The Church is concerned about the significant rise in metal theft, which is not unconnected to the fact that the price of lead and copper on world markets has risen by 65%. Our advice to churches follows that of the police, which is to do target hardening wherever possible. There are a certain number of practical suggestions that I can provide that may assist with this inquiry.
While all thefts should be condemned, it is particularly despicable to steal from churches and their graveyards. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what impact the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013—pioneered by Sir Richard Ottaway—has had on the situation?
There is no question but that the private Member’s Bill promoted by our dear friend and former Member of this House gave rise to a change in Government legislation on metal theft. However, there are new thefts—not just of metal, but of stone, ornamental artefacts and even, recently, some 12th-century keys. This is why I have joined the revised all-party parliamentary group on metal and stone theft, and I encourage other Members to support its work in Parliament.
Just as with metal, it is very important to mark artefacts with smart water, dye or in other ways where possible, so that thieves may be caught and ultimately prosecuted when artefacts turn up in dealers’ yards. The APPG will be involved in this work and the Church of England will actively support it.