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I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister to comment on four points. First, an issue has come to light that I had not realised might arise under the proposal. There is some doubt as to whether guns that have been resleeved or rebarrelled would still have protection. The Minister should deal with that point and I wish to quote to him some advice that I have received from a former colleague, Fred Silvester, who has been assiduous in representing to the Committee the interests of the gun trade. He says:
There is the problem of sleeving. The Home Office keeps saying they understand the point, but they do nothing about it.
He goes on to say:
Sleeving involves removing the barrel and replacing it with another.
He is not entirely right. My gun has been redone, and that simply involved taking out a piece and replacing it. However, he goes on to say:
The man who does this work commits no offence because he is given special protection by section 4 of the 1968 Act, and by clause 6 of the Bill. New clause 3, however, still leaves the gun itself unprotected. If it is cut down below 24 inches, it remains in section 1"——
that is entirely right—
and fixing the new barrel to it makes no difference.
My hon. Friend the Minister should elucidate that point as a simple issue of practicality.
My second point echoes that raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). I should like to know exactly what kind of mark will be required to be placed upon firearms to prove that they have been rendered inoperable. It is important for the police—the House knows of my interest, which will remain for some time to come—to know what sort of mark will be used, and their advice should be taken because they will have to identify the mark and take action accordingly.
My third point arises from the fact that other persons, besides proof houses, will be able to carry out such work. That is entirely right. There are only two proof houses, and it would be extremely onerous to expect people throughout the country to use only those two proof houses. There are plenty of satisfactory craftsmen who can do the job. For example, a man in my constituency, who acts as the police armourer, is capable of doing that job without relying on the excellent work done in Birmingham. However, it is important to the police, to the trade and to all those who will be required to have their firearms dealt with in this way to know which local craftsmen will be allowed to do the job and on what basis.
That brings me to my fourth point—how the Government intend to authenticate the armourers who will be permitted to perform the deactivations. What sort of skills must they have? How is their probity to be measured? A form of qualifying certificate will have to be issued. It is important, on Report, that the Government are seen to have thought these matters through and to have explained them carefully to the House before we accept the measure.