Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, responding to today’s Written Ministerial Statement from the Home Secretary about metal theft, said:
"These plans do not go far enough to tackle the growing metal theft epidemic. Government proposals to increase fines and stop cash payments at scrap yards are welcome, but they are not enough to help police crack down on this damaging crime blighting commuters, churches and communities across the country.
"The police have been clear they require greater powers to enter scrap metal yards and close dealers not obeying the rules. Banning cash payments could mean some illegal yards continue the practice, yet the police don’t have the power to close them down.
"The Tory-led Government needs to get serious on metal theft, which has soared since metal prices went up. Thieves are creating havoc on our transport network, costing millions of pounds and creating dangerous situations for people on the roads. Wire theft is causing repeated power cuts, plunging communities regularly into darkness, and putting lives at risk.
"Yet despite this growing problem, the Home Secretary is being too slow and too sluggish. There is still no proper strategy to cut crime, or to deal with a problem which risks escalating out of control.
"The Goverment has already blocked Graham Jones' private members bill to tackle metal theft. Labour will be putting forward our tougher and more substantial proposals in Parliament next week, and we hope the Government will support our measures to get a grip on this issue."
John Woodcock MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Minister, responding to a Transport Select Committee report on rail cable theft, said:
"This report underlines the scale of the cable theft problem on Britain’s railways – 35,000 train journeys delayed or cancelled, at a cost of millions of pounds to passengers and to Network Rail.
"Out-of-touch ministers have dragged their feet for too long on cable theft. As well as banning cash transactions for scrap metal, they need to act urgently on the select committee’s call for compulsory ID for metal sales and for tougher police powers. The Tory-led Government also needs to ensure that their cuts to the British Transport Police do not prevent it from stepping up the fight against cable theft.
"Meanwhile train operators must act in a more transparent way - and prove that every penny they receive in compensation for cable theft is passed on to their customers. If it were seen that train companies were pocketing Network Rail's compensation payments, rather than passing them on to the passengers who suffer, this would be a matter of huge concern and an example of the type of irresponsible behaviour that this Tory-led Government has already shown it is unwilling to take on. Hard-pressed passengers have a right to know that they will be properly compensated for delays caused by cable theft."
Labour is putting forward a four point plan to tackle metal theft. This plan is also supported by British Transport Police, the Association of Chief Police Officers & by the Neighbourhood Watch:
1. Tougher police powers to close rogue traders down.
2. Anyone selling scrap to provide proof of identity, recorded at point of sale.
3. Licensing scrap metal dealers, rather than current registration with Local Authority.
4. Banning cash transactions especially for large scale/high value scrap metal transactions.
These measures would allow legitimate trade to continue whilst making it harder and more expensive for organised crime and opportunistic thieves to profit from metal theft.