Documents to download

The Petition

The title of the petition is “Do not implement proposed new offences for vehicle “tampering“. It had received 111,620 signatures as of 12 April 2022 and will close on 17 May 2022. The full text is as follows:

“The Government’s modernising vehicle standards proposal suggested new offences for tampering with a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road. This could have a hugely detrimental impact on the UK motorsport and custom aftermarket industry.

Modified vehicles that are used on the roads are subject to the same MOT testing as all other road cars and there are therefore adequate safeguards to ensure modified vehicles are roadworthy.

The MOT also includes emissions testing, which ensure that modified cars do not breach emission standards.

Some modifications, such as aftermarket brake parts, can even increase safety and applying any offences to improvements like this would be illogical.”

The modernising vehicle standards proposal which the petition refers to is set out in the ‘tackling tampering’ section of a consultation titled Future of transport regulatory review: modernising vehicle standards. This consultation ran from 28 September to 22 November 2021.

The Government response

The Government responded on 21 December 2021. The response says that the Government proposes to prevent “harmful” tampering which can affect the safety of road users as well as that of wider society e.g. from harmful vehicle emissions, but that the Government does not seek to prevent “legitimate” vehicle modifications. It also points to the risks of relying on MOTs alone to tackle harmful tampering. It also notes that although the Government consulted on restricting vehicle modifications in 2021, it has not yet published its response, or confirmed its next steps or any legislative measures.

Consultation proposals on Vehicle Tampering

The consultation ‘modernising vehicle standards’, ran from 28 September to 22 November 2021 and sought “views on areas of vehicle standards regulation that are outdated, a barrier to innovation or not designed with new technologies and business models in mind.”

This consultation is part of a wider, ongoing Future of Transport Programme led by the Department for Transport, Office for Low Emission Vehicles and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

In the consultation document, the Government set out four areas where they are proposing to make changes. One of these was around ‘tackling tampering’. The Government proposed to:

“create new offences for tampering with a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road. This will enable us to address existing gaps in the legislation, ensuring cleaner and safer vehicles. We will also create new offences for tampering with non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) and for advertising ‘tampering’ services or products.”

The Government’s specific proposals on vehicle tampering are to create:

  • “a specific offence for supplying, installing and/or advertising, a ‘tampering product’ for a vehicle orNRMM – this would apply where a principal effect of the product is to bypass, defeat, reduce the effectiveness of or render inoperative a system, part or component (the product may be a physical part or component, hardware and/or software)
  • a specific offence for removing, reducing the effectiveness of, or rendering inoperative a system, part or component for a vehicle/NRMMand advertising such services
  • a specific offence for allowing for use or providing a vehicle orNRMM that has had the operations described in the previous 2 points performed on it
  • a new power to require economic operators to provide information, where a service/product they have supplied amounts to or enables ‘tampering’ with a vehicle orNRMM – this would apply in any of the above senses and include requirements to provide relevant information on the quantities of products sold or modified.

We would like to emphasise that our policy intention is to prevent modifications that have a negative impact on road safety, vehicle security and the environment.”

The document was updated on 12 November 2021 “to clarify the policy intention in relation to vehicle tampering” as follows:

“We do not intend our proposals to:

  • prevent legitimate motorsport activities
  • prevent restoration, repairs or legitimate improvements to vehicles, such as classic cars or motorbikes
  • negatively impact businesses involved in these activities”

Stakeholder response

Some stakeholders have raised concerns that the Government’s objectives regarding vehicle modifications in this consultation are unclear, and that legitimate vehicle modifications might become illegal.

On 15 November 2021, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) issued a statement criticising the apparent lack of clarity over what kinds of ‘customisations’ may become illegal.

The British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) gave a more positive statement about the consultation on 29 October 2021:

“Department for Transport officials have reassured representatives of the NMC, including the BMF’s Anna Zee, that motorcyclists have nothing to fear from the recent anti-tampering consultation.

The original wording of the consultation – a maze of legal language – implied that any modification of a machine could be outlawed, and classed as ‘tampering,’ although the spirit of the wording was aimed at items which increase noise or emissions, such as aftermarket exhausts without a catalyser.

Anna Zee said: “We were invited to a meeting with DfT officials on 27th October to discuss this section of the consultation. They were quick to admit this could have been worded better; it is NOT intended to prevent customisation of bikes or the fitting of aftermarket products which do the same job, or better, as the original equipment. It IS intended to apply to anything which affects emissions, the computerised systems which are installed and such devices as the dongles advertised for increasing the speed on e.g. e-scooters.” […]

Some areas of the proposed legislation still need to be clarified, such as possible exemptions for competition and off-road bikes, plus classic machines. The NMC argues that modifications to classic bikes can improve running without increasing performance.”

Survey of petitioners

In April 2022, the Petitions Committee ran an online survey to ask petitioners how the Government’s proposals to create new criminal offences for vehicle tampering would affect them. The survey findings were published on 14 April 2022.

Government’s next steps

The consultation ended on 22 November 2022. The Government is now considering submissions and has said it will publish a response “in due course” and that legislation may be required:

“In the call for evidence, we said that ultimately the regulatory review may conclude that substantive legislative reform is required. We will continue to engage with stakeholders as our plans develop and as we determine areas where changes to primary legislation are necessary. Where that is the case, we would look to bring forward legislative proposals when Parliamentary time allows.”

Further reading

Do not implement proposed new offences for vehicle “tampering”, House of Commons Petition and UK Government Response, 2021

Documents to download

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