The CLA is continuing to lobby the Government to ban cash transactions in scrap-metal dealing, despite the rejection of Labour MP Graham Jones’s Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill on its second reading earlier this month. However, the measure may now go through as part of the Legal Aid Bill.

The CLA estimates that about one-fifth of the industry’s annual turn-over of £5 billion is in cash, which means stolen metal cannot be traced. Metal theft has doubled in the past five years, and, in addition to the infuriating episodes of train-signalling cable being stolen, the CLA has compiled a dossier of other incidents. Thieves stripped the lead off the roof of a historic pump house on the River Kennet in West Berkshire, and the owners have been waiting since last May for Natural England to give them permission to reroof.

In Shropshire, four thefts in three years of lead roofing on a listed holiday cottage have cost the owners £60,000 in repairs and £4,000 in lost letting income. Meanwhile, a Yorkshire village has had its mains-electricity cable stolen twice in 18 months, and manholes and water butts regularly disappear.

The CLA’s president Harry Cotterell comments: ‘There seems to be plenty of local stealing-to-order with little disincentive to the thieves, as the police response is usually non-existent. Something must
be done.’

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