Victoria Atkins contributions to the Offensive Weapons Act 2019


Tue 26th March 2019 Offensive Weapons Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
45 interactions (3,639 words)
Wed 28th November 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
97 interactions (6,702 words)
Thu 6th September 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
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Thu 6th September 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
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Tue 4th September 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
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Tue 17th July 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
18 interactions (3,519 words)
Wed 27th June 2018 Offensive Weapons Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
13 interactions (1,841 words)

Offensive Weapons Bill

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Home Office
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:19 p.m.

I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is involved in Lords amendments 27, 28, 35, 43 to 48, 50, 51, 53, 55, 57, 62, 63, 65, 66, 69, 73, 88 and 93. If the House agrees to any of these amendments, I shall ensure that the appropriate entry is made in the Journal.

I must also remind the House that certain of the motions relating to Lords amendments are certified as relating exclusively to England and Wales as set out on the selection paper. If the House divides on any certified motion, a double majority will be required for the motion to be passed. I inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected all the amendments as provided on the relevant papers.

Clause 17

Delivery of bladed products to residential premises etc

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:10 p.m.

I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 27.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:10 p.m.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government motion to disagree with Lords amendment 28.

Government amendments (a) to (k) in lieu of Lords amendments 27 and 28.

Lords amendments 1 to 6.

Lords amendment 7, and amendments (a) to (d) thereto.

Lords amendment 8.

Lords amendment 9, and amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendment 10, and amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendment 11.

Lords amendment 12, and amendments (a) to (c) thereto.

Lords amendment 13.

Lords amendment 14, and amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendments 15 to 22.

Lords amendment 23, and amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendments 24 to 26.

Lords amendments 29 to 61.

Lords amendment 62, and Government amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendment 63, and Government amendment (a) thereto.

Lords amendments 64 to 95.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:12 p.m.

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for what I know to be quite a complicated bit of procedure. I hope that I deal with the procedure correctly, and I am very grateful to your learned Clerks for advising me on the wording. I shall be speaking to amendments 27 and 28, Government amendments (a) to (k) which are laid in lieu, and Lords amendments 1 to 26 and 29 to 95. I may not be able to speak to the details of some of those later amendments, but, obviously, I will be very happy to take interventions.

The Offensive Weapons Bill is an important piece of legislation. It is just one of the measures that the Government are taking to tackle serious violence in the serious violence strategy. The Bill has enjoyed a collaborative approach across the House, and I thank all hon. and right hon. Members and noble lords who have helped with the passage of the Bill thus far. I am sure that this afternoon will continue in that spirit.

I will first address Lords amendments 27 and 28, which were moved by Lord Kennedy in the other place. I am grateful to him for his assistance on this part of the Bill. We have laid amendments in lieu, because the Government cannot agree with the trusted courier amendments as they sit, but I very much hope that the amendments that we have laid in lieu will meet with the House’s approval.

The trusted courier scheme would have practical difficulties in its bureaucracy and regulation. It risks making it more difficult to determine whether a delivery company can be trusted to provide reassurances that a bladed product will not be handed to a person aged under 18, and it is not clear, for example, how this scheme would apply to self-employed delivery drivers working on a casual basis for some of the larger firms. We are also concerned that simply being part of a scheme, or being in possession of a seal of approval as a trusted courier, does not guarantee compliance with the conditions in the scheme. We note that no responsibility is placed on the courier or company, and therefore there does not appear to be any consequence for the courier company if it fails to comply with the requirement not to hand a bladed product to a person aged under 18. One can envisage a courier in a rush, for example, pushing a package through a letterbox without conducting checks. It is this lack of liability for age checks in the scheme that we believe risks undermining the purpose of the Bill, which means that we must, I am afraid, disagree with it at this stage.

The Government have, however, given considerable thought to the views expressed on the sale-of-knives provisions throughout the passage of the Bill by Members both in this place and the other place and, importantly, by representatives of the business community, particularly those in small and medium-sized businesses in the capital of knife and steel manufacturing in Sheffield. I am very grateful to the hon. Members for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) for their assistance in this. We have tabled amendments (a) to (k) in lieu of Lords amendments 27 and 28, which I hope address their concerns. In short, these amendments in lieu would enable a remote seller to deliver a bladed product to residential premises where they have arrangements in place with a deliverer not to hand them over to a person aged under 18. This approach mirrors, largely, the clause already in the Bill regarding delivery companies relating to overseas sales, although it is limited to bladed products and to deliveries to residential premises. Regulations on overseas sales by contrast apply to deliveries to all premises and to all bladed articles.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:16 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way, and I hope that she will show me where I am wrong, but I always understood that delivery companies, particularly those delivering post and packages, have an X-ray procedure to see what the contents are.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:16 p.m.

I am not sure whether I am in a position to answer that. Of course, every company will have its own security arrangements. The hon. Gentleman will know that what we have inserted through this Bill are further conditions on sellers to ensure that their packages, if they contain bladed products, are labelled very clearly so that anyone handling that package understands what is inside it. We appreciate that perhaps not everyone has access to those facilities.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:17 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for the huge amount of work that she has done on this very important Bill and on this particular issue as well, which will make it much more difficult for people, especially young people, to buy knives online. Last week, I was very interested to hear that Asda will no longer sell individual knives, and I wondered whether she might like to comment on that.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:18 p.m.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. She has taken a keen interest in this matter both as a constituency MP and in her contributions to this place. She is absolutely right to raise the example of Asda. Asda and other major retailers are signed up to our voluntary commitments when it comes to the sale of knives online, and we believe that that is another way in which we can ensure that retailers are doing what they should be doing in terms of selling bladed products and sharp knives responsibly. I am delighted that Asda has taken that decision of its own volition. I know that other retailers are doing great things in this space as well, but we all want to ensure that those standards are met not just by the large retailers, but by smaller ones, too.

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:18 p.m.

I thank the Minister for meeting my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and me and I also thank her colleague in the House of Lords for doing the same. I also thank them both for listening. What clause 17 does is recognise the importance of making sure that knives are not sold to young people, but here it establishes a procedure for proving that young people are 18, as they are checked at the point of sale and at the point of delivery. The measure also protects small businesses such as Taylor’s Eye Witness, which manufactures knives in my constituency, from the effects of the original legislation. I also want to say that the real thanks go to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central and his assistant Paula who have done an incredible amount of work on this. They, along with Lord Kennedy in the House of Lords, deserve particular thanks for getting this far.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his words and for that meeting I had with him. He is absolutely right that we wanted to listen on this. As I said at the beginning, this Bill has been, I hope, a good example of collaborative work across the House and I am extremely grateful to hon. Members for that.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:19 p.m.

My concern about retailers has always been not with the Asdas or John Lewises, whom one would expect to do the right thing—they have a public image as well—but with the disreputable merchants. Will my hon. Friend at least keep this matter on watch, so that if it turns out that those not following the code are seen to be doing wrong, we can review the amendment that was discussed the last time we considered the Bill?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:20 p.m.

Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend, who has been particularly persistent about locking away bladed products or sharp knives. We absolutely keep that point under review. We have had a good response from the retail industry thus far, but we will of course keep the pressure up, and I am extremely grateful to him for his contribution to that.

Liability under our amendments in lieu attaches only to companies that enter into arrangements to deliver bladed products. A delivery company could choose simply not to do so. Our amendments therefore provide the flexibility that the hon. Member for Sheffield South East described, so that if a seller does not enter into an arrangement with a delivery company, the provisions in the Bill that prohibit delivery to residential premises of a bladed product will still apply. A seller in those circumstances will not be able to send a bladed product to residential premises and the product will have to be collected in person at a collection point, which at least gives small and medium-sized businesses the choice over how to conduct their business. We believe that these amendments will help to address the concern behind the Bill and achieve the aim of stopping young people and those under 18 having access to these products through online sales when they should not have such access. I very much hope that our amendment will meet the approval of the House.

Let me turn to knife crime prevention orders. It is vital that the police have the powers they need to prevent knife crime and to protect the public from the devastating effects of violent crime on our streets. It is frankly already too late when we prosecute young people for knife crime. If measures are available that might help to steer children and young people away from carrying or using a knife, we should not hesitate to put them in place. That is why the Government have introduced, in short order, knife crime prevention orders in the Bill. The police made that request of us at the very end of summer last year, and we were pleased to insert the provision into the Bill in the House of Lords. These are civil orders aimed at young people at risk of engaging in knife crime, people whom the police call habitual knife carriers of any age and those who have been convicted of a violent offence or an offence involving knives.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:22 p.m.

Will the Minister confirm that although these are civil orders, if they are breached they become criminal, and that 12-year-old children could end up in prison for two years? Will she also confirm that not a single organisation, from the magistrates and local government to charities, lawyers and anybody involved in youth offending teams, supports this change? They all think that we are acting too quickly and need to take more time looking at the implications before introducing it.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:24 p.m.

I am about to come to the framework for these orders, because I am conscious that in an ideal world we would have had the measure in the Bill when it was first laid before the House in early summer last year. However, the police came to their view and alerted us to their thinking at the end of summer, and although we have frankly acted pretty quickly, we could not by definition have put the measure in the Bill before the police asked us to. We are doing this in response to the express wish of the police; in fact, the Mayor of London wrote to the Home Secretary in December asking that the orders be inserted in the Bill.

I do not know whether the hon. Lady has had a chance to speak to the Mayor of London, but the reason we are introducing these orders is that we want to try to help local communities to tackle knife crime. They are one measure. We do not pretend that they will solve all knife crime, but they are about preventing young people from getting ensnared in criminal gangs or getting into a situation where they think that carrying a knife will protect them. This is about trying to wrap services around those children before they become criminalised.

I know that concerns have been raised about the age at which the orders can be imposed. The orders apply from the age of 12 upwards because the police tell us that the age at which people carry knives is getting younger. We also know from hospital data that younger children are victims and perpetrators. That is why we have chosen that age. If we are serious about tackling knife crime on our streets, the measures that we take must apply to young people and children.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:24 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:24 p.m.

I will give way, but then I must make some progress.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:25 p.m.

I think the whole House is with the Minister in the determination to tackle knife crime and to try to prevent young people from getting into it, but can she tell the House what other mechanisms, orders or contracts the Government looked at before concluding that this was the right way forward? I have spoken to her privately about antisocial behaviour orders, which in the past did not work, whereas acceptable behaviour contracts, which worked with the young person, did work. Have the Government looked at those?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:25 p.m.

I think the right hon. Gentleman and I talked about that last week. As I have said to him, I will happily look into those. We looked at whether gang injunctions are appropriate, but as Members across the House will know, not every child carrying a knife is a member of a gang. We also looked at criminal behaviour orders, but both those measures are contingent on a child being convicted of a criminal offence. With knife crime prevention orders, we want to try to reach those children before they are convicted of carrying a knife. The orders are also available upon conviction, because we want to wrap services around children if they are convicted and serve a detention training order. We wanted an extra structure around children to try to tackle the issue.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:25 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:25 p.m.

If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I must make some progress.

The order may impose such requirements or prohibitions on a person as a court considers necessary to protect any person from risk of harm or to prevent the commission of an offence involving a bladed article. A KCPO that imposes a requirement must specify a person who is responsible for supervising compliance with that requirement. Again, I emphasise that this is about protection and prevention. It is not about criminalising children. The order is a civil order. We do, however, accept that the breach of an order is, in itself, a criminal matter. I know that some have argued that it would be better to go down the antisocial behaviour injunction route, which applies to children as young as 10. The argument is that having a contempt of court rather than a criminal offence for a breach would make the orders more palatable, because it would mean that children did not get a criminal record. The advice from the police—it is advice that we must listen to very carefully—is that making it a criminal offence to breach an order is important if we want these orders to be taken seriously.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:27 p.m.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend most sincerely on producing a much needed Bill? Acid, knives and certain firearms are issues that we absolutely need to crack down on. Does she agree that knife prevention orders are a good mechanism? It is becoming de rigueur in some of our cities for people to carry knives in self-defence, in case they might want to use them, which is totally the wrong culture. With these orders, the police will be able to warn youngsters that if they carry knives again, they will be subject to an order and could be subject to a criminal penalty if they breach it.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:28 p.m.

My hon. Friend summarises the orders succinctly, and I thank him for all his work on the Bill. The point of the orders is to try to reach those children before they are in the criminal justice system. They include, for example, the ability to prohibit a child from accessing social media or entering certain postcodes, because we know the tensions arising on the streets from particular groups of young people in certain parts of our large cities. This is not about criminalising those young people; it is about trying to reach them.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab) - Hansard

In the Minister’s discussions with the police about programmes that work and the investment that they want to see, has she considered expanding Prevent, a programme with proven successes, or early intervention measures such as investing in our youth services? What the police keep saying, and what Ministers keep quoting, is that we cannot just police our way out. If that is the case, we need to invest in all those programmes that support our young people, so I would be grateful if the Minister said something about Prevent in particular.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:29 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady again for all the work that she does through the Youth Violence Commission. She is absolutely right. As I said at the beginning of the debate, the Offensive Weapons Bill is but one measure within the serious violence strategy, and these orders are but one measure within the Bill. We do not for one moment claim that the orders are going to solve everything, but we hope that they will be a path to reaching some of the children who are currently so difficult to reach, as the hon. Lady knows. These measures come on top of all the early intervention and the youth endowment fund, through which we are investing £200 million over the next 10 years to give certainty to the organisations that win bids. All those measures are really important.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab) - Hansard

As I have stated previously in the Chamber, the Offensive Weapons Bill has been a cause of serious concern within the British Sikh community, with a feeling that the centuries-old religious requirement of wearing a kirpan, a Sikh sword, could be unintentionally criminalised, and that even the tradition of honouring a non-Sikh within a gurdwara, a place of worship, by bestowing them with a kirpan could be deemed illegal. However, thanks to the strong leadership of the noble Lord Roy Kennedy and others in the House of Lords, with excellent assistance from Lord Singh, Lord Paddick, Baroness Verma, the organisation Sikhs in Politics and others, amendments were tabled. As Lord Tunnicliffe and Baroness Williams said, those amendments were passed with unanimity. Although I am extremely grateful to the Minister for the courtesy that she extended to me during our recent meeting to seek my views on the matter, for the record—and to assuage community concerns—can she confirm that the Government wholeheartedly support those amendments and will incorporate them into the Bill?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 12:58 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman has jumped right to the end of my speech. However, I will respond now because I am conscious that it is such an excellent intervention. I will then return to KCPOs.

Let me put on record my thanks to the hon. Members for Slough (Mr Dhesi) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) and many noble Lords in the other place for their work to ensure that this Bill reaches the issues in knife possession that we really want to tackle, and it does not inadvertently and completely mistakenly in any way affect the gifting, use or possession of Sikh kirpans, which was never the Government’s intention. I am grateful to all hon. Members, as well as to the many Sikh organisations that have been involved in this process, for helping us to clarify and improve the law.

I can confirm that the amendments will create defences to sections 141(1) and 141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and section 50(2) and (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 relating to the custom of gifting kirpans by ceremonial presentation. The amendments will create a defence for a person of the Sikh faith to present another person with a curved sword in

“a religious ceremony or other ceremonial event.”

They will also provide a defence for possessing such swords for the purposes of presenting them to others at a ceremony, and for the recipients of such a gift to possess swords that have been presented to them. It was never the intention of the Bill to affect this custom, and I am extremely grateful to hon. Members for their work on these measures.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:32 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:32 p.m.

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I must move on because I am conscious that others wish to speak.

Let me return to KCPOs. I know that the shadow Minister has tabled some amendments, and I will deal with them in a moment. On the question of age and the concern that youth offending teams must be consulted, we have included in the Bill a requirement that youth offending teams must be consulted on any orders for people under the age of 18. We have also said that we will consult publicly on the guidance with community groups, youth organisations and others before these orders are brought into force.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

Before the Minister finishes discussing prevention orders, will she tell the House a little bit more about the pilots? How many pilots are there going to be, when are they going to start and how long will they last? Given the urgency of implementing this legislation and the concerns that have been raised, will the Government report back to the House on how the pilots have operated, so that we have a further opportunity to amend and adapt the measures if necessary?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:34 p.m.

Yes. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the pilots. Some of the concerns raised today were also raised in the other place, so their lordships saw fit to insert an amendment regarding piloting. I hope that it gives some comfort to the House that we will pilot the provisions in one or more specified areas in England and Wales. We have not yet determined which forces will have the privilege of starting these pilots. The second condition of piloting is that the Secretary of State will lay before Parliament

“a report on the operation of some or all of the provisions”

relating to KCPOs, so the House will be fully updated on the progress. I am sorry that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman more details regarding the operational aspects of the pilots at this precise moment in time, but I want to deal with the amendments tabled by the shadow Minister.

Amendments (b) and (c) to Lords amendment 7, and amendment (a) to Lords amendment 14, would make it a requirement for the police to obtain—and, by implication, for the youth offending team to produce—a pre-injunction report, including an assessment of the defendant, before making an application on conviction, or otherwise than on conviction if the defendant is under the age of 18, and to provide that report to the court as part of their application. It follows from this proposed amendment that the outcome of the consultation should be available to the court. The requirement to consult is an important safeguard to ensure that the youth offending team has a chance to influence the process, and we expect the YOT’s view to be before the court when it is considering the application. We will state in guidance that we expect the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to share with the court the outcome of the consultation with the youth offending team, and we will reinforce the message during the pilots that the applicant police force should share the outcome of the YOT consultation with the court.

Amendment (c) to Lords amendment 12 would also set down a requirement in relation to a pre-injunction report. Again, we believe that the requirement to consult the youth offending team addresses this, and I am not persuaded that it would be appropriate to include a requirement to consult the youth offending team if an application without notice were made, given the urgency of such applications. However, the consultation requirement must be fulfilled before the full hearing takes place.

Amendment (d) to Lords amendment 7 is not needed. The Bill already provides a power for the court to require evidence from the individual responsible for promoting, supporting and monitoring compliance with any requirement included in the order. That individual could be the youth offending team, but it could also be a community group or a charity, for example. Let me remind the House that the police fully support the provisions in the Bill as they stand in the Lords amendments that we have tabled in the Home Secretary’s name. There are already safeguards in the Bill to ensure that the orders are proportionate, and that the views of the youth offending teams are taken into account during the application process. I therefore ask the shadow Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) not to press their amendments.

Amendment (a) to Lords amendment 23 requires a report to be laid before Parliament on the outcome of the pilots. I would expect that, as has already been set out in our amendment, a report will be laid before Parliament about the success or otherwise of the pilots, and that KCPOs will be the subject of ongoing scrutiny.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:38 p.m.

Will the Minister confirm that when that report is laid before Parliament, there will not be a further roll-out of the KCPOs without our seeing it in Parliament first?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 3:39 p.m.

I think the hon. Lady is talking about the amendment tabled by the shadow Minister. We do not agree with that amendment. We believe that piloting and then the Secretary of State laying a report before the House is a perfectly proportionate way of assessing the pilots’ success. Let us not forget that we are talking about youth courts and magistrates courts using civil orders, with all the safeguards that are in the regime. This regime mirrors similar regimes used in, for example, gang injunctions. We should have trust in our youth courts and others that they will be able to meet the expectations of the House in terms of ensuring the wellbeing and the welfare of the young people they are looking after. The aim of these orders is to protect young people and also the wider community. On the proposal that a full report should be laid out, I am afraid that, in the usual way, such regulations are not subject to any parliamentary procedure, and the Government see no reason to adopt a different approach in this case.

There are of course other provisions that I have not even begun to address, although I may well have a chance do so at the end. However, I hope that my focusing on the three main issues arising during the passage of the Bill meets with colleagues’ approval. I very much look forward to hearing their contributions in the rest of the debate.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab) - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 2:57 p.m.

I thank those in the other place for their careful consideration of this Bill, which is certainly in better shape than when it left this Chamber.

As the Minister has outlined, we have offered our sincere and constructive support throughout the passage of the Bill for the Government’s attempts to respond to the surge in violent crime. We offered our support in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading. We have fought to enhance protections on the sale of knives, to close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws, to force the Home Office to release evidence on the consequences of cuts to vital services for levels of serious violence, to force the Government to assess whether the police have the resources they need to tackle violence involving offensive weapons, and to put the rights of victims of crime on a statutory footing—rights that have been neglected despite repeated manifesto promises by the Conservative party.

Let us not forget the absolutely farcical spectacle of the Home Secretary and the Minister, on Second Reading and in Committee, making the case for a ban on high-powered rifles—guns that have an effective range of 6 km—and then coming back to the Chamber on Report and making the exact opposite case in the face of Back-Bench rebellion. Our gun laws are in need of updating, and it is a sad reflection on the Government that all the passage of this Bill has done is weaken the provisions on firearms and kick the can down the road once again in pushing the issue to consultation. Furthermore, the Bill as it stands still ignores much of the key evidence contained in a leaked Home Office report on the drivers of serious violence. This included compelling evidence that violence was, in part, being driven by a precarious and vulnerable youth cohort shorn of the support, early intervention and prevention work necessary to stop those vulnerable people falling into a spiral of serious violence.

Turning to the amendments, I am grateful for the work of the noble Lord Kennedy, and that of my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who have managed to find a consensus on the delivery of knives to residential premises that protects children while not unduly hampering specialist knife manufacturers and businesses. We are therefore happy to support the amendment in the name of the Home Secretary whereby businesses will need to prove they have taken all necessary measures to ensure that a knife is delivered into the hands of an adult or will feel the full weight of the law.

On kirpans and Sikh ceremonial swords, I again congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Slough (Mr Dhesi) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) on their work. We understood the concerns raised across the House, and I am pleased that the Labour Lords amendment has been accepted that will allow Sikhs to practice their religion freely without fear of criminalisation.

But undoubtedly the biggest change has been the introduction of knife crime prevention orders, and that is what I wish to focus my remarks on. It is important when making any changes to the suite of police powers that Parliament has the fullest opportunity to consider the evidence and implications. That is why we are extremely concerned about both the way in which these proposed orders have been brought forward and some of their content. Our concerns are threefold, and I will address each in turn. As the Minister said, our amendments to the Lords amendments speak to those concerns.

Break in Debate

The Lords amendment brought forward by the Government does not go far enough. That is why we have tabled amendments that would establish a parliamentary lock on the roll-out of knife crime prevention orders, allowing Parliament to review the evidence, examine the pilot and its effectiveness, see the departmental justification and be assured that proper regimes will be in place to monitor their use before any wider roll-out. We would require the Government to report on which practitioners have been consulted. It is astonishing that the Youth Justice Board, the Children’s Commissioner and local government services were not involved in drawing up these orders. Since they have been published, the Magistrates Association, the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers and the Local Government Association have all voiced concerns.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 1:09 p.m.

To correct the record, these orders have been discussed in the serious violence taskforce, which is attended by the Children’s Commissioner and many of the others that the hon. Lady mentioned. This is action that the police required of us. We turned it around as quickly as we could to get it into the Bill, in order to protect children. We are doing it on the advice of the police.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 1:09 p.m.

I would respectfully suggest that putting before Parliament orders that would criminalise children for up to two years requires more than discussion at a meeting. It requires full consultation and full parliamentary scrutiny, and none of that has happened.

Before Parliament approves any roll-out, the Government should release a report giving an explanation of what guidance has been given to authorities on the burden on proof, which is a civil standard, the impact of orders on the rights of children and the impact on different racial groups as defined in section 9 of the Equality Act 2010.

Break in Debate

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:11 p.m.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) speaks with authority as a former youth worker, and one listens to him with great attention, but I disagree with his conclusion that the proposal before the House is the best way forward. I want to suggest alternatives that I hope he will consider.

There is no doubt that action on knife crime is needed—that fact unites us all—and a lot of the action will involve spending money, whether on policing, including community policing, or on youth workers. There may have been a lot of youth workers when the hon. Gentleman was active, but when I look around communities today I do not see many youth workers or community police officers, but we will need them to implement these orders. We will need to spend money if we are to have the people in place to give those young people alternatives and protect them. We as a Parliament have to recognise that the public health approach is not a cheap option.

Do we need another legal power? The Government argue that, despite the panoply of powers already on the statute book, we need a new one, which is why the House is right to scrutinise the proposal; I only wish it had more time. Will the proposal work? We have some evidence from the past. As you will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, we have had many debates in this House, in previous Parliaments, on how to tackle antisocial behaviour, and we have seen policies such as antisocial behaviour orders, on which, I believe, these knife crime prevention orders are modelled. My noble Friend Lord Paddick in the other place has pointed out some of the major problems with ASBOs that we believe knife crime prevention orders will also have.

I want to be constructive, however, and to support the Minister in her work to tackle knife crime. I hope that she will agree to meet me to discuss the Liberal Democrats’ proposal for what I have named anti-blade contracts—linked to the ABCs, or acceptable behaviour contracts, of the past—which could be far more effective in preventing young people from carrying knives in the first place. I would also make the case for other similar initiatives, such as what I call knife crime prevention injunctions, which would have the benefit of not resulting in criminal records for young people.

First, though, I will make the case against the Government’s proposal. The fundamental problem is that these will be pre-conviction orders—as opposed to on-conviction orders—which means that young people as young as 12 could be handed a court order on the grounds that, on the balance of probability, they may have carried a knife. That ought to alarm every colleague. Guilty before anything has been proven—that is a shocking legal principle. I am surprised that a lawyer as distinguished as the Minister feels comfortable about young people getting court orders even when it has not been proved that they committed a crime.

The Minister’s mitigation is that this is a civil offence, but if the order’s conditions are breached, it becomes a criminal offence. A condition may, for instance, be a requirement to notify. A young person who fails to notify the police of a change of address within three days will be in breach of the order, and could be imprisoned.

This legislation has no link to real life—to the chaotic lives that some of these young people lead. The idea that they will remember to notify a police officer within three days that they have changed their address because they have moved from one parent or carer to another, thus avoiding a prison sentence, is total nonsense. Why do we need to criminalise young people who have not committed a crime? Where is the evidence that that will tackle knife crime? Prisons are overcrowded, and there are high levels of self-harm. Is this really a sensible approach?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:16 p.m.

The point of the orders is that there is information suggesting that these children have been carrying a knife on two or more occasions. The criminality, if we are talking in those terms, would be in the fact of the possession, and a magistrates court or a youth court would consider that very carefully. A child who is carrying a knife may well get into terrible trouble with the police because he or she has used it against someone, and we are trying to get to children before that happens.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:16 p.m.

There I have sympathy with the Minister, and I want to propose an alternative which addresses that very point. However, she was beginning to suggest—I am not sure that she meant to—that a criminal test had to be passed, and that is not what is in the Bill. It is not a criminal test that must be passed; it is a civil test, which could then result in a criminal record. I think that the House should think very carefully before going down that road.

Let me say a little about the alternative model that I want the Minister to consider. I am proposing what I have called “anti-blade contracts”. The idea is that a police officer, along with the parents or a carer, or possibly a youth officer, would sit down with a young person and require them to sign a contract saying that they should not carry a knife and that there would be consequences—for instance, fines or community sentences —if they were caught doing so. Crucially, however, linked with the public health or prevention approach would be positive elements. Young people could, for example, contact a named youth worker or police officer if they were concerned about their safety. There could also be a package of other support, which might involve access to youth services.

That is the way to change behaviour. That is the way to prevent a young person from ending up on the pathway to more crime. People who go to prison often see it as a college of crime, and we must try to avoid that. The approach that I am suggesting would do what the Minister wants: it would meet her objectives, but without the cost and without the potentially damaging impact that her orders would have.

Break in Debate

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:18 p.m.

Not in the first place. The idea—and this goes alongside the Government’s proposal—is not that every young person would be open to the process, but that it could be offered to young people who were thought to be in danger. I am not sure whether we would want it to be applied to every young person, although it could go further and be part of an educative process as well. Given the lack of resources in the police and youth services, I think that we should target those who are most at risk in the first instance.

The crucial part of my argument is that I am putting forward something that is based on evidence. The evidence from the Home Office, in its reports on the difference between antisocial behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts back in 2004, and the evidence from the National Audit Office in a 2006 report, suggested that ABCs were far more effective in changing young people’s behaviour, which is what we want to do. More important—or, at least, as important—was the fact that they were cheaper. They took less time. Orders that need to go to court require considerable police resources, and we do not have those resources. They also take up the time of magistrates, which is already rather stretched, so we are putting forward something that goes against the evidence from the past and that we know is going to be more expensive and more time consuming. This is an urgent problem, and our proposal based on evidence does not need even this place to legislate. We could get on with it; we could issue guidance. Why on earth are we doing this? The situation is far more urgent than the Government seem to think. The Minister’s proposal would take so much time and money when we know that is not available.

I implore the Minister: I am pleased that she has nodded from a sedentary position to indicate that she is prepared to meet me to discuss our proposal—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:20 p.m.

I confirm that I am.

Sir Edward Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey - Hansard
26 Mar 2019, 4:20 p.m.

I am very grateful to the Minister for doing that, but I hope she will reflect on this.

I will be supporting the Labour amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) tonight, which are well tailored. The Labour proposal requiring this House to vote on a report on the evidence from the pilot is a good compromise; it is an example of this Parliament working together to make sure that what we do is evidence-based. The good thing the Minister could do if she goes down my route is proceed with my anti-blade contracts while those pilots are going on, because an anti-blade contract does not need to bother this legislature.

Offensive Weapons Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Wednesday 28th November 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office
Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock - Hansard

Well, I have to say that the hon. Lady would be supporting the Government whatever their position was. I thank her for the intervention, however, because it does make an important point. The Prime Minister, as a former Home Secretary, does understand the threat, so the fact that the Government are doing the wrong thing because of party interest is shameful.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:24 p.m.

I thank all Members across the House for their passionate and heartfelt views on these important topics. I welcome the indication from the shadow Minister that the Bill continues to have the support of the Opposition.

The first duty of Government is to keep the public safe. That is why we have brought the Bill forward, to give the police and other agencies the powers they need to tackle serious violence and crime. But it is the definition of democracy that Government must meet that duty in ways that are effective but also proportionate. We have some of the strongest gun laws in the world, particularly for rapid-fire rifles. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) has indicated that his amendment is intended to be probing. However, those rifles remain in the Bill because we are concerned that they can discharge rounds at a rate that brings them much closer to self-loading rifles, which are already prohibited for civilian ownership under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. Indeed, that appears to be one of the selling points for such rifles. We have therefore included them in the Bill, because we are of the view that the indiscriminate use of rapid-firing rifles, including lever action rifles, is such that they should be prohibited in the same way as other full-bore, self-loading rifles. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe has raised the interests of disabled shooters. Of course that is part of our assessment, but we are satisfied that there are other rifles that those with disabilities can use if they are prevented from using these rifles.

Let me move on to air rifles. I know that the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) and the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) have run long campaigns on air rifles. I hope that they both know that we have conducted this review following the coroner’s report into the terrible and very sad death of Benjamin Wragge, a 13-year-old boy who was shot accidentally with an air weapon in 2016. As I said in Committee, we received more than 50,000 representations from members of the public, and the issues raised by the new clauses tabled by the hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman will be considered in that specialist review, which will be published shortly. I therefore ask them not to press their new clauses to a vote.

I want to make a small point that might assist the right hon. Member for Delyn in deciding whether to press new clause 19 to a vote. The new clause refers to trigger guards, rather than trigger locks. I understand that he wants to look at locks. At the moment, air weapons are fitted with trigger guards. But I am happy to have a conversation with him, and with any other Member, about the applicability of locks as part of the review process.

On Government amendments 26 to 55, I recognise the very, very strong feelings across the House. I spoke at the beginning about the balancing act—indeed, it is a discussion we had constantly in Committee—between effectiveness and proportionality. We saw that today, let alone on Second Reading and in Committee, in relation to clauses 30 and 31. The clauses were included in the Bill to strengthen the controls on high muzzle energy rifles. They are currently controlled under general licensing arrangements. The effect of the clauses would be to subject those rifles to the more rigorous controls provided by section 5 of the 1968 Act. This was because our law enforcement colleagues have concerns as to the potential effect if these rifles fall into the wrong hands. Our strong gun laws mean that those who shoot in the countryside or at ranges have met the standards expected in firearms licensing and by their local police force.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:29 p.m.

I know the Minister has had extraordinary tension over this issue and has engaged very sincerely on it over the course of the Bill’s proceedings. I commend her commitment to public safety—I think unfair comments have been made today. I recognise, as a signatory of the amendment—others have signed it as well—that there is a willingness to engage sincerely in the consultation that she will bring forward to deal with this in the appropriate way.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:30 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He mentions the consultation, so I should formally mention our consideration of all the concerns we have listened to. The Home Secretary has listened very carefully to those concerns, as well as to the representations and advice from law enforcement colleagues. In the light of those circumstances, it is now the Home Secretary’s view that we should give further detailed consideration to this and other issues relating to firearms that have arisen during the course of the Bill. It is therefore our intention to launch a full public consultation on a range of issues on firearms safety that have arisen over the past few months during the passage of the Bill. Accordingly, we have decided to remove those clauses at this stage. I emphasise that the current licensing arrangements remain in place. The consultation will include other issues that have arisen, including for example, points relating to miniature rifle ranges raised by colleagues across the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman).

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day),

Break in Debate

Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:45 p.m.

I have now to announce the result of today’s deferred Division in respect of the question relating to child support. The Ayes were 310 and the Noes were 230, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

New Clause 16

Offence of threatening with an offensive weapon etc in a private place

‘(1) A person (“A”) commits an offence if—

(a) while A is in a private place, A unlawfully and intentionally threatens another person (“B”) with an article or substance to which this subsection applies, and

(b) A does so in such a way that there is an immediate risk of serious physical harm to B.

(2) Subsection (1) applies to an article or substance if it is—

(a) an offensive weapon within the meaning of section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953,

(b) an article to which section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (offence of having article with blade or point in public place) applies, or

(c) a corrosive substance.

(3) In the application of subsection (1) to an article within subsection (2)(a) or (b), “private place” means a place other than—

(a) a public place,

(b) a place which is part of school premises, or

(c) a place which is part of further education premises.

(4) In the application of subsection (1) to a corrosive substance, “private place” means a place other than a public place.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (1) physical harm is serious if it amounts to grievous bodily harm for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine or to both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, to a fine or to both.

(7) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (maximum sentence that may be imposed on summary conviction of offence triable either way), the reference in subsection (6)(a) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to 6 months.

(8) In this section and section [Search for corrosive substance on school or further education premises]—

“corrosive substance” means a substance that is capable of burning human skin by corrosion;

“further education premises” means land used solely for the purposes of—

(a) an institution within the further education sector (within the meaning of section 91 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992), or

(b) a 16 to 19 Academy (within the meaning of section 1B of the Academies Act 2010),

excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the institution or the 16 to 19 Academy;

“public place” includes any place to which, at the time in question, the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise;

“school premises” means land used for the purposes of a school, excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the school; and “school” has the meaning given by section 4 of the Education Act 1996.’—(Victoria Atkins.)

This new clause and NC17 and Amendment 25 make provision for and in connection with a new offence of threatening another person with an offensive weapon, bladed article or corrosive substance in a private place.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 1:12 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 17—Search for corrosive substance on school or further education premises.

New clause 1—Protection for retail staff—

‘(1) A person (“the purchaser”) commits an offence if they intentionally obstruct a person (“the seller”) in the exercise of their duties under section 1 of this Act.

(2) In this section, “intentionally obstruct” includes, but is not limited to, a person acting in a threatening manner.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.’

New clause 5—Prohibition of bladed product displays—

‘(1) A person who in the course of a business displays a bladed product in a place in England and Wales or Northern Ireland is guilty of an offence.

(2) The appropriate Minister may by regulations provide for the meaning of “place” in this section.

(3) The appropriate Minister may by regulations make provision for a display in a place which also amounts to an advertisement to be treated for the purposes of offences in England and Wales or Northern Ireland under this Act—

(a) as an advertisement and not as a display, or

(b) as a display and not as an advertisement.

(4) No offence is committed under this section if—

(c) the bladed products are displayed in the course of a business which is part of the bladed product trade,

(d) they are displays for the purpose of that trade, and

(e) the display is accessible only to persons who are engaged in, or employed by, a business which is also part of that trade.

(5) No offence is committed under this section if the display is a requested display to an individual age 18 or over.

(6) The appropriate Minister may provide in regulations that no offence is committed under section 1 of the display complies with requirements specified in regulations.’

New clause 6—Report on the causes behind youth violence with offensive weapons—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 6 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay a report before Parliament on the causes behind youth violence with offensive weapons.

(2) The report under subsection 1 must consider, but is not limited to,

(a) The effect of the reduction in police numbers on the levels of youth violence with offensive weapons;

(b) The effect of the reduction in public spending on—

(i) children’s services,

(ii) Sure Start,

(iii) state-maintained schools,

(iv) local authorities,

(v) youth offending teams,

(vi) Border Force, and

(vii) drug treatment programmes.

(3) The report under subsection 1 and the considerations under subsection 2 must consider the benefits of the public health approach to violence reduction.

(4) The report must contain all departmental evidence held relating to subsection 2 and 3.’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to review the causes behind youth violence with offensive weapons.

New clause 7—Offence of threatening with an offensive weapon—

‘(1) Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 (offence of threatening with offensive weapon in public) is amended as follows.

(a) After “Offence of threatening with offensive weapon” leave out “in public”.

(b) In subsection 1(a), after “weapon” leave out “with him or her in a public place”.

(c) In subsection 3, after “section” leave out ““public place” and “offensive weapon” have” and insert “offensive weapon” has’

This new clause would mean that threatening with an offensive weapon anywhere would be an offence, not merely in a public place.

New clause 10—Threatening with a bladed article or offensive weapon in a dwelling—

‘(1) Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (offence of threatening with article with blade or point or offensive weapon) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 12 insert—

13 Where the threatening offence takes place in a dwelling, a person charged with this offence may rely on the defence available in a “householder case” set out in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

14 In subsection 13 above, “dwelling” has the meaning given in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.’

New clause 11—Threatening with a bladed article or offensive weapon in a dwelling (No.2)—

‘(1) Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 (offence of threatening with offensive weapon in public) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 10 insert—

11 Where the threatening offence takes place in a dwelling, a person charged with this offence may rely on the defence available in a “householder case” set out in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

12 In subsection 11 above, “dwelling” has the meaning given in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.’

New clause 12—Threatening with a bladed article or offensive weapon in a dwelling (No.3)—

‘(1) Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 (offence of threatening with offensive weapon in public) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 10 insert—

11 Where an offence under this section takes place in a dwelling it shall be a defence for a person charged with such an offence to prove that he had lawful authority or reasonable excuse for having the article with him.

12 In subsection 11 above, “dwelling” has the meaning given in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.’

New clause 13—Threatening with a bladed article or offensive weapon in a dwelling (No.4)—

‘(1) Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (offence of threatening with article with blade or point or offensive weapon) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 12 insert—

13 Where an offence under this section takes place in a dwelling it shall be a defence for a person charged with such an offence to prove that he had lawful authority or reasonable excuse for having the article with him.

14 In subsection 13 above, “dwelling” has the meaning given in section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.’

New clause 14—Protection for retail staff: bladed articles—

‘(1) A person (“the purchaser”) commits an offence if they intentionally obstruct a person (“the seller”) in the exercise of their duties under section 141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

(2) In this section, “intentionally obstruct” includes, but is not limited to, a person acting in a threatening manner.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.’

New clause 15—Offence of threatening with blade or offensive weapon (No.2)—

‘(1) Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (offence of threatening with article with blade or point or offensive weapon) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection 1(a), after “applies” leave out “with him or her in a public place or on school premises”.

(3) Omit subsection 2.

(4) Omit subsection 3.

(5) Omit subsection 5.’

This new clause would mean that threatening with a knife anywhere would be an offence, not merely in a public place or school/further education premises.

New clause 20—Offence of threatening with a non-corrosive substance—

‘(1) A person commits an offence if they threaten a person with a substance they claim or imply is corrosive.

(2) It is not a defence for a person to prove that the substance used to threaten a person was not corrosive or listed under schedule 1 of this act.

(3) In this section, “threaten a person” means—

(a) that the person unlawfully and intentionally threatens another person (“A”) with the substance, and

(b) does so in such a way that a reasonable person (“B”) who was exposed to the same threat as A would think that there was an immediate risk of physical harm to B.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.’

New clause 21—Prohibition on the possession of a corrosive substance on educational premises—

‘(1) A person commits an offence if that person has a corrosive substance with them on school premises, further education premises or higher education premises.

(2) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to prove that they had good reason or lawful authority for having the corrosive substance on school premises, further education premises or higher education premises.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (2), it is a defence for a person charged in England and Wales or Northern Ireland with an offence under subsection (1) to prove that they had the corrosive substance with them for use at work.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (3), it is a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to show that they had the corrosive substance with them for use at work.

(5) A person is to be taken to have shown a matter mentioned in subsection (4) or (5) if—

(a) sufficient evidence of the matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it, and

(b) the contrary is not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine or to both;

(b) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(c) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, to a fine or both.

(7) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (maximum sentence that may be imposed on summary conviction of offence triable either way) the reference in subsection (7)(a) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to 6 months.

(8) A constable may enter any school, further education premises or higher education premises and search those premises and any person on those premises, if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence under this section is, or has been, committed.

(9) If, in the course of a search under this section, a constable discovers a corrosive substance they may seize and retain it.

(10) The constable may use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of entry conferred by this section.

(11) In this section—

“corrosive substance” means a substance which is capable of burning human skin by corrosion;

“school premises” means land used for the purpose of a school, excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at a school;

“school” has the meaning given by—

(a) in relation to land in England and Wales, section 4 of the Education Act 1996;

(b) in relation to land in Northern Ireland, Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (SI 1986/ 594 (NI 3).

“further educational premises” means—

(a) in relation to England and Wales, land used solely for the purposes of—

(b) in relation to Northern Ireland, land used solely for the purposes of an institution of further education within the meaning of Article 2 of the Further Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (SI 1997/ 1772 (NI 15) excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the institution”.

“higher education premises” means an institution which provides higher education;

“institution” includes any training provider (whether or not the training provider would otherwise be regarded as an institution);

“higher education” means education provided by means of a higher education course;

“higher education course” means a course of any description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988.’

New clause 22—Offence of threatening with corrosive substance on educational premises—

‘(1) A person commits an offence if that person threatens a person with a corrosive substance on school premises, further education premises or higher education premises.

(2) In this section—

“corrosive substance” means a substance which is capable of burning human skin by corrosion;

“threatens a person” means—

(a) unlawfully and intentionally threatens another person (“A”) with a corrosive substance, and

(b) does so in such a way that a reasonable person (“B”) who was exposed to the same threat as A would think that there was an immediate risk of physical harm to B.

“school premises” means land used for the purpose of a school, excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at a school;

“school” has the meaning given by—

(a) in relation to land in England and Wales, section 4 of the Education Act 1996;

(b) in relation to land in Northern Ireland, Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (SI 1986/594 (NI 3).

“further educational premises” means—

(a) in relation to England and Wales, land used solely for the purposes of —

(b) in relation to Northern Ireland, land used solely for the purposes of an institution of further education within the meaning of Article 2 of the Further Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (SI 1997/ 1772 (NI 15) excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the institution”.

“higher education premises” means an institution which provides higher education;

“institution” includes any training provider (whether or not the training provider would otherwise be regarded as an institution);

“higher education” means education provided by means of a higher education course;

“higher education course” means a course of any description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988”.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine or to both;

(b) on summary conviction in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(c) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, to a fine or both.

(4) In relation to an offence committed before the coming into force of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (maximum sentence that may be imposed on summary conviction of offence triable either way) the reference in subsection (7)(a) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to 6 months.’

New clause 23—Advertising offensive weapons online—

‘(1) A person or company commits an offence when a website registered in their name is used to advertise, list or otherwise facilitate the sale of any weapon listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order (SI 1988/2019) or any offensive weapon capable of being disguised as something else.

(2) No offence is committed under this section if—

(a) the website removes the advertisement or list within 24 hours of the registered owner of the website being informed that the advertisement or list includes a weapon listed in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order (SI 1988/2019) or any offensive weapon capable of being disguised as something else.

(3) The registered owner of a website that is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine or to both;

(b) on summary conviction in Scotland or Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.’

New clause 24—Enforcement—

‘(1) It shall be the duty of every authority to which subsection (4) applies to enforce within its area the provisions of Clauses 1, 3, 4, 17 and 20 of this Bill.

(2) An authority in England or Wales to which subsection (4) applies shall have the power to investigate and prosecute for an alleged contravention of any provision imposed by or under this section which was committed outside its area in any part of England and Wales.

(3) A district council in Northern Ireland shall have the power to investigate and prosecute for an alleged contravention of any provision imposed by or under this section which was committed outside its area in any part of Northern Ireland.

(4) The authorities to which this section applies are—

(a) in England, a county council, district council, London Borough Council, the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority and the Council of the Isles of Scilly;

(b) in Wales, a county council or a county borough council;

(c) in Scotland, a council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994(1);

(d) in Northern Ireland, any district council.

(5) In enforcing this section, an enforcement authority must act in a manner proportionate to the seriousness of the risk and shall take due account of the precautionary principle, and shall encourage and promote voluntary action by producers and distributors.

(6) Notwithstanding subsection (5), an enforcement authority may take any action under this section urgently and without first encouraging and promoting voluntary action if a product poses a serious risk.’

New clause 25—Investigatory powers for trading standards—

‘(1) Schedule 5 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is amended in accordance with subsection (2).

(2) In Part 2, paragraph 10, at end insert—

“section (Enforcement)”.’

This new clause is consequential on NC24

New clause 26—Aggravated offence of possessing a corrosive substance or dangerous knife—

‘(1) A person is guilty of an aggravated offence of possessing a corrosive substance in a public place if—

(a) they commit an offence under section 6 of this Act, and

(b) at the time of committing the offence, the offender was—

(i) the driver of a moped or motor bicycle, or

(ii) a passenger of a moped or motor bicycle.

(2) A person is guilty of an aggravated offence of possessing certain dangerous knives if—

(a) they commit an offence under section 1A of the Restrictions of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, as amended, and

(b) at the time of committing the offence, the offender was—

(i) the driver of a moped or motor bicycle, or

(ii) a passenger of a moped or motor bicycle.

(3) A person guilty of an aggravated offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or both;

(b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or both.

(4) For the purposes of this section, “moped” and “motor bicycle” have the same meanings as in section 108 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.’

New clause 30—Review of the Act—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within one year of this Act receiving Royal Assent, appoint an independent person to conduct an annual review of the provisions contained in this Act and the effect those provisions have had on crimes involving offensive weapons.

(2) The review under section 1 must consider, but is not limited to—

(a) the impact the provisions on corrosive substances have had on crimes involving these substances, and whether these provisions are still adequate;

(b) the impact the provisions on firearms have had on crimes involving these weapons, and whether the provisions are still adequate;

(c) whether existing police funding is sufficient to ensure the adequate enforcement of the provisions of this Act and offences relating to offensive weapons; and

(d) anything else the Secretary of State, or independent person appointed to conduct the review, thinks appropriate.

(3) The annual review under section 1 must be laid before both Houses of Parliament.’

New clause 31—Amendments to the Crossbow Act 1987—

‘(1) The Crossbow Act 1987 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 1 insert—

“1A Requirement of crossbow certificate

(1) Subject to any exemption under this Act, it is an offence for a person to have in their possession, or to purchase or acquire, a crossbow to which this section applies without holding a crossbow certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate.

(2) It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with a condition subject to which a crossbow certificate is held by them.

(3) This section applies to crossbows with a draw weight of which is to be determined in regulations designated by the Home Secretary, following consultation with—

(a) the National Police Chiefs’ Council;

(b) any other person or body the Home Secretary may deem necessary.”

(3) After section 1A insert—

“1B Application for a crossbow certificate

(1) An application for the grant of a crossbow certificate must be made in the form prescribed by regulations issued by the Home Secretary to the chief officer of police for the area in which the applicant resides and shall state such particulars as may be required by the form.

(2) A crossbow certificate shall be granted where the chief officer of police is satisfied that—

(a) the applicant is fit to be entrusted with a crossbow to which section 1 of this Act applies and is not a person prohibited by this Act from possessing such a crossbow;

(b) that he has a good reason for having in his possession, or for purchasing or acquiring, the crossbow in respect of which the application is made; and

(c) in all the circumstances the applicant can be permitted to have the crossbow in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace.”

(3) In section 6 (punishments), in subsection 1, after “section 1” insert – “, or section 1A or section 1B”.

(4) After section 7 insert—

“7A Regulations

(1) A power to make regulations under this Act is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(2) Regulations under this Act may make provisions for the issuing of a crossbow certificate.

(3) A statutory instrument which contains regulations under this Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”’

Amendment 12, in clause 1, page 2, line 11, leave out “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks” and insert “a community sentence”

This amendment, along with Amendment 13, would replace the custodial sentences for the new offence in Clause 1 (sale of corrosive products to persons under 18) with community sentences.

Amendment 13, page 2, line 14, leave out “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months” and insert “a community sentence”

This amendment, along with Amendment 12, would replace the custodial sentences for the new offence in Clause 1 (sale of corrosive products to persons under 18) with community sentences.

Amendment 14, in clause 6, page 7, line 7, after “place” insert “with intent to cause injury”

This amendment would make it an offence to have a corrosive substance in a public place only with the intent to cause injury to someone.

Amendment 3, page 8, line 3, after “otherwise” insert

“and means any place other than premises occupied as a private dwelling (including any stair, passage, garden, yard, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises which is not used in common by the occupants of more than one such dwelling).”

This amendment would extend the definition of public places in relation to England and Wales and Northern Ireland to include communal spaces within residential blocks.

Amendment 15, page 8, line 39, leave out clause 8

This amendment, along with Amendment 16, would remove mandatory custodial sentences for people convicted under the new offence in Clause 6 who have at least one previous relevant conviction.

Amendment 16, page 9, line 37, leave out clause 9

This amendment, along with Amendment 15, would remove mandatory custodial sentences for people convicted under the new offence in Clause 6 who have at least one previous relevant conviction.

Government amendment 56.

Amendment 8, in clause 17, page 16, line 41, at end insert—

“(ab) the seller is not a trusted trader of bladed products, and”

Amendment 9, page 17, line 3, at end insert—

‘(3A) The Secretary of State may by regulations determine the conditions of being designated a trusted trader of bladed products in England and Wales for the purposes of section 17(1)(ab).

(3B) Scottish Ministers may by regulations determine the conditions of being designated a trusted trader of bladed products in Scotland for the purposes of section 17(1)(ab).

(3C) The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland may by regulations determine the conditions of being designated a trusted trader of bladed products in Northern Ireland for the purposes of section 17(1)(ab).”

Amendment 1, in clause 18, page 17, line 44, at end insert—

‘(4A) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 17 to prove that they reasonably believed that the buyer bought the bladed product for use for decorating purposes.”

Amendment 2, page 18, line 24, at end insert—

‘(10) For the purposes of this section a bladed product is used by a person for decorating purposes if and only if the product is only used to make improvements, enhancements or repairs to real property or personal property.”

Amendment 4, in clause 23, page 23, line 8, after “further education premises” insert

“and higher education provider premises”

Amendment 5, page 23, line 10, after “further education premises” insert

“and higher education provider premises”

Amendment 7, page 24, line 8, at end insert—

‘(7A) After subsection (6A) insert—

(6B) In this section “higher education provider” means an institution which provides higher education; “institution” includes any training provider (whether or not the training provider would otherwise be regarded as an institution); “higher education” means education provided by means of a higher education course; “higher education course” means a course of any description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988”.

Amendment 6, page 24, line 11, after “further education premises” insert

“and higher education provider premises”

Government amendments 57 to 61.

Amendment 22, in clause 25, page 26, line 41, leave out “the purpose only of participating in religious ceremonies” and insert “religious reasons only”

This amendment extends the defence to cover the possession of a ceremonial Sikh Kirpan for religious reasons on occasions other than religious ceremonies.

Amendment 17, page 28, line 28, leave out clause 28

This amendment, along with Amendments 18 and 19 would retain the current definition of risk for the existing offences in Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and for the new offence in Clause 29.

Amendment 11, page 29, line 6, leave out clause 29

This amendment would mean that threatening with a knife anywhere would be an offence, not merely in a public place or school/further education premises.

Amendment 18, in clause 29, page 29, line 14, leave out “(“A”)”

This amendment, along with Amendments 17 and 19, would retain the current definition of risk for the existing offences in Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and for the new offence in Clause 29.

Amendment 19, page 29, line 16, leave out from “that” to the end of line 18 and insert

“there is an immediate risk of serious physical harm to that person”

This amendment, along with Amendments 17 and 18, would retain the current definition of risk for the existing offences in Section 1A of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and Section 139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and for the new offence in Clause 29.

Amendment 10, in clause 39, page 35, line 34, after “section” insert “17(3B),”.

Government amendments 25, 62 and 63.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:46 p.m.

This group of new clauses and amendments deals with matters on which I know there is a great deal of agreement across the House. I will speak to Government new clauses 16 and 17 and Government amendment 25, and in response to new clauses 7, 10 to 13, 22 and 15 and amendment 11, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies).

Let me start by saying how grateful I am to my hon. Friend for his new clauses and amendment. I know that he has raised this issue in the past, and, of course, he spoke very eloquently about it during our Second Reading debate on 27 June. There are offences available for the prosecution of a person who threatens someone with an offensive weapon in private, but those offences do not describe the criminality sufficiently, and do not attract the same penalties as those that are possible when the offence is committed in public. I have therefore been convinced by my hon. Friend that there is a gap in the law that should be filled.

Under new clause 16, it would be an offence for a person unlawfully and intentionally to threaten another person with a corrosive substance, a bladed or pointed article, or an offensive weapon in a way that poses an immediate risk of serious physical harm to that person. The offence will apply in any private place, which means anywhere other than a public place or school, or further education premises, where it is already an offence. In respect of a corrosive substance, a private place means anywhere other than a public place. The lawyers have been terribly exercised about that.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:48 p.m.

As the Minister probably knows, there was a nasty incident in Coventry a couple of days ago when a young man lost his life as a result of people carrying knives. How does she propose to strengthen the Bill? We have been here before—we have had amnesties and all sorts—but we never seem any nearer to tackling the problem. Has the Minister any proposals in that regard?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:48 p.m.

Let me say first that I am terribly sorry to hear of the incident in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but I cannot comment on the specifics. The Bill is but one part of the Government’s serious violence strategy, which has been a rolling programme of action since April. The purpose of these measures, particularly in relation to knives, is to address the concern expressed to us by charities, the police and others about the ability of young people to get hold of knives.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:49 p.m.

Does the Minister appreciate the serious concern in the British Sikh community about people being in possession of a kirpan? As president of Gatka Federation UK, I know that many people are concerned about the practice of that Sikh martial art. Various individuals and organisations, including the Sikh Council UK and the Sikh Federation UK, have expressed solid concerns, and I think that an amendment has also been tabled. I hope that the Minister can allay those genuine concerns.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:49 p.m.

I am delighted to say that I can, and I promise to deal with that in more detail in due course. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), her colleague the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who have led discussions on the issue.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:49 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:49 p.m.

May I make a little more progress?

In relation to the issue of a private place, it will become an offence to threaten someone with a corrosive substance on educational premises, for example, a point raised under new clause 22 by the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms). This provides for a maximum penalty of four years, in line with the maximum penalty for the public offence and considerably more than the current six-month maximum for a threat that amounts to common assault, which is the offence that may be charged currently.

The Government amendment would avoid householders having to justify owning their kitchen knives—again that demonstrates the balancing exercise we have had to do in this Bill. It targets the criminality that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley wants to address while denying my fellow lawyers the chance to argue about possessing domestic implements, a sentiment I know my hon. Friend will endorse. New clause 17 will provide the necessary powers to enter and search for a corrosive substance on school and further education premises in support of the new offence.

Government amendment 25 simply sets the extent of the new offence as England and Wales, but I know my hon. Friend and others are keen to ensure that householders who have to defend themselves against burglars are not caught inadvertently by this new offence. That is not the intention of the Government, or I suspect the House, if this new offence is passed. The new offence is designed to capture perpetrators who have no recourse to the well-established defences of self-defence, defence of another and defence of property.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:51 p.m.

I thank the Minister for giving way. The Minister said that the corrosive substances offence applies only to England and Wales, but I understand that some of the legislation applies to Northern Ireland. Can the Minister confirm either now or later that this legislation, which we welcome and wish to see, can be applicable in Northern Ireland under the rules and laws we have there as well?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:52 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is drawing me into the incredibly complex area of applicability in Northern Ireland. He is right that many of the measures in the Bill have corresponding provisions for Northern Ireland, but I am sure that in due course I will be able to help the House with the particular point on corrosive substances, if I may return to that.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:52 p.m.

The Minister will see in the Bill that for the specific provisions in clauses 1 to 4 it is for a newly appointed Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland to bring forward an order on the day that they so appoint.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:52 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.

I hope that this new offence will attract widespread support across the Chamber. It recognises that some threats in private can be very serious indeed. I will therefore ask my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley not to press his amendments and I commend to the House new clauses 16 and 17 and amendment 25.

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:52 p.m.

I thank the Minister very sincerely for the way she has engaged in this issue. Clearly it was a ridiculous loophole that the offence of threatening somebody with a knife applied only in a public place and not in a private place, and I am delighted that the Minister listened to the argument and engaged with it and has brought forward these new clauses today, which I will happily support. On that basis I am very happy to confirm to her that I will not press my new clauses in this regard.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:53 p.m.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and thank him again for his help not just on this but on a drafting correction that we made in the Bill Committee.

Mr Tobias Ellwood Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Tobias Ellwood) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:53 p.m.

He is always helpful.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:54 p.m.

My colleague sitting next to me is quite right: my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley is always helpful.

Government amendments 56, 62 and 63 are minor amendments and have been included at the request of the Scottish Government. It is fair to say, as I said in Committee, that my officials have had a good working relationship with the Scottish Government on this Bill. These new amendments are intended to facilitate the operation of the new offences within the Scottish legal system. Under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 provision is made for matters of routine evidence in criminal proceedings. These provisions operate so as to allow to be admitted into evidence certain routine matters by virtue of a certificate provided by an authorised expert. That means that if the accused person does not provide at least seven days’ notice of an intent to challenge the evidence prior to trial it is admitted without any further proof being necessary. Given that many prosecutions in this area may be at summary court level, requiring expert testimony in these cases as a matter of course would be unduly expensive, so these amendments will ensure that the new corrosive offences included in the Bill are subject to the existing matters of routine evidence provisions.

Amendments 57 and 58 will limit the new offence of possession of an offensive weapon in section 141(1A) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to possession “in private”. That is to prevent overlap with existing offences. In shorthand, the aim of clause 24 is to prohibit the possession in private of offensive weapons as defined by section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988—for example, zombie knives. Amendments 57 and 58 clarify this to mean in private, because it is already against the law to possess any bladed article—which is obviously wider than the definition of offensive weapons—under section 139 of the 1988 Act.

The approach that we have taken to the new possession offence in the Bill is to mirror the defences that already applied to the manufacture, importation, sale and general supply of curved swords. The burden of proof for the defences that apply to the current legislation for manufacture and so on is to show that the defence applies. Therefore the burden of proof for the defences provided for the new possession offence in the Bill will also be to show that the defence applies. However, the burden of proof for the defence in relation to possession of an article with a blade in public is to prove, which is a higher burden, so to avoid inconsistency we are limiting the new possession offence in the Bill to places other than a public place. In this way, we will continue to rely on existing legislation for possession in public, and the new possession offence in the Bill will apply only in private.

I shall turn now to amendments 59 and 61, and to the Opposition’s amendment 22. Amendments 59 to 61 clarify the wording of clause 25 so as to include “religious reasons”, rather than “religious ceremonies”. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who tabled amendment 22 and worked with me and my officials to get the law into a better place. This included facilitating discussions with representatives of the Sikh Federation last week, and it was a pleasure to meet them. We can now ensure that the Bill does not inadvertently prohibit the possession and supply of kirpans as part of the observance of the Sikh faith.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:57 p.m.

I should like to thank the Minister for her response to the amendment on the possession of the kirpan, the religious sword that is used by Sikhs. My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) and I represent a large Sikh community, and they have been very concerned about the omission in the Bill. We would also like to congratulate the all-party parliamentary group for British Sikhs on the work that it has done, and we thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for their willingness to listen and to act on behalf of the Sikh community.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:58 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. I want to make it clear that it was never the Government’s intention to worry anyone or inadvertently to criminalise acts of faith in that way. I hope that the Sikh community and those who represent them understand that we did this with the very best of intentions.

Pat McFadden Portrait Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:58 p.m.

I should like to thank the Minister for the open, listening approach that she has taken in response to representations from myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the Sikh Federation and others who have contacted her. Can she clarify that the effect of the Government amendments to the Bill will be to maintain the status quo as far as Sikh religious practice is concerned? That is all that the community were asking for throughout this process, and if that is what the amendments will do, I believe that they will be warmly welcomed.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 3:59 p.m.

I am happy to confirm that. The original wording mirrored the wording used in existing legislation for offences in public, but we have of course understood that praying at home, for example, may not fall within the definition of ceremony. We do not want to leave any doubt or room for worry; we are amending the Bill to enable prayers and so on at home to continue.

Mr Jim Cunningham Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4 p.m.

The Minister has been very generous in giving way. May I identify myself with my colleagues in support of the amendment? Like them, I have been approached by the Sikh Federation, and when I referred earlier to the knives issue, I was not referring to the federation and its members’ religious practices; I was talking about crime and so on.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4 p.m.

Of course. I am sure that everyone who works in this complex area has sympathy with the hon. Gentleman in wanting to clarify the point he raised in his earlier intervention.

As the Government have tabled amendments 59 to 61, I hope that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston will not press amendment 22.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

indicated assent.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4 p.m.

I shall move on to new clause 1. The right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) continues to raise the issue of the safety of retail staff, and I thank him for that. Indeed, I recently discussed that issue with him, and also with the head of the British Retail Consortium. Although the Government fully understand the concern of retailers and their staff about being threatened or attacked if they refuse to sell a corrosive product or bladed article to a member of the public, we do not believe that a new criminal offence as set out in new clauses 1 and 14 would provide additional protection or result in more people being prosecuted. The law already provides the police and Crown Prosecution Service with sufficient powers to prosecute this type of offending and provide protection to retail staff. A number of criminal offences are available to cover a wide range of unacceptable behaviour, including that described in the tabled amendments, ranging from abusive and threatening language to actual violent offences against the person. So, we submit that there is no gap.

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab) Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:02 p.m.

A group of women shopworkers came to see me because of regular threatening behaviour by a gang of youths. These women were afraid and fearful, especially when they had to work alone. We have an opportunity today to strengthen the law; it clearly needs strengthening. We should do so.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:03 p.m.

I am extremely concerned to hear that, but I wonder why the local police are not using the powers already available to them, because if a gang is behaving like that, there are offences that would enable the police to deal with that threatening behaviour, and any violent acts.

The Sentencing Council has set out, in its definitive guideline on assault offences, that it is an “aggravating factor” for an offence to be committed against those who are either working in the public sector or providing a service to the public, and an offence against either group could result in a more severe sentence within the statutory maximum for the offence—and that includes retail and shop staff.

However, there is more to this than the shape of the legislation, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree. That is why, in October 2017, the National Police Chiefs Council—with the support of Home Office funding—launched the national business crime centre, a repository for good practice, standards and guidance for all business nationally. It also acts as a national alert and data feed service, to enable businesses to have more information regarding crime in their local area.

David Hanson Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:03 p.m.

If all the Minister says is true, why has every retail organisation in the country, and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, argued in favour of new clause 1, which I shall be moving shortly?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

They are of course free to do so, but we have looked carefully at the law. However, I chair the national retail crime steering group, which brings retailers and police together to tackle retail crime, and I am happy to ask the police, in that forum, why retailers feel this way.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:04 p.m.

If the Minister genuinely does not want to frustrate the content of new clause 1, could she not simply accept it given that there is genuine concern out there that, currently, the law does not go far enough?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:05 p.m.

I know this will not meet with the approval of Opposition Members but, having looked very carefully at it, we have not been able to identify a gap in the law, which is why, regrettably, I cannot accept new clause 1. We encourage closer local partnerships between police and retailers so that better crime prevention measures are put in place, because that must be a factor. We want to ensure that local police respond effectively to reported crime.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:05 p.m.

The reality on the ground, and USDAW and the Co-op Group have been clear about this, is that the police do not consider offences such as shoplifting, and all the things that go on around it, seriously enough even to turn up at a store to take a statement. It is a fact that shop workers at the tills are the ones enforcing the legislation that we pass. When we demand that identification is presented for alcohol and cigarette sales, and the like, it is those workers who are on the frontline in defending the legislation we pass. Surely they deserve our support, too.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:06 p.m.

Of course, anyone working on the frontline deserves our support. The criminality the hon. Gentleman describes, such as shoplifting, is already enforced, so the discussion should be about local policing priorities. If he writes to me with particular instances in his constituency, I am very happy to raise it through the national retail crime steering group.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:06 p.m.

rose—

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:06 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:09 p.m.

A lot of Members are seeking to intervene, and I will give the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) a chance.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:06 p.m.

The hon. Lady is very kind. She says that she will speak to her committee of retail representatives about why they feel this is necessary, but should she not have done that before rejecting the amendment? It is clear that they are saying it is necessary, so it is a little late for her to say she will vote against the amendment while saying she will start consulting on it.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:07 p.m.

As part of our discussions—I not only include myself but Home Office officials—of course we talk about the safety of retail staff. As I said, I had a meeting very recently. It is not a question of just starting now; we are aware of these concerns. Of course, hon. Members voicing those concerns in the Chamber gives me and my officials more material to ask the National Police Chiefs Council what is happening on this and whether there is more that can and should be done at local level.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:07 p.m.

I appreciate the Minister’s courtesy in allowing me to come back. The reality is that serious violent crime, organised crime and online crime, and the protection of vulnerable groups, takes up a significant amount of police time. In Greater Manchester we have lost 2,000 frontline officers, so it is not right for the Government who have made those cuts and made that decision to put the pressure back on Greater Manchester police to maintain a police service with diminishing resources when crime is going up. It just is not correct. She has an opportunity to respond to the debate, to respond to new clause 1 and to show that we are sticking up for shop workers. It is not good enough to defer responsibility on this.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:08 p.m.

Forgive me, but it is not a question of deferring responsibility. It is the responsibility of the local police and crime commissioner and the chief constable, under our system of policing, to decide local policing priorities. That is why we had the police and crime commissioner elections a couple of years ago.

The right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) is assiduous in his parliamentary questions to me about retail crime, but if hon. Members have concerns that retailers and retail staff in their local area are not being looked after, I encourage them to take it up with their police and crime commissioner, because it really is their decision as to how local resources are prioritised.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab) Hansard

Does the Minister not realise quite how this looks? Shop workers across the country—in every part of the country, every constituency and every region—the frontline workers, their union and the police are saying, “We do not need consultation; we need a change in the law to protect us.” What the Minister is saying, and I say this with respect, is that she and her officials know better. I say we should listen to what the shop workers of this country are telling us and mend the gap in the law.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:09 p.m.

I do listen—I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman on that. The point I am making is that the laws that can protect shop workers are already in force, so it is not a question of making a new law because we hope that that will address the criminality, because those laws are already in place. There are public order offences, so where someone is rude or abusive, that is a criminal offence already. Our job here is to make law, but this is also sometimes about how it is applied on the ground, and that is what I am talking about. I am talking about saying to the NPCC and others, “What’s happening on these concerns colleagues are raising about how retail workers are being treated in their shops?” I know that this is an important issue, not only to Labour Members, but to my colleagues and to me. That is why if we can do nothing else, we should get the message out there that the law already exists to protect shop workers. We should focus on how that is pushed and put into effect.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab) Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:10 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:10 p.m.

I am just about to move on to the next topic, but of course I will give way.

Susan Elan Jones Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:11 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for that. Does she realise that many shop workers across the country are scared to death about all this? They are scared to death of knives being pulled on them. This is no longer just a problem in our inner cities; it goes right across the country. This is happening in rural areas and in small towns. My view is that we need to make the legislation as strong as possible, not just to protect the shop workers, but to send a message to people out there that this is a really serious issue.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:14 p.m.

I completely agree that we need to communicate the fact that the behaviour the hon. Lady described is utterly unacceptable, but she has given the example of a knife being pulled on a shop worker and legislation is already in place to deal with that. Furthermore, the independent Sentencing Council, which sets the guidelines for the judiciary across the country, has said that in that scenario the fact that the knife was pulled on a person in their line of work can be an aggravating factor. So the law is already there and we just need to make sure it is being used as effectively as possible, not just by our police, but by our judiciary.

On the point about serious violence more generally, the hon. Lady will know that we published the serious violence strategy in April. It has marked a step change in how we tackle serious violence, because we acknowledge that serious violence is no longer restricted to our large urban centres and is spreading out across the country, particularly with the rise of county lines. She will know that one of the drivers behind this rise in serious violence is drugs—the drug markets. A great deal of work is being done just on that one stream to tackle that.

For example, a couple of weeks ago we held an international conference, drawing together law enforcement and public health officials from across the world to talk about the rise in serious violence, because this is happening not only in the UK, but in other countries. From that conference, which I was able to attend, although sadly just for a little while, we could see the lessons that we can learn from other policing experts across the world and from public health officials. That is also why the Home Secretary has announced recently that we are looking into a consultation on making tackling serious violence a public health duty for local authorities—all arms of the state. That goes further than the models in Scotland and in Wales, which are often rightly cited as good examples, because we want to look into whether having a public duty will help with the sharing of information and the working together. Those of us who served on the Public Bill Committee and those of us who take a particular interest in this topic know that these things do not always work as well as they should.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:14 p.m.

Interestingly, the Minister said that the Home Secretary has talked about adopting a public health approach—I believe that was at the Conservative party conference. Since then we have heard absolutely nothing in this Chamber about what is happening on the public health approach. I believe I have asked nine times in this Chamber when we will be getting a debate on this. I do not suppose the Minister would like to respond to that now.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:14 p.m.

The hon. Lady asked me about this at the last Home Office orals and I said I would be delighted to debate with her. She has asked this in business questions, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has written to me and to the Home Secretary. I am keen to have the debate, which I think is really important, and the Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), has heard this exchange, so who knows what opportunities may be made available.

For all the bustle and tussle in the Chamber, there is broad cross-party agreement on this issue. Short-term measures need to be taken, but much longer-term measures are also required, which is why we have announced the setting up of a £200 million endowment fund that will be able, over 10 years, to invest in projects using a much longer-term model than is necessarily the case now. I hope it will be able to do some quite innovative work and to do some work to help young people to avoid getting ensnared by criminal gangs.

Lyn Brown - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:15 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:15 p.m.

I give way to the hon. Lady, whom I am tempted to call an hon. Friend because she and I have discussed this issue so often.

Lyn Brown - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:16 p.m.

I am delighted that the Minister modelled this part of the Bill on my asks on acid crime. I know that she will have studied my 5 September speech really closely to see our other asks on this issue. When might she find the time to introduce a strategy to deal with the violent crime that is rising from the county lines experience across the country and that will literally join up all the cross-Government actions that have been taken to deal with it?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:16 p.m.

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady and her constituency neighbour, the right hon. Member for—I am going to get this wrong—

Lyn Brown - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:16 p.m.

East Ham.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:16 p.m.

Thank you. She and the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) have done a great deal on not only county lines but on corrosive substance attacks. She will know that we now have the corrosive substance action plan, which is a voluntary commitment that we introduced at the beginning of the year to get all the major retailers on the right page when it comes to the sale of corrosive substances, because we knew that it would take time to introduce legislation in this place. I hope that she is pleased and satisfied with the Bill’s provisions on corrosive substances.

On county lines, the hon. Lady will know that we have announced the launch of the national co-ordination centre. It brings law enforcement together because, frankly, law enforcement has not been sharing information as well as it could throughout the country on the movement of these gangs of criminals, who exploit the distances between the major urban centres and rural and coastal areas, knowing that constabulary boundaries sometimes get in the way. The national co-ordination centre was launched in September and had an extraordinary week of action in which something like 500 arrests were made. If have got that figure wrong, I am sure I will be able to correct it in due course.

It is important to note that the co-ordination centre brings together not only law enforcement officials but those involved in looking after children—local authorities—because we know that the most vulnerable children have been targeted as they are attending pupil referral units or while they are living in care homes. We need to ensure that when the police go in and do a raid, we have social services there to pick up the children and start caring for them, to avoid their being re-trafficked. Indeed, I hope the fact that so many cases are now being prosecuted not only in the traditional manner, for conspiracy to supply class As, but using the Modern Slavery Act 2015, brings real stigma to those gangs that bizarrely and extraordinarily think that it is somehow okay to exploit children.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:18 p.m.

I hear what my hon. Friend says about the national co-ordination centre. From my experience talking to my local police force, I recognise that crime is interlinked. We can talk about drugs and we can talk about weapons, but they are interlinked issues, and they are interlinked with so many other things. We are asking the police to think holistically in how they look at these issues so that they can put into place a better strategy for dealing with these problems.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:19 p.m.

That is very much the case. Indeed, in my previous career prosecuting serious organised crime, on occasions we prosecuted organised crime gangs for, for example, the importation of counterfeit cigarettes, because that is what we could get them on. We suspected that they were importing other things, because if they had the lines open to import one type of illicit material, it followed that they probably had the ability to important other illicit materials. Sadly, as we get better at identifying modern slavery, we know that that can also include people.

Let me turn to new clause 5, which deals with an important area that colleagues across the House have expressed interest in.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:20 p.m.

If I have understood correctly, the key thing that new clause 16 does is to fill a gap in the law to cover things that happen in private properties, such as the flat in lower Westgate Street in Gloucester, where one of my hapless constituents was murdered precisely because of an argument over drug selling receipts. Can the Minister confirm that police and others would have powers under new clause 16 to move much earlier against the sort of threat that might arise in that situation?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:21 p.m.

Indeed, and I thank my hon. Friend for being kind enough to show me his great city only a few months ago. We met with senior police officers and others to discuss a number of issues relating to vulnerability, including the vulnerability of those being stalked. He brings to the Chamber his commitment to helping the most vulnerable in his constituency, and he has hit the nail on the head. Filling that gap to cover threatening behaviour in a private place makes it possible to address the sort of situation that he has described. Where gangs are in somebody’s home, perhaps at a party, and things turn nasty, the location of the person holding the knife changes under the current law depending on where they are in relation to the front door. The purpose of new clause 16 is to make it irrelevant whether their threatening behaviour takes place when they are standing on one side of the front door or the other.

New clause 5 concerns the secure display of bladed products. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, who tabled it, knows that I have taken great interest in this area. We have looked carefully at whether prohibition as set out in the new clause would address the concerns that she and others have rightly raised. Our concern is that the prohibition is a blanket requirement. I have looked into whether there are ways that we could make it more targeted, so that councils with a particular problem with knife crime can lay an order covering the display of bladed products in shops in their locality. What we are doing—not what we would like to do, but what we are in the process of doing—is encouraging much stronger voluntary action by retailers to take more robust measures on displays using a risk-based approach.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:23 p.m.

The Minister is absolutely right that new clause 5 would impose a blanket ban on retailers displaying bladed products, but the Government are proposing a blanket ban on the sale of bladed products to residential premises. Why is it one rule for online and another for face-to-face retailers?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:24 p.m.

We are indeed introducing a blanket ban on the delivery of bladed products to homes, first because we know that test purchases online have not led to the sort of results that we have seen with retailers. We wanted to close that gap and make it clear to online retailers, some of which do not seem to understand that they currently are not allowed to sell bladed products to under-18s and should have robust measures in place to ensure that they do not. The Bill seeks to re-emphasise that, but we also want to ensure that the person picking up the knife has to go to a post office, delivery depot or local shop with such arrangements and show identification to establish that they are over 18. That is the purpose behind those measures.

We do not currently have evidence of the rate of shoplifting of knives by young people who go on to use them in crimes. That is part of the problem. As a first step, my officials are working with retailers to come up with a much stronger voluntary response, which we know retailers are responding to well, because, in fairness, the voluntary commitments have been working well.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 11:30 a.m.

When packages are delivered to post offices to be picked up, are they clearly marked, “This is a knife”, or does the post office official know that it is a knife so that it cannot be given to someone under the age of 18?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:25 p.m.

The conditions in the Bill require those who are selling such products to make it clear on the packaging.

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:25 p.m.

rose—

Break in Debate

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:25 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:25 p.m.

Oh, gosh. I am going to try to finish my speech by 4.30 pm, so I will give way to the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) because she has tabled amendments to which I will not have time to speak.

Anna Turley Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:25 p.m.

I appreciate the Minister’s generosity. I hope to speak to those amendments but if time eludes me, fair enough; that is why I want to raise this issue now. Have the Government done an impact assessment of the implications of these measures for online retailers? I speak on behalf of a constituent who runs a DIY shop, and thinks that the implications would be in the region of £30,000 if he was unable to sell wallpaper scrapers and specific DIY knives to residential addresses.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:26 p.m.

The hon. Lady’s constituent will be able to sell the products. We are not banning the online sale of bladed products; we are making it clear that retailers have to conduct proper checks as to the age of the person to whom they are selling. They should be doing that at the moment anyway, and this legislation means that they will also have to package the items up as they do if they are selling online or at a distance. The point is that the package has to be labelled, and that it will then be kept at the post office or wherever before being picked up by a person with ID.

Mr Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:26 p.m.

Sheffield is obviously the home of knives in this country—knives for proper purposes. I visited Taylor’s Eye Witness, a firm in my constituency that manufactures and wholesales knives. As it is a wholesaler, 10% of its business is by post, passing things on through other retailers. It says that that aspect of its business is threatened by this legislation. Will the Minister consider amendment 9 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), suggesting a trusted trader scheme, to see whether the requirements of this measure could at least be reduced for trusted traders? This business employs 60 people, whose jobs could be at risk.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Of course I acknowledge the great history of Sheffield as the centre of knife making in this country and, dare I say it, across the world. We have looked very carefully at the trusted trader amendments, but we believe they would introduce more bureaucracy for retailers, which is why we do not support them. This is simply a matter of conducting checks, and then the grown-up who is buying their kitchen knife going to a post office and showing their ID to prove that they are in compliance with the law.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:27 p.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I will take one more intervention because I have promised that I will finish at 4.30 pm.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk - Hansard

The Minister is extremely kind. Although I and, I dare say other hon. Members, can understand the public interests of this proposal entirely, retailers would want to be satisfied that there is a level playing field, so that overseas retailers importing knives into the UK are governed by the same rules, and that they are not going—if this is not too much of a pun—to undercut domestic suppliers.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because he has identified one of the problems with which we grappled in Committee. The Bill includes a clause specifically for overseas sales. The requirement is that any delivery company that enters into a contract with an overseas retailer or manufacturer must itself conduct the checks as to the age of the person to whom it is delivering. Arguably, the checks are more arduous on delivery drivers for overseas retailers than for UK-based retailers. He will understand that, if a retailer resides in China, there is very little we can do to require it to comply with these laws, but we have tried to address that point.

I hope and believe that the Bill addresses the concerns that have been raised about the sale and delivery of corrosive products, the possession of corrosive substances, the sale and delivery of knives and so on. I will listen with interest during the rest of this debate because hon. Members have tabled several interesting amendments. I hope that I have answered their concerns with regard to the amendments and new clauses I have spoken on thus far, but I may seek to address one or two amendments at a later stage if there are particular questions they would like me to answer.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 4:30 p.m.

I rise to speak to new clause 1. I say to the Minister straightaway that I think she has missed the point on this. We are trying to strengthen the Bill to protect retail staff who are upholding the law. I support the Government’s position in relation to the banning of sales to under-18s of corrosive products and the restrictions on sales of knives. However, the question is whether it is right that those who hold stocks of those items are accordingly prosecuted if they sell them.

The key question for this House is: what about the people who are at the frontline in upholding the law through enforcing this legislation? Under this Bill, in the case of refusal to sell corrosive products and knives, it will not be the police or the security services, police community support officers or police and crime commissioners, or the local council or trading standards who are at the frontline in upholding the legislation that we hope the House will pass this evening. It will be the individual shop staff—often alone; often, perhaps, not much older than some of the people who are trying to buy these products—who are at the frontline of that challenge.

Let us just picture for a moment a large, 24-hour supermarket open at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning with a shop assistant at the front counter refusing to make a sale of a corrosive product or a knife, upholding the legislation that the Minister proposes. Imagine for a moment a small, open-all-hours shop refusing to sell these products, or a DIY store on a Saturday afternoon refusing to sell at that frontline. When that member of staff says no, they say no on behalf of us all in upholding this legislation.

The simple measure that I have brought before the House would strengthen the Bill to give those people some protection. It would tell them what their rights are in upholding this legislation and what defences we are giving to them.

Break in Debate

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:25 p.m.

I rise to comment on two of the new clauses. First, my hon. Friend the Minister has spoken convincingly on new clause 16 and there is widespread agreement in the House that extending the Bill to cover private places, as well as public places, is important. To add to what I said earlier, several recent knife crimes in Gloucester have been committed in public places, most tragically one at the All Nations club, one outside the Pike and Musket pub and others, but, more recently, some have been committed very much in private places—in flats and properties—and I am delighted that new clause 16 covers those places.

New clause 1 was tabled by the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson), and everyone in this House wants to see not just shop workers but everyone who engages with the public—including people who work in our railway and bus stations, who are often on the frontline against such antisocial behaviour—fully protected by the law against totally unnecessary behaviour by other members of the public.

It seems to me, and I stand to be corrected, that new clause 1 would apply only to the handling of corrosive substances or bladed instruments. Although that is a good thing, most shop workers want to know that if somebody intentionally obstructs them—in other words, if somebody acts in a threatening manner—that same behaviour would be a crime whether it is a bottle of beer, a bottle of whiskey or a bladed instrument. The new clause perhaps does not suit shop workers as well as it might, but I ask the Minister to consider taking it back to the Home Office for discussion to see what might be done about it.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:27 p.m.

I hope my hon. Friend realises that I listened with great care to the speech of the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson), and I agree that we want to ensure that our shop workers feel protected, as well as being protected, by the law. If I may, I will reflect further on new clause 1, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and organisations involved in the retail arena, including trade unions, to the Home Office for a roundtable so we can further discuss the concerns that have been raised this afternoon.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:28 p.m.

I am very grateful to the Minister. That is a really good step forward, and I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Delyn would like to comment.

Break in Debate

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones - Parliament Live - Hansard

I rise to speak in support of new clause 6. I was pleased to serve on the Public Bill Committee, and I am glad to see the Bill finally coming back to the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) spoke passionately about why new clause 6 is so important. Simply put, it says that the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament on the causes of youth violence with offensive weapons. We are trying to fix a problem, and we have to understand what that problem is before we can fix it.

I want to make two points. The first is about data. We do not know where the people who commit these offences get their knives from. We do not know at what exact time of day these knife crimes are committed, although we have some evidence. We do not know how many people are involved in gangs who commit knife offences. That is really important, because a very small number—somewhere between 3% and 25%, depending on what we measure—of people who commit knife offences are in gangs. There is a lot that we do not understand about what is going on in this situation that we are trying to fix.

The second important part of the new clause relates to evidence. There is a growing consensus that there is an epidemic of violence—the Secretary of State has said it, and the Minister said it today. It is spreading out across the country. Violence breeds violence. There is evidence that can fix this growing national problem. We know from what has worked in other areas how effective interventions can be when they are evidence-based. I think of my friend, Tessa Jowell, whose memorial service you and I attended recently, Mr Speaker. Her interventions in introducing Sure Start and the teenage pregnancy reduction strategy were evidence-based and had a real impact. That is what we need to seek to do.

My final point is that when we look at the evidence, we need to look at the increasing number of children who are being excluded and finding themselves lost to the system. If we are trying to fix this national problem, why on earth would anyone want to vote against this new clause?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:55 p.m.

I thank all Members for a most interesting and informative debate. I want to clarify a point made by the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) about the applicability of measures on corrosive substances in Northern Ireland. Those measures are within scope for Northern Ireland. It is possible for them to extend to Northern Ireland, and I will ask officials to look into that with their Northern Irish colleagues.

I thank the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) for his contribution on new clause 23. Anyone who sells or hires, offers for sale or hire, exposes or has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire anything contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 is guilty of an offence. That applies to not only people but bodies corporate. Where the user of a website places advertisements for anything contained in the order on that website, the website service provider may be able to rely on the defence under regulation 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. Whether regulation 19 applies will depend on the facts of the case. There may well be jurisdictional issues if the service provider is based overseas. Regulation 19 does not apply where the provider of the website is offering the items for sale directly and where the provider had actual knowledge of the unlawful activity. We therefore consider that the provider of a website who sells items on it directly would be likely to be caught under the wording of the legislation. Where the provider of the website is enabling advertisements to be placed by others, the defence under regulation 19 may be available. That is an awful lot of legalese, but this discussion is timely, as the Government prepare the online harms White Paper.

I turn to amendments 8, 9 and 10, tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield). Age verification checks cannot be done only at the point when the seller is processing the sale and preparing the item to be dispatched. Checks also need to be done when the item is handed to the purchaser. That is why we are stopping bladed products—namely, articles with a blade capable of causing serious injury—from being delivered to residential addresses. The amendments would undermine what the Bill is trying to achieve and seem to introduce some sort of validation scheme by the Government to enable certain online sellers—those awarded trusted seller status—to deliver bladed products to residential addresses. That goes against what the Bill seeks.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 5:55 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I am conscious of the time, so I will not. I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, but it is important to make it clear that we do not believe his amendments fit in with the overall structure of the Bill.

Finally, on new clause 6, we published the serious violence strategy this year, which already takes a public health approach, stressing the importance of early intervention and prevention through a multi-agency approach to tackle the root causes. We appreciate the need to keep parliamentarians informed of progress on delivery of the strategy, but we do not believe that a statutory requirement is necessary. We believe that scrutiny will be provided by the serious violence taskforce and the House, and we hope that the House can contribute its views on this very important piece of legislation.

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Break in Debate

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 6:54 p.m.

I shall not talk for long; the Whips are worried that I might inadvertently talk out the Bill, which of course I would never want to do because I absolutely support it.

As I did not do so earlier, I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for giving me a lot of her time and reassuring me about some measures about which I was concerned. Across party lines, some great suggestions have been made this afternoon. A lot of them came from the Opposition Benches, and I would struggle to vote against them. I hope that in a few months the Minister will assess whether the measures in the Bill as passed will fix some of the issues; if not, we should reconsider new clauses 5 and 26, and perhaps some of the other proposals, because they have a lot to recommend them. Overall, I support the Bill and hope that the House will give it a Third Reading.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Nov 2018, 6:55 p.m.

It is now my challenge not to talk out the Bill.

It is a pleasure for me to close the Third Reading debate on this important Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, the measures in it will prevent young people from accessing dangerous weapons such as knives and acid and causing irreparable damage with them, not only to the lives of others but to their own lives.

I am genuinely grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members from all parties—particularly those from Northern Ireland—for their valuable contributions and for the debates that we have had on the Bill. We have had a series of constructive debates, and at times like this the House is at its best, so I thank hon. Friends and colleagues for their contributions.

Particular thanks must go to my hon. Friends who served on the Bill Committee and scrutinised the Bill line by line. It was an absolute pleasure to serve with them in doing that important work. I also thank the Parliamentary Private Secretaries. We do not often get the chance to thank them, but they are the ones who make sure that the political wheels run smoothly. Of course, I also thank the officials, who have done an incredible amount of work on the Bill. [Interruption.] I am being prompted, but I had made a note, so now that I have finished thanking the officials I thank the Whip, the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), because I know which side my bread is buttered. I also thank those in the Whips Office for their hard work on the Bill. Every time that we excited and enthusiastic Ministers put policies and legislation before the House, it is the Whips Office that has to deliver it, and I am extremely grateful for the help I have had on this Bill.

I extend my thanks to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) and the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) for their contributions, not only today but in Committee, and for the constant attention that they pay to this really important issue. I hope that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford will keep pressing her case for a debate at tomorrow’s business questions.

I