Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence on the Offensive Weapons Bill submitted by John-Paul Gabbott of Alpha Batteries Ltd (OWB169)

Introduction

Alpha Batteries Ltd is one of the U.K’s largest online battery retailers. We are a family run business specialising in batteries for a wide range of applications. Our online sales delivering to residential addresses accounts for 80% of our business. Our core products include Car Batteries, Caravan/Motorhome Batteries, HGV/Truck Batteries and Mobility Scooter/Golf Trolley Batteries.

Without prior warning or industry consultation, I have been made aware that this Bill in its current wording would have a disastrous effect on our family business and the battery industry as a whole. This relates to the term ‘any product containing more than 15% w/w of sulphuric acid’. I would like to make some key points regarding the potential impact on this bill

1) Lead acid batteries are one of the most widely used battery technologies deployed in a huge range and scope of applications across the world. The scope of applications is exhaustive but I would like to point out that there are 37.9 Million Cars , 555,000 Caravans, 225,000 Motorhomes and 1.2 million motorcycles on our UK roads. All the above carry a lead acid battery and at some point in the future will need a replacement.

The Bill proposes that it would be an offence to supply and deliver replacements to a residential address and implies that the end user would be carrying an offensive weapon in a public place. Given that 37.9 million cars are on the road alone, there has been a clear oversight on the wider reaching implications of this Bill.

2) Battery acid contained within lead acid batteries does not cause burns to skin. It is a diluted solution.Despite the ratio being over the proposed limit of 15% it can cause mild irritation in it’s manufactured form. In addition, battery acid is designed to stay inside a battery and is not sold separately when a customer purchases a battery. Recent EPP legislation in July this year covered this matter and any batteries supplied with a separate acid pack can no longer be sold to end users.

3) Lead acid batteries can be purchased both online and in stores. A Battery purchase will generally be a distressed purchase and the online demand for the residential delivery of batteries has grown exponentially over the last 10 years. The Home Office impact assessment on business has clearly missed the Battery Industry.

There continues to be a huge demand and Alpha Batteries provides a much needed service to customers all over the UK. We carry a huge range of batteries that a traditional high street shop simply can’t carry. This will cause a great deal of inconvenience to the UK public requiring a battery and reduce an ultimately competitive market place which is currently good for the consumer. I would argue that an online retailer has more power to trace a sale to a criminal trying to make a weapon from a lead acid battery. Please note, I have phrased this as ‘trying’ to make an offensive weapon. My point being that a lead acid battery in it’s supplied form is not a weapon. It is, in it’s very nature, a component that would take a huge degree of effort and determination to turn into one.

I can find no evidence that lead acid batteries have been used in the abhorrent attacks and see no reason why stopping end users having much need batteries delivered at home would prevent future ones. There is nothing to stop a potential attacker walking into any battery store in the land a purchasing a battery to turn into a weapon.

Implications to Alpha Batteries,the Battery Industry and the public as a whole

80% of our business would be terminated rendering our business unviable. We would be unable to service our existing customers old and new.

To change our business model to the traditional and out dated high street format would also be impossible as we would be unable to deliver batteries to end users ourselves locally.

The public will be essentially driving and selling offensive weapons in a public space. This list would include but not restricted to

Cars, Toy Cars, Motorcycles, Caravans, Mobility Scooters, Motorhomes, Buses, Taxis, Coaches and Vans.

Recommendations for Consideration by The Offensive Weapons Committee

The removal of all types of lead acid batteries either wet lead acid, sealed, AGM and GEL from the Bill

Exclusion in being able to deliver such products to residential addresses.

Conclusion

As a business and family we are absolutely shocked and concerned at the recent rise in acid attacks across the country. We welcome any effort to reduce such attacks but feel that batteries are not the cause of the problem. Our Industry has not been consulted on the proposals and it was myself who raised the issue with our Industry trade body (BBIF).

I would like the committee to kindly reconsider the approach to batteries within the Bill and the opportunity to give oral evidence.

John-Paul Gabbott

Director

Alpha Batteries Ltd

www.alpha-batteries.co.uk

September 2018

 

Prepared 10th September 2018