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Volume 401: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to make it unlawful to require Sikhs to remove the kirpan when entering public places. [103035]

There are no plans to introduce new legislation in this area. Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which makes it an offence to have an article with blade or point in a public place, provides that should a person possess such an article for "religious reasons or as part of any national costume" he would not be guilty of an offence under the Act. This does not provide a licence for anyone to use kirpans for unlawful purposes and any person carrying such an article for the purpose of religious observance or national costume must be able to satisfy the police, and ultimately the courts, on this count.