In the Media

Parliament wraps up session with crime reduction measures

PUBLISHED November 9, 2006

Stronger powers to tackle violent crimes involving alcohol, knives and imitation guns were passed today as parliament sought to conclude business ahead of next week's Queen speech.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act is one of the 19 pieces of legislation which were scheduled to receive royal assent before the parliamentary session ends today.

The new powers will see the maximum penalty for possession of a knife increase from two to four years, a ban on the manufacture of imitation firearms, and will enable school staff to search pupils for weapons.

Other new bills receiving royal assent today as part of the government's law and order agenda include the Police and Justice Act, which paves the way for a National Policing Improvement Agency and gives the home secretary powers to intervene directly in poorly performing forces.
The policing minister, Tony McNulty, said that the police reform programme would enable the government to deliver its "Respect Action Plan".

"More than ever before we need our police service to be able to work efficiently and effectively, capable of tackling organised crime and terrorism while providing neighbourhood policing that is visible, responsive and accountable," he said.

"The police and justice bill provides the police with precisely the tools they need to meet these challenges and work with other agencies to make our communities safer - and I am delighted that it has today received royal assent."

Today's crowded schedule is expected to bring the total number of public bills debated and passed through parliament during this session to 56.

Just under two-thirds of the bills introduced in this parliament have fallen due to lack of time.

In total, 140 bills were tabled since the state opening in May 2005 after Labour won a third term with a majority of 66 MPs. Of these, 112 pieces of prospective legislation were laid in the Commons and a further 28 in the Lords.

The government's most controversial legislation - such as proposals to criminalise the glorification of terrorism in the terror bill, and plans to introduce identity cards (identity cards bill) - resulted in successive rounds of parliamentary ping-pong across the two chambers as peers contested perceived infringements on civil liberties.

One of the most controversial bills - the assisted dying bill, tabled in the House of Lords by crossbench peer Lord Joffe - failed to make it to the Commons after peers blocked its progress by six months, effectively killing the bill.

Included among the many bills that failed to make it past second reading was the samurai swords bill, which sought to ban the manufacture, hire, loan or importation of sharpened samurai swords, and the breastfeeding bill, which outlawed anyone trying to stop a woman breastfeeding in a public place.

The government's agenda for the next parliamentary session will be set out next week by the Queen at the ceremonially-lavish state opening of parliament, expected to be Tony Blair's last in his capacity as prime minister.