|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make one short comment at this stage. When I was at sea, a sailor was expected to carry a knife. But if he ever misbehaved with that knife, or even threatened to misbehave, the mate of the ship would break off the point of the knife using a vice. I wonder whether the Government will consider allowing the police to do the same with anybody they think is misbehaving in any way with a knife or particularly something with a point on the end. I have no wish to defeat the Bill. The idea is good. However, I thought it worthwhile to raise that point.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, said, the Bill received a Second Reading in another place on 26th January and reflected deep public concern, particularly following the fatal stabbing of Philip Lawrence. We can all understand such immediate reaction to tragic events. But equally, as the House knows very well, there is always a danger of going too far. What Parliament ought to do is listen to public opinion but not be dictated to by it. Notwithstanding that, this is a useful Bill and I hope it will go some way to reducing violence on our streets.
Parliament should hesitate about any legislation which extends arrest without warrant and the powers of entry on suspicion. But, again, the powers that are in the Bill are justified in this case. I do not believe that we can expect too much in terms of results from the Bill. The prevention of crime depends primarily on resources available to the police and how they are used. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill as an acceptable measure.
Perhaps I can add one further word. As the noble Earl said, the Bill was discussed at considerable length at the various stages in another place and in the course of those continuing debates references were made to the Advertising Standards Authority, of which I am chairman. Perhaps I may change my hat and move in spirit to the Cross-Benches for a brief moment and say this, though I doubt whether there will be any uncertainty about the matter in this House.
The Advertising Standards Authority has an important role in maintaining acceptable standards in the non-broadcasting media, and that would include acceptable standards in advertising offensive weapons. It works to a code designed to represent the public interest and broadly to reflect changes in it. But it has no power to ban advertising and should not have such powers. What is or is not legal must be a matter for Parliament alone. I mention that because it should be borne in mind. I am sure the Advertising Standards Authority, if called upon, will carry out its proper duty in that respect. For those who may be interested, the Advertising Standards Authority conducted a piece of research earlier this year on weapons advertising. If any Member of your Lordships' House would like a copy of that, I can arrange for it to be made available.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, as the wholly inadequate substitute for my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey I am happy to say that we on these Benches or, rather, I on this Bench, having carefully considered it, am fully in support of the Bill which may well make a serious contribution to reducing the level of violent crime in this country.
The honourable Member for Sutton and Cheam, who I believe is not unknown to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, in introducing the Bill's Second Reading in another place, immediately drew attention to the words of Frances Lawrence, the widow of the murdered headmaster, when she said:
The honourable Member reminded us of the specific figures: of the 677 people who were the victims of murder in this country in 1994, 236 were stabbed. In London 41 per cent. of the crimes of murder involved knives or other sharp instruments and the number of people mutilated, injured or wounded by knives probably runs into many thousands.
The proposals which the Bill makes are sensible, they are clear, and they are sufficient, in every sense but one, to which I will return. The arrest without warrant for offences of carrying offensive weapons is a very necessary reform. Clauses 2 and 3, which increase the penalties, are a proper deterrent in my view. The offence of having an article with a blade or point on school premises is sadly an essential improvement to the law as we now have it, although it seems so sad that it should, in a sense, be closing the stable door after the horse has gone. The sale of knives and articles with a blade or point to persons under 16 is a long overdue restriction for which we should all be grateful.
My honourable friend Mr. Alun Michael made it clear at all the Bill's stages in another place that the Bill has the entire support of the Labour Party. He drew particular attention to the need that the law should be changed to allow the police the power of arrest for the offence of carrying an offensive weapon, although he took the liberty to point out that that was first urged by Jack Straw in 1995. The Labour Party also tried to include a ban on the advertising of offensive weapons, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, drew attention. It was rejected in another place by the Government as flawed and impracticable. We see what they meant but we are not convinced.
We would suggest that amendment would be desirable if it were not for the fact that an amendment puts into danger the timetable of the Bill. It may be that no amendments can be allowed; otherwise the Bill will fall in the Commons on 12th July, and that would be tiresome and regrettable. But if a way could be found to control advertising offensive weapons of the kind the noble Earl has read out to us, which are of no possible use in a kitchen or anywhere else and are simply means of mutilating other people, this would improve the legislation and remove what is unquestionably a temptation and often an incitement to violent crime.
With that having been said, we support the Second Reading, and we shall assist the Bill in its progress through your Lordships' House in every way that we can. So I can say to the noble Baroness the Minister, "It's a fair cop, guv, and we'll come quietly".
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I may first of all say that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, is no poor substitute for his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. We have enjoyed his spirited defence of the Bill and his support for it.
This has been a brief but important debate. As my noble friend Lord Lauderdale has indicated, the Bill as introduced was closely based upon proposals which were previously under consideration between my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the Association of Chief Police Officers, and which therefore naturally have the full support of the Government.
The menace of knife carrying, which has been addressed by all who have spoken in the debate, particularly by young people, is one which deserves to be combated with the strongest possible measures. This is what the Bill aims to do. The Government are grateful to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for agreeing to take forward this important measure and for the support which all of the proposals in the Bill have received on all sides of the House.
It has been made clear during the passage of the Bill that some examples of weapons advertised in the printed media are a cause for concern. Here I must recognise the position that is held by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The Advertising Standards Authority seeks to ensure that advertisers comply with a code which, among other matters, states that advertisements should not contain anything which might condone or encourage violent or anti-social behaviour. The code is, I believe, right--and I believe that the Advertising Standards Authority exercises the right degree of sensitivity in judging whether advertisements are in breach of the code. We nonetheless need to explore whether more can be done. I take the spirit of what the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, had to say on the subject. It has been discussed in some detail in the other place, where a Home Office Minister has said that he will discuss with the Advertising Standards Authority its approach, its sanctions and the discipline that it brings to the advertising industry. We should now await the outcome of those discussions.
However, I believe that we need to be realistic about what can be achieved in further controls on advertising. In the first place, in general the Advertising Standards Authority is successful in ensuring that the code is adhered to. In the course of its recent survey of advertisements for guns and weapons, it has come across a small number of cases in which the advertising of weapons is questionable. It is pursuing its criticisms with those concerned. We need to see the outcome of its efforts in those particular cases.
It has been implied that the ASA's effectiveness is hampered by the fact that it is not applying statutory controls to advertising. In fact, the reverse is true. I give the example of the offence that it takes at the use of the title, "Knives, Knives, Knives" in a knives' advertisement. I doubt very much whether any statutory control could be devised which would come anywhere near exercising that sensitivity of judgment, let alone applying it. If, of course, the advertisement incites a person to commit a criminal offence, the advertiser
In reply to the point made by my noble friend Lord Balfour, we would say that in any of the kinds of circumstances described by him it would be far better that the police confiscate the knife. They have the power to do so. That is obviously a much better solution.
I believe that precedent has been established by this Bill, having been introduced so ably in another place by the honourable Member for Sutton and Cheam, who is not a million miles away from me at this moment and who is the daughter of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. The proposals in the Bill represent important protective measures and I hope that it will be given a Second Reading.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, in rising to thank my noble friend the Minister for her helpful lead and encouragement on this Bill, I first apologise to the House for my speech which was a sheer gabble. I read it fast because my medical bedtime is in fact nine o'clock. If it is found tomorrow morning that someone has been bludgeoned, not with a knife, but with a rolling pin, that will be the penalty I have paid for being late home. That is why I read my speech at such speed and in such a gabble. I apologise to noble Lords.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. I had it in mind to say something about the Advertising Standards Authority. He is the chairman, and he took the trouble to be here and to sit late. I thank
I thank my noble friend Lord Balfour. The whole object of the Bill is to stop people carrying these knives in the first place. He is a wise man. I had a friend who was in America and who was involved in a fight with a man who had a knife. I am glad that my noble friend is with us. My friend broke off the point of the knife that was threatening him and thank God that he did.
I shall achieve in time--
To let the punishment fit the crime--
The punishment fit the crime".
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|