Clause 56

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 18th April 2006.

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Vehicles modified to run on fuel stored under pressure

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will not detain the Committee for too long. Clause 56 seems to be a sensible measure, and anyone who has seen the old films of the R101 and the Hindenburg blowing up will know that these fuels are of an extraordinarily explosive nature.

A constituent of mine, Mr. Bill Smith, converts vehicles in a process known as retro-conversion. Since 2000, he has converted regular motor cars, usually fuelled by petrol, to run on a form of liquid petroleum gas. I have discussed the process with him, and he makes the valid point that if a person decides to change his or her gas boiler at home, he or she must call in a Corgi-accredited engineer. I am sure, Sir Nicholas, that you are a qualified engineer. If you wanted to convert your petrol car to run on LPG, you could go on the internet tonight, buy the necessary bits, stick them in, and the car would run—possibly safely, possibly not. Apart from a voluntary code of practice laid down by the LP Gas Association, covering the installation, there is absolutely no recognised procedure to check the conversion. It is, therefore, a completely unregulated activity, dealing  with increasingly used fuels that are of an explosive nature. It seems sensible that these fuels be regulated as is suggested in clause 56.

Mr. Smith made another germane point to me: the current MOT test requires the vehicle to pass an emission test only for the fuel that it is running on when presented for the test. If it is LPG, its required emission performance is much lower than that of a car with the original petrol system. It seems sensible—it could be covered by the regulations under subsection (4)—for the Minister to consider checking when an MOT test is carried out that it is carried out for both fuels if a vehicle has been retro-converted. Apart from that, the proposal is sensible and the Conservative party supports it.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that it is a sensible measure. I was pretty horrified, as I think he was, to discover that a car could be modified so as not to be inspected and could go out on a public road. We need to move rapidly on that and to ensure that modified cars are inspected. As he says, we must ensure that the annual MOT test takes into account the fact that such cars have been modified. I am not entirely certain what the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is, but I shall undertake to check that the MOT includes that in the future, and that the change gives us the necessary powers to ensure that it takes place.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.