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

Part of Offensive Weapons Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 28th November 2018.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar 4:45 pm, 28th November 2018

My right hon. Friend makes a really important point. That is just another huge loophole in the Bill that will have an impact on British businesses, forcing them to be unable to compete. Ahead of Small Business Saturday, I really hope Ministers will take that under consideration.

In response to my question earlier, the Minister responded that the simple difference would be that people would just have to go to a post office to sign for these goods. In areas like mine, people often travel as far as six or eight miles to get to the nearest post office. That is a long way, so why would they not go to the nearest B&Q or other big store to buy all their DIY needs? We are driving out small online businesses who have struggled to get themselves up and running. They are losing out yet again to major stores, because we are making their customers’ lives more difficult.

My constituent is just one example of many small and medium-sized businesses across the country that could be inadvertently affected by the Bill. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and local communities, and we will all be celebrating them this weekend. I am sure the Government did not intend for the Bill to unjustly penalise online retailers and I am sure this is just an oversight in the drafting. The proposed legislation already makes very specific exemptions on bladed items for activities such as sporting or re-enactment. It would therefore not be unreasonable to extend that flexibility to decorating items which similarly support a genuine public purpose and are used regularly by law-abiding citizens.

I would also like to speak in support of amendments 8 and 9, tabled in the name of my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield, which seek to address the same problem. There will obviously be a number of other businesses—we have already heard today about the importance of Sheffield steel and Sheffield knives—affected by the poor drafting of the Bill, including in the catering and the arts and crafts industries. The amendments would create a trusted trader status entitling qualifying businesses to sell bladed products to residential premises, creating another means of protecting such legitimate businesses. As long as there was not a resulting excessive administrative burden or unnecessary delays to trading while registering, the trusted trader approach could be an effective means to ensure a satisfactory balance between necessary restrictions on the sale of blades to those who intend to use them as weapons, and ensuring legitimate businesses can continue to operate.

The Minister raised the point about overburdensome regulation in opposition to the amendments. Again, she is already asking people to send their customers to the post office, so that we try to make sure that they are not selling to those under the age of 18. We are already putting such restrictions on people. I do not think it is that burdensome to ask someone to register as a trusted trader, which is a positive thing for them to sign up to and would enhance, not jeopardise, their businesses.

I hope that the Government will look again at the amendments and recognise that there is, I am afraid, a serious flaw in the drafting of the Bill. I hope that they will work with the Opposition to amend the Bill as it continues its passage through the House, while engaging fully with the retailers and others affected. Otherwise, I am afraid that the Bill as it stands will have a disastrous effect on many of our hard-working small businesses, which are the lifeblood of economies such as mine.