East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs has successfully progressed his Scrap Metal Dealers Bill through to the Assembly’s committee scrutiny stage.
The Private Members Bill seeks to create an audit trail of those selling scrap metal to dealers.
Addressing the Assembly, the Ulster Unionist representative talked about the local impact of metal theft and the need for such legislation.
He there had been several incidents in Gleno “that have shown me from experience that this has been a major problem”.
“A new set of street lights was installed by Roads Service to link the village to the local bus stop at McDowell’s shop. Within two weeks, the lights stopped working, and when I enquired what the nature of the fault was, I was advised that thieves had stolen the underground cable.
“My church, Raloo Presbyterian Church, was targeted and the lead was stripped off the hall roof. Through this, I learned that it is not just the discomfort of having your property attacked and the value of lead stolen but that there is the cost of weather damage to the interior of the building as a result of water ingress.
“Then there is the cost of repair for installing new non-lead material. Clearly there is a need to address this issue. Considerable costs are being incurred in the community as a result of metal theft. Similarly, several schools in my constituency have been targeted — Greenisland Primary School, Downshire School and Ulidia Integrated College — disrupting children’s education.
“Equally, many private homes, social houses and businesses have suffered considerable loss and inconvenience, primarily around the issue of lead-flashing and copper-piping theft.
“A few miles up the road from where I live in the Gleno valley, there lies the Ballyvallagh NIE electricity substation, which supplies electricity to much of Larne. I discovered that, on two occasions, the copper earth cables had been stolen.
“Those who carried out those thefts will have done so at considerable personal risk, and in addition, the theft endangered the substation and could have resulted in significant failure and the subsequent loss of power for a considerable time to a wider group of constituents in the Larne area.”
The Bill has now been referred to the Assembly’s Environment Committee for detailed scrutiny.
Talking about the detail of his Private Members Bill, Mr Beggs said: “In addition to reduced bureaucracy for dealers, small dealers in particular, I propose that for dealer sales to customers, that for sales of less than 50 kilograms, details would not have to be recorded.
“There is no harm in keeping a record of the bigger items. In that way, if a car is stolen, at least the engine or gear box could not be sold that way in most instances and a degree of traceability is enabled.”