Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, it is expedient to authorise—
Money resolutions tend to go through the House rather too easily. I suspect that the money involved in this Bill is not great, but we have had no explanation of how much is involved. The Minister said that the intended costs of the licensing regime will be covered. That shows that there will be some sort of increase in the licensing fee. In addition, we should be interested to know what calculations have been made, because the people interested in shooting as a sport are reasonably entitled to know what the new regime will cost.
Secondly, the legislation places more duties on the police. There is an extension of the licensing system, and the Government have argued that that has been introduced—[Interruption.]
No one would object to an improved and safer regime. The questions that have been raised tonight are whether the Government have acted over-hastily and whether they have planned for and calculated the effects of their legislation. I should have thought that, when planning the legislation, they would have had some consequential notion of the increased load on the police. For instance, chief constables will provide scrutiny of people who engage in trade as firearms dealers, under clause 9. They will have to decide whether a person engages in a substantial way. That involves work and that will not be carried out by the chief officer of police; it will be delegated. The police will be required to scrutinise more people for firearms certificates. I do not suppose that any hon. Member would object to that, provided that it is recognised that this is going to produce a higher standard of safety, because that is the whole point and purpose of the Bill.
What sort of increase in police time is this going to cause? Clause 11(5), for example, gives extra powers to police constables in relation to entering premises occupied or used by a club approved under this clause.
Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the money resolution is comparatively narrow. He is now going rather wider than that. It deals with the administrative expenses of the Secretary of State under clause 11 and payments into the Consolidated Fund of any fees received by the Secretary of State. The debate must be restricted to those provisions, which are what the money resolution involves.
That is precisely my point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am making the point that, first, there are going to be increased administrative expenses. That is precisely the point that I made about the work of the chief constables, because they are going to be carrying out the administration of this legislation—
I am naturally grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
None the less, there are going to be increases in licensing fees, and all we have had so far tonight from the Minister is an indication that the costs of the licensing regime will be recovered. That is his intention and that is the area covered by the money resolution. I am giving the Minister the opportunity to elaborate on the money resolution, which consists of about half a dozen lines in the relevant clause and on the Order Paper, so that he may assure us that the planning behind this legislation has indeed been done and that the administrative expenses covered by the money resolution are calculated by the Government in relation to the proposed licence revenue. If there are going to be any increases in fees, I think the House should be told about them.
If, in the course of his reply, the Minister could mention the additional costs to the police, because they fall under the Home Office, that would be of advantage as well.
On Second Reading some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and I asked about compensation for those whose weapons are now made illegal under this Bill. My question to the Minister is this: if his right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer come to the conclusion that compensation should be paid, is that included in the definition of
adminstrative expenses incurred by the Secretary of State"?
If it is not an administrative expense — and 1 should have thought from my experience that it would be very difficult to define it as an administrative expense—how will it be covered by Her Majesty's Government?
I was not intending to speak in this debate until I heard the Minister winding up. I wish to raise the point raised by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), because I think that the Minister made certain statements in his winding-up speech which are very significant and have implications for the money resolution attached to the Bill.
As it is written, the money resolution allows for expenditure on increased police resources but says that this will be offset by increased income from fees. It also allows for the expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State in connection with the approval of clubs and licensing of museums, which will also be offset by fees paid for approvals and licences. There is no mention whatsoever of extra money being made available for the type of compensation scheme that the Minister said he would be willing to look at, and half indicated he would favour. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) outlined how a self-funding compensation scheme could be produced. The Minister ignored that, and relied entirely on vague promises to Conservative BackBenchers about his own compensation scheme. The Minister may have conned some of his hon. Friends into voting with him, but he owes it to the House bluntly to explain whether the financial resolution covers the possibility of compensation.
The previous two speakers raised the question of compensation. Whatever the Minister said in his winding-up speech, he made it perfectly clear that the Government were prepared to look at the Bill in great detail in Committee. From that I assume that we will be able to consider that matter in depth in Committee, including the amount of money that will be needed.
If hon. Members will cast their minds back to the proceedings on the Shops Bill, they will recall that a large number of amendments were tabled, and the Home Secretary gave an undertaking that the Bill would not be guillotined. Will the Home Secretary give a similar undertaking so that the Bill can he properly explored and made into a real vehicle to improve the firearms legislation?
Three points have been raised. The first was raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). It is nice to see the hon. Gentleman in the debate, but it is a pity that he could not spare a few minutes of his time during Second Reading.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister is rather ignorant and rather arrogant. He failed to notice that I was present during most of the opening speech by the Home Secretary. Hansard will show that I received a courteous response from the Home Secretary to my intervention. Unfortunately, I must confess that I also heard the appalling speech made by the Under-Secretary.
That means that the hon. Gentleman was here for about 40 minutes and that he was not here for about five hours and 30 minutes. That is not a particularly constructive approach to the debate.
As for the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is fairly well summarised in the explanatory memorandum. He raised the point about the working party and firearms fees. It is perfectly true that it is intended that the cost of implementing the scheme shall be largely recoverable. We intend to discuss the level of the fees with the shooting interests. Before embarking on those consultations, it would be unwise of me to pluck a particular figure out of the air. However, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the existing fees.
Turning to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), as the Home Secretary and I said during the debate, there are considerable difficulties of principle and practice in the way of a compensation scheme. We said that we will go away and look again at those difficulties and see if we can find a way through them. Until we have decided the principle of compensation, and its precise form, it is not possible exactly to identify the source of the money. Therefore, with the greatest respect to my right hon. Friend, I cannot answer his question, because we must first decide the policy. The same response applies to the hon. Lady.
Is the money resolution adequate to allow for the type of compensation scheme that he would consider? After all, what is the point of considering a compensation scheme in the context of the Bill if the money resolution is not sufficient to cover any such scheme? What does he intend to do if there are financial costs and the money resolution is inadequate to cover them? What will be his proposals in Committee?
Our proposal will be to put our house in order. First, we must determine the policy. On that issue, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have made our position plain. We have not come to the House today with a compensation policy. I accept that my right hon. Friend has said that we shall look again at the issue. We must determine that fundamental question of policy before I can answer the wholly relevant and justified question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. I cannot respond until the policy has been determined. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Dewsbury will understand that I cannot answer in precise form the questions that they have posed.
If there is a problem, we shall have to put our house in order in one way or another. That we shall do if we determine the policy in the way that, for example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup has commended that we should.
I do not know whether my questions can be answered by the Minister or whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will have to guide me. As I understand it, we are about to determine whether to approve the money resolution, which will authorise the payment of any expenditure arising from the implementation of the Bill.
If I understood his remarks properly, the Minister, in his winding-up speech, gave a fairly broad hint to those hon. Members who had raised the matter of compensation that that would be looked at sympathetically. As I understand it, a nod is as good as a wink.
I have looked again at the Bill and there is no mention of compensation in its long title. There is certainly no clause which will allow the question of compensation to be raised. Therefore, unless the Government intend to table a new clause or to introduce new principles in the Bill, they would not be empowered under the existing money resolution to incur expenditure on compensation.
If that is the case, can you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or, if appropriate, the Minister, confirm that if the money resolution and Bill are accepted, the Government will be prevented from introducing any further measure in Committee or subsequently allowing any compensation?
I have listened only to the end of the debate and say no more than this. It occurs to me that if the long title does not include terms of compensation, there is no way in which it can be brought into the Act. Therefore, the Minister is, in many ways, misleading the House by saying that he will look at the principle again. If that is not within the long title, it cannot be within the Act.
That leads me to my second point. I declare an interest, having a shotgun or two. If the Government have to pay compensation, on what basis will they do so? Will it be upon the basis existing before the Act or after the Act? If it is on the basis before the Act, compensation will be small. After the Act—[Interruption.] I realise that I may be going outside the terms of the debate, so I return to my original point. Are we being misled by the Minister? Perhaps you can advise us, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the long title does not contain any reference to compensation, any assurance that the Minister gives us has no meaning.
I too feel that we must have some fairly clear guidance before we can agree to the money resolution. With great respect, the Minister has not replied specifically to the point that has been made about compensation. It would seem from what the Minister has said that if he and the Home Secretary agree to accept the principle of compensation, the logic would be that they would have to return with another money resolution.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During my remarks you intervened and said that the money resolution was very narrow and related only to administrative expenses of the Bill. As a consequence, I decided to ignore compensation, as you had helped and guided me in the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I always follow your guidance very gratefully. Does it follow from what you said about the very narrow resolution that compensation cannot arise under the Bill because it is not an administrative expense?
It is not quite as simple as that. The hon. Members who followed used their normal skill and linked the remarks on compensation to administrative expenses, so that was just—but I stress only just—within the bounds of order. Before I call another hon. Gentleman to speak, I say that the money resolution is narrow and we must stick to its terms.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are saying that the administration of a compensation scheme might be within the terms of the Bill, but not the compensation money. That would render any compensation proposal by the Minister completely void and meaningless, because the Government would only be able to push about bits of paper on compensation, but could not give any compensation at all. That is how I understand the gist of your remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you reconsider your last remark, as all resolutions passed by the House are absolutely binding on the Committee that will consider the legislation? There are no circumstances in which the Committee, whether by Government or Opposition amendment, could move outside the terms of the money resolution. Does it not seem odd that the Minister has told the House that the Government intend to bring in some form of compensation scheme, but not make any provision for compensation in the Bill?
I ask the Home Secretary whether he is aware that under the money resolution before the House he will not be able to introduce any amendments or new clauses in Committee which could give effect to a compensation scheme. Is it not remarkable that we shall be faced, just after the Second Reading debate which has agreed to the principles in the Bill, with the Home Secretary having to come to the Floor of the House and put a new money resolution to the House before he can proceed? Is it not a grave dereliction on his part that, unless that happens, no hon. Members will be able to table anything in Committee about a compensation scheme because the Chairman of the Committee will rule all such amendments out of order, as the Committee will be bound tightly by the money resolution? This is a remarkable situation in a remarkable Bill.
Surely the Home Secretary has done a disservice to the House by bringing forward such an appalling money resolution. He should have come prepared and made provision in the long title to ensure that, if he desired to produce a compensation scheme, it could be accommodated without having to return to the Floor of the House.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice, because this matter is of grave importance. The Second Reading of the Bill was accepted largely on the ground that the Minister gave an undertaking to look seriously at compensation. I understand that, in the light of that assurance, the Government got their majority on the Second Reading. If it is the case—
Order. This is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has made his speech and he cannot make a second speech on the money resolution. If he has a point of order, it must be a point of order that I can deal with.
With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will seek to answer the point that is clearly troubling right hon. and hon. Members.
First, we must determine the policy on compensation. Right hon. and hon. Members who have been present for the debate know the Government's position. When we have determined that question we shall have to come to the House, one way or another, with our conclusions. At that time we shall have to ensure that there is sufficient cover for the money, whether it is done by an ex gratia payment or by money resolution. It is evident that we shall have to do that. There is no way that we shall come to the House with a compensation scheme that we cannot fund. If we decide to commend a compensation policy to the House, we shall make arrangements to ensure that it is properly funded.
Will the Minister confirm that the change to allow compensation cannot be made in Committee—as he earlier implied to his hon. Friends—unless there is a change in the money resolution? Some of my hon. Friends and myself will be inclined to vote against the money resolution if it is inadequate for the purpose implied earlier by the Minister.
I cannot confirm that. Clearly this is an extremely technical matter, upon which myself and others will require advice, because it goes to the root of the proceedings of a Committee. I would be astonished if the Committee did not have ample opportunity to discuss the question of compensation.
I will just finish this point and then I will give way.
No Conservative Member will stand on the technicalities so as to frustrate the efforts of hon. Members to discuss the question of compensation.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that the Committee will be unable to discuss any compensation scheme because there is no clause in the Bill that mentions any such scheme? Therefore, no amendment may be tabled referring to it. The Minister is either wittingly or unwittingly deceiving the House or himself. The Committee will simply be unable to discuss a compensation scheme because there are no terms on which to hang it.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand full well why my hon. Friend cannot give a precise answer at this stage to the question that I posed. I welcome the assurance that he has given to the House that should the Government reach the conclusion that compensation, in some way or other, should be paid, they will take the necessary steps, with the House, to finance that decision. I welcome that assurance and I hope that the House will accept it as such.
I am sorry that I have over-promoted the old Etonian hon. Gentleman and I duly apologise to whoever I have offended.
Worse still, I apologise. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary gave undertakings that a compensation scheme would be considered. A considerable number of my hon. Friends and, I have no doubt, Conservative Members accepted those undertakings in the belief that, as in the usual way, it would be possible for the Committee to consider and deliberate on a compensation scheme. We now understand that it is impossible for the Committee to deliberate on such a scheme because of a shortcoming in the money resolution.
Before this matter is put to the vote we seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whether it is true that the Committee will be unable to consider amendments or new clauses in relation to a compensation scheme without the prior passing of a different money resolution.
As I have just said, it is not for me to say what will be in order in Committee. That will be a matter for the Committee when it eventually meets. I am sorry but I cannot help the hon. Gentleman at this stage.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is within your remit to confirm our suspicions about the money resolution. Is it not a fact that, even if the Committee could discuss compensation, the money resolution as it stands does not allow for the funding of a compensation scheme? That is the point that we are discussing. The money resolution is inadequate to deal with the question of payment of compensation — which the Under-Secretary used to persuade some of his hon. Friends to vote with him this evening. Even if the Committee can discuss compensation, the Government will not be able to pay out compensation.
With the permission of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are many things that the Government can do in an ex gratia way. If we decide to make compensation available, it must be funded. I do not think that compensation need necessarily be provided for in the money resolution. It could be part of an ex gratia scheme. If that is what we decide to do, the money will simply have to be made available.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister said, "With the permission of the House". I assume, therefore, that the House has given the Minister permission to speak a third or fourth time. Could you, Sir, confirm that when the Bill emerges from Committee it will be subject, in the usual way, to amendments on Report? Will the usual rules apply on Report? You say that you cannot comment on the Committee stage, but can you comment on the position on Report? Will the position be the same—that is to say, that the money resolution as drafted will not allow for the introduction of a compensation scheme?
The hon. Gentleman is jumping a long way ahead. I have already made it clear to the House that it is not for me to say what will be in order in Committee. Until the Bill has had its Committee stage, amendments to the Bill on Report are entirely hypothetical. We should conclude our proceedings on the money resolution.
|Division 149]||[10.45 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Benyon, W.|
|Allason, Rupert||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Amess, David||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Amos, Alan||Boswell, Tim|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bottomley, Peter|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Ashby, David||Bowis, John|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Brazier, Julian|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bright, Graham|
|Baldry, Tony||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Beith, A. J.||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Burns, Simon||Knapman, Roger|
|Burt, Alistair||Knowles, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Lang, Ian|
|Butterfill, John||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Lightbown, David|
|Carttiss, Michael||Lilley, Peter|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Lord, Michael|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Maclean, David|
|Day, Stephen||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Dunn, Bob||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Durant, Tony||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Malins, Humfrey|
|Forman, Nigel||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Gale, Roger||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Greenway, John (Rydale)||Miller, Hal|
|Ground, Patrick||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Grylls, Michael||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Needham, Richard|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Neubert, Michael|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Harris, David||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)|
|Hayward, Robert||Paice, James|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Patnick, Irvine|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Pawsey, James|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Portillo, Michael|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Redwood, John|
|Howells, Geraint||Renton, Tim|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hunter, Andrew||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Riddick, Graham|
|Irvine, Michael||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Jack, Michael||Rowe, Andrew|
|Jackson, Robert||Ryder, Richard|
|Janman, Timothy||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Key, Robert||Sims, Roger|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Tracey, Richard|
|Speller, Tony||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Squire, Robin||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Walden, George|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Ward, John|
|Stern, Michael||Wheeler, John|
|Stevens, Lewis||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John||Wilkinson, John|
|Summerson, Hugo||Wilshire, David|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Wood, Timothy|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Yeo, Tim|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Thorne, Neil||Mr. Alan Howarth and|
|Thurnham, Peter||Mr. Stephen Dorrell.|
|Beggs, Roy||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Boyes, Roland||Madden, Max|
|Callaghan, Jim||Martlew, Eric|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Maxton, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Nellist, Dave|
|Dewar, Donald||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Dixon, Don||Randall, Stuart|
|Dobson, Frank||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Eastham, Ken||Skinner, Dennis|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Flynn, Paul||Steinberg, Gerald|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Foulkes, George||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Kilfedder, James||Mr. Gerald Bermingham.|
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, it is expedient to authorize—