London MPs today warned that more young lives risk being lost because of an “unacceptable” parliamentary delay in introducing flagship new powers to curb the sale of knives and acid.
The Offensive Weapons Bill — which includes measures to ban online knife sales to juveniles and a ban on carrying acid in public — was highlighted by the Home Office only last week as one of its key measures for tackling violent crime.
But its final Commons stage, the third reading, has now been postponed twice amid a rebellion by some Tory backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist Party over a clause banning high-powered rifles.
Ministers insist they remain committed to implementing the legislation as soon as possible. But MPs in the capital hit out angrily today with a warning that the hold-up could cost lives by allowing dangerous weapons to remain in circulation for longer.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said a teenage boy in her constituency had been left “fighting for his life” after a recent stabbing and added: “The Government’s deliberate delays to the Bill are a disgrace. The delays enable the continued possession of, and access to, weapons that cause unimaginable pain to our communities — including corrosive substances and Rambo knives. MPs from all parties want to see this legislation debated, and it is high time the Government stopped putting internal politics before our constituents’ lives.”
Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, who chairs the parliamentary anti-knife crime group, added: “After London’s murder rate overtook New York earlier this year the Government promised this legislation as a priority. Seven months later and progress has stalled because this government is in such disarray.
“I can go online now and major retailers are selling knives disguised as pens or which fit into wallets. With knife crime at epidemic levels even a few weeks delay is putting young people’s lives at risk.”
There have been claims that the decision of many leading Brexiteers to join the shooting lobby in opposing the rifle ban is part of a “power play” designed to show their strength over the EU negotiations.
The legislation would ban online retailers selling knives to juveniles and extend the definition of a flick knife and prohibit their possession. The possession of knuckledusters, “death stars” and other weapons will also be outlawed. Carrying acid in public without good reason will be an offence.
A Home Office spokesman said the Government is “committed to re-scheduling the remaining parliamentary stages as soon as possible”.