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07/09/2011: Local metal theft debate raised in Parliament by North West MP

The issue of metal theft against the region’s electricity network was taken to Parliament last night (Tuesday 6 September) in a bid for something more to be done to tackle it.

In an impassioned plea, Graham Jones MP for Hyndburn, called on the government to take the issue of metal theft more seriously and amend existing legislation.

Electricity North West, which owns and operates the North West’s local power grid, says that metal theft costs its customers up to £2m a year. In a meeting with Mr Jones last month, the company reiterated the need for the issue to be tackled head on.

Mr Jones spoke directly to Energy Minister, Charles Hendry MP, and warned: “The increase in metal theft in the UK and elsewhere in the past few years has been alarming. Electricity North West has seen a 40-fold increase in thefts over the past 10 years.

“There is a human consequence to all these thefts. I visited Electricity North West and was told by staff that there is daily worry about people’s safety as a result of metal theft. There is danger to those illegally entering substations and a danger to staff undertaking routine maintenance.

“The electricity and gas industry network companies can only do so much to address the problem. It is clear that current legislation is not fit for purpose. There is overwhelming evidence that the Government need to focus on the supply chain, and to reclassify criminal deterrents so that the sentence fits the crime.”

Electricity North West asset manager, Eddie Hamilton, said: “Metal theft is a huge issue for our region and the rest of the country. We invest hundreds of thousands of pounds protecting our network from crime but more needs to be done to tackle the supply chain, ensuring that these thieves have nowhere to sell stolen metal.

“I’m pleased that this issue has been raised in Parliament and hope that more can be done to protect our infrastructure and customers.”

Responding to Mr Jones, Energy Minister Charles Hendry MP said: “The government fully recognises the serious consequences of metal theft. This is not a victimless crime.

“We are determined to address the issue, which is causing massive inconvenience, great threats and a really serious challenge to people working in the industry.”

Mr Jones also gave his support to the calls of the Energy Networks Association who are working alongside Network Rail and BT to update the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act.

At a local level, Electricity North West is continuing to work with police and local communities throughout the North West to help minimise the effects of this crime.

You can read the full transcript of the debate here.

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