Lords fast track bill to tackle metal theft

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

On Friday the House of Lords took a huge step forward in tackling the scourge of scrap metal theft.  We agreed to pass without amendment an excellent private member’s bill originally introduced in the House of Commons by Richard Ottaway MP, and skilfully steered through our House by Baroness Browning, which will completely rewrite the out of date and discredited Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964. 

This bill builds on and substantially widens the new law contained in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act to outlaw the use of cash to settle transactions for scrap metal sales.  These new cashless arrangements came into force at the beginning of December and are the result of amendments which I tabled to the LASPO bill at a late stage.

Getting the new Scrap Metal Dealers Bill through the House of Commons was not without its difficulties.  At the very last minute two Conservative MPs appeared ready to talk out the bill by tabling over 70 amendments on a single day – even though tackling metal theft was seen as a huge priority by everyone, the government included.  They were only persuaded to drop their filibuster by a promise that ministers would table an amendment in the House of Lords which would add a so-called “sunset clause” – a measure which would have caused the Act to expire altogether after five years.
Ministers kept their promise and Earl Attlee moved the amendment on Friday.  Speaking after him, I pointed out that it was up to the House of Lords to decide whether to accept the sunset clause.  I argued that the amendment would damage the bill in two ways.
First, it would delay the Bill’s enactment, as it would have to go back to the House of Commons to get the amendment agreed. Given the track record of a small number of Conservative MPs who routinely try to use procedural devices to block Private Members’ Bills, who could be certain that those who threatened to talk out this Bill on 9 November – or some of their friends- would not attempt to do the same thing again? If, however, the Lords passed the Bill unamended, it would not need to return to the House of Commons and could obtain Royal Assent almost immediately.
My second objection to the sunset clause was that it sent the worst possible signal to all those who are desperately attempting to tackle and defeat the metal thieves.  Heroic efforts have been made in the last year by the British Transport Police and the civil police, local authorities, trade associations, reputable scrap metal dealers, the churches, the War Memorials Trust, the energy companies, Network Rail and the train operating companies and the Home Office. They have all worked tirelessly to bring down the incidence of metal theft, catch the offenders and ensure convictions, with the effect of producing a decrease in reported metal theft of 52 per cent. 
I asked the House how it could possibly make sense to agree an amendment which would take this vital new law off the statute book altogether in five years’ time and give whoever is in government then the headache of having to pass such a law all over again.
In a House that was surprisingly full for a Friday, my opposition to the government’s amendment was shared by speakers in all parts of the chamber, with the Conservative Lord Forsyth and the Bishop of Exeter making particularly telling speeches.  In the vote “not-contents” totalled 89 (including all the cross-benchers who were present and voting and many Liberal Democrats), with the “contents” amounting to 31.  
The way is now clear for early Royal Assent; Parliament has shown that it takes metal theft seriously, and is determined to help those who are determined to tackle it.

24 comments for “Lords fast track bill to tackle metal theft

  1. Lord Blagger
    20/01/2013 at 1:33 pm

    Pretty amazing isn’t.

    It’s an offence to steal metal.

    However, Peers and the commons think that passing a new law means there won’t be thefts.

    Why the heck aren’t the police arresting people?

    Ah yes, must be seen to be doing something to justify 2,700 a day per peer.

    Lets pass a new law, and have a celebration. The problem is fixed.

    • maude elwes
      20/01/2013 at 7:00 pm

      You should seriously worry about the private force this isiot government is planning to employ for the takeowver of the UK without notifying its citizens to the reality of their intention. Remember, they had this outline, without any clarity, in their manifesto before the last election. And read the line that tells us by doing this we will have more women and ethnic police in the force as a result. Which will clean it up as the white Englih men inthat job presently cannot be trusted. The Labour line we are told they don’t have, they are not the ‘politically correct’ party at all. This is seriously terrifying as a prospect. We are being trated as if we are Afghanistan or mali. We cant run the country so send in an american force that can.

      It is clear government here is out of its depth and incapable to rule. We are being used as fodder by US companies to fill their bank accounts with our tax money. And where do you think that is going to lead?

      Hold onto you hats. We now have a privatised NHS, privatised prisons and this guy who is on the make big time is going to come in and create even more criminality than is here already. It is in his interests to do so.

      We have a bunch of ignorant, sick individuals leading us from misery to more misery and they simply deny their intention as they go.


      Time for those who do not want to live in the cooking pot of America today to pack up their bags and move on out as fast as they can.

  2. Lord Blagger
    21/01/2013 at 11:56 am

    So robbed by the corporates.

    Why leave off the state from the list of thieves?

    The good news today is that Dennis McShane has his head on the chopping block again.

    Perhaps we can get the Peer’s frauds reopened.

    Interesting to see the Clerk of Parliaments in court trying to defend the cover up. He hasn’t got a defence. After all, he would be breaking the law revealing what he made a state secret.

  3. MilesJSD
    21/01/2013 at 4:31 pm

    It is an overshadowingly and underpinningly hot Matter needing to burn its imprints into Constitutions as well as legislations and enforcement regulations and practices.

    It is a very compound matter, of Values;
    and therein of the need to “weld” our Longest-Term Human Purpose’s Values to the very “bones and braincells” of every human-child given as much as a toy to play with.
    Lyall Watson’s insight was that
    (“) Metals are sacred. In creation terms, they were locked inaccessibly into Rocks by The Creator(“);
    not intended by God nor Nature to be as quickly or sneakably pickable as would be a grain of corn on a Sunday.

    In fact given the further theory of Visiting ET Interference with the natural evolution of the human-race on Earth, whence came our astoundingly multi-giant-leaps forward into detection of, intellectual figuring of, and eventual smelting and technological use of, metals from rock-ores,
    it figures that God never intended humans to so easily lay hands on these creationally-sacred ‘essences’.
    Further: sociologically. psychologically, religiously and human-developmentally,
    both governmental and educational leaders of Peoples have overpaid themselves, and both underpaid and criminally-murdered their lifesupporters;
    so they are as much “thieves” and “cowboy-tradesmen” as the more immediate metal-thieves of an economic-sub-sector today.
    “Earning” a living ?
    Which is the worse, the prostitute unskilfully, heartlessly, and cack-handedly hiding guiltily behind a pub corner or in a ‘toylet’, abusing a male with a ‘hand-job’ for £20 ;
    or the metal-thief tearing down memorial plaques of our war-dead one night and the next causing leaky roof damage to church treasures by lifting the waterproofing lead off the roof, for a similar sum to the bodgy sex-industrialist ?

    Clue: Both are listed by Income Tax Law as economic “earners of livings”.

  4. Gareth Huw Howell
    21/01/2013 at 5:45 pm

    Apologies my comments above were not intended to be in italics.

    I use the word “criminal” in a very special sense in that post. I do actually agree with the local authority and police in their opinion that “they have got to earn a living”
    or “they have got a living to earn”.

    I don’t think that would make me a criminal for colluding with them, or the police or the chairman of the local authority!!

    Scrap merchants can and do make very good livings indeed, and full marks to them for doing so!

    No self employed person worth his salt uses cheques or bank accounts if he can possibly avoid it. Cash is king!

    The Inspector of Taxes has pro forma tables to determine what a small business will earn, given for example, the number of seats in a restaurant, so he does not miss that much. Full marks to the self employed for the work they do, including the small time scrap metal traders, very dirty work as it is!

  5. Gareth Huw Howell
    21/01/2013 at 8:05 pm

    The problem for the government/treasury is how many Tax inspectors know what a skip’s worth of scrap metal is worth, or whether cash is being paid for it.

    Most councils charge a handsome fee to very wealthy dealers to buy the rights to household collection of tin metal scrap which I put out every fortnight; glass as well. That is how your door step merchant started out in life, as a small time dealer on the heath, torching vehicles and trading it in weight for weight at a local scrap centre, a mountain of scrap!

    The problem with theft of metal I have personal experience of in my own garden. Travellers can be very persuasive especially if they think they have got an easy target/victim; somebody disabled, on their own etc. They will literally walk in to your garden WHILE YOU ARE THERE, and take whatever they feel like taking. Tell the police? They don’t want to know. Corruption!

    “He’s got a living to earn!” Ha!Ha!Ha!

    There is no saying they are not enthusiastic about metal or what finished consumer durable they can extract it from.

    In many ways they are very conventional indeed about life; reactionary, but if it comes to breaking law of the land for what they want in the way of metals or other scrap, they have no hesitation in breaking it, and
    “They have a living to earn”

    The noble lords do well to consider it carefully. There are a number of ramifications which our moderator only by way of example, has absolutely no inkling of at all, but then she probably does not live near a traveller encampment, or any number of them!

  6. MilesJSD
    22/01/2013 at 1:03 am

    Gareth agrees with the Local Authority and Police that the crime of metal-theft is a “living” and that the metal-criminals are necessarily “earning a living”;

    and further de-ploys words, that scrap-merchants “make” (note, not necessarily “earn”)
    “a very good living indeed -”
    implying that there are good-livings and very-good-livings, and of course just “livings”,
    and therefore there must be bad-livings and very-bad-livings;
    [but as milesjsd previously pointed out, criminal and underhand “work” is not seen as criminal by The State Coffers; the machinations of prostitutes and thieves is classed as legitimate taxable “income-earning”].

    Indeed, the Youth Parliament’s late-teenagers packed out the green seats under Speaker John Bercow himself, and proclaimed repeatedly that “the only way to get a “decent” job (qua ‘decent living’ and ‘decent personal identity’) is by graduating through a university”;

    but the job of scrap-dealer does not require a university degree,
    any more than does the job of a plumber, taxi-driver, police-person, prostitute, shop-keeper, people-carer, or come to that Member of Parliament;
    so such non-uni-graduate jobs are therefore ‘not decent’;

    yet Gareth awards them “full marks”
    [which in the real world is no longer the 10 out of 10 school classroom marking, but real-life scoring out in the big competitive world where the Queen’s establishment would make such “full marks” citizens privately eligible for at least MBEs or knighthoods, the annual Honours List can be far reaching].

    So if you really want to see who is doing the “very dirty” scrap metal work, Gareth, get a good look at the poverty-line native Africans on their seashores, breaking up old ships including with their bare hands and for a mere pittance and no State-assured First-Aid even.
    They make these British middle-class “full-marks scrap metal traders” you are so proud of, look like wayside buskers squatting comfortably in a wealthy globally-economic shopping-mall.

    Taken at your word, Gareth, you are outrightly supporting a Corrupt Civilisation;
    which no serious and sober human-being, certainly no citizen of this “world-leading & God-fearing Britain”, should be doing.
    This is not an
    “off-the-books privately and praiseworthily ‘earned income’,
    got by hard and dirty work, constituting a knighthood-level ‘decent’ living”;

    this whole criminal-opportunism and governmental-malfeasance needs to be cleaned up, and be shown
    that what is at stake here is the Longest-Term Purpose of our Human Race,
    and of Life and Lifesupports themselves,
    on this Earth and the Next.

    It is about constituting Values and ensuring, indeed where necessary enforcing, means by which every-one is raised both truly sustainworthy in their individual life-work and life-enjoyment, mutually sustain-worthying of all other humans, and nurturing of all lifesupports both the renewable and the non-renewable.
    Surely ?

    • MilesJSD
      22/01/2013 at 11:49 am

      However, it appears from Gareth’s subsequent more detailed contribution that he might have been “probing”, “kicking it about a bit”, “joking”:
      only “satiring”, “lampooning”,
      when he said in his 5.45pm short-post
      “I actually agree that they (scrap-metal-dealers) “have a living to earn””
      “Full marks to the ‘self-employed’ small time scrap dealers”
      “(They) do make very good livings indeed”.
      Yet in his own back-garden, Gareth is made a real victim, of both the loophboled-law and the trespassing thieves who incurse through both It and Gareth’s-property-line to aggressively thieve metal and whatever, maybe even precious-metal.

      So kindly let me (conditionally) withdraw my “attack”,
      that Gareth appears to be supporting a Corrupt-Civilisation therewithal.

  7. P.Selvaratnam
    22/01/2013 at 11:08 am

    Please get the science right.
    Metals were formed millions of years ago when the planet was formed. So the amount of metal in the planet cannot be increased any more and hence we need to reduce the use of metals to a minimum – saving it for purposes for which synthetic materials cannot be used.

    Please look up: http://www.naturalstep.org/the-system-conditions

  8. Gareth Huw Howell
    22/01/2013 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks to Miles for reading my post; I appreciate it; also from P Selvaratnam.

    If you will allow me to refer to my back garden again, the house has been on this site for 400 years or more, as a small dwelling, and the 19thC owners deposited vast quantities of glass, smashed or whole in “tips” in the garden.

    If they had been aware of the trouble it would cause 150 years later, they might well not have dumped it, and especially not in their own garden.

    That is by way of analogy.

    Today we are dumping the spent nuclear fuel in thick concreted dumps in the north sea, in Cumbria or wherever, and hoping that nobody will notice it,in the future.

    I have spent a good deal of time picking and removing “spent” glass and even then the glass recycle merchants do not want broken glass, they only accept whole bottles; it would be too difficult to collect otherwise,
    si it STILL goes to another dump heaping up problems for the future.

    I gave up driving a car in the interest of non-global warming, but “spent nuclear fuel”
    on account of my use of electricity, which is probably produced by anuclear power station, is in part my responsibility.

    Instead of global warming, I have got global
    pollution laid by MilesJSD perhaps, at my door. The heavy particles, and knowing how to deal with them, not ingesting them in any way, may become part of life survival for future generations. Knowing how to deal with them to survive, may becocme unavoidable.

    Reading over my post, I hasten to add that the understanding of agricultural man, that his own(humanure) and his animals’ manure is essential to good crops year after year, has been readily done in this garden, and that,
    3m deep in rich soil, is in no small way due to my predecssors’ activities in their unpolluted ablutions… humanure put straight back on to the garden for a couple of hundred years!!!

    The human mind is an interesting thing, and we have to go over our forefathers’ previous mistakes and put them right, time after time!!

  9. ladytizzy
    22/01/2013 at 4:52 pm

    Lord Faulkner, can you offer a full explanation on the party machinations observable within the Government, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords in this Private Members Bill?

    Further, do you consider that whatever antics were in play were solely due to this Bill. If so, why, if not, why?

    I have spent a little time looking at the Bill and associated baggage and would appreciate your insight on the above.

    • Lord Faulkner of Worcester
      27/01/2013 at 1:09 pm

      Ladytizzy asks some very interesting questions. The first thing to remember is that the House of Lords deals with private members’ bills (PMBs) very differently from the Commons. There is a convention that a bill which has passed all its stages in the Commons will normally be passed by the Lords (after debate). The same does not apply with PMBs introduced in and passed by the Lords – they go to the bottom of the queue in the Commons and rarely become law.
      Also individual MPs in the Commons are given many more opportunities to block PMBs – whether they enjoy almost unanimous support in both Houses (like the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill) or not. A good example of a bill which was lost was the Daylight Saving Bill in January 2012, because of the actions of around 10 MPs to talk it out, even though there were 140 there in the Commons to support it.
      The Second Clerk of the Procedure Committee (Mr Lloyd Owen) in the Commons is receiving representations and comments on the PMB procedure, and anyone who is concerned about the process can write to him.
      Meanwhile we are just very thankful that the great majority of members of the Lords wanted something done urgently about scrap metal theft, and passed the PMB on 18 January.

      • Lord Blagger
        28/01/2013 at 9:06 am

        Meanwhile we are just very thankful that the great majority of members of the Lords wanted something done urgently about scrap metal theft, and passed the PMB on 18 January.


        Sorry, but you really are dim if you think that passing a law means that something will change.

        It’s been illegal for decades to steal items. It’s been illegal for decades to receive stolen goods.

        Metal theft has and always has been illegal.

        A new law to make something that is illegal even more illegal.

        Hmmm, shades of Daddy, I might be a little bit pregnant spring to mind.

        It’s illegal.

        However, you’ve got to be seen to be doing something to justify your 2,700 a day cost.

        Lets have some more laws, then you can retire to drink your subsidised booze in celebration.

      • maude elwes
        28/01/2013 at 2:23 pm

        Which is why, Lord Faulkner, the entire system needs reforming to bring promote, Direct Democracy, in order for this country to become a genuine rule of Democratic principle. What we have is a game of cronyism.

        Your information on how to do away with a PMB sums it up. Cronies got together, with the consent of their party, to rid the House of true democratic rule. 140 against 10 is no way to run a so called democratic country.

      • ladytizzy
        29/01/2013 at 6:52 pm

        Lord Faulkner, I am grateful for your reply, the time of which was also duly noted – I hope the Yorkshire puddings weren’t too deflated.

        May I press you further on the heart of the matter: what are the clues that help you identify those engaging in heartfelt debate from those who are, say, filibustering?

        • Lord Faulkner of Worcester
          30/01/2013 at 10:17 am

          Thanks ladytizzy. This is really a question for our colleagues in the House of Commons. In my experience filibustering is almost unknown in the Lords as we take our responsibility to scrutinise legislation line by line, sometimes word by word, very seriously.

          Commons procedure is very different, and they do seem to have a particular problem with private members’ bills. An example of filibustering occurred on the Scrap Metal Dealers bill, when over 70 amendments were tabled on a single day by just two members. Head they persisted the bill would never have got out of the Commons and into the Lords. I hope this helps.

          • Lord Blagger
            30/01/2013 at 10:50 am

            You still don’t get it.

            1. Metal theft has been illegal for years. So has lots of other thefts, bar fraud by MPs and Peers.

            2.Receiving stolen goods has been illegal for years.

            Having a new law to make illegal something that is already illegal just shows how redundant you are.

            You’re just trying to pass a law so as it appears that you are doing something.

            What’s needed is prosecutions for theft, any theft. Including those who rob others, and then get off by handing the money back.

            Why for example didn’t you put in a clause that says if caught with the metal you can get off if you hand it back to the owners?

          • maude elwes
            30/01/2013 at 11:51 am

            My point was, the entire show needs reform, not simply the Lords.

            I do realise the Commons runs the show, however, as that place is also a society of cronies, albeit elected under the pretence of ‘truthful’ manifestos. In reality the manifesto is simply, grab the voters by spin and sink back into mundane thnking of self aggrandisment and preservation once in your seat.

            Direct Democracy throughout the so called ‘free world’ would be a move toward knowing what it is you will be likely to get as a safe and intelligent place to choose to live.

          • ladytizzy
            30/01/2013 at 3:46 pm

            Lord Faulkner, thank you, yes, most helpful.

          • JH
            02/02/2013 at 4:51 pm

            Re filibustering and the Lords – it is almost but not totally unknown see e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12239817
            from a time when the LibDems accepted that it was the AV vote with which equalising the consistencies and slimming down the House was ‘intricately’ linked (rather than the Lords reform).

  10. Gareth Huw Howell
    23/01/2013 at 9:23 am

    3m deep in rich soil, is in no small way due to my predecssors’ activities in their unpolluted ablutions… humanure put straight back on to the garden for a couple of hundred years!!!

    MilesJSD, the travellers are so fascinated by metal that the ownership of cars and pretending to know how to repair and build them is one of their favourite occupations.
    It makes them very conventional in most o life’s attitudes.

    I am quite certain that the local trader in recycled human compost (from the sewage works) is not a former traveller although…… although… although…

    All theses trades are known in India as trades for outcastes, scrap metal, humanure, dealing with the dead. Here we are more practical… or are we?

    Their noble lords are to be complemented for their attention to such a subject.

  11. Senex
    23/01/2013 at 3:18 pm

    Mr Poghisio as Kenyan Minister for Information and Communications you must be aware that the English Parliament has just approved a Scrap Metal Dealers Bill that is likely to receive Royal Assent in October 2013.

    As your committee is considering evidence for your own Scrap Metal Draft Bill there is a concern that British criminals will now be obliged to export illicit metals to Kenya or other African states. The Kenyan government is proposing a minimum fine of some 10 million Kenyan Shillings (£72,000) however its not clear what level of fine is to be imposed in the UK.

    To put your mind at rest intelligence sources are saying that Scotland is almost certain to be the new destination for illicit UK scrap metal. As you know Scotland is seeking independence from the UK and sources are also saying that the criminal underworld welcomes the move and will vigorously support Scottish independence.

    Ref: Vandalism of Telecommunication Plants/Electricity Equipment

  12. P.Selvaratnam
    23/01/2013 at 10:21 pm

    I went up to the parliament today. The parliament is guilty of not doing Environmental Impact Assessment in the re-furbishing of the ladies bathroom near the canteen downstairs. A good venue for metal theft – a large amount of metal is used in the very stylish washbasins and the stands.

  13. Gareth Huw Howell
    24/01/2013 at 6:39 pm

    Selva’s remark is witty!

    Senex very relevant but the last time the noble lords discussed Scrap metal Bill,in 1984-85 perhaps, they ended up attacking the Argentine navy because they thought the old warships might make good scrap.

    I have no doubt they did, and that some savvy scrap metal man from the UK dismantled them very well indeed.

    I prefer the French name for the islands myself, named after those who colonized it from the French town of ** **** just across the sea from where I live now, some centuries ago. As for Lord or Viscount Falkland….. well…..

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