asked the Minister of Supply if, in view of the widespread and growing thefts of lead from churches, private homes and buildings of historical interest, he will consider introducing a licensing system for all purchasers of lead.
A licensing system has been in operation for some time under the Copper, Lead and Zinc Distribution Order, 1951. For administrative reasons the purchasers of small quantities of such metals were not included.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Suffolk alone no fewer than 12 churches, and more in Norfolk, have suffered in this way? Although the amount of lead involved is small, it is essential that measures should be taken to stop these thefts. In the very nature of things, it is almost impossible to protect churches at night.
To control all small purchases of lead would mean licensing every rag and bone merchant in the country, and that would be extremely difficult.