HCVA contribution to the petition debate on Vehicle Tampering Offences recognised

Vehicle Tampering petition premise supported. The Classic and Motorsport sectors to be protected within the future tampering bill

The government is developing what it calls the Future of Transport programme to create the rules that it hopes will enable the new developments in transport over the next few decades. Things like low-carbon, self-driving cars, data collection and so on. One of the proposals included in this is new rules aimed at preventing the modification of cars to bypass environmental and safety systems.

The idea is that this will prevent people from bypassing catalytic converters, silencers, ECUs and other safety or environmental systems. However, as written, the proposals might have also prevented modifications to modernise, restore or preserve vehicles.

They would also have threatened businesses that work in the sector, making it harder to get the hardware and software they need, and to learn the skills to use them. After the consultation in response to submissions by the HCVA and others, the government clarified that it does not want the rules to impact classics, motorsport or their industries, using language very similar to our response. However, the HCVA feels that the regulations might still go too far.

The petition was created by Gareth James in May last year on the Government’s e-petition website and now has over 115,000 signatures. Any petition that gets over 100,000 gets debated in parliament and that debate took place on Monday 25th April.

It was opened by Nicholas Fletcher MP, on behalf of the petitioner who talked about custom cars, racing and modifications. He described how Gareth got his start in engineering by modifying cars and how many people around the country are in the same position. This leads about the importance to engineering and of getting people interested. People who, like Gareth, got their start by modifying cars. Nicholas suggested, as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have done, that an extension to the individual vehicle improvement scheme could be more effective than a blanket ban. Finally, he talked about the value of the sectors and the 30,000 plus independent workshops.

James Sunderland spoke next about the importance of the Historic and Classic sector and the threats that this proposal could make if it isn’t handled very carefully – both to current classics and to modern cars that will become classics of the future. He highlighted both the assurance the minister had given the House in November 2021 that the legislation won’t damage classics or motorsport.

James quoted the HCVA on the size of the classic sector and the concerns we have about the proposals before proposing that, should the government go ahead with the bill, specific exemptions are made for owners and businesses in the historic and classic sector.

Steve Baker, explained his love of driving and his desire to stop cars becoming soulless black boxes, utterly divorced from the owners and drivers. His concern is that the proposals will him less free to enjoy his Yamaha MT-10 and KTM 950 Supermoto.

Not all of the MPs there supported the petition with one or two stating that modified cars can be anti-social and some constituencies were plagued by illegal modifications. However, no one showed why that meant that modifications needed to be banned instead of properly policed.

Responding to the debate for Labour, the shadow transport minister, Mike Kane, talked about his love of cars and the need to enforce existing rules on anti-social modifications. He was broadly supportive of the need for controls on tampering, provided the government does indeed protect the industries.

For the government, Minister Trudy Harrison summed up talking about her own love of cars, starting with her first car a Ford Escort 1.3 and then a Peugeot 309 GTI, “complete with skirts and low-profile tyres,” although by her own admission, the whale-tail was a step too far. She insisted that there was a need for the Tampering rules, specifically stating an example around the dangers of tampering with software on future autonomous vehicles but that the government was listening to concerns and the need to protect current, classic and motorsport vehicles and would publish details for proposals in the summer.

The discussion was pragmatic rather than confrontational. The government appears to genuinely want to ensure that the rules do not damage classics, motorsport or independent repair and, thanks to the consultation and the debate, they are well aware of the issues. The HCVA will continue to monitor the proposals and whatever legislation comes from them and, through our work in Parliament, make sure the interests of our sector are protected.