HL Deb 09 May 1961 vol 231 cc121-2

4.10 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, as your Lordships are aware, the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act became law in May, 1959, and it has, I believe, been largely successful in removing the danger of these flick knives, particularly from young children. At the time when the original Bill was drafted it was thought by lawyers and non-lawyers alike that its wording covered all possible eventualities concerning the sale or hire, or offer for sale or hire, of these knives. However, in November of last year an interesting decision was reached in a case where a shopkeeper was prosecuted for exposing in his window a flick knife, with a ticket on it marked, "Ejector knife—4s."

When this case came before the Queen's Bench Divisional Court the question was whether this exhibiting of the flick knife with a price label on it constituted an offer for sale within the meaning of Section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959. This section reads: Any person who manufacturers, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or lends or gives to any other person any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife, sometimes known as a 'flick knife' or 'flick gun' … shall be guilty of an offence". I will not bother your Lordships by reading out in full the words of the Lord Chief Justice, as printed in The Times of November 11, but will merely refer to the salient point. This was that the law of contract of this country says that the display of an article with a price on it in a shop window is merely an invitation to trade and not an offer for sale. This means, in fact, that a shopkeeper may expose an article for sale with a price tag upon it but, according to the law, is not bound to sell it. Since the 1959 Act does not use the words "exposed for the purpose of sale", the shopkeeper in this particular case was found not guilty. It is to rectify this omission that the Bill has been introduced.

Another difficulty which has arisen, and which was pointed out by the Government during the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, is that since the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland it is possible for these weapons to be imported into Northern Ireland and then brought into this country. This does not constitute the importation which is prohibited by Section 1 (2) of the Act. At the request of the Northern Ireland Government, it was therefore suggested by Her Majesty's Government that the new clause relating to Northern Ireland be included in this Bill. I hope that this House will accept that these provisions are necessary, and that the Bill will now receive your Lordships' undivided support. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Morris of Kenwood.)


My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord and his honourable friend in another place upon introducing this Bill, and I can assure your Lordships that the Bill will close the gap in the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959, to which the noble Lord referred. I commend this Bill to your Lordships, and I would mention that your Lordships might be interested to see the selection of these offensive weapons which is now in the Library of the House.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.