforceable registration process, greater police powers to close down illegal scrap metal dealers and a move to a cashless system.  

“ENA, alongside Network Rail and BT, hope that through this summit we can convey the major impact this is having across different industries, the huge cost it causes for such small gains and at enormous risk to the criminals.”  

Earlier this year two men were convicted of ‘conspiring to steal’ and sentenced to 20 months in prison for a spate of thefts from the North Kent area. Causing damage of £125,000 the two men broke into electrical substations owned by National Grid and UK Power Networks in an attempt to steal copper worth less than 0.1% of its replacement costs.  


Notes to editor:  

ENA represents the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.  

ENA is working closely with Network Rail and BT to coordinate its work on legislative changes and proposals to the Home Office. They welcome the efforts taken and support provided by the Home Office, ACPO, British Transport Police and the regional police forces in seeking out and convicting those responsible for metal theft crime.  

Key statistics for 2010 show:  

  • 6000 incidents against the energy networks alone. This is on the increase too with January 2011 seeing double the number of metal theft crimes than January 2010.  
  • 3 fatalities and 31 serious injuries to criminals  
  • 135 losses of supply to homes, schools and communities  

Additional case study:  
A £5 brass valve which was removed from an oil filled transformer resulted in 30,000 litres of oil leaking out. Luckily this was contained within the substation otherwise it could have caused road accidents and damaged the local environment costing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage.  

For further information please contact:  
Tim Field, Press and Public Affairs Executive  
Energy Networks Association  
E: [email protected]  
T: +44 (0)207 706 5157  
M: +44 (0)7725 372 758