Old cars having a higher scrap metal value has led to a recent drop in arson attacks, fire chiefs have argued.

New figures from the London Fire Brigade showed deliberate fires dropped by 84 per cent in Merton compared to ten years ago, when the borough had 641 arson attacks.

It is believed the decline is partly due to old cars being more valuable for scrap, making them less likely to be abandoned and torched.

In August 2001 old steel scrap was £35 per tonne, but it is now more like £185 per tonne in a scrap industry which is worth about £5bn a year.

Darren Munro, the Merton’s Borough Commander, said: “The dramatic decrease in deliberate fires means Londoners are a great deal safer from these needless acts of destruction than they were 10 years ago.

“We have worked incredibly hard with partners, the police and Merton Council, to bring these figures down and make the capital safer.