The government is planning to outlaw paying cash for scrap metal, following pressure from churches, rail companies and civic groups over growing metal and lead theft.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced the move in a written statement to MPs at Westminster. She also told them that fines would be 'significantly increased' to tackle the growing theft problem.
Anne Sloman, chair of the Church of England's Cathedral and Church Buildings Council, commented: "This is excellent news. The Church has campaigned for a long time for legislation to outlaw cash transactions for scrap metal. We are still suffering the theft of lead from 10 church roofs a day, and every weapon the Government and the police can use to help us combat this crime is greatly to be welcomed."
Catholic churches, free churches and other civic and religious buildings have also been hit by the problem, and have been calling for change.
The aim of the legislation is to make stealing metal less attractive to criminals. Tackling the stolen metal market will act as a significant deterrent, advocates of the new legal requrement believe.
The government will also significantly increase the fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 that regulates the scrap metal recycling industry.
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. This leads to anonymous, low-risk transactions for those individuals who steal metal. In addition, the widespread use of cash facilitates poor record keeping by the metal recycling industry and can support tax evasion activity.
In November 2011, the government announced £5 million to establish a dedicated metal theft taskforce to enhance law enforcement activity in this area.