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Shipping: Piracy

House of Lords written question – answered on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the statement by Lord Howell of Guildford on 29 June (Official Report, col. 1758) "that armed guards on UK registered vessels would be technically illegal", under what statute that is so.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Lords Spokesperson (Department for Transport), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

At present, published government policy is strongly to discourage the deployment of private armed guards on board UK flag vessels, but HMG are now considering amending this to a position which recognises that engaging armed personnel is an option for UK flagged ship owners to combat piracy in exceptional circumstances.

The Home Office is currently looking at the applicability of UK firearms legislation on board UK flag ships on the high seas. If legal opinion is that the Firearms Act 1968 does apply, a decision will need to be made as to whether it is appropriate and feasible to grant the authority of the Secretary of State for the possession of prohibited firearms (classes of firearms that are not sanctioned to be kept on board as part of ships equipment) in these circumstances. On the assumption that the Firearms Act 1968 does apply to UK flagged ships on the high seas, without such an authority it would be illegal to carry such firearms on board UK flagged ships. Even in circumstances where possession of firearms is duly authorised, their use must also be lawful. Use of such weapons other than in self defence or defence of others risks criminal (and civil) liability.

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Annotations

David Wright
Posted on 21 Jul 2011 1:00 pm (Report this annotation)

Thank goodness the Firearms Act 1968 didn’t apply during WWII.