A BAN on cash for scrap and harsher punishments for metal thieves will go ahead following a successful campaign by a Worcester peer.

The Government has announced it will step up action to tackle the growing epidemic of metal theft.

In October Lord Faulkner of Worcester introduced a Private Member’s Bill – the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (Amendment) Bill – into the House of Lords in a bid to update “hopelessly out-of-date” legislation.

Yesterday Home Secretary Teresa May told Parliament the Government will make an urgent amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, backing Lord Faulkner’s proposal to create a criminal offence to make cash payments to buy scrap metal.

Fines for all offences will also “significantly increase” under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 that regulates the scrap metal recycling industry, as championed by the Worcester peer.

Lord Faulkner said: “Scarcely a day goes by without a report of trains being delayed by the theft of signalling cable, and of manhole covers, works of art, war memorials, lead from church roofs and sacred objects within churches, electricity sub-station wire all being stolen for its scrap metal value – the list is endless.

“I have received scores of messages of support from concerned individuals and organisations: they are unanimous that an essential first step in reforming the law is to outlaw the use of cash in settling transactions.

“Further legislation to license and regulate this £5 billion industry will need to follow, and I hope to see a Bill to do this in the next session of Parliament.”

Worcester’s MP Robin Walker – a vice-chairman of the all-party group for prevention of metal theft, welcomed the Government’s decision and pledged to push for further measures.

Mr Walker said: “Now we need to engage with the scrap metal industry, with the police and with the thousands of organisations that are affected by metal theft to make sure the new legislation really works and to put in place a stronger and fairer licensing regime.”

Cash transactions for scrap metal are often completed without any proof of personal identification or proof that the individual legitimately owns the metal being sold.

Earlier this month, the Worcester News reported how metal thieves have stolen £100,000 worth of gullies and drain covers from across the county over the past year.