HL Deb 24 February 1997 vol 578 cc970-82

7.17 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill had all-party support at all stages in the other place. It is important as a clear demonstration that our society does not tolerate the carrying or marketing of knives for offensive or defensive purposes.

Clause 1 deals with the unlawful marketing of so-called combat knives and other knives which may stimulate or encourage violent behaviour using a knife as a weapon. The terms "suitable for combat" and "violent behaviour" are defined in the Bill.

Clause 2 deals with advertising those types of knives.

Clause 3 provides for various exemptions for the Armed Forces and for knives which may be defined as antiques or curios.

Clause 4 provides statutory defences of mens rea and due diligence.

Clauses 5 and 6 provide for supplementary powers of entry, seizure and retention and for forfeiture of knives and publications upon conviction.

The second part of the Bill and its provisions particularly in Clause 8 provides additional powers for police to stop and search persons within a specific locality where serious violence is anticipated. Authority may be given by an inspector for 24 hours in the first instance and extended by a superintendent for a further 24 hours. This section of the Bill could clearly be extremely useful where violence is anticipated—at a football match, for example, or where there is regularly trouble in a town centre on Saturday night.

This is not an ambitious Bill but I believe that it has symbolic importance and could be of some practical use in curbing the knives culture. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Hilton of Eggardon.)

7.20 p.m.

Lord Rowallan

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to address this House. I am the first member of my family to speak in your Lordships' House for over 23 years. The last person was my grandfather; he was the Chief Scout and Governor of Tasmania and very active in your Lordships' Chamber. My father did not take his writ and I waited until I felt I could give the House its due deference by being here on a regular basis. I am grateful for the support I have received from both the staff and your Lordships since coming here.

The Knives Bill introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, gives me the opportunity, after only two weeks, to make my maiden speech. But I am concerned about the Bill. I fear that it may be the result of the slight knee-jerk reaction we see happening at the moment in response to media speculation. I feel that we may be introducing a Bill to control the 1 per cent. of the population which cause trouble with knives at the expense of the other 99 per cent.

By "1 per cent." I mean this. The other day my wife was a juror in a murder trial. The defendant claimed that it was self-defence. As the case went on it turned out that the defendant after the initial skirmish had gone into his house, taken the knife—some 20 inches in length—from the top of a wardrobe and gone back and murdered his victim. I am sure we are all agreed that that is what the Bill is aimed at, and no one would quarrel with that. However, several people may be badly affected by the Bill if it goes through, as I read it, because it goes much further than that.

The common kitchen knife is found in every household in the country. It ranges from one inch to around 12 inches. In the wrong hands it can be a lethal weapon, as poor Mr. Bobbit found when his wife cut off a vital part of his anatomy while he slept. Sportsmen, such as stalkers and gamekeepers, must have their knives for their trade. If a deer is not gralloched immediately after it is shot, it becomes totally unfit for human consumption—and venison is an important part of today's meat trade. Butchers must have knives on open display to cut up our butcher's meat requirements.

For me the most important and potentially the most difficult aspect of the Knives Bill is the impact on the skean-dhu. The skean-dhu is a true part of the Scottish national costume. It is a short instrument with a pointed end and a serrated edge. It fits into the scabbard and goes down inside one's stocking. It is essential to the costume. Under Scots law—the latest being the Carrying of Knives etc. (Scotland) Act 1993—it is not an offence to carry a knife as part of one's national costume, for use at work or for religious reasons. The Bill before us proposes to change not only Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, but also the Scottish equivalent, the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995. It therefore affects all of Great Britain and seems to override all previous Acts.

The Bill proposes only three defences for carrying or selling a knife: first, that one is selling it to or is a member of the armed services; secondly, that the knife concerned must be an antique or a curio; and the third is a category yet to be prescribed. As the knives that I am talking about do not fit into the first two categories, I hope that they will become prescribed.

I appreciate that any sensible policeman will take the view that a sportsman or a butcher has a right to have a knife. But how does the shopkeeper stop a shopper from buying a new kitchen knife? How does he differentiate between whether it will be used for legitimate or illegitimate means? It will be extremely difficult for him. Will a kilt hire company give out only half of the Scots costume to a Scotsman who wants to go to his wedding by not giving him his skean-dhu? Am I to be accused as I walk along any street in Britain of carrying an offensive weapon because I have my skean-dhu in my stocking? Will we in this country end up needing a licence to possess a knife in the same way as we need a licence to possess a gun?

I venture to say that it is not possible to legislate for the "could be" or the "might be". The Bill seeks to stop the idiot—the criminal—from owning a knife. I am all for that, and I am sure that we all are. But we must be careful not to legislate against the legitimate use of the knife by the 99 per cent. of law-abiding citizens who want a knife for our business, our home or our national dress. Nor must we put the shopkeeper into a difficult situation whereby he finds it almost impossible to decide whether he should sell a knife because, if he sells it to the wrong person, he could be prosecuted.

I ask that my noble friend gives an assurance that somehow the knives to which I refer will become prescribed articles. How the Minister will do that, I am not certain. Knives are a difficult subject. In the right hands they are perfectly safe, but in the wrong hands they are lethal. I am concerned that if we are not careful with this Bill we will create a monster that is impossible to police.

7.25 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, the Bill has some parallel with the Firearms (Amendment) Bill and I was anticipating it with trepidation. But noble Lords will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to become heavily involved in the debates, though I thought it appropriate to say a few words at Second Reading.

This morning I rang the Government Whip's Office and said that I should like to speak on the Bill. I received a wonderful reception—I now understand why. I saw the speakers' list and found that I had the honour of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, on what we have now found to be an excellent maiden speech. I have already enjoyed many interesting conversations with the noble Lord in a comfortable place not a million miles from where we are now sitting. He mentioned his wife's experience in court, which may be similar to my experience on jury service. I intend to speak about that in a few moments.

The Bill is different from the firearms Bill, as it is not completely objectionable and addresses real anxieties of the public. I suggest that far more members of the public in our country will have been threatened with knives than with guns. What concerns me is the difficulty of obtaining convictions under the Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, mentioned football matches. Before I came to your Lordships' House I was summoned for jury service, which was an extremely interesting experience. One of the cases we heard concerned a young man. He was charged with having an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful reason or excuse. He had one of those trimming knives where one breaks off the blade to expose a new blade. He had it concealed in his underpants while trying to get into Spurs football ground for a London versus Derby match. The man was acquitted. His excuse was that he was using the knife earlier in the day to fit a car radio in South London. Since that time we have passed legislation to restrict the so-called right to silence. Personally, I did not believe that he had the skill to fit the radio in the first place; but I was quite sure that he knew exactly how to remove a radio from a car.

The point is that there are already suitable offences in law but it is difficult to obtain convictions for them. I also have a little anxiety about exemptions under Clause 3; the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, touched on that point. The clause provides an exemption for armed forces of any country. That is interesting to me because I am a serving member of the Territorial Army. An advertisement could be held to be targeted at me or at any other soldiers in UK service, and I am a little concerned that that would provide an easy defence for someone being charged under the Bill. I wondered therefore whether it was strictly necessary. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, will touch on that point when she winds up. Otherwise, I am happy with the Bill.

7.29 p.m.

Lord Calverley

My Lords, I am most grateful for this opportunity to take part in the debate on the Knives Bill. It has provided me with an ideal platform to make my maiden speech, especially in the light of my previous chosen career, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, for introducing this Bill.

I have been advised that brevity and non-controversiality should the hallmarks of one's first speech, and I assure your Lordships that, as regards the former, I shall conform implicitly. The latter, of course, is subject to each person's opinion and interpretations.

For the past 33 years it has been my duty and honour to serve the people of West Yorkshire, and, for a while, the people of Belfast, as a police officer. I have been engaged for the majority of that time as an operational detective, and I have lost count of the number of incidents I have dealt with which involved the use of knives.

To witness at first hand the horrific injuries to victims, and the heartache to their families, caused by vindictive and malicious individuals wielding knives, is most traumatic. Unfortunately, it is, however, an everyday occurrence in society in modern times. The cost to the public purse, in the treatment of victims in the hospitals, and the investigation of the circumstances and subsequent legal process, by the police and the courts, must be staggering. Knives, like guns, are totally inanimate and innocuous articles until they are in the hands of human beings.

I recall an incident when a young man, who had not yet attained the age when he could enter and purchase drink in licensed premises, persisted in participating in the activities of the games room of such an establishment. He was repeatedly asked to leave and was eventually evicted by staff and clientele. He returned a short time later, having armed himself with a particularly gruesome looking diver's knife. It had a blade eight inches in length with deep jagged serrations. In a fit of pique, he plunged it into the neck of one of the men present, and it was nothing short of a miracle that the blade missed all vital organs. The victim made a full recovery in time. The youth later served a short term of imprisonment for that and other offences.

Another incident which comes to mind was when an off-duty colleague, out shopping with his wife, recognised a person whom he knew to be wanted on warrant for a relatively minor offence. He asked his wife to get assistance and he approached the man with a view to arresting him. A struggle ensued and my colleague, who perhaps, fortunately for him, was a little overweight, was stabbed in the stomach. He managed to hold onto his attacker until the troops arrived and the man was taken into custody. A further charge of attempted murder was now added to this man's problems, which, I might add, was later reduced to GBH wounding with intent to resist arrest.

The list is endless, and I shall not burden your Lordships with any further accounts, other than to say that no one with a social conscience could fail to have been moved by the murder of the headmaster, Mr. Philip Lawrence, who was merely going about his daily routine.

I am sure your Lordships would agree that, unlike guns, knives have been around far longer, and probably initially owe their invention to man's need to feed himself. Primitive man soon realised that knives were useful as a means of protection, and for building his shelter.

It is not so long ago that one could regularly see boy scouts wearing sheath knives and proudly sporting woodcraft badges and the like, which they had earned under the supervision of a scout leader, using those very knives. It is a sad indictment of modern society that a young man can no longer enjoy this freedom as a result, I am convinced, of the proliferation of knives of all kinds, especially the type of "combat knife" made fashionable by cult figures such as Rambo and Crocodile Dundee.

"Combat" by definition means a battle or contest, and mortal combat is a battle fought to the death. Surely, then, the only persons who could reasonably be in lawful possession of such weapons would be soldiers undergoing training or actually engaged in the defence of the realm. It is this type of knife which has been instrumental in the introduction of the present legislation, and it has been said that the main stumbling block is that of definition.

As I am sure your Lordships are aware, all offensive weapons fall into three categories. These are: articles used as such; articles adapted for use as such; and articles made for that specific purpose. Knives of every kind are liable to fall into one of these categories when they are not being used for their intended purpose.

Most knives of a domestic, sporting or industrial nature are readily identifiable, and are essential tools, and as such, pose no threat when being used for their lawful purpose. Problems do arise, however, when a knife and its intended use, or purpose, is not easily identified, and I see no reason why a legal onus should not be placed upon manufacturers or importers to justify that there is a genuine use for it.

My Lords, there are no conceivable circumstances in a peace-loving society for the public sale, distribution or ownership of knives manufactured and marketed solely as deadly weapons. I also submit that there is a need for tighter supervision of the sale of knives which to all intents and purposes resemble the so-called combat knives but come under the heading of sporting knives. I totally support this Bill and look forward to its speedy passage.

In conclusion, I should like to place on record my thanks to my noble friend Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham for the help he has given me during the past week, and also to noble Lords on all sides of the House with whom I have come in contact and who have shown me great kindness.

7.36 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, on introducing this Second Reading. I must especially congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, on a superb maiden speech. It is very refreshing to have, so to speak, a former foot soldier of the police in our midst. We are accustomed to having a fair number of retired senior police officers sitting among us. The noble Lord was until recently a member of the West Yorkshire police. He represents the constables—the lower ranks—of the police force, without whom nothing is possible. I should, with haste, declare my interest in that I am a political adviser to the Police Federation and as such I cannot advocate anything connected with the police force or members of that federation. However, I hope I shall be in order if I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, who was until recently, if I am not mistaken, a member of that federation.

I should also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, on an excellent maiden speech. The only time I have ever carried a knife was when I was a very small boy scout and the noble Lord's predecessor was the chief scout. Sadly, times have changed since then, and the carrying of knives by boy scouts is no longer permitted.

We need to work carefully on what is to be allowed as regards the carrying of knives, the use of knives, the possession of knives and the marketing of knives. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, said that the Bill seeks to prevent the marketing and carrying of knives. That is excellent as far as it goes. I wish though that it were possible—perhaps she will indicate to me whether it is possible—to extend the provision. I cannot see why knives that are designed for combat should be sold or made at all. I certainly believe that anything that carries a mark suggesting "Rambo", "killer" or "fight" should be banned outright.

It could be possible to set up some type of approval system which would enable the authorities to examine each type of knife that is manufactured to make sure that it is the kind of knife that would be permissible in normal circumstances. I would be interested to hear what my noble friend and the noble Baroness have to say about that. It is surely not beyond the wit of man to distinguish between a knife that is designed for carving a joint and one that is designed for combat. Even in the case raised by my noble friend Lord Rowallan, a knife that is part of one's dress can surely be made to be blunt or be of a type which would not make it suitable for killing a person. Cannot that be the way out for those who sell skean-dhu or knives for other types of decoration?

I am glad to see that Clause 8 of the Bill gives authority to a police officer of the rank of inspector or under to authorise the search of premises where knives may be used. I believe that that is an important provision which should be given your Lordships' support. I am very pleased to say that the Bill has all-party support and I look forward to hearing what my noble friend Lady Blatch and the noble Baroness have to say about my proposal that there should be some system of type approval. Otherwise I give my full support to this Motion for Second Reading.

7.40 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, on introducing the Bill and also extend my appreciation of two excellent maiden speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan and from my noble friend Lord Calverley. What was particularly impressive to me about the contribution from my noble friend was his practical experience of the impact of knives on people. He spoke with some emotion at being a witness at first hand of the terrible injuries that knives can inflict. He described what a traumatic thing it is for a person who is in the front line in the police force to have to deal with knife incidents.

I myself see far too many times the photographs of the horrific injuries that knives occasion, not just the external injuries, but also the injuries taken at post mortem. Reference has been made to the Philip Lawrence case. I declare an interest in having defended in that particular case not the person convicted of murder but a co-accused and in having seen exactly what happened in that terrible tragedy. In addition to what your Lordships would expect as regards the death of the headmaster, it was terrible to see a group of youngsters of 14 and 15 years of age arming themselves with horrific weapons and carrying them around the streets of this capital.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, we have come a long way from the attitudes of the past. There has been resistance over many years to restrictions on knives because, as my noble friend Lord Calverley said, they have been around for a very long time. I believe that we all started in our own youthful years with the little scout knife, but as my children were growing up the scout knife became the diving knife, which was something rather more sinister. Then that knife became the combat knife. Somewhere around 15 to 20 years ago, we entered into a culture whereby violence became glorified in a way that those who had actually faced it during the wartime years would have abhorred. As I recall it, in post-war years the use of a knife was considered not something that the people of this country would normally indulge in.

That glorification of violence that we see on our television and film screens and read about has been matched by lurid advertising, which feeds fantasies. It creates a deadly culture and makes youngsters believe that it is clever to go around carrying larger and larger knives. They do that not in the name of sport.

The noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, said that many people would be badly affected by the provisions of this Bill and referred to the fact that the common kitchen knife is used in many murder cases. He is absolutely right. It frequently happens that an ordinary domestic knife is Exhibit One in a murder case. But in most such cases these are sudden domestic passions which spring up. One member of the family unhappily and fatally reaches for the nearest weapon and inflicts the most dreadful wounds. That is a very different thing from the carrying of knives by youngsters as some form of machismo to show what kind of big people they believe they are. It is right that restrictions should be put on the marketing of knives of this sort, which is done in the name of profit. I welcome the Bill.

7.46 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, for her initiative in taking forward the important proposals in the Bill which, I am happy to say, the Government fully support. Perhaps I may join with all other noble Lords in thanking the two maiden speakers in this debate. As everybody has said, we have had two excellent speeches, one from my noble friend Lord Rowallan who has been patient and who has taken his seat in this House at a time when he believes he can make a real contribution. We look forward to hearing many more speeches from him and from the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, who speaks from first-hand experience of the impact of this evil of carrying and using knives in the community. Again, we look forward to hearing very much more from the noble Lord who will bring that ground roots experience to this House and to our debates.

These proposals are properly seen as the latest in a series of measures which are aimed at the evil of illicit knife-carrying. In the first place, the Government introduced in Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the offence of carrying a knife in public, with the onus on anyone charged with this offence to prove to the court that he had good reason for having the knife with him.

We should nonetheless do everything we can to stop the sale of articles which have no legitimate use and can be used as weapons. That is why Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced a power under which the Home Secretary can prohibit the manufacture, sale and importation of such articles, and 14 have been banned in this way. These include push daggers, butterfly knives and swordsticks; and are in addition to flick knives and gravity knives which were already covered by the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State was already consulting the Association of Chief Police Officers about ways in which the law could be further strengthened when the fatal stabbing of head teacher Philip Lawrence occurred, on 8th December 1995. That tragic event left us in no doubt that we should bring forward these proposals at the earliest opportunity, and the result was the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 which received Royal Assent on 4th July.

This among other matters increased the maximum penalty for the offence of carrying a knife in public from a £1,000 fine to two years in prison or an unlimited fine; made it an offence to carry a knife or offensive weapon on school premises without good reason; and it created the new offence of selling a knife to a person under the age of 16. We have continued to consider what further measures can be taken in this area. We share the widespread concern which exists about the availability of so called "combat" knives.

As I have said, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has the power under Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to ban the sale of specified articles. The difficulty in applying this to so-called "combat" knives is that they are no different in their essential features from knives which have legitimate uses. We believe that the proposal in the Bill to make it an offence to market a knife in a way which indicates that it is suitable for combat, or is likely to stimulate violent behaviour with it, is an approach which is workable and which will be particularly effective in the area of advertising. I would not claim that irresponsible advertising of knives is a widespread problem, but where it does occur it is cause for great concern and it is right that there are sanctions available in the criminal law to deal with it.

The Bill will also extend the Section 60 powers to Scotland. It was originally thought that the police in Scotland had sufficient powers of stop and search under common law. Following consultation with the Scottish police associations, the Government believe there would be advantages in the Scottish police having a statutory power akin to that available in England and Wales. The provisions in the Bill will provide that power to the police in Scotland. This is a move to which the Scottish police associations have given their support.

The police associations for England and Wales have all expressed their support for the Bill's provisions. In particular, the chairman of the Police Federation has welcomed setting the rank of the authorising officer at inspector level and allowing the initial 24-hour period to be extended for a further 24 hours. The Police Federation believes this will enable the powers under Section 60 to be effective and allow the police to react more quickly to local problems. The superintendents' association supports the proposals, including that requiring a superintendent's authorisation to extend the initial period, and that requiring authorisations given at inspector level to be reported as soon as is practicable to a superintendent. The Association of Chief Police Officers has similarly expressed unreserved support for the proposals. We take this as an endorsement of the measures in the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Rowallan asked whether the Bill would stop the carrying or purchase of a skean-dhu, or knives used by deer hunters. The carrying of knives is unaffected by the Bill. The amendment to Section 47 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 does not bear upon this. The law on knife carrying in Scotland is found in Sections 47 and 49 of the 1995 Act. The equivalent provisions apply in England and Wales. Under Section 47, it is an offence to carry a knife in public with intent to cause injury. Under Section 49, it is an offence to carry a knife other than a small, folding pocket knife in public without good reason or lawful authority.

Specifically, it is a defence for someone charged with an offence under Section 49 to show that he had the knife with him for use at work, for religious reasons or as part of any national costume. The last defence—"as part of any national costume"—is there to protect the position of the Scotsman with his skean-dhu or the Gurkha with his kukri. If, however, someone carries such a thing with intent to cause injury or not as part of a national costume or for any other good reason, that person will be liable to prosecution. A deer hunter carrying a knife for legitimate use in the course of hunting or, indeed, anyone else carrying a knife for a legitimate purpose, benefits from the "good reason" defence. Ultimately, it is, of course, for the courts to decide in any individual case whether the defence is met. The onus is on the defendant to prove it.

As far as purchase is concerned, as long as a skean-dhu or hunting knife is not marketed in a way which may constitute an offence under the proposals of the Bill—I can see no reason why they should be marketed in such a way—there will be no difficulty in selling such articles. If, for example, a skean-dhu is marketed as being good for fighting with, that will clearly be an offence, but if it is marketed simply as a traditional skean-dhu or for the purpose of being worn with Scottish national dress, there will be no offence.

I turn now to a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, regarding possible difficulties in securing a conviction for the carrying of a knife in public. That has to be a matter for the courts. It is worth recording that the offence was introduced in Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 because of the difficulties in prosecuting knife carriers under the offence of carrying an offensive weapon under Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953. The onus is on the defendant to prove that he had good reason for having the knife with him. I believe that that shows that we have done something to give the courts the powers that they need in this area. I cannot comment on the particular case mentioned by the noble Earl—

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I was not criticising the Government; I was criticising juries in general for their reluctance to convict someone who desperately needed to be convicted.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it will not be the first time that that point has been raised. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, mentioned it in his excellent maiden speech. We are giving the courts the powers and we look to the courts to reflect the anxieties of people in the community and to use their powers. That is an important point and a good message that should be carried out from this debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Calverley, suggested that manufacturers should be made to prove that their knives were being sold for legitimate purposes. I have partly covered that point except to say that it would put an unreasonable onus on manufacturers unless it were linked to a labelling requirement, in which case the measures could easily be evaded by simply labelling any offensive-looking knife to suggest that it was intended for a legitimate purpose. That would clearly offer a loophole to the unscrupulous. That is always a difficulty.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell who referred to a proposal for a system of type approval for knives. It is right that we should consider all possible approaches to tackle the problem of so-called "combat" knives. However, my noble friend's proposal would mean having a system to determine a set of standards which must be met by all knives that are sold. Those standards would deliberately exclude designs which are considered to be for combat knives. To exclude combat knives, one would need effectively to define them in the first place.

That brings us right back to the problem that the Government have been considering for a long time. I refer to the fact that we are not able to define combat knives so as to distinguish them from knives which have legitimate uses. As an aside, I have looked at the knives that I have at home. I have a pretty lethal-looking freezer knife which, by any description, sounds pretty awful. Indeed, if it were used it could do a great deal of damage. If we were able to define knives effectively, the Home Secretary would be able to use his power under Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to ban the manufacture, sale and importation of such knives. It is against that background that we have arrived at the proposal in the Bill to do something about the way in which knives are marketed.

Even if a type approval system offered a way forward in principle—as I have said, I do not believe that it does—so many different types of knives are available that establishing type approval arrangements would be a substantial enterprise which would represent a significant burden on business and on the police who would have to enforce it. There would be vast difficulties in making such a proposal work effectively.

The Bill which the noble Baroness introduced has all-party support in another place. I believe that it will enjoy all-party support in this House also. Sadly, the Bill is necessary and, with all-party support not only in this House but outside, we are pleased to lend the Bill our support for its Second Reading and for a speedy passage through the House.

7.57 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for answering most of the queries raised. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate and I congratulate those who have made excellent maiden speeches.

The question of offensive weapons has always been bedevilled by the problem of definition. This Bill moves some way towards dealing with the problems of marketing and advertising, but it does not deal with the problem of people who carry lethal kitchen knives with which they can do terrible damage. However, the Bill does provide the police with some small extra powers to search people when they think that violence may be about to be carried out.

I do not believe that the Minister replied to the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, about army knives from other countries. Other countries are specified so that there should not be a constraint on weapons manufacturers who traditionally supply the armies of other countries and who presumably would not wish their trade to be constrained. That is the intention of that provision.

I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. The Bill has important symbolic and demonstrative powers, in that it shows what our society will not tolerate. 1 hope that we shall move progressively towards a society that does not tolerate the sale, advertising and marketing of knives which are specifically intended to injure human beings. With that, I ask the House to give the Bill its Second Reading.

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