§ 4. Mr. Favell
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to prohibit the sale of knives to people under the age of 18 years.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
Given the general availability of knives, we believe that the most effective way to curb their misuse is to strengthen the controls on possession. We have tabled amendments to this effect to the Criminal Justice Bill in another place, which I am glad to say have been accepted.
§ Mr. Favell
The whole House will be glad to hear that news. Too many young people carry knives and too often parents do not find out until too late. If it is an offence to sell alcohol to children, why not knives?
§ Mr. Patten
We believe that an offence of possession is more likely to hit the right target. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will not hesitate, if he is given powers in the Criminal Justice Bill, to ban the sale of abhorrent weapons such as death stars, hand claws and similar apparatus from the sick survivalist culture and the wilder shores of the martial arts world. We do not want those weapons on sale.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I am pleased to hear the Minister's response. Is he aware of the range of weapons that can be purchased in shops, and, much more worrying, by credit cards or through mail order? For example, there is the "cold steel urban skinner"— that has nothing to do with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) —the "cold steel magnum tanto" and the "ultimate ninja". Would it not be better if the Government banned the importation from the United States and Japan of these vile and hideous weapons?
§ Mr. Patten
I am all in favour of banning "skinners" and I expect others are from time to time. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). It will be a very good thing indeed if the House gives the Government the opportunity to ban the importation, advertising or sale in this country of those wild pieces of equipment, which have no known use. The Government intend to do what they can to bring that about and we welcome the support of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the hon. Gentleman in that.
§ Mr. Squire
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are shops, certainly in south London, which simply sell fearsome weapons of that type? What is the justification for the continued existence of such shops?
§ Mr. Patten
I do not know the shops to which my lion. Friend refers. However, as I have said, if Parliament so decides, we intend to make it possible to list by schedule the kinds of weapon which we believe have no known use other than violent and nefarious uses. We will look at those weapons and in due course the matter will be brought back to the House once the Criminal Justice Bill returns here.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I am sure that we are all enormously impressed by the Minister's tough talk. But why do we have to wait for tough action until the middle of next year when the Criminal Justic Bill becomes law? Why can we not have an immediate Bill, which certainly would be supported by both sides of the House? Why is a Bill on limiting the use and sale of knives less important to the Government than the Licensing Bill, which will be debated next Monday, and the squalid little Immigration Bill, which is to be debated the Monday after?
§ Mr. Patten
I am sorry that the support that I thought was forthcoming from the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends seems rather qualified. Of course, all of us want to bring forward the legislation as urgently as possible, but first things first. We have decided to introduce the Firearms Bill, and thereafter we shall deal with the issue of knives and allied weapons in the Criminal Justice Bill as quickly as possible. I look forward to the right hon. Gentleman's co-operation in Committee so that we can make the Bill law as quickly as possible.