MPs make urgent call for action on scrap metal theft

Scrap metal
Scrap metal
HMS St Albans (background) with the Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry (foreground)    Picture: PO Lee Blease

Russian ship escorted by Portsmouth frigate

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THE government will today be asked to tighten up the regulations regarding the sale of scrap metal in the wake of a crime epidemic.

Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock will table a motion in Parliament to put an end to stolen metal being sold for quick cash.

Meanwhile, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage will write to the government to demand more measures to tackle the crime.

It comes as The News can reveal that the city is being gripped by a growing problem of metal thefts.

Figures obtained by The News from Portsmouth City Council show the cost to the taxpayer since 2009 has been almost £200,000.

The cost of repairing the damage has shot up year after year, with a repair bill of around £20,000 in 2009 rising to almost £150,000 last year.

Since 2009 there have been 65 metal thefts from council-owned buildings, including schools, Cosham library and the D-Day museum – and that’s the tip of the iceberg with scores more privately-owned properties being targeted.

Criminals stooped to new lows by targeting a war memorial in Kingston Cemetery and even the walking frame of disabled six-year-old Aston Muff.

Portsmouth South MP Mr Hancock wants to end scrap metal being sold for cash with no questions asked.

He says it should be a requirement for sellers to provide verified identification, for proper records of all transactions to be kept, and to make it illegal for cash payments to be made in exchange for scrap metal.

Instead of cash, cheques would be used as payment.

He said: ‘It’s a real epidemic of wanton thievery and it’s because it is so easy to do it and so easy to sell it.

‘What I want to do is make it difficult for people to sell it and for people to buy it without having to give their ID.’

Mrs Dinenage said: ‘It’s a massive problem. It seems to be becoming more and more so in the current economic climate.

‘It’s important and needs to be tackled.’

Havant MP David Willetts said he would not sign the motion but agreed the problem of metal thefts needed to be tackled.

Cllr Lee Hunt, who heads culture at Portsmouth City Council, was shocked by the regularity of the thefts.

He said: ‘It’s stealing from the people of Portsmouth.

‘The person responsible is the thief and subsequent to that is the person that is handling it. These dealers are not stupid. They deal in metal, they know when something has come off a roof. They should be asking questions.’