§ Mrs. Spelman
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what his policy is concerning drivers who leave retail petrol sites without paying for fuel; how many reported incidents of drive-offs there were in 2000, broken down by constabulary in England and Wales; and how many successful prosecutions in respect of these there have been. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
The offence of 'making off without payment' from petrol stations (commonly known as bilking) is one that industry/retailers and the police have already joined forces to tackle.
The Home Office supports the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS), formed in 1991 by the oil industry, together with the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Its aims are to reduce the amount of crime taking place on Britain's petrol forecourts.
Their scheme 'Forecourt Watch' provides an early warning system to keep retailers informed about crimes being committed on forecourts and provides details of suspects and their vehicles. When a crime is committed local petrol retailers immediately report the incident to the local police who transmit warnings about any suspects and their vehicles to all retailers via a communications system such as 'Ringmaster'. Messages can be transmitted to all scheme members extremely quickly.
Retailers are also encouraged to inform their neighbouring petrol forecourts of the offence so that action can be taken before the crime is committed elsewhere.
A pilot scheme in Lewisham, South London reduced forecourt crimes including drive-offs by 42 per cent. between December 1999 and December 2000.
It is not possible in the statistics collected centrally on recorded crime to identify offences of making off without payment from other similar offences of fraud. Information held on the Home Office Court Proceedings database shows that there were 2,000 persons proceeded against in 725W England and Wales in 1999 for offences of making off without payment (section 3 of the Theft Act 1978) but this will also include other similar offences such as making off without payment from restaurants, hotels etc. 1,400 of these persons were convicted.