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We welcome the new clause about deactivisation, which we debated at some length in Committee. However, the Minister will have to go a little further in explaining what he is doing. The Minister has been fair enough in what he has said so far, but we have to go into the issue of clarification about the proof houses and the letter that they will have to provide to say that the weapon has been deactivated.
As we all know, there are only two proof houses in Britain—one in Birmingham and one in London. Given all the things that they will have to do if the Bill is approved, they will be grossly overworked. They are geared not to do this sort of work but to do what they do better than any other proof house in the world—test guns. They are not used to writing out certificates and, if necessary, writing on the weapons something to the effect that they have been deactivated.
Can the Minister tell us who else will be allowed to carry out this work? Which gunsmiths or dealers will be allowed to carry it out? The skill and knowledge of our gunsmiths are envied throughout the world and it should not be too difficult for the Minister to arrange through the trade for many gun shops throughout the country to be available to do this work.
I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the geographical issue. Birmingham is as far north as the proof houses go and I should like to see dealers in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness appointed to carry out the work because they could do it just as effectively as anyone in the south. It could also be carried out in the north of England, in Newcastle and perhaps in Carlisle. Nothing about this is in the Bill or has been spelt out by the Minister who has not given us anything like sufficient information that would enable us to give the Bill the wholesome welcome that we wish to give it.
New clause 3 deals with conversion. I hope that the Minister will explain subsection (2). I have not yet found anybody interested in this Bill who has been able to elucidate what on earth it means. The people to whom I have spoken are highly skilled and knowledgeable members of the British Field Sports Society. They all ask what on earth the Minister is trying to say in subsection (2).
The Minister has failed to deal with the conversion of rifles into other forms of weapons, such as rook rifles and .410 shotguns, and old elephant guns into shotguns. We discussed those matters in great detail in Committee. The Minister has never given an explanation about why one should not do that. He seems to think that some crook entering my house to pinch a rook rifle that has been converted to a ·410 shotgun and is therefore of smooth bore will take it to some highly skilled gunsmith to have it rifled, re-barrelled. It beggars description that that will happen. What is wrong with a rook rifle made into a ·410? It will be a smooth bore ·410 for the rest of its life. I hope that someone will give the Minister the answer to that question.