Today Parliament will hold its third reading of the Offensive Weapons Bill, the Government’s attempt to tackle violent crime. Labour are clear that the provisions of this limited Bill, while welcome, do not go far enough.
I have fought to enhance protections on the sale and possession of knives, close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws left open for too long, force the Home Office to release evidence on the consequences of cuts to vital services on the levels of serious violence and advocate for the rights of victims of crime which have been neglected, despite repeated manifesto promises from the Conservatives.
The Bill will do nothing to stem the tide of serious crime without measures to address its root causes. These are a vulnerable cohort of young people without the support they need, and an ailing police force unable to police proactively or adequately investigate crimes leading to a diminishing of the deterrent effect. It also fails to tackle contributory factors such as the effect of social media on fueling incitement to violence.
We have tabled amendments to the Bill, which will close loopholes in gun ownership laws which are exploited by organised criminals, as well as banning open knife displays in shops to deter theft at the point of sale. They would also extend the possession offences to Higher Education institutions, bringing them in line with Further Education.
While we will support the Bill today, we, unlike the Government, do not believe it is adequate to keep the public safe and take pressure off our police. For that to happen, we need to tackle stretched police resources, putting 10,000 officers back on the streets, and support preventative interventions for young people who are in care, excluded from school or homeless.
Unless and until these steps are taken, we believe the scourge of violent crime will not be satisfactorily reduced, and the police will continue to struggle to keep the public safe.