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

Part of Offensive Weapons Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 28th November 2018.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 5:15 pm, 28th November 2018

I shall be brief, as lots of hon. Members wish to speak.

The provisions in the Bill in relation to corrosive substances and knives are also largely welcomed on the SNP Benches, but I do not think anyone is arguing that the new provisions will transform or revolutionise the fight against knife crime or acid attacks; they can merely play a part in reducing the number of lives affected.

There has been close working between the UK and Scottish Governments, including on amendment 56, which the Minister highlighted. Many of the other amendments in the group would not extend to Scotland, or do not seem intended to do so, so we would argue that further changes to the criminal law of Scotland should be left to that Parliament and I shall speak only to one or two of the amendments tabled.

I welcome the changes to the defence relating to possession of swords for religious ceremonies. We congratulate all involved in tabling and supporting amendment 22 and we welcome the Government response, which we trust will ensure that the new offence of possessing certain particularly offensive weapons catches only those who it is really aimed at, not those involved in religious ceremonies.

It is important to speak about new clauses 1 and 14. We agree absolutely that they flag up a serious problem that must be addressed, and it is good that it has been highlighted today. In Committee, we heard evidence about the growing problems faced by shop workers and the increasing number of thefts and attacks that they face. As part of the recent Respect for Shopworkers Week and USDAW’s Freedom from Fear campaign—like other Members, I suspect—I visited a local Co-op store to hear about the challenges faced there and the steps needed to help support shop workers. I totally agree that the problem must be tackled.

A private Member’s Bill is being finalised for tabling in the Scottish Parliament in relation to the protection of shop workers, having attracted the requisite cross-party support. The Scottish Government have said that they have an open mind on whether they would support such a Bill. The proposals contained in the Bill consultation for new offences cover not just shop workers selling age-restricted goods, but bar staff, and indeed door staff. I appreciate that those tabling the amendments before us today have been restricted by the scope of the Bill before us, but as the consultation in the Scottish Parliament pointed out, age restrictions on tobacco and alcohol are almost certainly the most common flashpoints, and if we are to take a legislative approach, I would argue that ideally that would need to cover such sales, too, rather than simply corrosive substances and knives. In short, although I sympathise with the arguments that have been made today, I leave it to the Scottish Parliament to decide the issue holistically in respect of that offence in Scotland.

I will not further delay the House by talking about other amendments with which I sympathise but that relate to devolved matters. New clause 6, which would give rise to a reporting requirement, is slightly shoehorned into the Bill. A general report on the causes of youth violence would clearly be better than one restricted to youth violence with offensive weapons only, but it would, of course, be open to the Secretary of State to go further. Although crime is devolved, some of the possible causes that would be reported on under new clause 6 are not; they are reserved. To finish on a happy note, we willingly shoehorn in our support for new clause 6.