Consequential Amendments and Repeals

Orders of the Day — Firearms (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 18th June 1997.

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Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Office) 5:45 pm, 18th June 1997

I beg to move amendment No 2, in page 2, leave out lines 11 to 21.

The amendment would ensure that the compensation arrangements were brought back to the House after the Bill was enacted, as under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. It is essential because the Bill proposes a qualitative change from the 1997 Act that the Government themselves recognise in their business compliance cost assessment, which claims that gun clubs that cater solely or mainly for target pistol shooting will probably have to close. Given that admission, that qualitative change requires further debate.

I am sure that the Government's response will be that they want to enact the Bill quickly and effectively and that the scheme already exists as an ex-gratia scheme, but further debate is necessary because of that step change and because of its impact on business. I have not heard any significant and serious arguments why that impact should not be recognised in the Bill, and further debate would ensure that Opposition Members can have their say.

6 pm

We must be allowed to advance the consistent and coherent argument in favour of recognition being given to the costs to business, especially to those that have incurred debts to set up shooting clubs and shooting associations and will now be left with those debts. Because of the total ban on pistol shooting, no reasonable person could envisage being able to carry on in business if pistol shooting is their sole business. Recognition must also be given to businesses that have lost sales of guns and ancillary equipment. They were going to be harmed by the previous legislation and we felt then that they should be compensated, but that harm will now be compounded in that they cannot pick up compensatory business in .22 sales to replace lost sales of higher-calibre weapons.

Those are serious issues and we do not feel that our arguments have been responded to seriously. The Government have argued that we might be setting a precedent, but we are confident that precedents exist for compensating businesses, such as those arising from the channel tunnel discussions. Issues of compensation and precedent have been raised, but the Government have given us no coherent and consistent intellectual statement on how issues of fairness and justice—the true issues involved in compensating business—can be addressed under the current ex-gratia scheme.

The Bill would simply enshrine in law the ex-gratia scheme and go forward with that. The amendment would require the issue of compensation to be brought back to the House and I urge the Committee to accept the amendment so that we get that further debate.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I strongly agree with the general comments made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan). I particularly endorse his adoption of the phrase "a step change"—the use of which is not unique to me—to describe the implications of the Bill.

I want to focus the Minister's attention on a specific part of the .22 compensation arrangements. If I do not raise it now, it might not be raised at all. The Government have tried to be helpful, but, in doing so, they have created both the potential for a difficulty of principle and a potential rather than a real inequity. It is right to raise the issue now so that the Minister can consider it. It relates to the fact that with the best motives, as was made clear on Second Reading, the trigger date for compensation for .22s will be October 1996, rather than the date of the announcement in May 1997.

Let me first deal with the point of principle.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I might be able to help the hon. Gentleman. This is an important point, but it is one that I have already clarified and I may be able to prevent him from going down a long road.

We have chosen the date of October 1996 because that is the fairest point at which to set the level of compensation. It is fairest to shooters and probably means that they will be better compensated than if we had chosen the May date, which was when the decision was taken and entered in the Queen's Speech.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I am most grateful to the Minister for his clarification. I concede that the Government have proceeded with the best of motives, but I want to draw out two potential problems arising from that.

The first point is one of principle. I hasten to say that I am not a lawyer, but I know a little about the law of compulsory purchase. The normal way in which compulsory purchase operates is from the date of entry, or of taking possession, or possibly of notice to treat—for example, if one is required to give up one's land for a bypass, the compensation code takes effect with the valuation set at the time at which one's land passes from one's possession or thereabouts. Similarly, the normal practice when tax codes change, although I am sure that counter examples can be cited, is that the law changes with announcements made on Budget day or thereabouts. Any change is not normally applicable to events that occurred before the Budget, although sometimes it has to be.

My point of principle is that it is an unfortunate departure from a more normal practice of Government that we are not basing compensation on the date when any reasonable person who was the owner of a .22 would have realised that he or she might have to surrender that weapon. That troubles me.

However, there is a further point—

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I am trying to be helpful because the hon. Gentleman is trying to deal with a serious point.

After October 1996, although the Government at that time intended to ban only the largest-calibre handguns, it must have been obvious that it was increasingly likely that, following the general election, there would be a change of Government, that we would move to a full ban—as we are doing—and that, therefore, values would drop.

If, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, we used the May date to calculate compensation, it would disadvantage shooters. He should appreciate that we have tried to act in the best interests of the shooters who stand to be compensated.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Let us not go into whether a specific elector or owner of a gun did or did not believe that there would be a Labour Government in four or five months' time; let us confine ourselves to the reality. The Minister rightly notes—the point was made on Second Reading—that the majority of those pistols will have dropped in value between October 1996 and May 1997. I believe that the Government have proceeded with good intentions, even though there is a technical breach of the usual attitude to compulsory purchase, which I have explained to the Committee. I accept their good intentions, but I want to pause on a couple of points.

First, I want to mention something that I discovered by accident the other day when reading a short item about the compulsory purchase of land in a journal that came into my hands. In a recent case, Wickham Growers Ltd. v. Southern Water 1997, which I believed is reported in the Estates Gazette,it was held that the compensation payable for disturbance"— although it may well apply to other matters as well—

may have regard to events which occur after the date of entry, even where those events could not be predicted at the time. That might help in relation to setting an earlier valuation, and Ministers should at least consider that point.

Secondly, I want to express my substantive concern for a specific group of shooters in relation to the compensation statement. I am not an expert on the proposals even of the previous Government, but they consist of the ex-gratia scheme, the specified code under which smaller-calibre weapons as well as larger-calibre ones can be surrendered from 1 July onwards, and option C for specific cases.

It would have been perfectly open, and not perverse or irrational, to a shooter with a .22 weapon to have enhanced the value of that weapon—to have customised it or for another reason to have increased its value—between the date in October 1996 and 14 May 1997, the date of the Queen's Speech. It is unfortunate and unfair if that cannot be taken into account in the compensation arrangements.

We appear to be breaching the usual rules under which compulsory purchase is determined. I am sure that the Government seek to do so for the best of motives: they wish to give owners of .22 weapons a better deal than if the literal date of the Queen's Speech were used. I wonder whether it would be more sensible in principle to use the later date, perhaps even to raise the figure, because the further one gets from the date, the more difficult valuation is. However, I am saying that there may be cases where, quite legitimately and properly, a shooter might have enhanced the value of his weapon before the possession of that weapon became illegal or became questioned by a firm Government decision, in which case a small inequity might arise. I make the point only to say—

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

In that circumstance, the shooter would of course be able to go through the alternative route proposed in the Bill, by seeking a valuation. The specific circumstances are covered in the arrangements that we have proposed.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I am grateful to the Minister for seeking to clarify that, but may I have further clarification? In that case, would the valuation be at the date in October or would it be at the last possible date, in May, if the value had been enhanced by then? If that is not so—

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

If that is the case, I believe that, although the objection in principle stands and the Minister might like to reflect on that, the objection in practice may not stand. I believe that he and all of us wish to seek the fairest possible deal for shooters in what are bound to be difficult circumstances. I merely pray this issue in aid as a case for a more rounded consideration of the details of the compensation issue, to eliminate any possible unfairness.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin Conservative, Romsey

I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) on the way in which he moved the amendment. I support the amendment, and in my short contribution I shall ask the Minister of State a couple of questions to which I am sure he will reply later.

6.15 pm

As recently as last week, we considered compensation when we debated the compensation scheme introduced by the Government under the previous Act, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. In that debate, it was suggested that it might have been sensible to incorporate compensation for .22 weapons in the same draft compensation scheme, but I appreciate that, with all the technicalities involved, that might have been difficult, if not impracticable.

During last week's debate, we drew attention to the inaccuracies or inadequacies and errors in the original draft compensation scheme tabled on 22 May, which was then withdrawn and re-tabled on 3 June. We put it to the Minister of State that some explanation was required, and we wanted to know why so many changes were required and how many there were.

I thank the Minister for the answer given on 9 June at column 328 to my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) in reply to a question about the changes in that draft compensation scheme. They amount to 37 changes in all, and are a combination of errors, factual errors, and items and values listed in the annexes that were wrong. I now ask, how accurate is the new draft compensation scheme likely to be? I very much hope that when the Government come up with a new scheme, they make a better job of it than they did of the last one.

How soon are we likely to see the new draft compensation scheme for .22 pistols and for the ancillary equipment that goes with them? When addressing that compensation scheme, would the Minister think in terms of compensating for the loss of business, and so on?

In the Bill, estimates are made of £12 million for the cost of weapons and £19 million for equipment, but several people have suggested that those figures are underestimates. Perhaps the Minister will give us a more accurate estimate of the likely compensation total.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I believe that, if they were realistic, hon. Members would concede that most gun owners and certainly people who were trained in guns would say that the value of their weapons and of weapons held in gun clubs and in gunsmiths devalued the day after Dunblane. Once that incident took place, the true value of any weapon was seriously eroded by the hour, if not by the day. That was recognised by gun owners throughout the country.

The compensation legislation allows the individual gun owner to choose between several ways of disposing of a gun. Most of those options are, in the main, very fair. If hon. Members who know about guns study the comparison prices, they will find that, although some individual gun owners will query the value of their individual gun, the figures give a pretty fair price for guns, bearing in mind the circumstances that forced Parliament to take the decisions that it did.

The point is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) said, that Parliament and the Government should have the chance to look again at the unique difficulties faced by some gun clubs and their members when it comes to compensation. Our amendment is a safety valve to allow for some of those difficulties. On Monday, Members of all parties referred to the problems that they knew gun clubs and members—some of them not active members—would face because of the huge sums of money, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, which are at stake. That will leave small groups of members with substantial liabilities and not many assets to dispose of apart from the land on which a club is situated.

I hope that there will be general support for the amendment. It will at least allow the Government to say that they have re-examined the issue of equitable compensation and will give the Committee a chance to vote for it.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Conservative, Penrith and The Border

The Opposition will support the Liberal Democrat amendment. It is intolerable that the Government should not follow the scheme in the 1997 Act. After all, the Minister spent most of Monday saying that he was religiously following the precedent of that Act and did not wish to depart from it. Yet this scheme departs from the one in the 1997 Act, under which the Government would prepare a draft compensation scheme, lay it before the House and, following a resolution, come up with a final version.

I cannot understand why the Government are afraid to put such a draft before hon. Members. They have an overwhelming majority; they could get it through easily. There would, however, be scope for Opposition Members and Labour Members to point out errors and inconsistencies, and experts from the gun trade would have the chance to make similar points.

This is another example of the Government riding roughshod over the House—ignoring it, circumventing it, or neutering it—as they tried to do with Prime Minister's questions. In this case, they are ignoring Parliament by not laying the draft before the House.

In the original draft scheme that we approved last Monday, there were, as my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey (Mr. Colvin) said, 37 errors. I do not criticise the officials responsible for that. With a highly complex scheme, it is quite understandable that mistakes will be made. Neither was there anything sinister about withdrawing it. Some values rose, some fell, and mistakes were corrected. The point, however, is that it gave the Government, the industry and hon. Members a chance to look at those mistakes. Then the Government speedily produced a revised draft and laid it before the House, which had a chance to approve it last Monday night. No one voted against it—everyone agreed with it.

Why the phenomenal rush? Why are the Government afraid to trust hon. Members by following the procedure in the 1997 Act and letting them have a look at what they propose? They know that they can drive it through. They know that if the proposals are as sensible as the ones we saw last week—and as fair—there will be no opposition from any quarter. So unless the Minister has a compelling reason for not supporting the amendment—I cannot imagine what it would be—we shall join the Liberal Democrats in voting for it tonight.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I regret that opportunism on the part of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and the Opposition. With his experience of government, he will know that there is not a shred of substance to any of his criticisms of the Government. He is wrong to suggest that the compensation element departs from the principles of the 1997 Act.

The right hon. Gentleman asked what the rush was. It is simply that we want to get .22 guns out of public ownership as quickly as possible. If he had allowed a free vote during the passage of the 1997 Act, such guns would have been banned then. The move would have succeeded on a free vote and we would not have needed this legislation. It is, therefore, his fault that we must deal speedily with the flaw that he left in the legislation by failing to deal properly with a ban on handguns. He had the chance when in government, but he failed to take it.

The right hon. Gentleman was wrong about virtually everything. He was certainly wrong to refer to errors and mistakes. When trying to put right the wrong that he left behind him, we consulted people involved in the sport and the trade and took their suggestions into account. I am grateful for the Opposition's acknowledgment that that was sensible.

Referring to errors and mistakes was rather cheap. We did the best we could to carry on consultations right up to the last minute so as to be able to amend the scheme and use the most precise possible figures.

I have valued the contributions by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock). He has enhanced his reputation in the short time he has been here with his constructive interventions. He said that it is possible to query specific estimates but that the general scheme seeks to be fair. The legislation includes the safety valve of allowing for a specific valuation; so—this answers the point made by the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell)—if a specific piece of equipment is the subject of an error, that error can be rectified. The fact that a specific value is set out in the statutory instrument does not mean that there is no way of getting around it.

Ours is a sensible scheme. I must tell the hon. Member for Romsey (Mr. Colvin) that he sometimes seems to mix up his speeches as between one debate and another. He has a habit of re-running previous debates, and he does not listen to answers that he was given in those debates. We have already explained the 37 changes to which he referred. It is only sensible to take account of advice from sporting and business interests, even though we are trying to get legislation through quickly, so as to give sportsmen and the general public a coherent scheme that will deal with all sizes and calibres of handgun as quickly as possible. As I have told him several times—he does not seem to have grasped it—the scheme is available in the Library, as we pointed out on Monday last.

Of course, total costs can be estimated accurately only to a certain degree—by their nature they are based on estimates. The numbers and types of weapons have been gathered from information given by the police around the country. Estimates have been refined during discussions between officials and police, especially those involved directly with firearms, and business interests and the clubs have also been included. Discovering the precise quantity of guns and ancillary equipment is not a precise science. Listing and valuing each and every weapon would cost a great deal and would cause enormous delays.

I answered most of the points made by the hon. Member for Daventry in interventions because I thought that he was trying to tease out some specific information while making some interesting points about compensation. There are various ways of trying to be fair. Choosing the October date for high-calibre guns, thereby avoiding further declines in value that would come with a later date, is, we believe, the fairest way to approach the valuation of guns and equipment; it is in the interests of shooters. If someone has enhanced his equipment, the alternative route of a specific valuation is available.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about property valuation, but I should have thought this case was more like valuing second-hand cars. There will clearly be a decline in value if someone does not wish to purchase. The likelihood of legislation increases the probability that values will fall, but if that general point does not cover a particular circumstance, specific valuation provides an alternative.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

On the specific point that I raised, I am satisfied with the assurance that the Minister has given in relation to guns that may have appreciated in value because of action by their owners. That is precisely why I did not table a specific amendment. I did not wish to send a signal to the Minister and his hon. Friends suggesting that there might be some general diminution in the compensation payable, on account of one or two particular hard cases. Now the Minister has satisfied me on the hard cases.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I am grateful for that; it takes the sting out of my final point. A later date might be popular with the Chancellor of the Exchequer because it would reduce the sum to be paid out, but I doubt whether it would be a popular move with the shooters who would seek compensation. I am glad that we can now agree on that.

6.30 pm

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) made some reasonable points when he opened the debate, but the amendment would not bring about the aim that he sought. It would not widen compensation to businesses. Any scrutiny that was undertaken by the House would be scrutiny of the compensation allowed by the Bill, and the Bill does not allow the wider compensation of businesses for loss of business, any more than the 1997 Act did.

Neither measure allows for that possibility. Scrutinising the way in which the compensation would be paid would not achieve the effects that the hon. Gentleman stressed. The amendment would not reopen that issue. It would allow parliamentary scrutiny only of the way in which we compensate owners and dealers for the .22 pistols and the ancillary equipment.

I shall explain why I do not think that the amendment would be helpful or good for shooters and the general public. It would require the details of a compensation scheme for small-calibre pistols to be subject to affirmative approval. The effect would be that the Secretary of State could not make compensation payments to owners of small-calibre pistols until the scheme had been approved by both Houses. I see no need for that. Indeed, it could introduce a fresh mischief. It would cause pointless delay and would not be in the interests of the public at large or of shooters.

As I said last week, when we debated the compensation scheme for the 1997 Act, the scheme for small-calibre pistols will be structured on the same basis as that for the higher-calibre weapons. Why require both Houses to go over the same material? Details of the ex-gratia scheme that will operate for small-calibre pistols and ancillary equipment until the compensation scheme comes into force have already been placed in the Library. Copies are being issued to all claimants at the same time as details of the compensation scheme already approved by the House.

We are encouraging shooters to hand in their guns at one time, which many have said that they wish to do, rather than to wait until the Bill has completed its passage through both Houses. Requiring the further compensation scheme for small-calibre pistols to be approved by both Houses would mean an unwelcome delay in bringing the Act into force. We want to remove the firearms from circulation as soon as possible. It is clear from the overwhelming majority who voted for the Bill on Second Reading that they would not want any delay.

It is in the interests not only of the Committee and the public, but of claimants, who no doubt would welcome the introduction of the scheme sooner rather than later so that they can receive their compensation.

Although I fully understand the sensible and coherent arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that the amendment would have the effect that he seeks. It would introduce a number of fresh mischiefs, which I am sure he would not want to do.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Office)

I am grateful to the larger Opposition party —or should I say parties?—for their support of the amendment, whatever aspersions are cast on its motives.

I support the main thrust of the Bill, which is the complete ban. The step change exists. If it was necessary for the House to give affirmative approval for a scheme when we were banning 80 per cent. of handguns, it is even more important that we give prior affirmative approval for a scheme that comes into force when we ban 100 per cent. of all handguns.

I shall not go over all the motives—I am trying to set my own precedent by keeping speeches to three or four minutes, as I think that helps hon. Members to pay attention. I intend to press the amendment to a Division, and I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that the 100 per cent. ban will have serious knock-on effects which the 80 per cent. ban did not, particularly on the organisations that I mentioned, and that further scrutiny is important.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 190, Noes 305.

Division No. 32][6.34 pm
AYES
Amess, DavidDuncan, Alan
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelDuncan Smith, Iain
Arbuthnot, JamesEmery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyEvans, Nigel
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Faber, David
Baker, NormanFabricant, Michael
Baldry, TonyFallon, Michael
Ballard, Mrs JackieFearn, Ronnie
Barnes, HarryFlight, Howard
Befh, Rt Hon A JForth, Eric
Bercow, JohnFoster, Don (Bath)
Beresford, Sir PaulFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Blunt, CrispinFraser, Christopher
Body, Sir RichardGale, Roger
Boswell, TimGarnier, Edward
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Gibb, Nick
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGill, Christopher
Brady, GrahamGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Brake, ThomasGoodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brazier, JulianGorman, Mrs Teresa
Breed, ColinGorrie, Donald
Browning, Mrs AngelaGray, James
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Green, Damian
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Greenway, John
Burnett, JohnGrieve, Dominic
Burns, SimonGummer, Rt Hon John
Burstow, PaulHague, Rt Hon William
Butterfill, JohnHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Cable, Dr VincentHammond, Philip
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)Hancock, Mike
Cann, JamieHarris, Dr Evan
Cash, WilliamHarvey, Nick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Chope, ChristopherHeald, Oliver
Clappison, JamesHeath, David (Somerton)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton—Brown, GeoffreyHughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Collins, TimHunter, Andrew
Colvin, MichaelJack, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Sir PatrickJackson, Robert (Wantage)
Cotter, BrianJenkin, Bernard (N Essex)
Cran, JamesJohnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Curry, Rt Hon David
Dafis, CynogJones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Keetch, Paul
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Key, Robert
Day, StephenKirkbride, Miss Julie
Dorell, Rt Hon StephenKirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs EleanorShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Lensley, AndrewShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Letwin, OliverSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Lidington, DavidSmith, Sir Robed (W Ab'd'ns)
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSoames, Nicholas
Livsey, RichardSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Llwyd, ElfynSpicer, Sir Michael
Loughton, TimSpring, Richard
Luff, PeterStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
LyelI, Rt Hon Sir NicholasStreeter, Gary
McIntosh, Miss AnneSwayne, Desmond
MacKay, AndrewSwinney, John
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidSyms, Robert
Maclennan, RobertTapsell, Sir Peter
McLoughlin, PatrickTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Matins, HumfreyTaylor, Matthew (Truro & St Austell)
Maples, JohnTonge, Dr Jenny
Mates, MichaelTownend, John
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTredinnick, David
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr BrianTrend, Michael
May, Mrs TheresaTyler, Paul
Merchant, PiersTyrie, Andrew
Moore, MichaelViggers, Peter
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)Wallace, James
Moss, MalcolmWardle, Charles
Nicholls, PatrickWaterson, Nigel
Norman, ArchieWebb, Steven
Oaten, MarkWells, Bowen
Opik, LembitWelsh, Andrew
Ottaway, RichardWhitney, Sir Raymond
Page, RichardWhittingdale, John
Paice, JamesWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Paterson, OwenWilkinson, John
Pickles, EricWilletts, David
Prior, DavidWillis, Phil
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Rendel, DavidWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)Woodward, Shaun
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Tellers for the Aye:
Sanders, AdrianMr. Richard Allan and
Sayeed, JonathanMr. Andrew Stunell.
NOES
Abbott, Ms Diane Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)
Ainger, NickBuck, Ms Karen
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Burden, Richard
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)Burgon, Colin
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Butler, Christine
Armstrong, Ms HilaryByers, Stephen
Atherton, Ms CandyCampbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Atkins, Ms CharlotteCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Barron, KevinCampbell—Savours, Dale
Battle, JohnCanavan, Dennis
Beard, NigelCaplin, Ivor
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)Casale, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCawsey, Ian
Bennett, Andrew FChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benton, JoeChurch, Ms Judith
Bermingham, GeraldClapham, Michael
Berry, RogerClark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Best, HaroldClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Mrs LizClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Blears, Ms HazelClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Blizzard, RobertClarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidClarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Borrow, DavidClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Clelland, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Coaker, Vernon
Bradshaw, BenCoffey, Ms Ann
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E & Wallsend)Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
(Hammersmith & Fulham)Hope, Philip
Colman, Anthony (Putney)Hopkins, Kelvin
Connarty, MichaelHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cooper, Ms YvetteHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corbett, RobinHowells, Dr Kim
Corston, Ms JeanHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Cousins, Jim
Cox, TomHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Hurst, Alan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Illsley, Eric
Cummings, JohnCunliffe, LawrenceJackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Curtis-Thomas, Ms ClareJamieson, David
Dalyell, TamJenkins, Brian (Tamworth)
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairJohnson, Alan (Hull W)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Johnson, Ms Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dean, Ms JanetJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Denham, JohnJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Donohoe, Brian HJones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Doran, FrankJowell, Ms Tessa
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethKeeble, Ms Sally
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)
Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)Kemp, Fraser
Edwards, HuwKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Efford, CliveKhabra, Piara S
Ellman, Ms LouiseKidney, David
Etherington, BillKilfoyle, Peter
Fisher, MarkKing, Andy (Rugby)
Fitzpatrick, JimKing, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fitzsimons, Ms LornaKingham, Tessa
Flint, Ms CarolineKumar, Dr Ashok
Follett, Ms BarbaraLadyman, Dr Stephen
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLawrence, Ms Jackie
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Laxton, Bob
Foster, Michael John (Worcester)Lepper, David
Foulkes, GeorgeLeslie, Christopher
Fyfe, MariaLevitt, Tom
Galbraith, SamLiddell, Mrs Helen
Galloway, GeorgeLinton, Martin
Gapes, MikeLivingstone, Ken
Gardiner, BarryLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)Lock, David
Gerrard, NeilLove, Andy
Gibson, Dr IanMcAllion, John
Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcAvoy, Thomas
Godman, Dr Norman AMcCabe, Stephen
Godsiff, RogerMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Goggins, PaulMcCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Golding, Mrs LlinMcDonagh, Ms Siobhain
Gordon, Mrs EileenMacdonald, Calum
Graham, ThomasMcFall, John
Grant, BernieMcGuire, Mrs Anne
Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)McIsaac, Ms Shona
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McKenna, Ms Rosemary
Grogan, JohnMackinlay, Andrew
Gunnell, JohnMcMaster, Gordon
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)McNamara, Kevin
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)McNulty, Tony
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)MacShane, Denis
Hanson, DavidMcWalter, Tony
Healey, JohnMcWilliam, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hepburn, StephenMallaber, Ms Judy
Heppell, JohnMendelson, Peter
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hill, KeithMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hinchliffe, DavidMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Hodge, Ms MargaretMarshall—Andrews, Robert
Home Robertson, JohnMartlew, Eric
Hood, JimmyMaxton, John
Hoon, GeoffreyMeale, Alan
Merron, Ms Gillian
Michael, AlunSkinner, Dennis
Milburn, AlanSmith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
Miller, AndrewSmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Moran, Ms MargaretSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Ms KaliSmith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
Mudie, GeorgeSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Mullin, ChrisSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Soley, Clive
Naysmith, Dr DougSouthworth, Ms Helen
Norris, DanSpellar, John
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
O'Brien, William (Nomranton)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
O'Hara, EdwardStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Olner, BillStinchcombe, Paul
O'Neill, MartinStoate, Dr Howard
Organ, Mrs DianaStott, Roger
Osborne, Mrs SandraStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Pearson, IanStuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
Perham, Ms LindaSutcliffe, Gerry
Pickthall, ColinTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, KerryTaylor, Ms Dart (Stockton S)
Pond, ChrisThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Pound, StephenTipping, Paddy
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Todd, Mark
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Touhig, Don
Prosser, GwynTrickett, Jon
Purchase, KenTruswell, Paul
Quin, Ms JoyceTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Quinn, LawrieTurner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Radice, GilesTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rammell, BillTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Rapson, SydTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Vis, Dr Rudi
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)Watts, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)White, Brian
Whitehead, Alan
Rogers, AllanWicks, Malcolm
Rooney, TerryWilliams, Dr Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, FrankWinnick, David
Ruane, ChrisWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Ruddock, Ms JoanWise, Audrey
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Wood, Mike
Ryan. Ms JoanWoolas, Phil
Savidge, MalcolmWray, James
Sawford, PhilWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Sedgemore, BrianWright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Shaw, JonathanWyatt, Derek
Sheerman, Barry
Shipley, Ms DebraTellers for the Noes:
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Mr. Jim Dowd and
Singh, MarshaMr. Greg Pope.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Conservative, Penrith and The Border

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 21, after `made.', insert— (3B) Payments made under this scheme relating to small-calibre pistols or equipment designed or adapted for use in connection with such pistols, shall be received within 30 days of agreement of the valuation.'. This is a straightforward amendment. The Opposition believe that the Bill is unnecessary and unfair. Thousands of target pistol shooters up and down the country will be deprived of the sport that they may have enjoyed for many years. Under the legislation as it is currently drafted, Britain's shooters will no longer be able to compete on an international level. Therefore, it is right that the owners of lower-calibre handguns that are banned by this legislation should be compensated speedily with a minimum of delay. The amendment will ensure that that occurs.

We believe that Governments should set an example by paying their bills and debts swiftly. The last Conservative Administration developed a British standard of prompt payment to which all Government Departments and their agencies signed up. As a result, league tables of Government Departments' payment performances are now published. However, the Labour party apparently wishes to go further than that. The Prime Minister has pledged:

We will introduce a requirement…for government departments and public agencies to pay their bills within 30 days". That is what the then Leader of the Opposition said on 16 September 1996 in a speech to the City of London Corporation.

Much was said during the election campaign about trust. Quite simply, the Government have the opportunity tonight to support the amendment to show that they honour the promise made by the Prime Minister on 16 September 1996. They have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be trusted to fulfil that promise.

We look forward to receiving the Government's support so that the payments of compensation authorised under the Bill can be made within 30 days, thus honouring the Prime Minister's promise.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

To follow on from the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), and given the spirit of our discussions, I invite the Government to consider whether they would be prepared to pay interest should it prove impossible for payment to be made within 30 days in a particular case.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

It is intriguing to listen to this debate. I am beginning to enjoy the contributions from the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) from the Opposition Benches because I am starting to contrast them with the contributions he made about the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which he steered through the House.

Some of the right hon. Gentleman's thought processes are becoming quite convoluted. For instance, if the Opposition are now so keen to specify a time limit on the payment of compensation, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can explain to us why the then Government did not include such a 30-day time limit in the 1997 Act. After all, he was personally responsible for steering that legislation through the House.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If a 30-day limit is reasonable for small-bore handguns and their ancillary equipment, it is similarly reasonable for large-bore handguns and their ancillary equipment. The right hon. Gentleman did not include such a provision in the 1997 Act, but, suddenly tonight, we have a convert to the rapid payment of bills.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The new Government have set themselves up as the proud possessor of higher standards than their predecessor. The Opposition are merely seeking to help and encourage them to impose on themselves the obligation to meet their own high standards.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

It is very nice of the hon. Gentleman, who was a Minister in the previous Government, to feel that he has learnt so much during those depressing days that he can now contribute to the quality of the legislation brought forward by the new Government.

I put it to the hon. Gentleman that there is an inconsistency in the Opposition's argument. If they felt that a time limit of 30 days was reasonable, they had the opportunity to set one in the 1997 Act. If they had done so, that would have been mirrored in our compensation arrangements, because, as I made clear in the debates a week ago, the arrangements that we are making for smaller-calibre guns mirror those in the statutory instrument governing the compensation scheme for larger-calibre guns. The Opposition stand condemned out of their own mouths for not even considering what they now, belatedly, argue is an important provision.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

The hon. Gentleman is under some confusion. He is in government and, therefore, he should be making the decisions. We would like the money to be paid in 30 days.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

In an earlier debate, the hon. Gentleman complained that the Government were being too decisive about getting things done by introducing legislation to get rid of .22 handguns, which he is so keen to keep on our streets and in our homes. We are getting on, fairly and reasonably, with that job.

The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border said that we are a Government who believe in paying bills on time. He is right, but the amendment does not attempt to ensure that bills are paid on time. Instead, it would guarantee a short period of time after the agreement on a valuation within which all the money would be received. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could clarify whether he intends to target the amendment only at those claims made under option C, which include individual valuations. If disputed, that might mean that an independent valuation is made.

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has thought that through and whether the Opposition's proposal applies only to such cases, or to other options as well. Perhaps he will illuminate the House, now or later, as to his intention in the amendment.

I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment, although I appreciate its sentiments. As I made clear in debates last week on the compensation scheme under the 1997 Act, payments will be made as quickly as possible. I can assure the House that that assurance applies equally to small-calibre pistols—we wish to deal with the compensation as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.

As we made clear last week, however, the pressures on police forces and the arrangements made by chief constables will vary. Different arrangements will be needed in urban as opposed to rural areas. Those arrangements and the decisions of chief constables must be respected. Those variations will exert different types of pressure on respective police forces. We, too, will put pressure on those forces. I have discussed the matter with representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers and I am certain that they will try to deal with compensation as quickly as possible. It would therefore be unreasonable to include in primary legislation the requirement sought by the amendment.

The majority of straightforward claims, which will be made under options A and B, will be dealt with quickly. Claims under option C, which will be based on individual valuations, will take longer to process because they will need to be considered individually. It is reasonable that that should be done and that proper consideration should be given in each case.

I am sure that the Opposition, who have argued for the interest of shooters as they see them, would not want us to introduce measures that exerted excessive pressure on the police and others connected with the scheme to rush those arrangements. I stress that adequate time must be given for the scheme to be operated, but, even so, payments will be made as quickly as possible.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Office)

Do we take it that the time it will take for people to receive compensation will depend on the efficiency of individual police officers, and the burden placed on them? Does the Minister agree that it is therefore likely to be case that, depending on where one lives, the time taken for compensation to be paid could be dramatically different?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

It could depend on a number of factors. The police are endeavouring to introduce arrangements to ensure that everyone can be compensated as quickly as possible so that the receipt of handguns and their ancillary equipment can be completed as expeditiously as possible.

It is impossible to be sure where a rush might occur. All the members of a shooting fraternity in an area may decide to hand in all their guns quickly. It is quite likely that all members of a gun club would agree on when to hand in their guns and seek compensation. Some of the pressures are unpredictable and that is what makes it unsafe to try to specify a constrained period of days, as proposed in the amendment.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Will the Minister confirm that the amendment at least seeks to tie prompt payment to the agreed date of valuation, rather than to the date when weapons are handed in? We obviously accept that there is a problem in that regard with option C weapons. We are concerned simply with the administrative delay that might arise after a valuation. No one wishes to put valuers under unreasonable pressure so that they reach a quick, bad decision. Clearly, they must have time to make the right decision.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I accept that. I have spoken to the chief constables and others who will be involved in the exercise, so I understand the pressures to which it will subject them. They accept that it is in the public interest that the necessary arrangements should be made and that they should be implemented as expeditiously as possible. Likewise, we accept that we want the payments to be made as expeditiously as possible. The purpose behind the amendment is to introduce a straitjacket. Conservative Members should accept that the Government will do all that they can—we shall have discussions with the police and everyone else involved about the arrangements that we seek to make—to ensure that, as far as possible, we meet the requirements that are being sought within the terms of the amendment. However, to introduce such a straitjacket in primary legislation is inappropriate.

7 pm

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Shadow Attorney General

I intervene on two points of clarification. The Minister is talking about a straitjacket. As I understand the amendment, the purpose behind it is to put in statutory form the Government's intention to make payment within 30 days. That is obviously 30 days of applying the statutory amount of compensation or the agreed amount of compensation if it comes within option C. I am not clear why the police having to make inquiries has much to do with what we are discussing. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide clarification.

Secondly, is it the intention that interest should arise if someone were left for some considerable time beyond 30 days without compensation? I understand that that lies behind the Government's general proposals for interest on non-payment of debts.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I do not see that such a provision lies within the amendment, which would simply introduce a requirement.

We are not envisaging or planning for delays in making compensation payments. Pressure, however, will be put on the police and many others as a result of a temporary arrangement. How quickly we can finalise arrangements and have everyone handing in their guns depends partly on how expeditiously the proposed legislation is enacted and implemented. If the Bill passes through Parliament quickly, much will depend on whether we can back the arrangements for whatever weapons people have not handed in voluntarily to be handed in subsequently and quickly by an extension of the compensation scheme. I have in mind the employment of people and the arrangements that are already in hand.

We are talking of temporary arrangements to deal with specific circumstances. That makes the acceptance of the amendment inappropriate. The general principle is that we should seek to ensure that compensation is paid as quickly as possible and, if possible, within the period to which reference has been made. That might be thought of as aspirational, but it is something that we shall seek to do with the co-operation of everyone involved, if that is at all possible.

There are a couple of points to be made on a problem that is involved in implementing the compensation process. We are talking of 60,000 claimants, who will all submit claims within a short time. It would not be practicable to set a specific number of days within which individual claimants would receive payments. The sheer volume of claims to be made prevents that. Some claims will be processed before others and some claims might take longer than others.

There is, sensibly, no time requirement applying to payments under the compensation scheme for large-calibre handguns. There is nothing in logic, therefore, that requires that there should be one within the scheme for small-calibre pistols. That would be entirely inconsistent.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I raised earlier the issue of interest, and the matter was taken up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) with greater eloquence. Will the Minister consider, in cases where things go sadly wrong because of some administrative error, the payment of ex gratia interest? I do not seek an immediate answer now. Perhaps he will take away the point and think about it.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I hope that there will not be gross incidents of delay, other than those where there might be specific complications on an option C valuation where there is a considerable amount of debate because values are not being accepted. We want to see all cases dealt with as expeditiously as possible. We shall seek to ensure that that happens, and I am sure that we shall receive the full co-operation of the police and all those who are involved in the Home Office. We shall try to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.

We are dealing, however, with a challenging task. We are progressing rapidly because we believe that it is in the public interest for the guns concerned rapidly to be removed from general public ownership. The Association of Chief Police Officers and others have accepted our objective and supported us in trying to get the arrangements into place. I place on record my thanks to all those concerned, including individual chief constables, in seeking to implement the arrangements.

I return to a final point of simple logic: no time limit was placed on larger handguns. I accept, of course, that the Bill does not deal with them. That being so, it would be illogical to put a straitjacket on the way in which we deal with .22 handguns. I accept the aspiration that we deal quickly and efficiently with all claims—I undertake that we shall do all that we can to achieve that—but it would not be sensible or logical to accept the amendment.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Conservative, Penrith and The Border

This is a matter not of simple logic but of whether or not the Prime Minister's word is to be trusted. There have been some interesting revisions of Government policy this evening from a Minister of State in Her Majesty's Government. We assume that he is speaking with the authority of the Government. We have been told that the policy is not to have payment within 30 days, but to try, with all efforts, to pay as soon as is practicable or as soon as possible, leaving no stone unturned to pay Government debts as soon as they can be paid.

The Minister said repeatedly that we cannot have 30-day payments because that would impose a straitjacket on the Government. Does that mean, therefore, that the Prime Minister's statement on 16 September 1996 that a requirement would be introduced—it was not a straitjacket then, when the right hon. Gentleman was on the prawn cocktail circuit, wining and dining business men and pursuing their votes—by a Labour Government for the millennium was not a commitment that the Government would pay their bills within 30 days?

The previous Government did not insert such a requirement in the 1997 Act because we were content to rest with the provisions that we had introduced with the development of the British standard payment. We had decided to publish league tables of the Government's performance, and we were content to rest on that. At the same time, we took the then Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), at his word. He went round telling business men that a new Labour Government would introduce a requirement that Government bills would be paid within 30 days.

That is why we have tabled the amendment. We have been presented with our first chance to test the word of the new Government, and especially that of the Prime Minister. Can they be trusted on the issue of the Government paying their bills?

Sir Nicholas Lye11:

Would I be right in understanding my right hon. Friend to be saying that the word of the Prime Minister for a requirement seems, having regard to the words of the Minister of State, to have become a pious hope?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Conservative, Penrith and The Border

My right hon. and learned Friend is correct. It was not even a pious hope. It amounted to, "We shall do our best to pay if we can within 30 days." The requirement that the Prime Minister wanted is now regarded by the Minister of State as a straitjacket into which the Government do not wish to insert themselves. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister is concerned about froth on the top of beer glasses. It seems that his concern for the Government to pay their bills within 30 days was froth before the general election. It seems also that it can be blown away like froth from a beer glass.

The Opposition will force the amendment to a Division because it goes to the issue of whether the Prime Minister's words can be trusted or whether they can be overruled by a Minister of State, Home Office.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

What a surprise. The Opposition have found specious reasons to have another Division. It seems that they need to fill in the time. I have listened with admiration and astonishment to the developing capacity of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) for invention. What a pious intervention from the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lye11).

I have made it clear that we are dealing with a temporary arrangement, which will be dealt with properly by the police and civil servants, under great pressure. The reason for that pressure is that there is pressure to get handguns off the streets and out of people's homes.

The right hon. Gentleman had to find some specious excuse for not having put in his Bill something that he now requires us to put in ours. His arguments were indeed specious. Of course people can trust the word of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That is why he is Prime Minister, and the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border is where he deserves to be—on the Opposition Benches.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 177, Noes 301.

Division No. 33][7.9 pm
AYES
Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)Bercow, John
Amess, DavidBeresford, Sir Paul
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelBlunt, Crispin
Arbuthnot, JamesBody, Sir Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBoswell, Tim
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Baker, NormanBrady, Graham
Baldry, TonyBrake, Thomas
Ballard, Mrs JackieBrand, Dr Peter
Barnes, HarryBrazier, Julian
Beith, Rt Hon A JBreed, Colin
Browning, Mrs AngelaLetwin, Oliver
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Lidington, David
Burnett, JohnLivsey, Richard
Burns, SimonLoughton, Tim
Burstow, PaulLuff, Peter
Butterfill, JohnLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Cable, Dr VincentMcIntosh, Miss Anne
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)MacKay, Andrew
Cash, WilliamMaclean, Rt Hon David
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Maclennan, Robert
Major, Rt Hon John
Chope, ChristopherMalins, Humfrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Maples, John
Collins, TimMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Colvin, MichaelMay, Mrs Theresa
Cormack, Sir PatrickMerchant, Piers
Cotter, BrianMoore, Michael
Cran, JamesMoss, Malcolm
Curry, Rt Hon DavidNicholls, Patrick
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Norman, Archie
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)Oaten, Mark
Opik, Lembit
Day, StephenOttaway, Richard
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenPage, Richard
Duncan, Alan Paice, James
Duncan Smith, IainPaterson, Owen
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterPickles, Eric
Evans, NigelPrior, David
Faber, DavidRedwood, Rt Hon John
Fabricant, MichaelRendel, David
Fallon, MichaelRobathan, Andrew
Fearn, RonnieRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Flight, HowardRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Forth, EricRuffley, David
Foster, Don (Bath)Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Fraser, ChristopherSanders, Adrian
Gale, RogerSayeed, Jonathan
Garnier, EdwardShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
George, Andrew (St Ives)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Gibb, NickSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gill, ChristopherSmith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Gorrie, DonaldSoames, Nicholas
Gray, JamesSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Green, DamianSpicer, Sir Michael
Grieve, DominicStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnSteen, Anthony
Hague, Rt Hon WilliamStreeter, Gary
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieStunell, Andrew
Hammond, PhilipSwayne, Desmond
Hancock, MikeSyms, Robert
Harvey, NickTapsell, Sir Peter
Hawkins, NickTaylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Hayes, JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Heald, OliverTaylor, Matthew (Truro & St Austell)
Heath, David (Somerton)
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon DavidTemple—Morris, Peter
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelThompson, William
Horam, JohnTonge, Dr Jenny
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelTownend, John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)Tredinnick, David
Hunter, AndrewTrend, Michael
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelTyler, Paul
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Tyrie, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyViggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Walter, Robert
Keetch, PaulWardle, Charles
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steven
Key, RobertWhitney, Sir Raymond
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWhittingdale, John
Kirkwood, ArchyWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Laing, Mrs EleanorWilkinson, John
Lansley, AndrewWilletts, David
Willis, PhilTellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)Mr. Patrick McLoughlin
Woodward, Shaunand
Yeo, TimMr. Bowen Wells.
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeCousins, Jim
Ainger, NickCox, Tom
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Crausby, David
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Armstrong, Ms HilaryCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Atherton, Ms CandyCurtis—Thomas, Ms Clare
Atkins, Ms CharlotteDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Barron, KevinDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Beard, NigelDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Dean, Ms Janet
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDenham, John
Bennett, Andrew FDismore, Andrew
Benton, JoeDobbin, Jim
Bermingham, GeraldDobson, Rt Hon Frank
Berry, RogerBest, HaroldDonohoe, Brian H
Betts, CliveDoran, Frank
Blackman, Mrs LizEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blears, Ms HazelEagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)
Blizzard, RobertEdwards, Huw
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidEfford, Clive
Borrow, DavidEllman, Ms Louise
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Etherington, Bill
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bradshaw, BenFitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Brinton, Mrs HelenFlint, Ms Caroline
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)Follett, Ms Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E & Wallsend)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael John (Worcester)
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)Fyfe, Maria
Buck, Ms KarenGalbraith, Sam
Burden, RichardGalloway, George
Burgon, ColinGapes, Mike
Butler, ChristineGardiner, Barry
Byers, StephenGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Campbell-Savours, DaleGodman, Dr Norman A
Canavan, DennisGodsiff, Roger
Caplin, IvorGoggins, Paul
Casale, RogerGordon, Mrs Eileen
Caton, MartinGraham, Thomas
Cawsey, IanGrant, Bernie
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Grogan, John
Chaytor, DavidGunnell, John
Church, Ms JudithHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clapham, MichaelHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Healey, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Heppell, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hesford, Stephen
Clelland, DavidHewitt, Ms Patricia
Coaker. VerrnonHill, Keith
Coffey, Ms AnnHinchliffe, David
Cohen, HarryHodge, Ms Margaret
Coleman, Iain (Hammersmith & Fulham)Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Colman, Anthony (Putney)Hood, Jimmy
Connarty, MichaelHoon, Geoffrey
Cooper, Ms YvetteHope, Philip
Corbett, RobinHopkins, Kelvin
Corston, Ms JeanHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr KimMichael, Alun
Hoyle, LindsayMilburn, Alan
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)Miller, Andrew
Moran, Ms Margaret
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Humble, Mrs JoanMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Hurst, AlanMorley, Elliot
Hutton, JohnMorris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Iddon, BrianMountford, Ms Kali
Illsley, EricMudie, George
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)Mullin, Chris
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Jamieson, DavidNaysmith, Dr Doug
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)Norris, Dan
Johnson, Alan (Hull WO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Johnson, Ms Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)O'Brien, William (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Olner, Bill
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Mrs Sandra
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pearson, Ian
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Perharn, Ms Linda
Jowell, Ms TessaPlaskitt, James
Keeble, Ms SallyPollard, Kerry
Keen, Alan (Feltham)Pond, Chris
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)Pound, Stephen
Kemp, FraserPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Primarolo, Dawn
Khabra, Piara SProsser, Gwyn
Kidney, DavidPurchase, Ken
Kilfoyle, PeterQuinn, Lawrie
King, Andy (Rugby)Rammell, Bill
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)Rapson, Syd
Kingham, TessaRaynsford, Nick
Kumar, Dr AshokReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Ladyman, Dr StephenReid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Laxton, BobRobertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Lepper, David
Leslie, ChristopherRogers, Allan
Levitt, TomRooney, Terry
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Liddell, Mrs HelenRoy, Frank
Linton, MartinRuddock, Ms Joan
Livingstone, KenRyan, Ms Joan
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Salmond, Alex
Lock, DavidSavidge, Malcolm
Love, AndySawford, Phil
McAllion, JohnShaw. Jonathan
McAvoy, ThomasShipley, Ms Debra
McCabe, StephenSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McCafferty, Ms ChrisSingh, Marsha
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Skinner, Dennis
McDonagh, Ms SiobhainSmith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
Macdonald, CalumSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs AnneSmith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
McIsaac, Ms ShonaSoley, Clive
McKenna, Ms RosemarySouthworth, Ms Helen
Mackinlay, AndrewSpeller, John
McMaster, GordonSquire, Ms Rachel
McNamara, KevinStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Mactaggart, FionaStewart, David (Inverness E)
McWalter, TonyStewart, Ian (Eccles)
McWilliam, JohnStinchcombe, Paul
Mahon, Mrs AliceStoate, Dr Howard
Mallaber, Ms JudyStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Mandelson, PeterStuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Sutcliffe, Gerry
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall—Andrews, RobertTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Martlew, EricThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Maxton, JohnThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Meale, AlanTipping. Paddy
Merron, Ms GillianTodd, Mark
Trickett, JonWicks, Malcolm
Truswell, PaulWigley, Dafydd
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)Winnick, David
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)Wood, Mike
Twigg, Derek (Halton)Wray, James
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Vaz, KeithWright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Vis, Dr RudiWyatt, Derek
Watts, David
White, BrianTellers for the Noes:
Whitehead, AlanMr. Jim Dowd and
Mr. Greg Pope.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Shadow Secretary of State

The Bill goes much further than the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997: it will kill off pistol shooting and make many gun clubs unviable. The 1997 Act would have allowed pistol shooters to continue with their sport on condition that they used only lower-calibre handguns. During the passage of that Act, we decided against compensating gun clubs for the impact of the ban on higher-calibre guns. An important justification for that view was the fact that shooters of high-calibre pistols could convert to .22s and continue to enjoy their sport. It was difficult to argue that clubs could not continue as venues for pistol shooting while .22 pistols remained lawful.

A total ban will force some clubs to close, and that fundamentally alters the previous position on compensation. The majority of the 2,118 approved gun clubs throughout Great Britain are non profit making: they were set up and are run by volunteers. It is true that clubs whose members shoot rifles and pistols could survive a total ban on handguns, but that would very much depend on the proportion of pistol shooters to rifle shooters. However, clubs that are almost entirely pistol clubs will, in all probability, face certain closure as a result of the Bill.

Hon. Members should bear in mind the fact that the majority of gun clubs are non profit making and do not have vast financial reserves to enable them to weather the storm of a total ban. Given that those clubs have mortgages or leases, their members or owners could face significant personal liabilities and loss as a result of closure.

It is the Opposition's view that, given the extent of the Bill and its departure from the principles of the 1997 Act, which did not bring pistol shooting to an end in this country, the issue of compensation must be revisited. Naturally, we hope that as many clubs as possible will survive, but those clubs that are forced to close as a result of the circumstances created by the total ban on handguns introduced by the Bill should be compensated.

On Second Reading, we argued that the Bill as it currently stands is unfair. At column 1163, the Home Secretary gave an entirely reasonable response. He said that if the Government had departed from the principles that we had followed, he would consider the point that we had made. I regret to say that the Minister was a good deal less reasonable when he wound up the debate. He dismissed our questions by referring to the debate that had taken place at the beginning of the last week on the compensation arrangements under the 1997 Act, but we were not objecting to those arrangements. Our argument is that the total ban introduced by this legislation fundamentally alters the position. That is why we believe that the arrangements proposed by the Government are unfair, and why we do not believe that clause 2 should stand part of the Bill.

Sir Nicholas Lye11:

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) on compensation. It would not involve a large number of clubs. Some of them are small businesses. However, a significant number will go out of business. People who are not rich will be left with burdens of debt for which they have no possibility of compensation unless the Government are prepared to reconsider the matter along the lines that the Home Secretary seemed to accept but to which the Minister offered blanket opposition.

What we are asking for is entirely reasonable. When pistol clubs were denied the use of a heavier grade of pistol, they could have set up afresh or reconstituted themselves as clubs using .22 handguns. There would have been support for that, for reasons connected with the Olympic games and for the more specialised reasons connected with disabled people, which we shall debate in a moment.

It follows inexorably from the Government's determination to take all pistols out of private ownership and to stop clubs holding pistols that gun clubs that are confined to pistols must close. If they have debts or mortgages, they will be left uncompensated. All I ask of the Minister is that he listens carefully to our argument. If he is not capable, by reason of the instructions that he has been given, to give us the answer that we seek now, I hope that he will he go away and think about it.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Opposition Whip (Commons)

There is a distinction between higher-calibre handguns, such as were used by Thomas Hamilton and which were outlawed under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, and the .22 calibre weapon that we are debating. When decisions were made under the previous Government, one factor that was taken into account was that a higher-calibre handgun is not specifically designed for sport. Many of those weapons have been developed for use in self-defence and by police forces and the military.

The higher-calibre handgun, which tends to be used against individuals, should be seen in a different context from the .22 handgun, which is used in international sport. Target shooting with .22 guns is accepted as an international sport throughout the world, and recognised as such by the Olympic movement. No doubt there are reasons for that. The .22 is used mainly for sport, and lacks some of the features of higher-calibre handguns to which I have referred.

7.30 pm

Against that background, the Committee should view the compensation issue differently. It is one thing to get rid of certain handguns because they are higher-calibre weapons; it is different to say that there shall be no target shooting in Britain when the wisdom throughout the world is that target shooting may occur in particular conditions—and the 1997 Act laid down the strictest possible security conditions. I think that the last Government were right to say, "We are not outlawing the sport altogether; if you wish to follow the conditions laid down in the Act, you may continue. You have that option." What is now being said is "There shall be no sport of this kind: every club in the country must close." That is relevant to the question of compensation.

Apart from being a very authoritarian measure, the proposal should prompt new Labour to think about the fact that every other country, and every international sporting body, is prepared to permit the sport to continue. Is it right for Britain to be the one country which is standing out against it? It is in that context that the considerations relating to compensation in this Bill are so different from those in the 1997 Act.

All the gun clubs will have to close, and many of their owners—some in my constituency—will be in financial difficulty. Could not the Government meet the Opposition at least half way—perhaps a little further—and make compensation available to clubs?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I have listened carefully to what has been said, but I can respond briefly, because nothing new has been contributed. All the points that have been made have been answered comprehensively, convincingly and repeatedly, on Second Reading and before and since then.

The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the shadow Home Secretary, says that the Bill will kill off pistol shooting and close many gun clubs. Let me remind him that precisely the same argument was advanced by Conservative Members when he introduced the Bill that is now the 1997 Act. There is nothing new in it, and he rejected it then. He should read the speeches that he made when he was in government, because they deal comprehensively with the speeches that he is making in opposition.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Opposition Whip (Commons)

Surely even the hon. Gentleman accepts the difference between stopping all target shooting—and therefore closing every gun club in the country—and leaving the option available.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman should heed the arguments that have been advanced by his hon. Friends on other occasions. It is nice of him to join us for a while, but he is making precisely the points that they have made previously. We have been through those arguments time and again; we debated them on Second Reading. We will reject the extension of compensation suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe, for precisely the reasons that he gave in government. He was not willing to extend compensation to businesses, and nor are we.

It comes down to a simple point of disagreement: we simply disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He could have dealt with the proposals in the Bill much earlier in the year if he had allowed a free vote when he was piloting his Bill through the House, but he was not willing to listen then, and we are therefore having to deal with the issue now.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

Perhaps what the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe gave us was a spare speech left over from Second Reading. He does not agree with the Bill; he does not agree with the banning of .22 guns. We feel that it is necessary to ban them, and that his decisions in rejecting that proposition—

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) must not remain standing when an hon. Member is addressing the Committee.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I am making a very brief point—

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

I give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Shadow Attorney General

I am grateful to the Minister, but will he please address the argument? It is not good enough simply to say that counter-arguments were advanced in the debate on the earlier Bill. The question that we want the Minister to answer is this. As a result of the blanket ban on handguns, which wipes out the .22, small clubs and small businesses are themselves wiped out in certain instances. Is it the Government's policy not to compensate a small club or business in any circumstances? If so, will the Minister please explain why?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

We have explained ad nauseam. Great credit was given to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for being so open and honest on Second Reading about what the effect of the Bill would be, and he was right to be honest. It is better to have the matter out in the open—but that has left nothing for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to chew on at this stage. We rejected the idea of extending compensation to businesses, just as his right hon. and learned Friend the shadow Home Secretary did. We believe that retaining .22 guns would be dangerous, and we are not willing to do it. That is why we are going to vote on the matter. We have presented the measure quickly, so that the change to only .22 pistols—and hence another round of change and compensation—will not be required, as it would have been had we delayed it.

I am afraid that, again, there is disagreement between us. We believe that it would be unsafe to allow the partial—80 per cent.—ban on handguns introduced by the last Government. We need the ban on .22 guns in the public interest, and it is therefore essential that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Office)

As I become accustomed to the proceedings of the Committee, I find that I am having to live with a chronic sense of deja vu as arguments are repeated again and again at every stage. We advanced the argument that we wanted to present—about the inadequacy of compensation—in the amendment that we tabled, but, now that we have lost that, I believe that those of us who support the Bill's aims in general, while disagreeing with the compensation scheme, should accept with good grace that the clause should stand part of the Bill. Those of us who disagree with the Bill in principle—and a number of Liberal Democrats do, for good, sound Liberal reasons—will continue to oppose the clause.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Shadow Secretary of State

Once again, the Minister has completely failed to deal with our arguments. He does not deal with them by saying that he has already dealt with them, when he manifestly has not; nor does he deal with them by saying that there is a disagreement between the two sides. Of course there is a disagreement. What we expect from the Minister in these circumstances is some kind of reason justifying the Government's position, but we have heard no reason at all.

The trouble with the Minister is that he is so obtuse that one never quite knows whether he is deliberately failing to see the point, or accidentally and genuinely failing to do so. Let me repeat the point in the simplest language that I can use—and I will be happy to give way to the Minister if he wishes to answer it at last.

The point is simply this. There is a fundamental difference between the provisions of this Bill and the provisions of the 1997 Act. The Act did not bring pistol shooting to an end. It was therefore possible for clubs where pistol shooting took place to continue, and .22 shooting could continue in those clubs although the legislation had banned the use of higher-calibre pistols. This Bill brings pistol shooting completely to an end and that means a fundamental difference in the attitude to compensation.

On Second Reading, the Home Secretary said that he would listen carefully to any arguments that sprang from the proposition that the Government had departed from the principles that we had previously advanced. As I said at that time, it was not so much a suggestion that the Government were departing from those principles as that they were failing to apply them to the different circumstances that now pertain. That is the point and, on Second Reading, the Minister, in the most extraordinary way, refused to answer it by referring to the answers that he had given a few days earlier in the debate on the compensation arrangements in the 1997 legislation.

Our point is that this measure is fundamentally different from the provisions of the 1997 Act for the simple and clear reason that I have given. That is why the compensation arrangements need to be revisited and why the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

If, at this 1 1 th hour, the Minister is prepared to answer that argument and explain why the Government disagree with us on this issue, I shall be happy to give way to him. So far, we have had no response whatever to our clear and concise argument. That is why we propose to divide the Committee.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office

The disagreement is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the legislation is fundamentally different and we do not. Gun clubs will be able to continue: it is just that their members will not be able to use pistols. They will be able to use rifles. To be called obtuse by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a curious form of flattery. He does not create a failing on the part of the Government by asserting that there is a failure: he demonstrates an inability to understand the answers that he has been given.

The legislation has been introduced on a point of principle. As a result of looking at all the evidence and listening to all the arguments, we think that there is a need to ban the possession of all handguns, and we do not accept what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 330, Noes 143.

Division No. 34][7.41 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeCooper, Ms Yvette
Ainger, NickCorbett, Robin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Corston, Ms Jean
Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)Cousins, Jim
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)Cox, Tom
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Crausby, David
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Atherton, Ms CandyCryer, John (Hornchurch)
Atkins, Ms CharlotteCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Banks, TonyCunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)
Barnes, Harry
Barron, KevinCurtis—Thomas, Ms Clare
Bayley, HughDafis, Cynog
Beard, NigelDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Bennett, Andrew FDavies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Benton, JoeDavis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bermingham, GeraldDean, Ms Janet
Berry. RogerDenham, John
Best, HaroldDismore, Andrew
Betts, CliveDobbin, Jim
Blackman, Mrs LizDobson. Rt Hon Frank
Blears, Ms HazelDonohoe, Brian H
Blizzard, RobertDoran, Frank
Borrow, DavidEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Edwards, Huw
Bradshaw, BenEfford, Clive
Brand, Dr PeterEllman, Ms Louise
Brinton, Mrs HelenEtherington, Bill
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E & Wallsend)Fearn, Ronnie
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)Flint, Ms Caroline
Buck, Ms KarenFollett, Ms Barbara
Burden, RichardFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Burgon, ColinFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Burstow, PaulFoster, Michael John (Worcester)
Butler, ChristineFyfe, Maria
Byers, StephenGalbraith, Sam
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Galloway, George
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)Gardiner, Barry
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell—Savours, DaleGerrard, Neil
Canavan, DennisGibson, Dr Ian
Caplin, IvorGilroy, Mrs Linda
Casale, RogerGodman, Dr Norman A
Caton, MartinGodsiff, Roger
Cawsey, IanGoggins, Paul
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Golding, Mrs Llin
Chaytor, DavidGordon, Mrs Eileen
Chisholm, MalcolmGorrie, Donald
Clapham, MichaelGraham, Thomas
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Grant, Bernie
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Gunnell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hancock, Mike
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hanson, David
Clelland, DavidHealey, John
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Coaker, VernonHepburn, Stephen
Coffey, Ms AnnHeppell, John
Cohen, HarryHesford, Stephen
Coleman, Iain (Hammersmith & Fulham)Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Colman, Anthony (Putney)Hinchliffe, David
Connarty, MichaelHodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, JohnMcWilliam, John
Hood, JimmyMahon, Mrs Alice
Hoon, GeoffreyMallaber, Ms Judy
Hope, PhilipMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hopkins, KelvinMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Marshall—Andrews, Robert
Howells, Dr KimMartlew, Eric
Hoyle, LindsayMaxton, John
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)Meale, Alan
Merron, Ms Gillian
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Michael, Alun
Humble, Mrs JoanMilburn, Alan
Hurst. AlanMiller, Andrew
Hutton, JohnMoran, Ms Margaret
Iddon, BrianMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Illsley, EricMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)Morley, Elliot
Jamieson, DavidMorris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)Mountford, Ms Kali
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)Mudie, George
Johnson, Ms Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Norris, Dan
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Olner, Bill
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Organ, Mrs Diana
Jowell, Ms TessaOsborne, Mrs Sandra
Keeble, Ms SallyPearson, Ian
Keen, Alan (Feltham)Perham, Ms Linda
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)Pickthall, Colin
Kemp, FraserPlaskitt, James
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)Pollard, Kerry
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Pond, Chris
Kidney, DavidPound, Stephen
Kilfoyle, PeterPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
King, Andy (Rugby)Primarolo, Dawn
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)Prosser, Gwyn
Kingham, TessaPurchase, Ken
Kirkwood, ArchyQuin, Ms Joyce
Kumar, Dr AshokQuinn, Lawrie
Ladyman, Dr StephenRammell, Bill
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, BobRapson, Syd
Lepper, DavidRaynsford, Nick
Leslie, ChristopherReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Levitt, TomReid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, MartinRogers, Allan
Livingstone, KenRooney, Terry
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W
Llwyd, ElfynRoy, Frank
Lock, DavidRuane, Chris
Love, AndyRuddock, Ms Joan
McAllion, JohnMcAvoy, ThomasRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McCabe, StephenRyan, Ms Joan
McCafferty, Ms ChrisSalmond, Alex
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Savidge, Malcolm
McDonagh, Ms SiobhainSawford, Phil
McFall, JohnSedgemore, Brian
McGuire, Mrs AnneShaw, Jonathan
McIsaac, Ms ShonaSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McKenna, Ms RosemaryShipley, Ms Debra
Mackinlay, AndrewSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McMaster, GordonSingh, Marsha
McNamara, KevinSkinner, Dennis
McNulty, TonySmith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
MacShane, DenisSmith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McWalter, Tony
Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms HelenTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Spellar, JohnTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Squire, Ms RachelTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Starkey, Dr PhyllisVaz, Keith
Stewart, David (Inverness E)Vis, Dr Rudi
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Wallace, James
Stinchcombe, PaulWatts, David
Stoate, Dr HowardWebb, Steven
Straw, Rt Hon JackWelsh, Andrew
Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)White, Brian
Stunell, AndrewWhitehead, Alan
Sutcliffe, GerryWicks, Malcolm
Swinney, JohnWilliams, Dr Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Winnick, David
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)Wood, Mike
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)Wray, James
Tipping, PaddyWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Todd, MarkWyatt, Derek
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, PaulTellers for the Ayes:
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)Mr. Jim Dowd and
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Gale, Roger
Amess, DavidGarnier, Edward
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelGibb, Nick
Arbuthnot, JamesGill, Christopher
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Gray, James
Baker, NormanGreen, Damian
Baldry, TonyGrieve, Dominic
Beith, Rt Hon A JGummer. Rt Hon John
Bercow, JohnHague, Rt Hon William
Beresford, Sir PaulHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Blunt, CrispinHammond, Philip
Body, Sir RichardHarris, Dr Evan
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaHarvey, Nick
Brady, GrahamHawkins, Nick
Brazier, JulianHayes, John
Browning, Mrs AngelaHeald, Oliver
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Heath, David (Somerton)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Burnett, John
Butterfill, JohnHoram, John
Cash, WilliamHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Chope, ChristopherJohnson Smith,
Clappison, JamesRt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Key, Robert
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Collins, TimLaing, Mrs Eleanor
Colvin, MichaelLansley, Andrew
Cormack, Sir PatrickLetwin, Oliver
Cotter, BrianLewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Cran, JamesLidington, David
Curry, Rt Hon DavidLoughton, Tim
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Day, StephenMcIntosh, Miss Anne
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenMacKay, Andrew
Duncan, AlanMaclean, Rt Hon David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMaclennan, Robert
Evans, NigelMcLoughlin, Patrick
Faber, DavidMadel, Sir DavidMalins, Humfrey
Fabricant, MichaelMaples, John
Fallon, MichaelMates, Michael
Flight, HowardMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Forth, EricMay, Mrs Theresa
Foster, Don (Bath)Merchant, Piers
Fox, Dr LiamMoore, Michael
Fraser, ChristopherMoss, Malcolm
Nicholls, PatrickStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Norman, ArchieSteen, Anthony
Oaten, MarkSwayne, Desmond
Opik, LembitSyms, Robert
Page, RichardTapsell, Sir Peter
Paice, JamesTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Paterson, OwenTownend, John
Pickles, EricTredinnick, David
Prior, DavidTrend, Michael
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnTyler, Paul
Robathan, AndrewTyrie, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)Viggers, Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Walter, Robert
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)Wardle, Charles
Ruffley, DavidWaterson, Nigel
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Whittingdale, John
Sayeed, JonathanWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs GillianWilkinson, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Willis, Phil
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)Woodward, Shaun
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)Yeo, Tim
Soames, NicholasYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir MichaelTellers for the Noes:
Spring, RichardMr. Simon Burns and
Mr. Tim Boswell.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.