The Ulster Unionist Party’s East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs, has highlighted the need for legislation governing scrap metal dealing, following news of lead stolen from Belfast Businesses over recent weeks which risks considerable weather damage and losses due to business disruption.
Commenting, Mr Beggs said;
“Metal theft continues to be a problem in Northern Ireland. It is apparent through this latest spate of metal theft in Belfast that action must be taken in order to prevent damage to business, but also in the long run we must deter further theft from homes, schools, churches and public buildings.
“Not only does metal theft cause upset and distress to the owners of the metal but in some cases metal theft can put lives in danger. I have been made aware of instances where electricity substations have been targeted by metal thieves, who not only have endangered themselves but have also endangered the electricity supply to thousands of consumers. The public have also been put at risk as a result of the theft of manhole covers as criminals profit while the public purse pays to replace the stolen items.
“The theft of metal continues to plague Northern Ireland as it is a valuable commodity. Stolen metal must be sold through scrap metal dealers for the criminals to profit. Legislation has recently been passed in Westminster in relation to England and Wales for the further regulation of scrap metal dealers*. It is my intention to introduce a Private Members Bill governing the sale of scrap metal to bring into effect measures appropriate to Northern Ireland.
“I am currently in the final stages of preparing a consultation paper and I aim to release this to the public within weeks. The paper will consult the public, business and voluntary groups on a range of measures that could be introduced to help combat the theft of metal including the outlawing of untraceable “cash” transactions. If a financial audit trail was enforced, financial details could link the sale of stolen metal to the thieves and so deter theft.
“I have already been in consultation with the previous Minister for the Department of the Environment, Alex Attwood, as well as the Justice Minister, David Ford, who have indicated that they have no imminent plans for legislation. New legislation is a necessary step in order to ensure the traceability of scrap metal transaction and help combat metal theft.
“After receiving responses from the public I will then proceed to draft the Bill in consultation with the Assembly Bills Office and would hope to have new legislation governing scrap metal dealing approved during the current Assembly term.”