Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Battery Shop UK Ltd, Swindon, Wiltshire (OWB145)

1. Introduction

The Battery Shop UK Ltd is a family owned and operated retail and on-line shop which has been in business for over 30 years.

The primary business is the supply both in person and remotely, to members of the public and commercial organisations (*Note "remotely" includes via the internet and by telephone) of almost all types of batteries excluding computer batteries but including:

· Car Batteries

· Commercial Vehicle Batteries

· Emergency Lighting Batteries

· Golf Trolley Batteries

· Home Security Batteries

· Leisure Batteries

· Marine Batteries

· Motorcycle Batteries

· Mobility Batteries

· Medical Backup Batteries

In addition the company prides itself on the ability to produce "bespoke" sealed NiCad rechargeable battery packs, specific to a customer’s requirements.

The company complies fully with the recent amendments to the Poisons Act 1972 in that from July 2018 they will not supply to members of the public wishing to acquire or take possession of Sulphuric acid above 15% concentration who do not hold an Explosives, Precursors and Poisons (EPP) licence.

This legislation means that it is impossible for a member of the public to purchase from The Battery Shop UK Ltd an unfilled motorcycle battery, which in the past would have been supplied with a separate acid pack, which the purchaser would then use to activate the battery.

Such products are now filled and charged prior to supply.

The company fully supports the desire of government to restrict and control the sale of offensive weapons which includes acid, knives and firearms. However, the scope of the bill would appear to have very serious implications for many aspects of our business. In particular the on-line sale of all types of lead acid batteries.

2. Types of Lead Acid Batteries

The Battery Shop UK Ltd currently retails a number of different types of battery the majority of which contain various amounts of a corrosive substance (over 15% concentration of Sulfuric Acid). This substance is defined in the proposed legislation as an offensive weapon.

These batteries fall into two main categories:

· Wet and

· Sealed.

Wet batteries are batteries which have a liquid in them (in the majority of cases Sulfuric Acid) they work by producing a chemical reaction between the plates (normally lead) in the battery and the Sulfuric Acid which then hold an electrical charge.

These types of batteries are commonly found on motor vehicles including cars, motorcycles, and commercial vehicles. They can also be found in a wide variety of other applications.

Sealed batteries are usually of the following type

· Non-spillable Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) with Absorbent Glass Matt (AGM) construction

SLA batteries with AGM construction conform to IATA Special Provision A67 which effectively means that they contain no unabsorbed liquid; hence no acid can be drained from them.

These batteries are completely sealed and non-spillable and as previously described conform to IATA Special Provisions A67 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 reality this means that if someone was to try to drain the acid from the battery by making a hole in it or even by cutting it in half no corrosive substance would leak from the battery.

SLA batteries with AGM construction are to be found in a wide variety of both commercial and residential applications. Such as:

· Burglar Alarms

· Emergency Lighting

· Mobility Scooters

· Golf Trollies

· Electric Wheelchairs

· Mobility Hoists as well as;

· Many types of car, motorcycle and other automotive applications.

3. Direct Implications for The Battery Shop UK Ltd and Others

As the wording in many parts of the bill (particularly Sections 1, 2 and 4) is currently written it would effectively make it impossible sell, deliver or arrange to be delivered any of the above types of battery following an on-line or remote sale.

As The Battery Shop UK Ltd currently sells and dispatches over 80% of current sales via remotely (on-line and telephone) ordered products. This proposed legislation would have very serious financial implications.

The legislation would also have a very serious direct effect on other business within this sector and indeed other organisations and will affect the future of such organisations and the employment opportunities they create.

4. Other Implications

Section 1 of the bill defines a corrosive product "as being a product that contains more than 15% Sulfuric acid". This means all Sealed Lead Acid Batteries, Motorcycle and Car Batteries. And makes no clarification whatsoever as to the intended definition of a "corrosive product".

In light of this as you must be are aware a car and a motorcycle must both contain a corrosive product, so if the current proposals are enacted it would make it:

a) Illegal for anyone under 18 to buy or own a car or a motorcycle

b) To have a car or motorcycle delivered to their residential address and

c) To take a car or motorcycle into a public place.

In addition to the applications listed in the types of Lead Acid Batteries section of this report, Sealed Lead Acid Batteries are often used in many applications in the home. These include:

· Children’s Electric Scooters and ride on toys.

· Home Burglar Alarms

· Emergency Lighting

· Home Gym Equipment and

· Lawn Mowers

· Mobility Aid, such as Stair Lifts, Hoists

Much of this equipment uses speciality batteries, of a type or types that are generally not available from over the counter shops such as DIY stores, and thus people are left with no alternative than to buy on-line. As this bill is currently written this would be illegal.

5. Recommendations for Consideration by The Offensive Weapons Committee

5.1 Any batteries that conform to IATA Special Provision A67, which are of the sealed, no-spillable and free from any unabsorbed liquid be made exempt from the regulations.

5.2 The on-line or remote sales of such batteries are permitted under the regulations. Providing the supplier carries out the due diligence checks to ensure the minimum age for purchase is complied with.

6. Conclusion

The Battery Shop UK Ltd is of the opinion, that whilst the basic principles of the proposed legislation (reducing violent crime) are to be applauded, the inclusion of many aspects of the corrosive substances sections of the legislation needs further consideration.

In preparation of this submission, the companies Health and Safety Advisor reviewed the list of current responders to the committee and he found that whilst there have been a number of submissions, very few (if any) were from organisations within the battery sector. In light of this the company hopes that you will consider this submission as part of the committee’s deliberations.

Additionally additional research has found that almost no other organisations in the "trade" including major manufacturers and importers were aware of the proposed legislation. Something we find very disappointing.

Finally the way that the bill currently defines a corrosive substance will have a major impact on not only the battery trade, but potentially other products, services and providers.

Mr J Dyer Managing Director, The Battery Shop UK Ltd

August 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018