Bishop Tim urges MPs to support scrap metal bill

31 October 2012

Bishop Tim urges MPs to support scrap metal bill photo


THE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER has called for MPs to support the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill on November 9, as Winchester Diocese was named in the top three worst hit areas nationally.

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 £27m 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.

In the Diocese of Winchester, since January 2011, there have been more than fifty separate incidents of metal being stripped from the roofs of churches, with some churches targeted on repeated occasions.

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.

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.

The Bishop of Winchester, The Rt Revd Tim Dakin said: "I 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."

Devastating impact

Diocese of Winchester spokesman Nick Edmonds added: “as one of the worst-hit areas for the crime of lead theft, we are really feeling the devastating impact on local churches, as well as the mindless damage being done to war memorials, railway lines and almost anything where metal is vulnerable to theft.”

“On the whole in these circumstances, it’s loyal church volunteers who end up struggling to make ends meet so that the buildings stay fit to fulfil their vital community work.”

“Repairing the damage to building fabric often reduces the funds available to support activities such as lunch clubs, mother and toddler groups, and youth events, which is devastating, especially in the parishes which have been hit repeatedly by thefts."

“The scrap metal bill will help stamp out this mindless crime by increasing the accountability of scrap metal dealers for every transaction that goes through. I think most people would agree that this is something we need to get in place sooner rather than later.”

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 Ottoway's Bill will make a real difference in combating this dreadful crime.”