Amendment 88

Part of Offensive Weapons Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 4:15 pm, 4th March 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for returning us to this difficult issue about what we do in relation to overseas sellers of knives. Noble Lords will recall that the issue is that while we can place requirements, such as those under Clause 18, on remote sellers based in the UK, we cannot do the same in relation to overseas sellers. This is because we cannot practically take extraterritorial jurisdiction over sellers based abroad. We have tried to address this through the provisions in Clause 21. These provisions make it an offence for delivery companies in the UK, which are operating under specific arrangements to deliver bladed articles on behalf of overseas sellers, to deliver those articles into the hands of a person under the age of 18.

We accept that this is not the complete answer to the problem because overseas sellers can simply send the items unmarked through the international mail. This is exactly the situation that my noble friend’s amendment seeks to address. It would provide a power to confiscate bladed articles that are sent from overseas to a UK residential address and which are, first, not subject to specific arrangements between the delivery company in the UK and the overseas seller and, secondly, not labelled to show that age must be verified on delivery.

Although it is not clear from the amendment, the power is presumably to be exercised by Border Force because the amendments refer to detecting the articles in transit from overseas. The amendment would mean, in effect, that only bladed articles sold overseas which are subject to specific delivery arrangements in the UK would be allowed. I can therefore sympathise with the intention behind this amendment.

However, there are a number of problems with the amendment. At present, Border Force can seize two types of bladed articles. It can seize weapons prohibited under Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, such as zombie knives and death stars, and Section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, which covers flick knives and gravity knives, because the importation of these weapons is banned. It can also seize any weapon which it believes is evidence in relation to a criminal offence.

This amendment would mean that Border Force would have a power to seize items which are not prohibited by law and where they are not evidence in relation to a criminal offence. This would mean that a wide range of items which are going to a residential address in the UK from overseas could be seized and handed to the police to be destroyed. The amendment is not limited to overseas sales, so it would mean that bladed articles sent from a relative overseas to someone in the UK could also be seized. It would mean that someone bringing back a bladed article from their holiday, such as a souvenir, could have it seized or that a fencer returning from a competition overseas with their swords could have them confiscated by Border Force. It would mean that articles which have been legally sold overseas and legally bought by someone in the UK could be seized.

Secondly, the amendment assumes that there is some way of detecting such articles. Not all items coming into the UK are scanned, so unless Border Force happens to come across bladed articles as part of routine searches, they are unlikely to be detected. Even if such items were detected, Border Force would need to ascertain whether they were being sent to a residential address. For example, it would need to decide whether 12 High Street is a residential or business address. Finally, it would need to establish whether they were subject to specific arrangements between a delivery company and the overseas seller. It would then have to have arrangements for handing the articles to the police for destruction. This would all have significant resource implications for Border Force. It is for all these reasons that I am afraid I cannot support my noble friend’s amendment. I hope that in these circumstances he will withdraw it.