Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mike Field on behalf of MDS Battery Limited (OWB125)

· In its current wording the bill would effectively put an end to the on-line sale of all types of lead acid battery and risks putting many suppliers out of business

· For the purposes of defining what is a corrosive substance it is important to differentiate between different types of lead acid battery

· Non-spillable batteries that conform to the United Nations UN2800 standard contain no unabsorbed liquid hence no acid can be drained out of them

· Therefore batteries that conform to the United Nations UN2800 standard should be excluded from the regulations in The Offensive Weapons Bill 2018

My name is Mike Field and I am writing as Managing Director of MDS Battery Limited. MDS is an importer, distributor and on-line retailer of battery products.

A. Impact on the On-Line Sale of Batteries

1. Whilst I fully support the aims of the bill to control the sale of offensive weapons including acid, knives and firearms, I am extremely concerned that the scope of the proposed bill will have serious implications for the on-line sale of batteries.

2. My concerns relate to the first section of the bill titled "Sale and delivery of corrosive products". The definition of a "corrosive product" is based on certain substances and their concentration as set out in Schedule 1. In the case of lead acid batteries this is Sulphuric acid at more than 15% w/w.

3. It is important to understand that there are two main types of lead acid battery:

(i) Wet flooded type lead acid batteries from which acid could be drained (United Nations UN2794 standard);

(ii) Non-spillable Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries with Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) construction, from which extraction of acid is not possible (United Nations UN2800 standard and IATA Special Provision A67 for air freight).

4. As the proposed regulations are currently worded, there is no distinction between these different types of battery.

5. Non-spillable VRLA batteries with AGM construction are widely used in residential/domestic applications such as burglar alarms, emergency lighting, mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs, UPS systems, golf trolleys, stair lifts, mobility hoists and electric scooters as well as in many types of car, motorcycle and other automotive applications. These batteries typically contain more than 15% w/w sulphuric acid.

6. VRLA batteries with AGM construction are sealed with valve regulation and non-spillable as defined under the United Nations UN2800 standard; this states that the acid will not flow from a cracked or ruptured case and that the battery is free from any unabsorbed liquid. In practice this means that if you make a hole in the battery or even cut it in half no corrosive substances will leak from the battery.

7. As it stands the current wording in Sections 1, 2 and 4 of the bill would effectively make it impossible to sell or deliver any of the above types of battery on-line.

8. To put it in a financial context, we are a small/medium sized business and deliver over 1,000 of these types of batteries monthly to residential addresses. There are many others like us, and in its current form the bill would create serious challenges to the sector and indeed the future of many of these businesses and the jobs that they create.

B. Other Implications

1. Section 1 of the bill defines a corrosive product, amongst other things, as being a product that contains more than 15% sulphuric acid w/w and as I have explained above this covers all VRLA lead acid batteries, motorcycle and car batteries and indeed, makes no distinction or offers no clarification whatsoever as t o the intended definition of a " corrosive product " .

2. Therefore a car and a motorbike both contain a corrosive product so it would be illegal according to the current scope of the bill for (a) anyone under 18 to buy or own a car or motorcycle, (b) for anyone to have a car or motorbike delivered to their residential address and (c) to take the car into a public place.

3. A similar situation would also occur , for example , with an el ectric wheelchai r or mobility scooter used by a disabled person as they would contain a "corrosive product " ie their batteries.

4. VRLA lead acid batteries are also found in many children's toys including electric scooters and ride on toys and equally in many items used routinely in the home including burglar alarms, emergency lighting, powerful torches/lamps, home gym equipment, disability aids and lawn mowers. Many of these types of equipment use relatively specialist batteries that are not typically available to buy over the counter, so most people have no alternative but to buy them on-line; the bill as it stands would make their sale on-line illegal.

C. Recommendations

1. Batteries that conform to the United Nations UN2800 standard, which are sealed VRLA, non-spillable and free from any unabsorbed liquid should be exempt from the regulations that are proposed in the bill.

D. Conclusion

1. I have seen the list of the main organisations that responded during the consultation period last year and am disappointed to see that there is not a single representative from the battery sector; my company was not aware of this bill until very recently nor were most others I have spoken to in the battery trade.

2. In view of Point 1 above, I would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the committee to support this written submission as I am extremely concerned about the implications of the bill in its current form.

3. I would add as a general point that the way the bill defines a corrosive substance means that its regulations are going to have a major impact on the sale and supply of a wide range of products, many of which the bill probably has no real intention to restrict.

August 2018


Prepared 13th August 2018