My particular concern (and I cannot say there are not others) is the new offence of possessing or supplying a prohibited part.
The new definition of “prohibited part” relies on a new definition of “part”. That aspect of the old definition had an important requirement, that something only counts as a part of a firearm if it “while not essential … is designed or intended to be an integral part of” the firearm.
This formulation is included in new paragraph (b) of the definition of part, but is not part of the new definition in paragraph (d). Instead, paragraph (d), which applies “in relation to any firearm,” merely defines part as “any thing, such as [a disparate group of parts of firearms].”
This is not a good definition. I am not a firearms expert, but I cannot see how even those who are can possibly work out whether something counts as a part of a firearm, such that if it is a part of a prohibited firearm, they are breaking the law by possessing it.
And we are talking criminal law and penalties here if you get it wrong.
Amended section 74A: New “Henry VIII” power
I object to the new sections 74A(a) and (b), which would permit the Government to amend the Arms Act. If you are concerned that you will not get the definitions right in the time available, the appropriate course is not to surrender Parliament’s authority to amend laws to the Crown, but to be more careful, and if necessary, insist upon being allowed more time to do your job.
Even where so-called Henry VIII clauses are provided, they should never be able to be used in a way which expands the criminal law, and this is what the law would allow.
The Government does not need the power to amend primary legislation in this way. The sections that this amendment would allow the government to amend are important to a number of criminal offences in the Act. Deciding what conduct is criminal is prototypically a matter for Parliament. I urge the committee to remove the power the bill would create to allow the Government to amend the act itself.
A very important point that only Parliament should change a criminal law, not Cabinet.