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Lead Theft

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

7. What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to reduce the level of lead theft from church buildings. (55127)

Last year, churches in Manchester had more lead theft than in any other area of the UK, with a significant number of insurance claims being made. Metal theft, particularly the theft of lead from church roofs, is the most serious problem facing the maintenance of the historic legacy of church buildings, with Wakefield cathedral being the most recent case. The Church recently sent a report to the Home Office in which it makes recommendations for the greater regulation of the scrap metal industry.

What advice, if any, has the Church Buildings Council been able to give churches to advise them on how to help to deter thieves?

The Church is giving all possible advice to churches about effective deterrents, including what they should do regarding wireless roof alarms and other things. Frankly, though, it is a broader issue than that. The Church Buildings Council is of the view that the regulation of scrap yards is fundamental to reducing the level of metal theft. It is all too easy for roofs to be stripped of lead one night and the lead to be sold for cash the next day. We want cash transactions for lead to be made illegal, a requirement for scrap yards receiving lead or traders selling it to be licensed specially for that activity, a requirement to show documentary proof of identification when selling lead and to photograph each person when their identity is checked, and a requirement on scrap yards to report suspicious activity or persons to local police forces.

It is difficult to underestimate the damage that this is doing. The number of claims—

Order. It would be very difficult for me to underestimate the comprehensiveness of the hon. Gentleman’s reply, which I think I can safely say is unsurpassed in the House.