18/07/2017 00:46 BST | Updated 18/07/2017 16:44 BST

MPs Demand Tough New Laws After Series Of Acid Attacks

Conservative and Labour MPs have added their weight to calls for the Government to get tough on acid attacks.

MPs backed tougher sentences as well as a crackdown on sales and a new criminal offence for those carrying sulphuric acid.

Labour former minister Stephen Timms, who led a Commons debate on the issue, said that acid is becoming a "preferred weapon for gangs carrying out robberies". 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has already indicated acid attack convictions could soon carry life sentences as part of a crackdown on corrosive substances unveiled by the Government, which includes a review of existing measures.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Timms said: "I want to press the minister for two specific changes to the law.

"Firstly, that carrying acid should be an offence in exactly the same way that carrying a knife today is an offence.

"And secondly, there should be a requirement for a licence in order to purchase sulphuric acid."

Mr Timms also said: "The much greater worry is that acid is becoming a preferred weapon for gangs carrying out robberies.

"It's easy to obtain, it's cheap, it's hard to trace back to the perpetrator, and while it's relatively hard to obtain a gun, knives are more tightly restricted, criminals seem to have concluded that acid is a less risky weapon for them to commit violent crimes.

"What I think we need to do, and I'm sure the minister will agree, is make acid more risky than it has been seen to be in the last two or three years."

Conservative Peter Aldous (Waveney) cited the case of Adele Bellis, a constituent he said had suffered a "horrific" acid attack.

He said: "In Adele's view, there is a need for clearer and tougher sentencing guidelines.

"It must never be forgotten that those who are victims of acid attacks carry a life sentence."

Labour's Lyn Brown (West Ham) also backed regulation of sales online, saying: "We need to make sure that we control those substances too, because sales will move online if it's not possible to buy at the corner shop."

Home Office minister Sarah Newton said the Government must do "everything possible" to tackle the "emerging threat", with those who commit acid attacks being subjected to the "full force of the law".

Asked to reveal when the Government will publish its review, Ms Newton said: "The work has already started.

"I can't commit tonight to a particular time by which we will complete the work."

Ms Newton said the review will be wide-ranging, with some things which may be "relatively easy to bring to fruition" and others which "require a longer period" due to potential changes to legislation.

She said: "Clearly these are horrendous crimes and I'm very much aware of the fear that is spreading, not only in London but in other parts of the country, and there is simply no place in 21st century Britain for these hate-filled, utterly devastating attacks.

"We will be doing absolutely everything we can to prevent them."