Scrap metal dealers found to be linked to the theft of railway signalling cable or other stolen metal are to be barred from the industry, the government announced today.
Ministers said licences will be torn up under planned changes to legislation in the latest move aimed at tackling the growing problem of metal theft.
Convictions related to pollution or nuisance to communities have previously been the only areas taken into account over the issuing of licences, but from April, convictions for metal theft will be included.
Environment minister Lord Taylor said: "Stolen metal will be too hot to handle. Mindless criminals who steal from our railways and historic buildings, and the scrap dealers who fuel the market, are causing misery and anger for countless people.
"We'll purge the industry of rotten elements by flushing them out of legitimate businesses, or shutting dodgy businesses down altogether."
The Environment Agency's chief executive Paul Leinster said: "Metal theft continues to be a major problem so we welcome the wider range of convictions that will be available to us when deciding whether to issue or remove environmental permits.
"This builds on work we are doing to support the British Transport Police's crackdown on metal theft and our ongoing work to tackle illegal waste sites. Waste crime puts people and the environment at risk and undercuts legitimate businesses who take their environmental responsibilities seriously."
British Transport Police officers have been inspecting scrapyards in recent weeks as part of a campaign to crack down on metal theft following a spate of incidents on the railways which caused huge disruption to train services.