March 27, 2019 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London (March 26, 2019): Speaks on the Offensive Weapons Bill regarding Kirpans British Sikh MP Tan Dhesi MP said: “The Offensive Weapons Bill, as I stated previously in the chamber, has been a cause of serious concern for the British Sikh community, with a feeling that the centuries old religious requirement to wear a Kirpan (Sikh sword) could be unintentionally criminalised, and that even the tradition of honouring a non-Sikh within a Gurdwara (place of worship) by bestowing them with a Kirpan could be illegal”.
“However, thanks to the strong leadership by the noble Lord Roy Kennedy in the House of Lords, with excellent assistance from Lord Singh, Lord Paddick, Baroness Verma, the organisation ‘Sikhs in Politics’ and others, amendments were passed, as Lord Tunnicliffe and Baroness Williams noted – with unanimity”, said he.
“While I am extremely grateful to the Minister for the courtesy she extended to me during our recent meeting to seek my views on the matter, for the record, to assuage community concerns, can she confirm that the Government will be wholeheartedly supporting and incorporating those amendments within the Bill?”, he added.
Minster Victoria Atkins MP said “May I put on record my thanks to the honourable members for Slough, for Birmingham Edgbaston for Beaconsfield and for Wolverhampton South East, for their work in this place as well as many other noble Lords in the other place to ensure this Bill reaches those parts of knife possession that we really want to tackle and they do not inadvertently and completely mistakenly in any way affect the gifting, use or possession of the Sikh Kirpan, which was never the intention of the Government. I’m grateful to all honourable members, as well as the many, many Sikh organisations that have been involved in this process, helping us clarify and improve the law, and I can absolutely confirm that the amendments will create defences to both sections 141(1) and (1A) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and section 50(2) and 50(3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 relating to the custom of gifting Kirpans by ceremonial presentation. These amendments will create a defence for a person of the Sikh faith to present another person with a curved sword in a religious ceremony or other ceremonial event and also provides a defence of possessing such swords for the purposes of presenting to others at a ceremony and for the recipient of such a gift to possess swords that have been presented to them. That was absolutely never the intention of the Bill and I am extremely grateful to honourable members.”