§ Mr. David Marshall
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce legislation to curb the use and sale of vehicle entry devices; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Jack
We have no plans at present to ban or control the sale of vehicle entry devices.
It should be stressed, however, that it is already a criminal offence, under section 25 of the Theft Act 1968, to carry equipment for use in connection with any burglary or theft. This covers vehicle entry devices, and upon conviction an offender is liable to imprisonment for up to three years.
Many people, such as locksmiths and garage owners, have a legitimate need for equipment such as skeleton keys, and this would make it extremely difficult to prohibit their sale. These devices are also often no more effective in gaining entry to locked vehicles than other more rudimentary tools, like screwdrivers or shaped pieces of metal, and often require some skill on the part of the user to work effectively.
Moreover, inquiries by the Home Office crime prevention centre and the Association of Chief Police Officers have not found any evidence of the widespread misuse of skeleton car keys. In particular, the Association of Chief Police Officers has reported that these devices have not been found in the possession of offenders charged with either theft of or from a vehicle.
We do not, therefore, see a need at present for legislation to control the possession, sale or advertising of skeleton car keys, but we shall continue to monitor the situation closely.
We are aware, however, that devices which are capable of deactivating electronic car alarms and central locking systems have recently appeared on the British market. We are actively looking into their availability and effectiveness, with a view to assessing what action may be required. Manufacturers too are aware of the existence of these devices and are working to improve the security of their products accordingly.