Offensive Weapons Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 27th June 2018.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 4:44 pm, 27th June 2018

My hon. Friend is right about that. Those who see these things as the opening of a Pandora’s box are often right to see proposals in that way, and I am inclined to think that we are not necessarily looking at this from the right end of the telescope. I would much prefer a far more rigorous approach to sentencing, so that it actually acts as a deterrent, and my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester and others have intimated the same. I am not convinced that the criminal minds, the modern-day Fagins who recruit these often vulnerable youngsters to commit these crimes to aggrandise the Fagins of, particularly but not exclusively, the drug world, will give tuppence ha’penny about what statute law says. If they want to get hold of a shotgun or something else, they will jolly well do it. We need to be focusing a lot more attention on sentencing than we have hitherto.

Obviously, we have do this as part of a legislative mosaic, which, as others have said, calls for even greater intergovernmental and cross-departmental working. The Times has been running an interesting series of articles this week. It has alluded to all the things that we know about gang culture—family breakdown, the lack of feeling of belonging, a lack of aspiration, poor educational attainment, and that self-breeding fear and anxiety that says, “I live in an unsafe area so I must tool up to protect myself.” In that way, the cycle just continues and continues. A lot of additional work needs to be done and other Departments need to be involved in it.

I wish to say a few words about the impact on small businesses. I do not understand the logic of a lot of these proposals on where and how one can sell, and on not delivering to a residential address. I am sure the Minister will be able to fill, to the point of overflowing, the lacuna in my knowledge of this, but I cannot understand the differential in respect of being able to have something delivered to a business premises or a post office, but not being able to have it delivered to one’s own personal address—likewise, where the Bill says that even if someone has ordered something online, they have to collect it from the branch. That is fine for national operators, but I have received a number of representations on this. Some have come from Mr Duncan Chandler, an artisan manufacturer of woodland and survival knives in my constituency, who is anxious about this matter and the impact it has on his business. Others have come from Mr Philip Hart, who runs the excellent Harts of Stur, 80% of whose kitchenware, which includes knives, is sold online across the country—the company has only one branch and it is in North Dorset. I ask the Minister to think in Committee about the definition of “knife”. I am talking about rather peculiar things here and am flicking through my notes to try to find the reference point I was looking for but I cannot. I shall say merely refer to a constituent of mine who manufactures and sells straight razors for wet shaving. Are they to be included in the definition of “knife” or not? Will they fall within the new requirements?

In conclusion, I support this legislation. If it is pressed to a Division, I shall certainly vote in favour of its Second Reading, but with a presumption that there will be some fairly dramatic changes in Committee: a greater understanding of the needs and difficulties of small businesses in particular, and an element of rural proofing. We are trying to address a national issue, but as it stands the Bill does not reflect some of the differentials between urban and rural living. I draw comfort from the fact that the Minister understands rural issues to her fingertips, representing, as she does, the second most beautiful part of the country after North Dorset.