After Clause 1

Orders of the Day — Firearms (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 3 November 1997.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State, Home Office 4:09, 3 November 1997

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The Government are not prepared to allow exemptions to the general handgun prohibition proposed by the Bill. We considered very carefully before introducing the Bill, and reconsidered over the summer, whether there was any way in which we could allow pistol target shooting to continue for both disabled and able-bodied shooters. We concluded that there was not. Small-calibre pistols can be as lethal as those used by the killers at Dunblane and at Hungerford, and, in most cases, they would be just as easy to conceal by someone who is determined to perpetrate an outrage.

We have not avoided the Bill's consequences. We have made it clear from the start what the effect will be, and we have made no attempt to conceal that effect. The way in which the Bill affects disabled shooters is a regrettable consequence, but we thought that a total handgun ban was necessary in the interests of public safety. We accept that the exceptions to the ban that are already in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which are largely occupational, should remain. We do not accept, however, that any other group of shooters should be exempt from the ban.

During the Bill's passage, an equally plausible case has been made for other groups of shooters. There is no reason why any one of those groups is any more deserving than the others, and to allow exceptions for them all would make a nonsense of the handgun ban.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Labour, Birmingham, Erdington

I may have misheard what my hon. Friend the Minister said, but perhaps he will clear the matter up. He is not saying that disabled shooters represent some threat to public safety, is he? Will he, please, take it on board that, because of their disabilities, many shooters with disabilities, and especially those who use wheelchairs, cannot use an alternative firearm, such as a shotgun or a rifle. That is the case that is being argued. Will he deal with that issue, please? Those shooters have no alternative way in which to continue shooting.

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

My hon. Friend is right to say that I did not suggest that disabled shooters pose a threat to public safety. However, exemptions that would allow handgun ownership among members of the public, whether disabled or able-bodied, would drive a coach and horses through the Bill and pose a danger to public safety. That is precisely the point that I made. The point is not about individuals but about handgun availability and possession by members of the public.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I should like to make a slightly different point from that made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). Did not the Minister just say that, in this matter, no group of people is more deserving than another? Is he not incorrect in saying that? Surely we must be concerned for the group mentioned by the hon. Member for Erdington: disabled people.

Pistol shooting is probably the only meaningful sport in which disabled people can participate and have any real social life. Will the Minister not examine that point very seriously, and agree that disabled shooters form a group that is very deserving, and more deserving than most other groups, if not all others?

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

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington, at issue is not the characteristics of the group of individuals but the possibility of creating an exemption that will leave handguns in the possession of individual members of the public. There is a danger.

In the last year for which full information is available, there were 398 incidents of theft of legally held handguns. In that year, therefore, there was more than one incident per day—sometimes involving more than one weapon—of guns going from legal to illegal possession. That figure should give pause for thought to anyone who thinks that it is safe to leave handguns in the possession of members of the public.

I make it clear that there is no attempt in the Bill to disadvantage disabled shooters particularly. Disabled shooters will be treated in the same manner as any other target shooters, and will still be able to shoot air weapons, shotguns or rifles.

New clause 2 proposes that disabled people should be able to shoot with small-calibre pistols, which is something that able-bodied people may not do. How would this work in practice? According to the amendment, only registered disabled persons with firearms certificates may use small-calibre pistols. This would cause particular problems for able-bodied supervisors and trainers who would be caught by the ban and unable actively to assist disabled shooters.

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As for rehabilitation, I accept that shooting may form an important part of the process, but I do not accept that that means that only handguns are suitable for the purpose. Other firearms may still be legally held and used by the disabled and others for therapeutic reasons.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby

I have here a letter from the Home Secretary to the British Paraplegic Shooting Association, in which the right hon. Gentleman also says that rifles may be used by disabled people. However, is the Minister aware that a person in a wheelchair would find it very difficult to use a target rifle, because, almost of necessity, one needs to lie on one's stomach to use such a weapon? It is possible to use a rest, but it is not so effective. For someone in a wheelchair, a pistol is easy to use, because one needs only one's hands.

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

The letter from which the hon. Gentleman quotes goes on to say: We have considered the points made in support of the two Lords amendments …very carefully indeed but remain of the view that it would be inconsistent to allow individual groups of shooters an exemption from the ban. To do so would undermine the principle embodied in the Bill that there should be a complete ban on handguns. Before the hon. Gentleman intervened, I was about to develop the issue of security. If the firearms are to be stored at a designated site, they become a potential target for criminals. I will not go over the arguments we had about licensed pistol clubs in debates on the previous Bill, but there is a substantial risk of theft whenever a potential source of guns is created.

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

I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will do me the courtesy of listening carefully to what I am saying in order to explain policy, rather than intervening in a manner that suggests that he is not listening to the strong case that I am making.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I hope that I always listen to the Minister with courtesy. He raises the great fear of theft of .22 pistols. Is he aware—I think he is—that, if people wish to use .22 pistols for an illegal or nefarious purpose, they can purchase them across the counter in France and readily import them into this country, a process that is likely to be much easier for those wishing to perpetrate offences than breaking into a heavily guarded shooting club, which meets the exigencies of the Secretary of State?

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

I not sure that the hon. Gentleman is listening or has listened with care—his courtesy is not in question—to the arguments made in previous debates as well as in this one. There is a serious public danger in the private possession of handguns. That is precisely why the previous Government introduced legislation to ban larger-calibre handguns, and why this Government fulfilled an election pledge to give the House an opportunity to vote on the banning of .22 handguns. That danger is very real, as shown by the use of .22 handguns to kill people.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) raises the matter of illegally held handguns. It is certainly the Government's intention to do all they can to combat the availability and possession of handguns, illegal and legal. However, it is a fact that legally held handguns were used at, for instance, Dunblane, which is why, before and after Lord Cullen's report, all the consideration was of how to deal with legally held handguns.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Surely the thrust of the Cullen report was that, in order to deal with the problem, weapons should not be held at home. We are now considering whether disabled people should have access to weapons held at secure centres because of the reasons that justify an exception being made for them.

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

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that point was widely considered in the debates on the legislation introduced by the previous Government and in the earlier discussions on this Bill. We strongly took the view—as did the previous Government—that such exemptions did not undermine the general principle that a ban on handguns was necessary.

The right hon. Gentleman is right about the contents of the Cullen report, but we reached the same conclusion as the previous Government—which was widely supported on both sides—that, in the interests of public safety, we should go further than Lord Cullen's recommendations. That remains our view. The amendment would unacceptably undermine the underlying principles of the Bill.

If the weapons are stored at a designated site, it becomes a potential target for criminals. We dealt with that issue in our debates on licensed pistol clubs when we considered the previous Bill. We must accept that there is a substantial risk of theft when a potential source of guns is created.

We are sorry that it has not been possible to find a way to allow cartridge target pistol shooting to continue. We considered the issue carefully before introducing the Bill, and we have reconsidered it over the summer. Our conclusion remains that a complete ban is the only safe option. I therefore ask the House to reject the amendment.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister has advanced a case that many of us find worrying. We should be united on the deserving character of the disabled people to whom the amendment refers. If any exception is justified, surely we should consider this one. The Home Secretary's letter to the British Olympic Association, which was echoed by the Minister this afternoon, said: It is very difficult to justify isolating one group of individuals, such as … disabled shooters". I disagree. I do not think that it is difficult to justify isolating that group, because there are particular reasons why they cannot transfer as readily to another sport as able-bodied people can. If an exception can be made safely, there is a case for making it.

The Minister referred to the dangers of theft. The other exceptions that he has found necessary—mainly, but not entirely, occupational exceptions—involve handguns being held at home or in a workplace. If there is a risk of theft, it will lie more in those exceptions than in allowing guns to be held in special centres in limited numbers for the limited purpose and limited group of people specified in the amendment.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is a greater chance of small-calibre handguns being smuggled into this country from the continent, where they are freely available across the counter, than there is of a break-in at a centre of excellence, which would have to meet the safety standards laid down by the Secretary of State?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Indeed, attempting to break in to Bisley would be an inefficient way for a criminal to attempt to obtain a handgun. The amendment would allow the Secretary of State to set all the safety conditions to his satisfaction.

I do not want to enter into the wider arguments about the Bill. We are considering a specific exemption for a specific group. It is unreasonable of the Minister to argue that the danger of theft is so great. Using theft statistics based on the holding of handguns at home to argue against a system under which they would no longer be held at home is not reasonable. Although he separated his figures in the end, he included in his statistics thefts of guns already being held illegally. Thefts from private homes, however, which the Minister had in mind, cannot take place when guns can be held only in specified centres which meet conditions set by him.

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

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain his comments about not all stolen guns being legally held?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Minister quoted figures for thefts of handguns, which I assumed included thefts of guns that were not legally held in the first place. If I heard him correctly, he seemed to separate out incidents of guns being stolen which had been legally held in the first place. Once the legislation is passed, it will not be possible to steal a legally held gun from someone's home, because guns will not be kept there—unless, of course, that person is covered by one of the other exemptions which the Minister has defended.

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

The right hon. Gentleman obviously misheard me. Can he explain his curious assumption that the figures I gave included handguns that were held illegally? Is he suggesting that people who held handguns illegally would wander into a police station and report their theft?

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The police would come to know of guns that had been acquired illegally not because somebody reported them, but because, when they eventually caught up with someone who was holding guns illegally, they would trace where they had come from in the first place. I thought that that was why the Minister made a distinction in the figures.

The Minister is trying to dodge the main point, which is that it is not reasonable to use figures from a time when handguns could be held at home, and assume that they will apply when handguns cannot be held at home.

The amendment would not introduce a widespread exemption. The exemption relates to a small and particularly deserving group of people for whom it is not possible to transfer to other forms of shooting from which they can gain the same satisfaction and the same levels of skill.

The Bill is a free-vote issue throughout the House; my right hon. and hon. Friends certainly have a free vote. [Laughter.] I do not know why Conservative Members are laughing. I assume that they have a free vote, and there is supposed to be a free vote for Labour Members. One or two Labour Members have spoken out with considerable independence during proceedings on the Bill on these and other aspects of it.

Even those of us who believe that a total ban is, in principle, desirable should realise that no ban can be total, as the Government themselves recognise. They have already made some exceptions on occupational grounds. I can think of no more deserving exception than the one proposed in the amendment for disabled people, given the strict conditions that have been set for its operation.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I want to deal first with the theft of handguns. I prefer to call them small firearms, because I do not like the term "handguns". I think that I heard the Minister say that 398 legally held weapons had been stolen. I find that figure difficult to accept, because I have seen the results of a survey done by the Metropolitan police a couple of years ago. They recovered more than 600 guns from criminals—people who were using them in the course of their trade. Only one of those 600 weapons had been licensed in the United Kingdom, and not by the individual who had used it to perpetrate his nefarious crimes. There is a great disparity between the two sets of figures. 1 believe that we should look at the matter a good deal more closely, rather than use such sloppy logic, which creates a dodgy base on which to pass any legislation.

In the other place, Lord Williams of Mostyn said that he did not want to single out the disabled, because he wanted to treat them like everyone else. That was most laudable, as far as it went, but can we say that disabled people are just like everyone else? The noble Lord went on to say that disabled people could take up another sport. Of course they could. I suppose that someone confined to a wheelchair could take up bingo, housey-housey or tombola, if he or she wanted to compete with able-bodied people.

Disabled shooters compete with able-bodied shooters. Let me ask hon. Members, regardless of party affiliation, how they felt on 2 May when they got the results that guaranteed either their return to the House or their introduction to it. Did they feel a degree of pride?

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When Daley Thompson or our ex-colleague Sebastian Coe stood on the rostrum to receive their medals, I am sure that they felt pride. Was that pride justified? Bob Everitt, the Welsh pistol champion, is severely disabled—he has only one arm—yet he is in the Great Britain able-bodied squad. He is in line to represent Great Britain or Wales—according to whether it is at the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games—and depending on the decisions that we make this afternoon.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in respect of Mr. Everitt and people confined to wheelchairs, it was patronising in the extreme for the Home Secretary to write: rifles and shotguns … would, in the absence of … pistols, still be available for use by disabled people for … sporting purposes? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was unfortunate, to put it mildly, for the Home Secretary to write in those terms?

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I would rather do a body swerve to that question. Whether or not it is patronising, the hon. Gentleman has raised an important point.

The announcement was made when I was at the Labour party conference in Brighton. People said to me, "There you are, Frank. They have gathered them all in." I replied, "Yes, they have, but who have they gathered them from?" When they asked what I meant, I said that they had gathered in weapons from people who had complied with the law because they were law-abiding citizens.

That evening, I heard the television newscaster interviewing a police superintendent who said that people did not use handguns to rob banks or post offices—they used shotguns. He said, "Nobody would try to run off a security van with a .22 pistol. They would be out of their tiny minds." I thought, "Just a minute—we have an informed professional telling us that we are banning weapons that should not be banned and identifying shotguns."

What did that tell me? I am not a very clever person; I am quite simple really, but that does not mean that I am stupid. That policeman was talking about shotguns being the danger, and people are talking about that now. If the Minister tells me that a person in a wheelchair can use a rifle or a shotgun, I have to ask him, for how long and when will the next move be made?

To return to disability, what are we to say to Bob Everitt from Wales, and to Ian Horn, the European 1500 unclassified 1995 champion who won the expert silver medal in 1997 and has severe spinal injuries? Should we tell them to go and play golf or to have a game of five-a-side football in their spare time? Such people have worked for years and spent fortunes on specialist equipment and special weaponry—not the variety that is used on the street. It would be a waste of time a criminal carrying such a weapon.

Such disabled sportsmen have spent a lot of time, money and effort getting some tribute for this country. If we do not accept the Lords amendment, we are denying them that right. I do not think that we have the right to deny them that right.

A competition called the Pistol Anno Domini, in which disabled shooters used to take part, used to be held at Bisley—until legislation was introduced. Not only disabled shooters took part; each year there were 5,000 competitors—with their families—all of whom arrived with their pistols suitably boxed, cleaned, oiled and ready to take part in the competition. It was the biggest event of the year.

I would like the House to know how many police officers were required to supervise the competition each year. Does any hon. Member care to make a guess? The answer is: one. Does the House know why? There was one police officer because he was participating in the competition. There was not one official policeman on duty to supervise the event. That is the kind of threat that we are talking about quelling. That is the kind of sloppy logic that is being used.

How do we justify the sloppy logic? My guess is that the public opinion argument is used to justify it. I understood the surge of concern and anger when Thomas Hamilton committed that barbaric act, bearing in mind that his first certificate was illegally held and that his initial weapon was illegally procured. Every subsequent deal was therefore ruled out under the law—if the police had taken the trouble to apply the law.

I could understand the public opinion. I, like everybody else, was sickened, just as I was sickened after Hungerford, when I and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) served for the Opposition on that travesty of a Bill, the Firearms (Amendment) Bill. We made a mess of the legislation then, and we are making a mess of it now. We have had a perfect opportunity to take the whole legislative framework relating to shooting and weaponry and make sense of it, and we have not done so. We are dealing with it in a piecemeal way, and that is foolish.

I return to the issue of public opinion, the driving force, the promises that were made and the media-driven propaganda that has been put out. I have the results of a MORI poll that was conducted between 24 and 26 October—so it does not have whiskers on it. The question asked was: Which, if any, of the following groups of people do you think should be excluded from a ban on small-calibre handguns and so be allowed to have them? The first group cited was: Supervised target shooting with .22 calibre pistols by disabled people in cases where it can be medically proven their disability means they cannot take part in other types of competitive sport. I suggest that that relates directly to the Lords amendment.

Only 1 per cent. of those asked responded "Don't know", 5 per cent. responded "Depends"—it could depend on anything—and 56 per cent. said that the first group should be excluded from the ban. That is akin to the figure used in the newspaper today to justify Government support for the Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill. I suggest that if 57 per cent. in a survey in the press is enough to support that measure, 56 per cent. in a survey on the street should be sufficient to support the amendment. I have other figures, which I will come to later because they relate to the other amendment.

I sympathise with the Minister, because he has been talked into a corner by members of his party and the Government. The inclusion of the disabled is unenforceable and unnecessary, and there is no justification for it. They will suffer a double condemnation, because they have worked so hard, done so well, and represented their country so well. They have brought back some national pride, which we seem sadly to be losing at the moment. I know that the Minister has problems, but I appeal to him not to oppose the Lords amendment for the sake of trying to make everybody the same. That is not justified, because everybody is not the same.

The Bill will stop me, as the captain of the Palace of Westminster rifle club, going elsewhere to shoot. In fact, the law of the land does not apply here. We do not abide by licensing rules in Crown buildings. The rifle club will continue because it is Black Rod's property. Once the ban applies, if I go elsewhere, I will have to do something like gymnastics. [Interruption.] I was trying to find out whether hon. Members were awake. It seems that they are, but only to the funny side.

The matter is not funny. People have worked hard to gain the pride that Daley Thompson and Seb Coe felt in competition, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, felt when you were elected. I am sure that you were proud, as I was, that the people maintained their faith in you. There is a place for pride. Let us allow the disabled to keep it, for God's sake.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook). No one in the House has fought harder for good sense in the legislation. His knowledge is unequalled and the research that he has undertaken has been magnificent. I regret only that the House is not prepared to listen to him.

I have been a Member of Parliament for some years, and I have seen legislation introduced as a knee-jerk reaction; the Bill is another example of such a reaction. It is extraordinary that people with a disability who have achieved excellence in shooting small-calibre handguns will be forced to go abroad to follow their interest in their sport. I share the anxiety of the hon. Member for Stockton, North about the Minister, who has been pushed into a corner. To say that the disabled must be treated like any other group is wrong.

The amendment makes it clear that the small-calibre handguns in question would be stored at and used only at the centres of excellence and would—as the British Olympic Association states in a letter to the Home Secretary—only be transferred to and used at premises at which … competition is taking place". To suggest that the amendment would open up the centres of excellence to risk or make them vulnerable to people who might break in, as the Minister suggested, is stretching the imagination a bit too far.

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As I pointed out in an earlier intervention, it would be easier for someone who wished to carry out an offence with a small handgun to take a day trip to France to purchase it across the counter and bring it back. They would, of course, have to go through customs, but their chances of managing that are pretty good and it would be easier than breaking in to Bisley or one of the other centres of excellence.

The exemption for disabled people was added to the Bill in another place. My study of the voting on the amendment shows that support was found in all political parties, including the Labour party. The British Olympic Association also points out in its letter: The exemption for disabled people, who would be able to use such centres, is also important since cartridge pistol shooting is one of the few sports in which disabled people can take part"— the next few words are important— on equal terms with able-bodied competitors. Disabled people"—

as the Minister must be aware— are specifically presented with pistol shooting"— as doctors and others will confirm— as a rehabilitation means to help with balance and confidence, primarily in the use of a wheelchair and sport. That should be recognised and it is tragic that the Government are opposing a reasonable amendment to the Bill, which could be policed with a 100 per cent. chance of success. As the hon. Member for Stockton, North said, the statistics gathered by the Metropolitan police show that only one weapon had been used in some 600-plus cases involving weapons. That is a telling statistic.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I give way to the hon. Gentleman most willingly.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. The Metropolitan police said that only one of the 600-plus weapons that they had taken from criminals had been licensed in the United Kingdom—and it had not been licensed by the perpetrator. All the weapons had probably been used.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification, which makes my comments even more valid, since the Minister and his colleagues are not prepared to give credence to that important statistic. Facts speak louder than words, and the statistics cited by the hon. Gentleman should carry weight. It is tragic that this debate is not a debate at all, because people are not listening to the argument. If they were, the case put by the hon. Gentleman would carry weight with the Minister and he would accept the Lords amendment.

It has been said before that, although resisting the amendment may appear to be the brave option, the brave option would in truth be to listen to the good sense of the noble Lords who supported the amendment in another place and to the views expressed this afternoon in the Chamber, not least from the Government Benches. I plead with the Minister not to inflict on the disabled shooters of this country a total ban that will take away so much from their lives, making them less satisfactory and meaningful than in the past.

Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill Conservative, Ludlow

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) in applauding the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), a doughty defender of the right of the bona fide citizens of this country to use licensed firearms. The House will not have been impressed by the justification given by the Minister for refusing to accept the amendment, and we must hear from him exactly how accepting the amendment would endanger the public.

The Minister stressed that the Government must do all they can to combat illegally held handguns, and the public will want to know specifically how he proposes to remove such handguns from society. He must give greater consideration to the amendment, which insists only that a tiny number of disadvantaged and disabled people be allowed to continue their sport.

It is a mean-spirited Government who cannot accept the argument so ably advanced by the hon. Member for Stockton, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield. They, like me, cannot accept that a complete ban is the only safe option for the public. Other lethal weapons, which can be bought openly today without a licence, are perfectly capable of inflicting just as much damage as handguns, if not more. Home Office Ministers should pay attention to those weapons, rather than continuing with their mean-spirited measure to rub out a sport for people who cannot enjoy other sports and who suffer severe disability.

The hon. Member for Stockton, North talked about public opinion. We all know the history of the Bill—it has its origins in the Government's wish to respond to public opinion. However, the House is not here simply to respond to every whim of public opinion. We are here to defend the freedoms and the liberty of the British people. One cannot rub out at a stroke the rights, freedoms and liberties of British people to do things within the law, and changing the law in this respect is, in my opinion—an opinion shared by other hon. Members—quite wrong.

We know how we got here. "We must do everything we can to make safety paramount," says the Minister. Many years ago, when I was chairman of a local education authority, I laid the foundation stone for an infants school in Wolverhampton. Not many weeks after the awful events at Dunblane, a man ran amok at that school with a machete, causing anguish, pain and injury to young people and their parents in my home town of Wolverhampton. It is interesting that we are not talking about banning machetes. Events at that school, St. Luke's, showed that a machete in the hands of the wrong person is dangerous, just as a gun in the hands of the wrong person was dangerous at Dunblane. However, there has not been a reaction against machetes, knives and other dangerous weapons, as there has been against handguns.

The hon. Member for Stockton, North made the point that many of us suspect that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that, although the Government are intent on proscribing handguns at this stage, the time is fast approaching when they will introduce measures to ban all other firearms. The House must realise that that is the hidden agenda, and I wish to take this opportunity to make sure that that message goes out to the British people. We are in danger of misunderstanding what the Government are doing today. I repeat—rejecting the amendment is mean-spirited. In his winding-up speech, the Minister should tell the House how many handguns would be involved if this small section of society were allowed to continue their sport.

Photo of Robert Marshall-Andrews Robert Marshall-Andrews Labour, Medway

This is something of a phenomenon: I intend to speak against the amendment, and it is unusual in this Parliament for a Labour Member to find himself in a tiny minority in the Chamber. I now know how Opposition Members feel every day.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) well knows, he and I take entirely opposite views on this important issue. He knows that well, because he knows that I have campaigned for many years for the total abolition of handguns. It was a matter of great joy to those of us who have campaigned on that issue when that abolition became a reality.

I have always listened with great respect to everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North has said, and I have immense respect for his statistical knowledge and views. I know that he respects my views, too. Those of us who have campaigned on this issue for many years know that the issue raised by the amendment is the only one that has given us serious pause for thought. We have no right to stop people's recreation—particularly if it leads to a recognition of the abilities of the disabled—unless to do so serves a greater good. I have never found comfort in the statistical analysis of this matter, and I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) that the number of disabled people holding firearms is small. However, an important principle has been raised in this House. In banning handguns, the House set its face once and for all against the culture of handgun ownership. I refer not to the handguns themselves or to their number or to the numbers to be handed in but to the culture that lies behind the ownership of a weapon whose only designated purpose is the taking of human life. That is the basis on which the House has acted and will act.

I am speaking for two reasons. First, I want to make it clear why many of us will vote against the amendment. Secondly, while I know that I am in a small minority in the House, I am here to demonstrate that those of us who have campaigned on the issue are here to listen—

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Labour, Birmingham, Erdington

I am certainly not arguing over the principle of the Bill, but will my hon. and learned Friend at least acknowledge that 999 of every 1,000 shooters who are to lose the right to hold handguns have alternatives available in the form of rifles and shotguns? The tiny proportion who are people with disabilities do not have that choice. They either take part in competition pistol shooting or they have to get out of the sport altogether. Can he persuade me, as the Minister has failed to do, that allowing that small group of disabled shooters the right to continue to take part in pistol shooting would represent any threat to public safety?

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Photo of Robert Marshall-Andrews Robert Marshall-Andrews Labour, Medway

I entirely accept what my hon. Friend has said and I will say what I have, in effect, said already—we are faced with a matter of balance. I acknowledge immediately that, given the small number of handguns that would be held, the risk to public safety would be very small. That is not an issue. The importance of this measure is its cultural nature—setting one's face 100 per cent. against and saying that there are no exceptions to this law. As a sportsman, I take no pleasure in taking sport away from anyone, particularly from disabled people who have no other raft. That is why the matter has been strongly debated within the campaign of which I have been a part, and why the opposition that we are articulating is not meaningless.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

My hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that this is a cultural measure and that there can therefore be no exceptions. He says that that is so because of the nature of the weapon. Does it not then follow that rifles are in the same genre and that shotguns are the same? Is that to be the next cultural step? Will he give an honest response to that question?

Photo of Robert Marshall-Andrews Robert Marshall-Andrews Labour, Medway

I would not dream of giving my hon. Friend any other response under any circumstances. I will simply tell him this. There is a significant difference between the handgun and other forms of firearm. As he well knows, the handgun is the only weapon that has only one specific designation—the taking of human life. That is why those of us who have campaigned have campaigned against handguns alone. I can give my hon. Friend this assurance. Those of us who have campaigned in that way have no targets over and above the legislation that we are now pursuing.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I listened carefully to the Minister of State, as he asked me to, and to the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews). The two views expressed point up neatly—we went over this when the Bill first came before the House—the fact that the Minister's position is irrational and untenable.

While the hon. and learned Member for Medway has attacked certain cultural values that he wants to suppress and to supplant with a new era of righteousness, which is at least comprehensible even though I find it abhorrent, the position of the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, as expressly spelled out over and again in earlier debates, was that this was a pragmatic move and that its every aspect was to be judged, not as an attempt to get at the gun culture—that had nothing to do with it—but to deal with specific problems. Yet a rational amendment from another place, which has no prospect beyond the absolutely minimal of increasing the risk to the public, is being rejected by the Minister of State, who is unable to give a reason. My only assumption is that his reason is that he is under pressure from hon. Members, such as the hon. and learned Member for Medway, but feels unable to admit it.

Let us try to apply a little common sense. First and foremost, there is not a blanket ban along the cultural lines that the hon. and learned Member for Medway wants. The armed forces and the police will retain the use of the weapons. The statistical evidence, which will be known to the Minister of State, is that there have been occasions in the past decade — very few—when weapons in the armed forces' possession have been stolen and misused. The same is true with the police. Indeed, I regret to say that there have even been instances when those weapons have been misused by members of the armed forces or the police. We cannot get away from such minimalism.

For reasons that I will not go over again as they are so coherent and cogent, the Lords amendment seeks to allow people who would not otherwise be able to do so to enjoy a legitimate sport. I detect that the hon. and learned Member for Medway is thinking, "Ah ha! But I do not like the cultural values underpinning it." However, it is no place of the House to look at people's cultural values. That is the same road that would take us to the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran—[Laughter.] It is precisely the same route, because, instead of judging matters on their merits, we would be judging them according to our own cultural values. In fairness, the Secretary of State and the Minister of State have consistently avoided that pitfall.

Photo of Robert Marshall-Andrews Robert Marshall-Andrews Labour, Medway

As far as I am concerned, the hon. Gentleman has overstated his case.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I do not think that I have. When I first came to the House, I listened carefully to Labour Members and, in particular, the Minister of State. I tried to fathom whether they were trying to act on objective or on emotional grounds—the latter is something that the House should be wary of doing. Although it may be a small step, I nevertheless consider that, when one starts to take such decisions without objective justification, it is the first step down the road to the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, because one is foisting one's own moral values on others when there are no objective grounds for doing so for the protection of others.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that nearly 1 million people signed the Snowdrop campaign's petition, which asked the House to consider a ban on all handguns without any exceptions?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I recognise that. As was said earlier, it is for the House to apply objective analysis and to ensure that people who may have strong emotions are nevertheless not allowed to dominate and remove the freedoms of others for no good reason.

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

The hon. Gentleman seems to be in some doubt about the grounds on which the Government have approached these issues. They have done so coolly and clinically, judging what is in the best interests of public safety. I can assure him on that point.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I am grateful, and I know that the Minister means that, because he and the Secretary of State have said it often. On that basis, his measure is completely and totally irrational. For that reason, the amendment should be accepted.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

Our debate today brings to an end a long process, lasting more than a year and a half, aimed at strengthening our legal controls over the ownership and possession of handguns following the appalling tragedy at Dunblane in March last year.

Everyone in the House is agreed that such a shocking and horrific incident, in which so many young children and one of their teachers were so brutally murdered, must never happen again. We are united in our resolution to put in place the most appropriate measures to achieve that. In a moving speech, the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) again demonstrated this afternoon that people who shoot for sport feel as passionately and strongly about that as anyone else.

The process of reform on which we embarked all that time ago required a cool-headed and dispassionate examination of the risks posed by certain categories of handgun and the recognition that there are legitimate uses for some guns, but that the greater risk to society is posed by guns that are illegally held or easily obtained by criminals. Above all, there is the need to balance conflicting interests in a way that does not compromise public safety. Such considerations go to the heart of the amendment agreed to in another place, which we are now asked to consider.

Since the Dunblane tragedy, each one of us has had ample opportunity throughout the parliamentary process to express our personal point of view. The House will recall that, last summer, the Select Committee on Home Affairs, of which I was then a member, considered in some detail the existing framework of the law controlling the ownership and possession of handguns. The Committee took detailed evidence on how that framework might be improved.

It is now a matter of record that the Committee divided on party lines. Along with my Conservative colleagues, I took the view that a complete ban on all handguns was impracticable because there were various genuine and legitimate uses that posed no real threat to public safety. Even the Bill recognises the requirement that guns should be used, for example, in the course of animal welfare and husbandry.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will care to compare the views that were expressed during the sittings of the Select Committee with the recommendations that were published in Lord Cullen's report.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

I had not intended to do that. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, however, that there was a great deal more symmetry between what was proposed in the majority report and what Lord Cullen proposed, he is right. The previous Conservative Government and the new Labour Government have taken a much more stringent view than the one taken by Lord Cullen or the Select Committee on Home Affairs.

I took the view, as did my colleagues who were members of the Select Committee, that there were—and there remain—legitimate uses of handguns that pose no real threat to public safety. Time has already shown—and will show increasingly in future-that that was the correct judgment.

The sport of competition shooting, which is increasingly popular among disabled groups, was a use of pistols that we had in mind when recommending that an outright ban on all handguns was inappropriate. In our inquiry, we did not seek to differentiate between various categories of handgun, but we noted the destructive potential of recently developed high-calibre, multi-shot pistols.

The previous Government went beyond Lord Cullen's report, as the hon. Member for Stockton, North has said, and concluded that such high-powered, multi-shot, high-calibre weapons had no legitimate place in our society, but that the interests of shooting sportsmen could be accommodated by restricting the use of handguns to .22 calibre pistols kept only in the most secure gun club premises.

The two amendments passed in the other place at the instigation of senior Government Back-Bench peers, not of senior Conservative peers, show that the Conservative Government was entirely right to make such a distinction and that the new Labour Government's decision to seek legislative approval through the Bill for a blanket ban on all handguns is wrong.

An absolute ban is entirely indiscriminate in its application and as a consequence fails to recognise that there are circumstances in which handguns can and do have an honest and beneficial use which, properly regulated, poses no threat to public safety. Arguably there is no better example of this than the sport of competitive shooting by disabled sportsmen. To suggest that the genuine pursuit of their sport represents a danger or menace to the community at large is thoughtless, insensitive, insulting and offensive to the many disabled people who take part in competitive shooting, who have so successfully represented their country, for example, in the paralympics, and to all disabled people. At the most recent paralympic championships in 1996, disabled shooters from Britain won gold and silver medals and set a new paralympic record. Medals have also been won in recent years by our disabled sportsmen in both the European championships and the world disabled shooting championships.

5.15 pm

Without the amendment, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Britain to host paralympic championships in future. The host nation must be capable of staging all the events that make up the Olympic, games. The paralympics are parallel Olympics, and all the events must be capable of being staged. If pistol-shooting disciplines are excluded, how can Britain convince other countries of its ability to meet the staging requirement, and therefore host the games?

Pistol shooting is a popular sport for the disabled because it is practical and allows a disabled person to compete on more or less equal terms with the able-bodied in a way that is clearly impossible in most sports, which demand physical fitness. Pistol shooting can also have a considerable therapeutic effect—enabling, for example, someone rebuilding his life after a serious accident to improve his balance and co-ordination of hands, eye and bodily movements. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) made precisely that point.

Speaking in another place when introducing the amendment that is before us, Lord Howell —a much respected former Minister with responsibilities for sport—suggested that about 100 clubs belonging to the British Sports Association for the Disabled provide shooting facilities for people suffering from a wide range of disabilities, and not only those confined to wheelchairs. Also included are people who are deaf, or even blind, or those who have had limbs amputated or have restricted movement, for example. Some are disabled as a result of injuries sustained in serious accidents, and others have been disabled since birth.

Aided by the development of modern technology, shooting for the blind is a relatively recent phenomenon. I was surprised to hear that it was possible, but what a miraculous thing that it is. Only last year a blind team from Britain won a gold medal in the Dutch open disabled championships. Surely the House should endeavour to safeguard the pleasure and opportunity that pistol shooting brings to those less fortunate than us. That is the point that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) made in an intervention.

Some disabled shooters are able to take part in rifle and shotgun shooting for sport, but they are the exceptions. The House will appreciate that the recoil from a shotgun would make its use impossible for most disabled sportsmen. It is surprising, to say the least, that, when opposing the amendment on behalf of the Government in the other place, Lord Williams of Mostyn actively suggested that shotguns would be an appropriate alternative. It is such patronising ignorance of the practicalities involved that has offended many disabled people who shoot for sport.

In reality, for the vast majority, the problems of balance and physical strength and being confined to a wheelchair or having only one arm—the hon. Member for Stockton, North reminded us of Bob Everitt, the Welsh pistol champion—pistol shooting is eminently sensible, suitable and appropriate.

Ministers have argued that disabled shooters could find an alternative in air pistol shooting. That argument was made by Lord Williams of Mostyn in the other place. But where would they do this?

In practice, the Bill will close all pistol clubs in this country. Even clubs that provide rifle shooting are unlikely to survive, as the majority of members shoot pistols. The only solution is to provide, through the amendment, special arrangements to allow disabled pistol shooters to continue their sport, but subject only to the most stringent conditions.

Those who would qualify for exemption from the general ban on all handguns are closely defined in the amendment as those who do not just have a physical disability but are "registered disabled persons" under the criteria set out in the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Scotland) Act 1972—not much room for doubt whom we are talking about.

More important, the exemption also provides strict measures of control. Shooters will have to be approved by the Secretary of State. What greater safeguard could there be than that? They will be able to shoot and use .22 calibre Olympic pistols only in designated premises, and possession of the weapons outside such premises would be permitted only under the strictest conditions, which the Secretary of State himself would specify.

Where is the risk of theft? As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said, it is more imagined than real. It suits the Government's arguments, but has no basis. Even under existing arrangements, there is not a shred of evidence that disabled shooters pose the slightest threat to the community. The rigid and exacting framework of controls contained in the amendment surely should remove any possible doubt that granting this exemption would compromise public safety.

Despite such overwhelming arguments, it seems from what we have heard today that the Government remain implacably opposed to granting any exemption to their preferred blanket ban on all handguns on—wait for it—a point of principle. Let us examine that argument a little more closely. Surely "principle" demands that Government be required to protect the interests of minority groups, let alone a group so vulnerable and deserving of our special dispensation as those with disabilities. By rejecting the amendment, the interests of one deserving minority are being set aside and crushed in pursuit of the interests of another.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, after Hungerford, an opportunity was not taken, in the interests of safeguarding minority rights, and because of that we had Dunblane?

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

If there are any lessons to be learned about the legislative changes that took place after Hungerford—in many respects they go to the heart of what we are considering today—it is that we concentrated far too much on deciding that certain weapons posed a greater danger than others and not enough on ensuring that the people who by their own actions, by their own behaviour, posed a threat. It is not the gun that kills —it is the person who pulls the trigger. The House has lost sight of that fact in many of our recent debates on these matters. As I was saying, by rejecting the amendment, the interests of one deserving minority will be set aside and crushed in pursuit of the interests of another. There is always a danger that, in seeking to respond positively to inevitable public demands for legislative action following such awful events as those at Dunblane, government will overstep the mark and go beyond what is necessary or justified. Just count how many amending Bills we have had in the 10 years that I have been here in which we have tried to put right mistakes made by knee-jerk reaction legislation.

For the community in Dunblane and the many thousands—a million was mentioned earlier; I do not know the exact figure, but I concede that it was a lot—who supported the Snowdrop campaign, which prompted the present Government to accept demands for a total ban on all handguns, such is their understandable sense of revulsion and concern that only a total ban will suffice. However, the backing of the wider public, mobilised by media comment, for the banning of all handguns was undeniably based on rather less conviction.

The most telling point today was made by the hon. Member for Stockton North, who said that a recent public opinion survey showed that 56 per cent. of people believe that it would be wrong for the ban to apply to disabled groups. I do not believe that public opinion would have been quite so apparently in favour of a complete ban if they had realised, for example, that people in wheelchairs, or blind sportsmen, would be denied their pleasure and sport. The House must seriously consider that matter when deciding how to treat the amendment.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

I give way to the hon. Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews).

Photo of Robert Marshall-Andrews Robert Marshall-Andrews Labour, Medway

The hon. Gentleman asserts that the interests of one deserving minority are being crushed for the benefit of another. Will he define the other deserving minority whose benefits are being safeguarded?

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

Yes—I have already made that clear. The point that I am making is that that is what the people who signed the Snowdrop campaign and those who called for a complete ban—to which the Government responded when in opposition—feel. From the many letters that I have received, and from much of the media comment that my Conservative colleagues and I on the Home Affairs Committee received as a result of our report last year, one would think that somehow we were evil because we stood in the way, as far as they were concerned, of a total ban. They concluded that, for them, only a total ban will do. My point is simply that if one accepts that, one equally accepts that the interests of another deserving minority—the disabled, people in wheelchairs, the blind, who shoot for sport, in all innocence—will be set at naught.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

The hon. Gentleman expressed interest in the 56 per cent. of the generous random sample who were supportive of the disabled still being able to participate in shooting sports with small weapons. He may be interested to know that supervised target shooting with .22 calibre pistols in shooting clubs for disabled or able-bodied was supported by 54 per cent.—only 2 per cent. less.

5.30 pm

Mr. Greenway: Doubtless we shall make use of that statistic when we consider Lords amendment No. 3.

As I said at the outset, any rational assessment of a ban on or prohibition of ownership and possession of handguns would have to provide for exemptions, and the Bill does that. It is the view of Opposition Members that protecting the interests of disabled people who take part in competition shooting should be one such exempt group. That is why their Lordships were right to agree this amendment, and why this House would be wrong to reject it.

It is not too late for Labour Members to save the day. The Labour manifesto promised them a free vote on whether to ban all handguns. Comments have been made about whether they will have a free vote, but as I do not receive the Labour Whip, and have no intention of ever doing so—

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

No, I am about to finish.

I have no intention of receiving the Labour Whip, but I understand that there may be a free vote. The crucial point is that free votes are always associated with matters of principle or conscience. This is a matter of principle. The principle is not that only a blanket ban will do, but that the interests of minorities should come before the interests of big government, dogma and plain pigheadedness. Supporting the amendment will not wreck the Bill, but voting against it and overturning it will wreck the interests of disabled people who shoot for sport.

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

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to begin by welcoming the fact that the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) reminded us of the unity of the House in our determination to do everything we can to prevent a repeat of the massacre at Dunblane. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) reminded us of the plea of the Snowdrop campaigners, who put a passionate, rational and dignified case to the House and to the general public. That is how we should deal with these issues. I praised the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks, but I was surprised by the rather hysterical ending to his speech.

There is no suggestion that disabled people are a danger, and the suggestion that our amendment is an affront to them is patently absurd. I welcome Conservative Members' interest in the rights of disabled people, because it was Labour Members who, over the years, defended the rights of the disabled when the Conservative Government failed to do so. We have not lost sight of the culpability of a killer—the person whose finger pulls the trigger—in saying that it is important to remove the risks that are increased by the availability of handguns. That is what the legislation introduced by the previous Government and this Bill are all about.

The hon. Gentleman introduced another red herring when he referred to the Olympic games and the paraplegic Olympics. The Home Secretary and I have repeatedly reminded hon. Members of the powers of the Secretary of State in that respect, and I shall not go further than that, because they may be discussed when we consider later amendments.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

My hon. Friend made the point that legally certified weapons could be used for crime. Of course they could, if they were purloined by others. However, the police had some control over a proportion of the firearms that were held previously, whereas now they have no control at all because they are illegal. The effect of the Bill will be that that control will be removed.

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

I do not follow my hon. Friend's logic, because legally held handguns will no longer exist. A large number of them are no longer in the public domain: they are not in homes, or on the streets, because large-calibre handguns and a considerable number of a lower calibre have been handed in.

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) suggested that the amendment deals with a limited number of people. It is not that simple. He also referred to the problem of pistols that have been smuggled in from abroad. The Government take that issue seriously, but we are not discussing that today. There is a big difference between security at Bisley, to which he referred, and storage and security at other gun clubs. In the past, guns were held in homes and thus were largely anonymous, whereas designated sites would be well known and thus more vulnerable. That issue was discussed more widely in earlier debates on the Bill.

In response to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, I must point out that the main problem with the amendment is that it would allow a number of guns to be stored at a site, which would make them a more attractive target for criminals.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield said that this legislation was a knee-jerk reaction. It is not. Although he made occasional references to disabled people, he returned to the arguments on the principle of the Bill. With respect to him and to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill), it is they who have failed to listen to the arguments for the Bill, whereas the Government have listened to and considered carefully and judiciously every argument that has been put to them.

The hon. Member for Ludlow spoke about rights and freedoms in relation to handguns, and he referred to machetes. We have a problem not just with machetes, but with knives generally, which is why we pressed for legislation, moved amendments to a series of Bills and succeeded in getting the Knives Act 1997 through Parliament and implemented it as quickly as we were able. The problem is that such implements have a purpose, whereas a pistol has two uses: target shooting, and to injure, maim or kill.

I take the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North very seriously indeed. I respect them, although I disagree with them. He cast doubt on the figures on the theft of handguns. They are authentic, because they come from chapter 3 of the 1995 "Criminal Statistics", which is in the Library.

I do not accept that this measure is the denial of a right: it is a limitation on a privilege that is allowed in law in the United Kingdom in specific circumstances. My hon. Friend argued with passion that we have been pushed into making our decisions. I disagree with him. When we saw the mess that was made after Hungerford, we thought long and hard before supporting the previous Government's legislation on large-calibre handguns, and going further, as we promised, to allow the House to decide to ban .22 handguns. Public opinion on the exclusion of groups from the ban was measured in terms of which group "if any", and I suggest that "if any" is a significant part of the question.

I think that my hon. Friend intended to be kind when he said that I had been talked into a corner on this matter. I assure him that I believe that there is every justification for banning .22 handguns and that there is no case for this exemption. I respect my hon. Friend's passion, but I think that he is wrong. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) descended to insult and absurdity. I ask him to apply common sense. The use of handguns by the police and the armed forces is entirely different from the use by any group specifically for sport. We must be alert to the dangers of misuse by any individuals who are authorised by law to possess handguns, but there is a difference between those groups.

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), who said that we are combating the culture of handguns. As a number of hon. Members have said, we must of course deal with illegal weapons and the wider culture of violence; but those issues are not before us today. What is before us today is an amendment that would cause problems for the legislation which received such overwhelming support from the House.

We remain of the view that it would be inconsistent to undermine the principle embodied in the Bill that there should be a complete ban on handguns. We consider that only a complete ban on handguns will provide the necessary degree of public safety. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have made that clear on a number of occasions. It is significant that there has not been the sort of representation from disabled people that would have been expected if the issue were as major as a number of those contributing to the debate have suggested. I believe that those contributions came from people who do not accept that the House has declared its will on the banning of .22 handguns. For that reason, the Government seek to overturn the amendment.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:

The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes 155.

Division No. 77][5.40 pm
Abbott, Ms DianeDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Ainger, NickDean, Mrs Janet
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Denham, John
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Dismore, Andrew
Armstrong, Ms HilaryDobbin, Jim
Ashton, JoeDoran, Frank
Atkins, CharlotteDowd, Jim
Austin, JohnDrew, David
Barron, KevinDrown, Ms Julia
Battle, JohnDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bayley, HughEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Beard, NigelEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEdwards, Huw
Bennett, Andrew FEllman, Mrs Louise
Benton, JoeEnnis, Jeff
Bermingham, GeraldFatchett, Derek
Berry, RogerFearn, Ronnie
Best, HaroldFisher, Mark
Betts, CliveFitzpatrick, Jim
Blears, Ms HazelFitzsimons, Lorna
Blizzard, BobFlint, Caroline
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidFlynn, Paul
Borrow, DavidFollett, Barbara
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradshaw, BenFoulkes, George
Brinton, Mrs HelenFyfe, Maria
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Gardiner, Barry
Buck, Ms KarenGerrard, Neil
Burgon, ColinGibson, Dr Ian
Byers, StephenGilroy, Mrs Linda
Caborn, RichardGodman, Norman A
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell-Savours, DaleGrocott, Bruce
Canavan, DennisGrogan, John
Caplin, IvorGunnell, John
Casale, RogerHain, Peter
Caton, MartinHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Cawsey, IanHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Chaytor, DavidHanson, David
Clapham, MichaelHarman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clark, Dr LyndaHealey, John
(Edinburgh Pentlands)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Heppell, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hill, Keith
Coaker, VernonHinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms AnnHodge, Ms Margaret
Coleman, IainHome Robertson, John
Colman, TonyHoon, Geoffrey
Connarty, MichaelHope, Phil
Cooper, YvetteHopkins, Kelvin
Corbyn, JeremyHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corston, Ms JeanHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cousins, JimHowells, Dr Kim
Cranston, RossHoyle, Lindsay
Crausby, DavidHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Humble, Mrs Joan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Hurst, Alan
Cummings, JohnHutton, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnIddon, Dr Brian
(Copeland)Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Palmer, Dr Nick
Johnson, Miss MelaniePearson, Ian
(Welwyn Hatfield)Perham, Ms Linda
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Pike, Peter L
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Plaskitt, James
Jones, Ms JenniferPollard, Kerry
(Wolverh'ton SW)Pond, Chris
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pope, Greg
Jowell, Ms TessaPound, Stephen
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keeble, Ms SallyPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kelly, Ms RuthPrimarolo, Dawn
Kemp, FraserPurchase, Ken
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Quin, Ms Joyce
Khabra, Piara SQuinn, Lawrie
Kidney, DavidRadice, Giles
Kilfoyle, PeterRammell, Bill
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Rapson, Syd
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Raynsford, Nick
Kingham, Ms TessReid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kumar, Dr AshokRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Ladyman, Dr StephenRoche, Mrs Barbara
Lawrence, Ms JackieRogers, Allan
Laxton, BobRooker, Jeff
Lepper, DavidRooney, Terry
Leslie, ChristopherRuane, Chris
Levitt, TomRuddock, Ms Joan
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Ryan, Ms Joan
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Sawford, Phil
Linton, MartinSedgemore, Brian
Livingstone, KenShaw, Jonathan
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Sheerman, Barry
Llwyd, ElfynSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lock, DavidShort, Rt Hon Clare
McAllion, JohnSingh, Marsha
McAvoy, ThomasSkinner, Dennis
McCafferty, Ms ChrisSmith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McDonagh, SiobhainSmith, Miss Geraldine
Macdonald, Calum(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McDonnell, JohnSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McGuire, Mrs AnneSmith, John (Glamorgan)
McIsaac, ShonaSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McKenna, Mrs RosemarySoley, Clive
McLeish, HenryStarkey, Dr Phyllis
MacShane, DenisStevenson, George
McWalter, TonyStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mahon, Mrs AliceStinchcombe, Paul
Mallaber, JudyStoate, Dr Howard
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Stott, Roger
Martlew, EricStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Maxton, JohnStuart, Ms Gisela
Meale, AlanSutcliffe, Gerry
Merron, GillianTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Michael, Alun(Dewsbury)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Milburn, AlanThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Miller, AndrewThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Moran, Ms MargaretTimms, Stephen
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Touhig, Don
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)Trickett, Jon
Morley, ElliotTruswell, Paul
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Mountford, KaliTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Mudie, GeorgeTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Mullin, ChrisVaz, Keith
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Vis, Dr Rudi
Naysmith, Dr DougWalley, Ms Joan
Norris, DanWard, Ms Claire
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Watts, David
O'Hara, EddieWhite, Brian
Olner, BillWhitehead, Dr Alan
Organ, Mrs DianaWicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon AlanWray, James
(Swansea W)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)Wyatt, Derek
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Wood, MikeMr. David Clelland and
Woolas, PhilMr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Harvey, Nick
Amess, DavidHawkins, Nick
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Arbuthnot, JamesHeathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Hoey, Kate
Baldry, TonyHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Barnes, HarryHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Beith, Rt Hon A JHunter, Andrew
Bercow, JohnJack, Rt Hon Michael
Beresford, Sir PaulJackson, Robert (Wantage)
Boswell, TimJenkin, Bernard
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Johnson Smith,
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaRt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Brady, GrahamJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Brake, TomKennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Breed, ColinKey, Robert
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Browning, Mrs AngelaKirkbride, Miss Julie
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Lansley, Andrew
Burnett, JohnLeigh, Edward
Burns, SimonLetwin, Oliver
Burstow, PaulLewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Butterfill, JohnLidington, David
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Cash, WilliamLloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Chapman, Sir SydneyLoughton, Tim
(Chipping Barnet)Luff, Peter
Chidgey, DavidMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Chope, ChristopherMcIntosh, Miss Anne
Clappison, JamesMacKay, Andrew
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)Maclean, Rt Hon David
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyMcLoughlin, Patrick
Collins, TimMactaggart, Fiona
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Madel, Sir David
Corbett, RobinMalins, Humfrey
Cormack, Sir PatrickMaples, John
Cotter, BrianMaude, Rt Hon Francis
Curry, Rt Hon DavidMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)May, Mrs Theresa
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Nicholls, Patrick
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenOttaway, Richard
Duncan, AlanPaice, James
Duncan Smith, IainPickles, Eric
Evans, NigelPrior, David
Faber, DavidRandall, John
Fabricant, MichaelRendel, David
Fallon, MichaelRobathan, Andrew
Flight, HowardRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Forth, Rt Hon EricRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Foster, Don (Bath)Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanRuffley, David
Fraser, ChristopherRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Gale, RogerSt Aubyn, Nick
Garnier, EdwardSanders, Adrian
George, Andrew (St Ives)Sayeed, Jonathan
Gibb, NickShepherd, Richard
Gill, ChristopherSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gillan, Mrs CherylSoames, Nicholas
Golding, Mrs LlinSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairSpicer, Sir Michael
Gorman, Mrs TeresaSpring, Richard
Gorrie, DonaldSteen, Anthony
Green, DamianStreeter, Gary
Greenway, JohnStunell, Andrew
Grieve, DominicSwayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnSyms, Robert
Hammond, PhilipTapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)Wells, Bowen
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Whitney, Sir Raymond
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)Whittingdale, John
Taylor, Sir TeddyWills, Phil
Tredinnick, DavidWilshire, David
Trend, MichaelWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Tyler, PaulWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Tyrie, AndrewWoodward, Shaun
Viggers, PeterYeo, Tim
Walter, RobertYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, NigelTellers For the Noes:
Webb, SteveMr. James Cran and
Mr. Oliver Heald.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

(3) A certificate granted under subsection (2) above shall be subject to the condition that—

  1. (a) the weapon is stored and used only at premises designated by the Secretary of State; and
  2. (b) possession of the weapon outside such designated premises shall be permitted only for transfer to and use at premises at which a shooting competition is taking place on such conditions as the Secretary of State shall specify.")

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

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I must inform the House that the amendment involves privilege.

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

The amendment will make the compensation arrangements for small-calibre pistols subject to the same affirmative resolution procedure as for the large-calibre scheme so that a draft of the scheme will need to be debated by both Houses before it can be formally made by the Secretary of State. The amendment was introduced on the recommendation of the Lords Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers and Deregulation. I ask the House to support the amendment.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I thank the Government for accepting an amendment which they showed such reluctance to accept during the debate in the other place. It is right that the House should have an opportunity to consider the compensation scheme on the basis of an affirmative resolution. We are glad that, in the end, the Government conceded the amendment.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

I was hoping to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We agree with the amendment, but I want to make a brief comment. My understanding is that the amendment was supported by the Opposition in the other place. We can agree on the amendment if on nothing else, because it clearly makes sense to have similarity of treatment.

Lords amendment agreed to [Special Entry].