Orders of the Day — Firearms (Amendment) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 23rd May 1988.

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Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 7:25 pm, 23rd May 1988

I have selected the recommittal motion in the name of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin). I remind the House that it is subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 72, by which the proposer of the motion may speak for 10 minutes with a similar limit for the reply.

Photo of Mr Jerry Wiggin Mr Jerry Wiggin , Weston-Super-Mare

I beg to move, That the Bill be recommitted to the former committee.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for selecting this motion in somewhat unusual circumstances and I appreciate that you will be operating under the usual ten-minute Bill procedure.

It is reasonable to ask why the Government brought the Bill before the House for consideration in the first place. Of course, we all understand that after the disastrous events at Hungerford there was an instant lobby that demanded that the Government do something. However, I have to tell the House that if that something is this Bill, the events at Hungerford could still have taken place because there is no legislation that can legislate against a madman. A madman can kill with whatever weapon he chooses.

There is nothing in the Bill that will reduce crime. The Government are quite wrong in simply wishing to reduce the number of firearms by seeking out a section of the community for no good reason. Self-loading rifles and pump-action shotguns are the main objects of the legislation. The interesting thing about rifles is that they are scarcely ever used in crime. In 1976, the last year for which figures are available, in nearly 10,000 crimes involving firearms, about half were with air weapons and only 53 were with rifles—0·6 per cent. The police acknowledge that pump-action shotguns are the least useful weapon to take if one is bent on criminal assault. They are least useful because they are bulky, heavy and difficult to saw off.

I sympathise with the Government's wish to increase the security of weapons and to understand more about the ownership and disposition of weapons. However, that could have been done by administrative procedure. Instead, we have this Bill which was hastily drawn up, written in a few minutes and written very badly. Before the Committee stage, the proposal was that a cardboard tube, which I produced in Committee, was an item that would from thenceforth require a firearms certificate because it was a mortar. The advisers to the Home Office had forgotten about fireworks. That is one example of many.

I shall come to the substantive part of my argument in moving the motion. There are no fewer than 36 groups of amendments on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Jerry Wiggin Mr Jerry Wiggin , Weston-Super-Mare

Yes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said, there are 36 groups. By anybody's interpretation, the Bill is being rewritten and that will happen unless the House votes for my motion. Surely it is not right to rewrite a Bill on Report; that should be done in Committee.

My most important reason for seeking the support of the House was last week's inclusion, for the first time in all the months that we have been debating the Bill, of Northern Ireland. It cannot be constitutionally right for a Bill to pass Second Reading and Committee without including Northern Ireland and then, at the eleventh hour, to be changed to include it. As we constantly debate the unity of the United Kingdom, that was a grave error by the Government, and it is another good reason to send the Bill back to Committee.

We believe that my hon. Friend the Minister gave us several commitments that the Government are refusing to honour. The exclusion of self-loading rifles with integral magazines was given in all but name. My hon. Friend used weasel words, but he has now gone back on that commitment.

The one thing in the Bill that those of us who are interested in the subject believed was a step forward was the statutory committee to advise the Government so that we should not get into this sort of mess again. The lack of expertise in firearms in the Home Office is only too apparent. On Friday morning the Government tabled a series of amendments to neuter that statutory committee and make it a puppet of the Home Secretary—and effectively useless.

I see no reason to take the full 10 minutes that you have kindly allowed me, Mr. Speaker. My final and most overpowering argument is that if the House votes for this motion everyone should be having their dinners in their homes before 8 pm. If it does not, 36 groups of amendments will have to be gone over carefully. It is just conceivable that in the early hours of the morning some of my hon. Friends may turn a little critical. If they want a night's sleep, I hope that they will support the motion.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) played his best card last. The only thing in favour of the motion is that it would give us an early night. I cannot commend it on any other ground. Much as I should enjoy serving on another Committee with my hon. Friend to examine this Bill, I do not think the facts justify my asking the House to give me that indulgence.

It is perfectly true that there is a substantial number of amendments on Report, but there is nothing unusual about that. I have always made it plain that the Government would respond to reasonable criticisms, and that is what we have done. With the exception of the amendments related to Northern Ireland, all the substantive amendments reflect exhaustive debate in Committee. Indeed, in most cases they reflect the Committee's conclusions.

The main changes can be summarised as follows. First, we are leaving three-shot self-loading shotguns in clause 2. That matter was extensively canvassed in Committee and in making that concession we responded to the Committee's wish. The second major change relates to the deactivation and conversion of guns, which was also extensively debated in Committee, and these amendments respond to what was said.

Although our movements on compensation do not feature on Report in the form of Government amendments, they were widely debated and are, I think, broadly welcomed by hon. Members.

Other major changes relating to museums were also debated a great deal in Committee, and, without exception, the amendments that we are bringing forward today respond to what hon. Members who served on the Committee wanted us to do.

As for Northern Ireland, most of the powers that have been taken by way of order either accord with existing practice or are of minor impact.

What we have done with the consultative committee is to put in proper form that will be acceptable to the House the intent of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members. We tidied up the provisions about the nomination of its members and provided clear guidance on its remit. We have honoured the intent of hon. Members on the Committee in every respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare has always been candid; he is instinctively opposed to firearms control and believes that this is a bad Bill. He is entitled to those views, although I disagree with both. But the motion that he so lucidly and briefly introduced was more a reflection of his hostility to the concept of firearms control and to the Bill than of his desire to spend another few months in Committee with me. I do not criticise him for that—he is entitled to his views—but hon. Members listening to the debate need to be clear about the reasons that lie behind the motion.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 254.

Division No 318][7.36 pm
Abbott, Ms DianeClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, GrahamClay. Bob
Anderson, DonaldClelland, David
Archer, Rt Hon PeterClwyd, Mrs Ann
Armstrong, HilaryCohen, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon JackColeman, Donald
Ashton, JoeColvin, Michael
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Corbett, Robin
Barron, KevinCousins, Jim
Battle, JohnCryer, Bob
Beckett, MargaretCummings, John
Bell, StuartCunliffe, Lawrence
Bellingham, HenryCunningham, Dr John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Dalyell, Tam
Benyon, W.Darling, Alistair
Bidwell, SydneyDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Blair, TonyDavis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Boateng, PaulDewar, Donald
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDixon, Don
Boyes, RolandDobson, Frank
Bradley, KeithDouglas, Dick
Bray, Dr JeremyDunnachie, Jimmy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Eadie, Alexander
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Eastham, Ken
Buchan, NormanEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickFatchett, Derek
Buck, Sir AntonyFaulds, Andrew
Buckley, George J.Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Caborn, RichardField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Callaghan, JimFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Flannery, Martin
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Flynn, Paul
Canavan, DennisFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Cartwright, JohnFoster, Derek
Foulkes, GeorgeMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Galbraith, SamMoonie, Dr Lewis
George, BruceMorgan, Rhodri
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMorley, Elliott
Godman, Dr Norman A.Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Golding, Mrs LlinMullin, Chris
Gordon, MildredMurphy, Paul
Gould, BryanNellist, Dave
Graham, ThomasOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)O'Neill, Martin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Pike, Peter L.
Grocott, BrucePowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Grylls, MichaelPrescott, John
Hardy, PeterQuin, Ms Joyce
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRadice, Giles
Haynes, FrankRandall, Stuart
Healey, Rt Hon DenisReid, Dr John
Heffer, Eric S.Richardson, Jo
Henderson, DougRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Robertson, George
Holland, StuartRobinson, Geoffrey
Holt, RichardRogers, Allan
Home Robertson, JohnRooker, Jeff
Hood, JimmyRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Rost, Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Ruddock, Joan
Illsley, EricSheerman, Barry
Ingram, AdamSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
John, BrynmorShore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Short, Clare
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Skinner, Dennis
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Kennedy, CharlesSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lambie, DavidSnape, Peter
Leadbitter, TedSoley, Clive
Leighton, RonSpearing, Nigel
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Steel, Rt Hon David
Lewis, TerrySteinberg, Gerry
Litherland, RobertStott, Roger
Livsey, RichardStraw, Jack
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Loyden, EddieTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
McAllion, JohnThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
McAvoy, ThomasTurner, Dennis
Macdonald, Calum A.Vaz, Keith
McFall, JohnWalker, Bill (T'side North)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Wall, Pat
McKelvey, WilliamWallace, James
McLeish, HenryWalley, Joan
McNamara, KevinWarden, Gareth (Gower)
McTaggart, BobWareing, Robert N.
McWilliam, JohnWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Madden, MaxWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Marek, Dr JohnWiggin, Jerry
Marland, PaulWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Wilson, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Winnick, David
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Worthington, Tony
Martlew, EricYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Meale, AlanTellers for the Ayes:
Michael, AlunSir Hector Monro and
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Mr. Robert Hicks.
Alexander, RichardBaker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Allason, RupertBaldry, Tony
Amess, DavidBanks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amos, AlanBatiste, Spencer
Arbuthnot, JamesBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Bendall, Vivian
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Ashby, DavidBevan, David Gilroy
Aspinwall, JackBiffen, Rt Hon John
Atkinson, DavidBlackburn, Dr John G.
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Boswell, TimHill, James
Bottomley, PeterHind, Kenneth
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Howard, Michael
Bowis, JohnHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Brazier, JulianHunt, David (Wirral W)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Browne, John (Winchester)Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Irvine, Michael
Burns, SimonJack, Michael
Burt, AlistairJackson, Robert
Butcher, JohnJanman, Tim
Butler, ChrisJessel, Toby
Butterfill, JohnJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Carrington, MatthewJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Carttiss, MichaelKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cash, WilliamKirkhope, Timothy
Channon, Rt Hon PaulKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Chapman, SydneyKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Knowles, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Knox, David
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Lang, Ian
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Latham, Michael
Conway, DerekLawrence, Ivan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Lee, John (Pendle)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Cope, JohnLightbown, David
Cormack, PatrickLilley, Peter
Couchman, JamesLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Cran, JamesLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Critchley, JulianLord, Michael
Currie, Mrs EdwinaLyell, Sir Nicholas
Curry, DavidMcCrindle, Robert
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Maclean, David
Day, StephenMcLoughlin, Patrick
Dicks, TerryMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Dunn, BobMadel, David
Durant, TonyMalins, Humfrey
Emery, Sir PeterMans, Keith
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Maples, John
Evennett, DavidMarlow, Tony
Fallon, MichaelMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Farr, Sir JohnMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Favell, TonyMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fenner, Dame PeggyMates, Michael
Fookes, Miss JanetMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Forman, NigelMiller, Hal
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Mills, lain
Forth, EricMiscampbell, Norman
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fox, Sir MarcusMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Franks, CecilMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Freeman, RogerMoore, Rt Hon John
French, DouglasMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Gale, RogerMorrison, Hon Sir Charles
Gardiner, GeorgeMoss, Malcolm
Garel-Jones, TristanMudd, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesNeale, Gerrard
Gorman, Mrs TeresaNelson, Anthony
Gorst, JohnNeubert, Michael
Gow, IanNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Gower, Sir RaymondNicholls, Patrick
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Oppenheim, Phillip
Grist, IanPage, Richard
Ground, PatrickPaice, James
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Patnick, Irvine
Hanley, JeremyPatten, Chris (Bath)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Patten, John (Oxford W)
Harris, DavidPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Haselhurst, AlanPorter, David (Waveney)
Hawkins, ChristopherPortillo, Michael
Hayward, RobertPowell, William (Corby)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPrice, Sir David
Heddle, JohnRaffan, Keith
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyStokes, John
Redwood, JohnStradling Thomas, Sir John
Renton, TimSumberg, David
Rhodes James, RobertSummerson, Hugo
Riddick, GrahamTapsell, Sir Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Ridsdale, Sir JulianTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Roe, Mrs MarionThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rossi, Sir HughThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rowe, AndrewThorne, Neil
Ryder, RichardThurnham, Peter
Sackville, Hon TomTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sainsbury, Hon TimTracey, Richard
Sayeed, JonathanTrippier, David
Scott, NicholasTrotter, Neville
Shaw, David (Dover)Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Walden, George
Shelton, William (Streatham)Walters, Dennis
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Ward, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Watts, John
Sims, RogerWheeler, John
Skeet, Sir TrevorWiddecombe, Ann
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Wilkinson, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wilshire, David
Soames, Hon NicholasWinterton, Mrs Ann
Speed, KeithWinterton, Nicholas
Speller, TonyWolfson, Mark
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Wood, Timothy
Squire, RobinWoodcock, Mike
Stanbrook, IvorYeo, Tim
Stanley, Rt Hon JohnYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Steen, AnthonyYounger, Rt Hon George
Stern, Michael
Stevens, LewisTellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Mr. Stephen Dorrell.

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that, in moving his motion, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) referred to Northern Ireland. May I point out that in Committee I was prevented from discussing the effect that the Bill would have on Northern Ireland because there was no reference to it in the Bill? The House should be aware of that. What guidance can the House be given about whether Northern Ireland may be fully discussed?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The matter has been resolved by the House and we must now proceed. If the hon. Gentleman catches the eye of the occupant of the Chair, he will be able to deploy his case then.