23 January 2014: Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they will continue to support the metal theft task force.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, no one doubts the success of the metal theft task force. The Government have provided funding from January 2012 to 31 March 2014. With a new licensing regime in place since October, we will take a view nearer the time as to how to take forward our efforts to tackle metal theft in the future.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, the Minister is right to say that the metal theft task force has been successful. The British Transport Police, in particular, deserves a lot of credit for the work that it has done. This has resulted in a 44% reduction in metal theft-related crime in 2012-13 and, according to ACPO, has saved the national infrastructure £339 million, an incredibly good rate of return on the £5.5 million that the task force has cost so far.
Does the Minister agree that, with the introduction of cashless transactions, which your Lordships added to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, and the passage of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, we are at last turning the tide against this awful crime? Would it not be extraordinarily short sighted to cut off the funding of the metal theft task force at the end of March and should we not be building on that success and not jeopardising it?