The House of Commons passed the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill on Friday, in a move which was praised by many industries as a great step forward in the fight to combat metal theft.

Richard Ottaway MP proposed the bill, which will establish a licensing scheme for the metal recycling industry that includes record keeping, tougher rules on traders and greater powers for the police.

Metal theft has been a growing problem across the UK in the last couple of years, particularly where copper piping is concerned.

In Wales a school had to be closed after thieves broke in and stole copper pipes from the heating system, while a Cambridgeshire home was destroyed after thieves stole copper piping from the gas heating system, causing an explosion.

Plumbers have been particularly hard hit by the thefts, with many reporting thefts of copper piping from their homes and vans.

Tony Glover, director of policy at the Energy Networks Association (ENA), which is among those who have campaigned for tighter restrictions on the scrap metal industry, said: "We are delighted that MPs have passed this Bill. Richard Ottaway MP has been a champion of tackling this terrible crime and we are pleased to see the efforts of ENA and the coalition of those affected emphasised the need for Parliament and the government to act. We are grateful to the MPs who have supported this Bill and to the government for supporting it.

"This change in the law will go a long way to dealing a lasting blow to criminals, we have confidence in the House of Lords to deliver a robust Bill and for the courts to enact tough sentences that will end this scourge on society."

ENA has been working as part of a cross-industry and charity group to call for this change in the law alongside BT, Network Rail, the Church of England, the War Memorials Trust, SITA UK, Calor, the British Metal Recyclers Association and many others.

The ENA represents the wires and pipes transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.