Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) (OWB161)

 

Introduction

 

This is a response by the MCIA to the Offensive Weapons Bill [1] currently before parliament. The MCIA is the trade body for the supply side of the UK L-Category vehicle industry (two, three and light four-wheeled vehicles), representing the manufacturers and importers of Light Mobility Vehicles (LMV) and the suppliers of associated goods and services.

There are approximately 1.2 million regular Powered Two-Wheeler (L1 and L3 vehicles) users in the UK, and the industry was estimated in 2015 to contribute in excess of £7 billion to the UK economy, employing over 55,000 people in over 5,000 businesses (ICF International). Despite this, PTW use is frequently overlooked when formulating transport and environmental policy. The MCIA believes that PTWs and other LMVs can make a significant contribution to addressing the nation’s transport and traffic problems, offering real benefits in terms of reduced congestion, and an affordable transport solution for those who could not otherwise be able to travel for work or study, as well as contributing to improved air quality.

Summary

 

The proposed Offensive Weapons Bill would make it an offence to sell sulfuric acid in concentrations over 15% to under 18s or residential addresses. PTW businesses in the components supply sector sell lead-acid vehicle batteries to residential addresses , though in many cases they are supplied to third party distributors in the mail order business . A ban on residential sales would have a notable impact on these PTW businesses.

Changes to the Poisons Act 1972 have made it more difficult to sell unsealed batteries to customers but still permit the sale of sealed batteries. We propose that the same definitions within the Poisons Act 1972 within the Offensive Weapons Bill are used to permit the sale of sealed batter y types to residential addresses. This would protect legitimate business and recognise proper battery use , while ensuring that acid in sperate containers cannot be supplied to residential addresses.

The Poisons Act 1972

 

The Poisons Act 1972 (Explosives Precursors) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 [2] made it a requirement from July 1st this year (2018) for businesses and members of the public to hold an Explosives Precursors and Poisons (EPP) Licence before buying, selling, acquiring, importing and possessing concentrations of sulfuric acid greater than 15%.

Motorcycles and mopeds commonly use lead-acid batteries for starting the engine and running the electrical equipment. The acid component of these batteries are usually sulfuric acid. Lead-acid batteries are usually delivered as either sealed or unsealed. Sealed batteries are those delivered either fully or partly charged and without the customer needing to do anything before fitting them to a vehicle. Unsealed batteries require a customer to "activate" the battery by putting the acid into the battery and then sealing it themselves.

In practice, this change to the law meant that batteries that were sold with a separate acid pack to activate them (a pack that usually contained around 30% or more sulfuric acid) should now be removed from the market or only made available for specialist applications.

However, there is an exclusion in Section 3A of the Poisons Act [3] which excludes certain items from the definition of sulfuric acid. This definition permits the sale of sealed batteries which are sold already "activated" (see appendix).

Offensive Weapons Bill

 

The draft text of the Offensive Weapons Bill [4] effectively bans the sale of "corrosive products" to under 18s, introduces a requirement to verify the age of customers and also bans deliveries to residential addresses. In this instance, the definition of "corrosive products" would include all products with a concentration of sulfuric acid over 15%. This would include vehicle batteries which are both sealed and unsealed and would therefore prevent distance selling of the most common types of motor vehicle batteries. It is unknown how many lead-acid type batteries are sold to residential addresses per year, but with 1.4 million registered motorcycles and mopeds in the UK all requiring replacement batteries every 2-3 years or more, this is clearly a substantial number with many owners opting to undertake the relatively simple job of replacing a battery themselves.

MCIA Proposal

 

The MCIA proposes to use the same definition under the Poisons Act to exclude sealed batteries from the scope of the Offensive Weapons Bill. This would permit the sale of sealed batteries to residential addresses but still prevent the sale of unsealed batteries to those either under-18 or without the requisite EPP licence.

We propose to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill to exclude "specific objects" in it. The current section containing the definition is Section 1, paragraph 9.

Current text

New text with proposal underlined

(9) In this section and sections 2 to 4 "corrosive product" means-

(a) a substance listed in the first column of Schedule 1, or

(b) a product which contains a substance listed in the first column of that Schedule in concentration higher than the limit set out for that substance in the second column of that Schedule.

(9) In this section and sections 2 to 4 "corrosive product" means-

(a) a substance listed in the first column of Schedule 1, or

(b) a product which contains a substance listed in the first column of that Schedule in a concentration higher than the limit set out for that substance in the second column of that Schedule,

unless it is contained in an object that, during production, is given a special shape, surface or design that determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition

This would still require an age check and a licence check for unsealed batteries but would permit the sale to under 18s and residential addresses of sealed batteries.

August 2018


 Appendix

Under the Poisons Act, it is an offence to sell a "regulated substance" without a licence to someone without a licence (Section 3A). Section 2 of the Poisons Act states:

(2)"Regulated substance" means a regulated explosives precursor or regulated poison.

[…]

Subject to subsection (4), a "regulated explosives precursor"-

(a) is a substance listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1A in a concentration higher than the limit set out for that substance in that Part, and

(b) includes a mixture or another substance in which a substance listed in that Part is present in a concentration higher than the relevant limit,

but, in each case, only if the substance or mixture is not excluded.

[…]

For the purposes of this section, a substance or mixture is "excluded" if-

 (a)it is medicinal, or

 (b)it is contained in a specific object.

[…]

A "specific object" is-

(a)an object that, during production, is given a special shape, surface or design that determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition, or

 (b)an article that contains explosive substances or an explosive mixture of substances designed to produce heat, light, sound, gas or smoke or a combination of such effects through self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions, including-

 (i)pyrotechnic equipment falling within the scope of Council Directive 96/98/EC on marine equipment, and

 (ii)percussion caps intended specifically for toys falling within the scope of Council Directive 88/378/EEC concerning the safety of toys. [5]

 

Prepared 6th September 2018