Birmingham MP Jack Dromey has visited a city church which became the latest to be hit by metal thieves who stripped thousands of pounds-worth of lead from its roof.
Mr Dromey called for the authorities to get tough with metal thieves following a meeting with campaigners and Rev Nigel Traynor at Erdington's St Mary’s Church, which was hit on Christmas Eve.
As well as lead from church roofs, cables from railway lines and power lines have been stolen along with metal from other sites, such as Barr Beacon War Memorial in Great Barr.
Mr Dromey (Lab Erdington) said: “St Mary’s is a fabulous church with a wonderful congregation.
"Yet it has sadly become a target for reckless criminals as the price of metal rises. Our message should be clear – metal theft is a crime and you will be punished for it.
“The Government needs to get serious on metal theft. Government proposals to increase fines and stop cash payments at scrap yards are welcome, but they are not enough to help police crackdown on this damaging crime blighting commuters, churches and communities across the country.
“The police have been clear they require greater powers to enter scrap metal yards and close down dealers not obeying the rules.
"Banning cash payments could mean some illegal yards continue the practice; yet the police don’t have the power to close them down.”
Earlier this week the Government announced plans to end cash payments at scrap yards, but the Labour MP said he wanted to see strict licensing of scrap yards and demands for proof of identity for anyone selling metal.
Home Secretary Theresa May, announcing the proposals, said: “People who deal in stolen metal are criminals, pure and simple. Their activities are bringing misery to individuals and communities as well as damaging our economy.
“We’re putting a stop to cash payments and we’re imposing unlimited penalties on anyone who breaks the law.
"This Government will do what it takes to protect the public, business and our national heritage from metal theft.”