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Scrap Metal Dealers Bill

Church support for Scrap Metal Dealers Bill

Church of England bishops are calling on MPs to support the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill on November 9. The epidemic of metal theft continues to plague churches, war memorials, schools, heritage properties, rail and utility services and even hospitals across the UK. It has cost £27m¹ to repair the nearly 11,000 cases of criminal damage inflicted on England's churches alone since 2007.

For the Church of England in 2012, the worst affected dioceses have been Salisbury, Chelmsford and Winchester with 120 claims made on insurance policies.

Consequently, bishops are supporting senior Conservative backbencher Richard Ottaway's Scrap Metal Dealers Bill. It has its remaining stages in the House of Commons on Friday, 9 November and seeks to licence all scrap metal dealers, verify the identity of all those selling metal and for all those cashless transactions to be recorded. If passed by MPs the bill will progress to the House of Lords.

The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, says: "It is shocking that more than 50 churches in my diocese have had metal stolen 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 950 churchwardens who care for our churches are all committed and hard working volunteers. They will be pleased if the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill is passed by the House of Common on 9 November. It will protect community assets."

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin agrees. He says: "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."

In the capital the Bishop of London has written to the MPs representing the diocese asking for their support for the bill. The Rt Rev Richard Chartres says, "Lead theft has had a devastating impact on England's churches. 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."

While precautions including wireless roof security systems and metal marking systems like "SmartWater" offer some deterrent to the thefts, the isolated location of many churches make them tempting targets for criminals. The proposed new legislation will fairly regulate the scrap metal industry and act as a significant deterrent to continuing metal theft.

¹ Figures from Ecclesiastical Insurance

Further details of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill can be accessed from

Daily Digest