Parliament debates ‘malicious criminal plague’ of metal theft

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 9:00AM

In an impassioned debate in The House of Commons last night (Tuesday 6 September), Graham Jones MP called on Government take the issue of metal theft more seriously. He went on to ask Energy Minister Charles Hendry MP to raise the issue through the Energy Emergency Executive, the Committee that deals the impact of natural disasters and terrorism on our vital energy assets.  

The daily attacks on our energy infrastructure not only cause disruption to the public and the economy but put innocent lives in danger by cutting off essential services and leaving sites unsafe.   Graham Jones MP for Hyndburn said:  

“There is a growing body of opinion that organised crime, buttered by the benefits of high scrap prices for Copper, Aluminium and Brass, have a free hand without disruption to steal, sell and profit.  

“Frankly, the police and the Home Office have not taken the issue seriously enough. The paltry amount of Government focus on metal theft and a lack of consistent police action across the country have quietly allowed serious organised criminal groups to muscle in on an increasingly lucrative trade.  

“Only last month for the first time our National Grid suffered a major theft, which could have jeopardised the supply in excess of 100,000 people. An attack on a similar piece of infrastructure could cause this figure to rise to 500,000 people.”  

Mr Jones gave his support to the calls of the Energy networks Association (ENA) who are working alongside Network Rail and BT to update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964.  

ENA Chief Executive David Smith said:  

“We need a change to legislation from the time of Steptoe and Son. We’re calling for effective licensing scheme coupled with greater police powers to close down dealers who refuse to comply and the move to a cashless system so that thieve cannot benefit from the illegal gains.”  

Responding to Mr Jones, Energy Minister Charles Hendry MP said that metal theft was undoubtedly growing in occurrence and severity and agreed more needed to be done:   “Let me be clear that the Government fully recognise the serious consequences of metal theft. This is not a victimless crime.  

“We share the view that organised crime is involved in this activity. Working with the Home Office, we have secured the inclusion of metal theft in its recently published organised crime strategy “Local to Global: reducing the risk from organised crime.  

“We we are determined to address the issue, which is causing massive inconvenience, great threats and a really serious challenge to people working in the industry.”  


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.  

In 2010 there were 6000 incidents of metal theft against the energy networks. From January-July 2011 there had already been 4500 showing almost a doubling in the level of this crime.  

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