With cases of copper theft continuing to increase, the government has announced tighter laws for scrap metal deals.
Increased fines and the banning of cash payments for scrap metal are the main changes to the existing law, proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May in a written statement to MPs.
Statistics show that the scrap metal industry is worth £5.6bn and employs approximately 8,000 people in the UK.
The changes are designed to end the current “low-risk transactions” for people who steal metal, Ms May said.
The announcement follows a prolonged period of thefts which have seen copper piping ripped from homes and businesses, with serious health and safety issues in many cases.
The Labour party said the new measures fell short of what is required to tackle the metal theft problem.
Thefts from railways are another area of concern, with copper wire being stolen in many areas and causing severe disruption as a result.
Building sites and telephone exchanges have also suffered from copper theft.
Fines for all offences covered by the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act would rise, said Ms May.