Ministers to tackle 'national epidemic' of metal theft

Ministers are to expected to launch an assault this week on "crooked" scrapyards in an attempt to curb the "full-blown national epidemic" of metal thefts that threatens Britain's transport network.

The Treasury is concerned about a sharp rise in thefts at a time when the economy can least afford large parts of the rail and road network to grind to a halt. Cash payments for scrap metal are likely to be banned, cross-Channel intelligence stepped up, scrap metal merchants more closely regulated and tougher fines and jail sentences introduced.

Norman Baker, the transport minister, said the Government would "rule nothing in and nothing out – including strengthening the law". Writing for The Independent on Sunday, the Lib Dem minister said that "we need to close down the market for all illegally sourced metals – whether they come from our railways or our graveyards, our war memorials or our communications networks.

"Already this year we have seen significantly longer jail sentences for cable theft. But it is not enough... we are determined to clamp down on crooked scrapyards, and send out an unequivocal message to cable thieves that we will not tolerate their wholly unacceptable activities any longer."

According to the Energy Networks Association, six people have died in the past year attempting to steal power cables. But despite reports of the high value of some metals, most hauls are worth less than £100. "It's just simply not worth the risk," Mr Baker said. "I am working closely with my Home Office colleagues and am delighted they are now taking action."

Scrapyards pay around £5,000 for a tonne of copper, but many other metals are stolen too. This month tens of thousands of commuters in Suffolk were left stranded after thieves stole railway cables. Lead worth £70,000 has been stolen from churches in Cornwall.

Network Rail and Crimestoppers are offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information that leads to a conviction. Chris Curtis, Network Rail route general manager, said: "The only way to significantly reduce metal crime is to take away the illegal market, and more robust legislation and police powers are needed to achieve that."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory