MP seeks to tackle metal theft from churches

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has met with Church of England officials as part of his campaign to push for action to be taken to tackle the problem of metal theft from Teesside and East Cleveland’s churches.

Tom has previously raised the problem of metal theft in Parliament, speaking in a debate and asking the Second Church Estates Commissioner Parliamentary questions. Figures provided by the Second Church Estates Commissioner in response to a Parliamentary question showing that £115,000 of metal was stolen from churches in the Anglican Diocese of York in 2011, a 62% increase from 2010.

Tom said: “As the Evening Gazette has managed to successfully highlight, churches in Teesside and East Cleveland are suffering severe problems due to metal theft, including St Leonard’s in Loftus and St Agnes’s in Easterside in my constituency.

Earlier this year, I wrote to many of the churches in my constituency, as well as the Archbishop of York and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough, to ask about their experiences surrounding metal theft. I have also met with a representative of the Church of England’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division to discuss the problems in my constituency, following a question I asked to the Church Commissioners on the floor of the House of Commons. All these people have provided me with valuable feedback.”

The Church of England, in June 2011, released a document as to the steps it thinks are necessary to tackle the problem of metal theft. They proposed making cash transactions for lead illegal; introducing licensing for scrapyards and metal traders; requiring people selling metal to prove their identity; requiring CCTV to be installed at scrap metal dealer entrances and weigh-bridges; and placing a duty on scrapyards to report suspicious activity to the Police.

Tom added: “Although this is clearly a problem in Teesside, it is also a nationwide issue, with churches, cathedrals and war memorials suffering from metal theft throughout the UK.
I was honoured to speak in a debate in Parliament on 7 February to tell my fellow MPs about the problems churches in my constituency were facing from metal theft. I was also able to support a motion proposed by my colleague, Labour MP Graham Jones, and passed by Parliament that called for the Government to take steps very similar to those suggested by the Church, as well as granting the Police additional powers to search and investigate premises operated by scrap metal dealers.

With the Olympics coming up and churches struggling, it is time for the Government to get a grip. Action, regulation and legislation are needed. The Government’s proposed changes are, at best, half-measures: whilst banning cash payments is welcome, the Government has created loopholes for door-to-door metal collectors that criminals could jump through.

I hope the Government listens to Yvette Cooper MP, the Shadow Home Secretary; churches in Teesside; Parliament; and the Church of England are suggesting, and take the necessary steps.”

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