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Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-19 (HC Bill 232)

Published Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-19 (HC Bill 232) was published on 20 June 2018. Third reading and Report stage are due to take place on 15 October 2018.

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The Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-19 was introduced on 20 June 2018. Accompanying Explanatory Notes and an Impact Assessment have also been published.

The Bill received its second reading on 27 June 2018.

The Bill’s territorial extent is complex, as the Bill covers a mixture of reserved and devolved policy matters. Annex A to the Explanatory Notes provides a useful clause-by-clause analysis of the Bill’s territorial extent, and whether a legislative consent motion will be required.

The Bill covers three types of weapon – acid, knives and offensive weapons, and firearms – and is the Government’s legislative response to a Home Office consultation that ran between October and December 2017.

The key changes that the Bill would make are as follows:

  • a new offence of possessing a corrosive substance in a public place;
  • a new offence of selling certain harmful corrosive products to under18s;
  • new restrictions on online sales of bladed articles and corrosive products, including restrictions on deliveries to residential premises;
  • a new offence of possessing certain offensive weapons in private (the weapons concerned are already subject to restrictions on their sale, manufacture and importation);
  • reclassifying certain firearms as “prohibited weapons” under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968.

The proposals relating to corrosive substances have generally been welcomed, although respondents to the Home Office consultation highlighted the need for clear definitions and guidance for retailers.

The proposals relating to restrictions on the online sale of knives and the reclassification of certain firearms attracted more controversy.

On knives, some consultation respondents expressed concern about the impact on small businesses and specialist manufacturers, and on those (such as disabled people and people living rurally) who would find it hard to collect knives in person.

Some consultation respondents queried the evidence base for the Government’s proposals to prohibit certain firearms. Respondents also commented that there would be a disproportionate impact on disabled shooters, as some of the firearms covered (certain types of rapid-fire rifle) are, they argued, particularly suited to disabled shooters.

The Bill completed its Committee stage in ten sittings between July and September 2018. No significant changes were made to the Bill during its Committee stage.

The only substantive amendments agreed were a group of Government amendments to clause 20 (now clause 22), which would make it an offence to possess a knife of any kind described in section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 (flick knives and gravity knives). The Government amendments set out a specific defence for museums and galleries, so that they can continue to hold and display such objects.

Third reading and Report stage are due to take place on 15 October 2018.

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Commons Briefing papers CBP-8349

Authors: Sally Lipscombe; Jennifer Brown

Topics: Crimes of violence, Firearms, Offensive weapons

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