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11 September 2018

The Chemical Business Association (CBA) has highlighted several legislative and practical concerns with the provisions of the Offensive Weapons Bill currently being considered by Parliament.

Introducing new controls on the sale of firearms, knives, and corrosive substances, the Bill is a response to a series of recent terrorist and criminal attacks using these weapons.

“CBA is purely focussed on the sale of corrosive substances,” said CBA’s Chief Executive, Peter Newport.

“Whilst we understand the public concern that has prompted the legislation, we do not believe firearms, knives, and corrosive substances can effectively be covered in a single piece of legislation primarily designed to control retail rather business-to-business transactions,” he said.

In its submission to the House of Commons Committee reviewing the Bill, CBA has emphasised the differences between retail and business-to-business chemical transactions, the additional costs involved for CBA member companies, and the potential overlap with existing chemicals legislation.

Business-to-Business transactions
When CBA member companies sell corrosive substances, they are engaged in business-to-business transactions that, despite being fundamentally different from retail transactions, fall within the new definition of ‘remote selling’ adopted by the Bill that would cover orders received by telephone, fax, on-line, or by e-mail.

For regular business customers placing repeat orders, security factors will already be known and may simply require checking. For new customers, CBA member companies apply the ‘Know Your Customer’ protocols agreed jointly with the Home Office and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office to ensure the order, company, and the proposed application are legitimate.

“However, these protocols do not currently include checking that the person placing the order or accepting the subsequent delivery is over 18 years of age as required by the draft Offensive Weapons Bill,” said Peter Newport.

“Checking someone’s age has been a long-standing part of the process for the retail sale of alcohol or tobacco, but it cannot easily be incorporated into business-to-business transactions,” he added.

CBA points out that the term ‘delivered into the hands of a person aged 18 or over’ used in the Bill obliges delivery drivers to verify the age of the person physically receiving the order.

This requires additional training both in handling the verification process, examining any corroborating documentation, and managing the outcome should doubts remain concerning the age of the recipient. This procedure adds several levels of complexity and cost to the delivery process.

Regulatory issues
CBA believe that aspects of the current Bill potentially conflict with existing regulations. For example, the use of the term ‘clearly marked to indicate that it contained a corrosive product’ requires suppliers to add – at significant cost – additional labelling over and above the current requirements of the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures Regulation (CLP).

Similarly, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) along with the CLP labelling regulation both already contain provisions to explain to users that the substance or mixture is corrosive. Adding further information to the packaging increases the probability of confusion but may also be contrary to existing regulatory provisions.

Peter Newport said, “We support the general aims of the proposed legislation, but believe a more focussed approach for corrosives is required to ensure its overall provisions are pragmatic, proportionate and sustainable for the industry sectors serving legitimate users.”

(1) CBA maintains a constant dialogue with the UK Home Office in relation to regulatory issues such as explosive precursors, drug precursors, and counter terrorism. CBA is also actively engaged in all of these issues at the European Union (EU) level. More recently, discussions with the UK authorities have focussed on attacks using corrosive substances and the ability of young people to retail purchase concentrated chemicals that have been used in these criminal attacks.

(2) CBA represents the independent chemical supply chain. Its membership includes distributors, traders, warehouse operators, along with logistics and transport companies. CBA’s members, the majority of which are SMEs, are the main industry interface with thousands of UK downstream chemical users.

(3) CBA member companies employ more than 8,700 people. They distribute, pack, and blend over 4 million tonnes of chemicals each year with a market value of almost three billion euros. In addition, CBA’s logistics member companies handle more than four million tonnes of chemicals annually.

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