New powers to combat the growing problem of metals theft and lessen the widespread disruption to businesses large and small will soon come into force.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, which has been voted through the House of Lords, will require all scrap metal dealers to be licenced, and outlaws cash payments for metal at recycling yards in England and Wales.  

The recent rise in scrap metal value has led to a steep rise in thefts affecting homes and businesses, including convenience stores.

Gloucestershire retailer Elspeth Robertson of Wayside Farm Shop near Broadway was left stranded, and unable to make crucial Christmas deliveries, after metal thieves stole the catalytic converter from the shop’s van in late December. The repairs are expected to cost hundreds of pounds.

Gobinath Thambarja’s newsagents in Hayes, Middlesex, was flooded after thieves attempted to steal his water pipes last year, while a number of convenience stores were left unable to access the internet or complete orders following copper telephone cable thefts.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the UK’s gas and electricity transmission and distribution network operators, applauded MPs and Peers for the Bill’s swift passage through the House of Lords.

ENA chief executive David Smith said: “This is a great result for those affected industries and organisations that have been campaigning for a change for many years. Replacing the outdated laws will deal a firm blow to the criminals who have plagued our national infrastructure, memorials and heritage.”

Last month nine members of a gang suspected of using a stolen BT van and disguising themselves as workmen to steal valuable copper cables from across London were arrested in raids. The group had been making thousands of pounds using an east London scrapyard as cover to convert the copper cable for sale.

Earlier this week two men from Cosely in the West Midlands were arrested after police followed their snowy footprints from the scene of a gas metre theft to their front door.