Competition Pistols

Orders of the Day — After Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 3rd November 1997.

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Lords amendment: No. 3, to insert the following new clause—

" —(1) The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of section 5(1)(aba) of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession or to purchase, acquire, sell or transfer a pistol chambered for .22 or smaller rim-fire cartridges if he is authorised under the Act to possess, purchase or acquire that weapon subject to a condition which complies with subsection (2) below.

(2) A certificate granted under subsection (1) above shall be subject to the condition that—

  1. (a) the pistol is used for training in shooting disciplines approved by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the Olympic Games; and
  2. (b) the pistol is used by a person approved by the Secretary of State and on the recommendation of a recognised governing body of the sport; and
  3. (c) the weapon is stored and used only at premises designated by the Secretary of State; and
  4. (d) 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."

6 pm

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

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

As I have said, we do not believe that a case can be made for exempting any group of target shooters. Again, I cannot support new clause 4, which would apply to competition shooters. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth games and any future Olympic or paralympic games could be held in this country. The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) has sought to cast doubt on that. It does not do anyone any favours to suggest doubt where none exists.

As has been explained, both in the House and in another place, a contract has been signed for the 2002 games at Manchester. That can be broken only because of natural disaster or a lack of proper organisation. The Home Secretary can use his powers under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 to grant special dispensation to competitors to take part in shooting competitions in this country. Dispensation could be granted to any competitor, whether from this country or elsewhere.

We have already shown that those powers can be used successfully. In September, the Home Secretary granted his authority under section 5 to allow visiting overseas competitors to take part in the 14th European police and pistol championships at Bisley. In that instance, it was not necessary to grant authority to British competitors, as the competition took place before the 1997 Act came fully into force, and home competitors were able to shoot under their firearm certificates.

Nor do I accept that the passing of the Bill will mean that Britain will never again host an Olympic games. Provided that all the sports can be held—and, as I have just explained, they can be—there will be no difficulty in Britain bidding for future games. The British Olympic Association has said that it is not possible to predict accurately how great the impact will be on any future bid. Potential competitors might try to exploit the fact that a few of the sports were banned to our sports men and women, but that will be a small price to pay in the interests of the far greater priority of public safety.

It is not a prerequisite of the games that the host nation has to participate in all events. It is true that, in the past three Olympic games at least—Atlanta, Barcelona and Seoul —the host nation did compete in every event. However, in the last Olympic games, Britain did not compete in baseball, basketball, handball and softball. I do not know whether we would have teams ready for those events for any future games, but whether we did or not would not affect our ability to bid for future games.

It is important to remember that the Bill will affect just six of the 28 Commonwealth shooting competitions, three of the 15 Olympic shooting competitions, and two the 15 paralympic shooting competitions. That leaves a wide range of events in which British teams can take part. As I have said, we believe that, in the interests of public safety, a complete ban is the only safe option. That is why I ask the House to reject the amendment.

It may help the House to refer to the success of the three-month hand-in arrangements under the 1997 Act. Those arrangements ended on 30 September. From the latest information available, police forces in England, Wales and Scotland have received just over 142,000 handguns. Of those, nearly 116,000 were large-calibre handguns that were prohibited by the 1997 Act and 26,000 were small-calibre pistols which were handed in voluntarily. I have placed in the Library a detailed breakdown of those figures by forces.

Those are encouraging figures. Nevertheless, it may be worth adding some explanation. The original estimate of the number of legally permitted handguns—produced by police forces quickly and submitted as evidence for Lord Cullen's inquiry—was 200,490 in England, Wales and Scotland, of which approximately 160,000 were believed to have been large calibre. That number related only to certificate holders and not to dealers. No precise estimates of dealers' handgun stocks were produced, although, for the purpose of estimating costs, we assumed a notional figure of 10,000 nationally, which was based on a very small sample of forces.

The original estimates provided by forces are certainly maximum estimates, produced at short notice. Some forces will have inadvertently included among their estimates other lawfully held firearms such as rifles and shotguns. The figures would also have been distorted by forces using the number of handgun certificate holders who had been authorised to acquire or to possess, rather than the number who actually possessed, which is, of course, lower. Some forces may have included an estimate of their dealers' stocks.

The lack of accurate details from forces about numbers is also a consequence of the absence of any statutory requirement on certificate holders to notify forces of when a firearm is sold, transferred or otherwise disposed of. That weakness has been remedied since 1 October by sections 32 to 35 of the 1997 Act. The eventual setting up of a central database of firearms owners will enable such exercises to be conducted quickly and accurately.

There are further explanations for the difference in the estimate and the number of guns actually handed in. First, some handguns are being retained lawfully under the various exemptions allowed by the 1997 Act. Secondly, some certificate holders have taken their guns abroad and, in some cases, joined target shooting clubs abroad. Thirdly, since 21 September 1996, the Department of Trade and Industry has granted 3,455 small arms export licences, and each licence could apply to more than one firearm. Export licences are not required by individuals taking their firearms abroad for storage and use. Finally, the previous national amnesty was held in June 1996 and it is possible that some owners may have surrendered their weapons without wishing to await compensation. Over coming weeks, forces are expected routinely to follow up each certificate holder recorded on their systems who has not been in touch with them. That double check by the police will establish cases of illegal possession.

Assuming that 40,000 remains the estimate of the number of small-calibre pistols, with 26,000 already handed in voluntarily, it is likely that no more than 14,000 pistols will still be lawfully held. I look forward to those further guns being removed as soon as possible. I hope that, after we have dealt with today's amendments, the Bill will proceed into legislation very quickly.

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

The amendment reminds me of a whimsical Flanders and Swann song, which extolled the virtues of the English, especially their somewhat lackadaisical attitude to sport, and which said of foreigners that they practised beforehand, which ruined the fun.

The object of the amendment is to allow British competitors to train and practise to the same high levels as people in other countries with whom they compete, which is now commonplace in all sports. The Bill would make that impossible, except if people went abroad to do so, which the Government seem, by their turn of phrase, almost to be encouraging. It is odd that, although the Government will make provision for these major events to be held when it is Britain's turn to hold them, British competitors will have to go abroad to train for them.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

Will the right hon. Gentleman call to mind the fact that the National Rifle Association was first formed and established at Wimbledon because we had sent shooters to South Africa, who had turned out to be so poor that they had to undertake tuition?

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

With his capacious knowledge of the subject, the hon. Gentleman further underlines the fact that we have moved on since the days of Flanders and Swann to an era where people think it right to train to proper standards for sports in which they are allowed to compete.

I recommended my right hon. and hon. Friends, who had a free vote, to support, if they could, the previous amendment, on the strongly, indeed passionately, held ground that we were doing a terrible disservice to disabled people not to make provision for them. My advice on this amendment is based much more on logic: it just does not seem reasonable that, having conceded that these events should be held in Britain, we have made no provision for our competitors to train in Britain.

On both the amendments, Ministers have argued that there is a total ban and that any modification we make will have the fatal effect of removing the totality of the ban. There is no total ban because exemptions are made for guns to be held for occupational purposes and because the Government have made, and said that they will make, exemptions, so that Olympic and Commonwealth competitions can be held in Britain. Therefore, we are not arguing about whether there is a total ban. All our debates are about what the exemptions should be.

I simply submit that it would be reasonable, given the House's determination not to allow any general availability of handguns, even in specially controlled and secure premises, to make some provision for British contestants to train in this country for sporting events, some of which will be held here. That is a reasonable plea, which would not in any way change the character of the ban—which, for the reasons I have given, cannot be a total ban and need not be so in this respect.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

I support everything said by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). The amendment is reasonable and the House should support it. I opposed a total ban on guns because I felt that we should have given the Cullen report a great deal more thought. I also felt that it would do nothing to deal with the problem in my constituency—and, indeed, other constituencies—of the constant use of large numbers of illegally held weapons.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has visited my borough and spoken to many people in Lambeth. He has launched a one-month gun amnesty for Lambeth, which is currently under way. Clearly we must tackle the problem of illegal weapons, and my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on his initiative—although, in fact, the amnesty was called for by the community, not by the police or the Government.

As the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed said, there is not a total ban; there are exceptions. Surely we should be able to make exceptions for our Olympic sports men and women-both able-bodied and disabled—so that they can practise their sport in safe surroundings, with all the very stringent conditions contained in the amendment, with the approval of specialist centres and the rules on the storage of weapons. Everything possible will be done to ensure that the weapons cannot be used illegally, so surely we are taking the Bill one step too far.

It could be made clear that the possession of weapons outside designated premises would not be allowed. We have all sorts of ways to enforce that. The British Olympic Association —a body not known for its radical thinking—would not support the amendment if it did not believe that it could make the system work.

People talk about shooters going abroad to practise, but we should not forget that there is still a part of the United Kingdom where target shooting will continue to be allowed— Northern Ireland, which is exempt from the Bill. Presumably many Northern Ireland people will now become part of the British Olympic target shooting team because it will be the only place where people can practise. In fact, therefore, people will not have to go abroad because they can go to Northern Ireland—which shows the anomalies in the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

They could go to the Channel islands as well.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

My hon. Friend is right.

I appeal to the Minister not to get hung up on this fetish about not allowing any exceptions. There is a perfectly legitimate exception that could be monitored and scrutinised, and which would give our Olympic sports men and women the opportunity to compete properly, rather than going into a competition with their hands tied behind their backs. I hope that the House will think about the issue and not just go along with what has seemed, from the beginning, to be a feeling that, if we did not support a total ban, we would be evil people. I do not think that I am an evil person. I have never supported a total ban, and I certainly do not think that we shall feel proud of this measure if we allow it to get on the statute book.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby

The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) is not an evil person. She shows a great deal of logical thinking, and certainly more than some of her Front-Bench colleagues.

This is the final debate on the Bill, if everything goes according to Government plans, which is likely. Therefore, today we are witnessing the annihilation of pistol shooting as a sport. I regret that; indeed, I regret the whole history of the issue, including the previous Government's decision to go further than the Cullen recommendations. I especially regret what is happening now, because it is mean-minded and in the spirit of a nanny state.

The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook)— I hope that I am not stealing his thunder—said that the National Rifle Association was set up after the Boer war because our so-called sharpshooters were so hopeless. I hope that we will not be in a similar position when we need highly trained soldiers who can fire rifles. It is bizarre that we should be preventing perfectly harmless people from continuing with a perfectly harmless sport.

6.15 pm

The Bill is illogical. The Home Secretary's letter to the British Olympic Association, a copy of which I received this morning, said that competitors could go abroad to practise. His exacts words were: Dispensation could be granted to any competitors"— that is, in pistol shooting— to shoot in Britain at something like the Manchester Olympics, although British competitors would have to train elsewhere. That is an extraordinary, twisted logic and, frankly, the right hon. Gentleman should regret that. This is an awful measure, which is being defended by awful logic.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

This will be the last debate on the Bill. From here, it will go to the other place, and that will be the last that we see of it until it is placed firmly on the statute book. For that reason, I am most grateful that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, showed leniency in allowing the Minister to tell us about the number of weapons that had been handed in — something not strictly in accordance with the amendment under discussion.

It is a great pity that you were not asked to show the same leniency in our attempt to find out about the payment of compensation for weapons that have been handed in. I am getting a huge amount of correspondence from people who, having complied with the law, are sick and tired of waiting for the payment to which they feel entitled and which they were led to believe they would get. They are still led to believe that they will get it, but they do not know when.

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

We have always said that it would be problematic to deal with the number of claims involved, and that the process would take some time. We said that we would deal with the claims as quickly as possible, but that it was impossible to set a deadline. The civil servants and police involved are making great efforts to expedite the process, and that will continue to be the case.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that explanation. However, I feel compelled to remind him that the timetable for handing in weapons was set by the Government—indeed, by both the previous Government and this Government. Surely any hand-in timetable should take account of assessing the value and handing over the cash. It is not sufficient to say, "We have a difficult job." We know that—it was a difficult job that was thought about in the first place, but not for long enough.

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

With respect to my hon. Friend, it was the will of the House during the previous Parliament that the process should apply to large-calibre handguns. The House willed a difficult job to be done. In my view, it has been done well by the police and others. Of course, many claims and assessments have to be dealt with, but we spelled that out when the Bill was before the House and when the order was laid earlier this year. It is something of a diversion to come back to us about a delay, when that delay has always been predicted because of the size of the job to be done.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I simply repeat that any timetable for handing in should have taken account of the process of valuation and handing across any compensation. To my mind, those are simple considerations—but I am a simple person.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State paid tribute to my passion and beliefs, but he went on to say, "But he is wrong." He never tells me why I am wrong. It is useless for me to offer arguments and what I consider to be logic if no one offers me the "anti-logic", thereby loosening my opinions and convincing me of the righteousness of the legislation. Currently, I cannot discern that righteousness.

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

I accept that, at least most of the time, my hon. Friend tries coolly and reasonably to explain his viewpoint, and I do the same. I think that I have offered him sense and logic on each of the arguments that he and I have exchanged. The simple fact is that he does not agree with me, and I do not agree with him.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

My hon. Friend has tempted me to put him to the test. When I raised the issue of Olympic and Commonwealth games, he told me that he had had consultations with the associations and that there was no problem. I believed him. I am not suggesting for one moment that he told me an untruth; he may well have thought that he was accurately informing me. If the information was accurate then, however, the situation has changed a bit since.

On 24 October 1997, I received from the British Olympic Association the only circular that I have received on shooting issues. It may interest hon. Members to know that I have three filing cabinet drawers crammed to the gunnels—not neatly filed in fanfold order, but packed full—with correspondence on firearms legislation. My colleagues sometimes tell me that they are receiving a heavy mail, but I promise the House that I know how heavy the mail can be.

How many of those letters—all of which were individually written—expressed disagreement with my stance? Of three drawers full of letters, only five letters disagree with my stance. The circular from the British Olympic Association is addressed to all Labour Members. I will not read the entire letter, but it states: We are writing to ask your help…The amendment would enable our .22 Olympic pistol shooters to train and compete for international competitions in established Centres of Excellence and avoid the embarrassing situation at the Manchester Games 2002 whereby English, Scottish and Welsh competitors will be able to take part but not train for the .22 pistol events. The safeguards contained in the amendment are absolute. The Centres of Excellence would be approved by the Secretary of State as secure sites. The shooters would be vetted by the Chief Constable,"— I hope a little better than they were in Dunblane— would then be vetted and recommended by the governing bodies of the Olympic sport and finally, would need the special approval of the Secretary of State. Furthermore, the .22 Olympic pistols would be stored and used at the Centres of Excellence, only being transferred to and used at premises at which a shooting competition is taking place during an Olympic or Commonwealth Games.

The letter expresses the British Olympic Association's current attitude, which varies considerably from the impression that was given to me by the Minister in previous debates in the House.

I do not want to sound as if I am booting the Minister, because I am not. He was very helpful when the European 1500 championship, which is a pan-European competition, was held at Bisley. As we were getting very close to the date of the competition, there was some doubt about whether it could be held. People were coming from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and Norway, and from heaven knows where else, but no one knew whether the competition would be held.

During the summer recess, I approached my hon. Friend the Minister, and he was very kind. He telephoned me from his home, we discussed the problem, and he very diligently applied himself to finding a solution. He said, "We will grant a dispensation." Nevertheless, the situation provided an example of the United Kingdom hosting an international competition to which outside shooters brought their weapons so that they could participate, whereas the Brits were rather half in and half out of the competition.

Half the British shooters had retained their .22s, because the date to surrender them had not yet arrived, whereas the other half—who were extra-law-abiding—had handed in their weapons early. Some very good competitors who normally participate in such events had weapons, but some very good competitors who normally participate in such events and represent their country had no weapons. The question inevitably arose whether competitors without weapons would be able to borrow weapons from those who had them. As helpful as the Minister had been with the overall event—which could then take place—he was unable to grant a dispensation to those who had already handed in their weapons.

The event was something of a debacle. Some of our best shooters were without their best weaponry, whereas other shooters—who are probably just as good as our best shooters—were demoralised because their team had been carved up. I suggest that that event provides a technical example of what might happen in future Commonwealth and Olympic games.

The House has already talked about pride, and I have mentioned the pride of people winning elections. I mentioned Daley Thompson and Sebastian Coe. Many British pistol, rifle and shotgun shooters have brought home the gold and the silver, and we were very proud to welcome them and poured praise on their heads for holding up the flag. Now, however, we are in the crazy situation of saying, "You can take part in a shooting event, as long as you bugger off to the continent or somewhere else to train for it. And don't forget to bring back your stuff." Such a situation is apparently justified by public opinion.

In the debate on Lords amendment No. 1, I quoted from a MORI poll. Unsurprisingly, the same poll questioned public attitudes towards shooting in Olympic and Commonwealth games. As I said, 54 per cent. of the generous sample of people questioned agreed that Supervised target shooting with .22 calibre pistols in shooting clubs for able-bodied or disabled people should be permitted.

Moreover, 56 per cent. of those asked agreed that 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 should be excluded from the ban. Of those questioned, 61 per cent. thought that

Supervised training sessions with .22 calibre pistols by the British teams (able bodied and disabled) for the Commonwealth and Olympic games, and other similar events should be excluded from the ban. That is public opinion—based on a random, scientifically compiled sample—as recently as last week.

Many competitors have had to relinquish their preferred weapon—some of which were custom-made and cost anything from £2,500 to £6,000 each, which is not the type of weapon that the ordinary Jack the lad would use in trying to knock off a post office —and resort to black powder shooting as a form of competition.

I shall quickly explain what black powder shooting involves. It means putting a cap on the end of a combustion chamber, filling the chamber with a form of black powder—very carefully measured—tamping it down with a waxed wad and inserting a ball shot. It then involves shooting at a target—people want to do no more than they did before—to put a hole in a piece of card at a distance of about 25 m. That is the sport of target shooting and that is how dangerous it is—and it is supervised.

6.30 pm

I know how long it takes to load such a weapon, because I did it at Bisley during the Trafalgar meeting three weeks ago. It takes a long time, but I am told that Laura Collins of The Sun, who had no official range licence, who was not licensed to use a section 1 firearm and who therefore held the gun illegally, apparently used one to shoot at a melon. Her article tells how quickly she was able to load the gun, but that has to be an untruth. Furthermore, the melon at which she pointed the gun was an unlicensed target— [Laughter.] It may sound funny, but a melon is an illegal target—one can use only authorised targets. We ought to find this a serious matter and not be facetious.

I am talking about someone who broke the law. Indeed, she was not the only one who broke the law. So did the person who lent her the weapon to perform the foul deed, and her editor, who was either an accessory before the fact, in instructing her to perform the deed, or an accessory after the fact, in allowing her to report it. There is no doubt—[Interruption.] I thought that someone was calling time.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. It does not help our proceedings if audible devices are brought into the Chamber.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I promise you that my phone is switched off. It was not me, but I am unable to declare who was responsible for the interruption.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

My hon. Friend says that it was someone on the other side, which reminds me of something that happened earlier this afternoon and which graphically illustrates the sad state we are in with this legislation. Much earlier today, one of my hon. Friends said, "Frank, I realise that we are on opposite sides in this matter, but how long are you going to take?" That person is not in the Chamber now. I thought that it was rather sad, as I am on the side of the disabled and of the sportsman.

I am also on the side of law and order. The reporter to whom I referred broke the law, but she was paid by an editor who allowed and probably encouraged her. I should like to know what the Home Office did about it, whether any charges have been preferred and whether any action is to be taken; because it is unfair to apply the law so stringently to people who have very little defence and who have been willing to be compliant but allow others to parade and publicise their law-breaking activities in a national newspaper.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I shall be very brief. I was not in the Chamber for the debate on the previous amendment because of Select Committee business, so I do not know how many Labour Members were present to put their boot into the disabled. However, I notice that very few are here now to explain why we do not trust those of our compatriots whose ability is such that they are capable of representing their country at their chosen sport.

One of my favourite quotations comes from Sir Winston Churchill in his "Life of the Duke of Marlborough". He said of the Margrave of Baden that his military epitaph for all time must be that the two greatest captains of his age thought his absence from a crucial field well worth 15,000 men.

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

As these remarks go on the record in Hansard, I must in fairness point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there are more Labour Members here than Conservative Members.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

The Minister is perfectly capable of doing that arithmetic, as I am, but he also knows what proportion of Labour Members are present and what proportion voted in the Division.

I listened to the Minister's reference to a complete ban. Foreigners in competition are excepted from that ban and are thus treated and trusted above our own people.

When I was elected to the House, I never thought that I would sit here and hear the Government argue such a proposition. Nevertheless, I have chosen to be present on this occasion because of my sense of embarrassment and guilt at such a proposition coming from the Government.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

I had not intended to speak, but, having listened to what has been said, I should like to make a few comments in view of the fact that this will, we hope, be the last occasion that we discuss firearms for a long time.

I have heard a great deal this afternoon about random samples and unlicensed targets. The children of Dunblane were unlicensed targets—

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

It is not a cheap comment. I ask the hon. Gentleman to come and say that in the small city of Dunblane in my constituency.

Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling

I represent the people of Dunblane.

This is the final part of the chapter that will deal with the gun culture in our communities. We have heard much about the liberty of individual groups and about exceptions. The history of the past 100 years or so is littered with instances of individual liberties having to be restrained so that the unfettered pursuit of happiness was not undertaken at the expense of other people. Yes, it is unfortunate that Olympic sportspersons cannot take up shooting, but they still have their life choices.

According to the opinion polls, 54 per cent. of people believe that the sport of shooting should continue. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) might think this is a cheap comment, but if we conducted an opinion poll in Hungerford, 100 per cent. of the people there would ask for a total ban on handguns. I know that 100 per cent. of the children and parents of Dunblane would ask for the same.

The Snowdrop campaign galvanised opinion in this country, and it is incumbent on the House to see the end of the chapter through this evening and reject the amendment. We must recognise that the liberty of the children of Dunblane and that of the people of Hungerford is far more important than the pursuit of any gold medal in the Olympic games.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I wish to pick up just one point at this stage of the debate. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully and then reply, so that I can understand the reasons behind the approach that he has taken.

Let us forget for a moment whether the people coming to compete in this country are foreign or not. The fact is that, having applied their mind to the matter, the Government have decided that it is proper to make an exception to allow certain members of the public— members of the public who, by virtue of being foreign, will never have been vetted for a firearms licence—to come to this country and use a .22 pistol for competition purposes. I am sure that the Minister will readily agree that he cannot wholly eliminate the possibility that that firearm might be misused. Somebody might go berserk—someone of whose record we have no knowledge.

The Government have decided, on balance, that that is allowable. That is different from the position of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) or the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews). In that case, why does the Minister not deem it allowable for Olympic sportsmen to train in this country? There can be no justification for the Government's position. The Minister has come off the moral high ground—from what he said earlier, he was never on it—down to pragmatism, so he must be judged pragmatically on his proposals.

The amendment would introduce a simple, logical exception, just like the exception requested for the disabled. Will the Minister please explain why it cannot be allowed? I can see no logical grounds for the Government's decision, in view of the position that they have adopted.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

As I said on amendment No. 1, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) made it clear when the previous Government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Bill in November last year that one of the key objectives was to protect the interests of British sportsmen who compete in pistol shooting in international championships such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth games. That was supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Some .32 calibre pistols have been used in Commonwealth games competitions, but the low-calibre .22 pistol has been traditional in Olympic pistol shooting. Target shooting with high-calibre handguns was removed from Olympic competition because those guns were recognised as more dangerous. The amendment would give British pistol shooting competitors the opportunity to practise in Britain for international competition by creating centres of excellence. The plans would require the granting of a certificate, subject to the most stringent conditions.

Such arrangements are vital. If the amendment is overturned, our pistol shooting sportsmen will have to go abroad or to Northern Ireland to train. In practice, they will be banned from international shooting competitions in the country that invented the sport of pistol shooting more than 100 years ago, and has dominated the sport ever since. It has been one of our sporting success stories for a long time. In the past 10 years, British competitors have won 23 medals in Commonwealth games.

As hon. Members know, the next but one Commonwealth games will be held in Manchester in 2002. The Home Secretary has made clear—the Minister repeated it this evening—his intention to use his powers under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 to grant the special dispensations needed to allow competitors to take part in those games, but there are no provisions to allow our pistol shooting competitors to train in this country before those games.

In a letter of 27 October to the chief executive of the British Olympic Association—a letter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) referred—the Home Secretary acknowledged that, while a dispensation could be granted to any competitor, British competitors would have to train elsewhere. What a ridiculous state of affairs!

Usually a Government stumble into such a mess by accident, but not this time. In the aforementioned letter, the Home Secretary stated: We have recognised since the introduction of the Bill, and made clear in Parliament, that the effect of the Bill will be that British competitors will no longer be able to train in this country. Let there be no doubt—that was the intention all along. Foreign competitors can compete here, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said a moment ago, so why cannot British competitors be allowed to train here?

The Government appear not to care about the interests of British competitors in international pistol shooting championships. Ministers have repeatedly been asked—including tonight —to demonstrate how and why those sportsmen pose a threat to public safety. They have been unable to do so, because no evidence exists.

6.45 pm

The amendment would give the Secretary of State absolute control over who could use the shooting centres, and would add further controls by requiring that any applicant must first earn the recommendation of the governing bodies for competitive target shooting in the United Kingdom. The .22 calibre pistols would also have to be stored and used at premises designated by the Home Secretary.

Surely those safeguards guarantee that the special secure centres will be used only by genuine sportsmen, as recognised by the Home Secretary. Such arrangements have been successfully introduced in Japan to ensure public safety, which is our aim. The Government are usually keen to bring best practice from overseas to Britain, but not on this occasion.

Surely the Government can consider the controls needed on legitimate sportsmen who give up their time to practise to win medals and bring honour and prestige to this country in Olympic competition to be different from those required for public safety. The Government are driven by dogma, for the reasons that we have heard today. They are opposed to any exemptions to a total ban on the grounds, we are told, of principle, and in the mistaken belief that only a complete ban will provide the necessary safety for the public.

That might be a more understandable point of view if a total ban would comprehensively rid society of all handguns, but that is clearly unachievable. However much effort the police, customs and courts put into tackling the problems of illegally held firearms, handguns can easily be obtained illegally, not just on the nearby continent, but among the criminal fraternity in this country.

Firearms amnesties have been successful. The majority of previously legally held large-calibre handguns, banned by the legislation passed by Parliament earlier this year, have been surrendered, as the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) said. There is no reason to doubt that the ban on .22 calibre pistols will not be similarly respected by the law-abiding majority, however much they disagree with it. Surely the enforced surrender of .22 calibre pistols by our international shooting sportsmen will make a difference to public safety only if those giving up their guns pose a threat to the community. They pose no threat, and no evidence of such a threat has been forthcoming.

Surely the Government's refusal to accept the amendment must be justified on the ground of public safety and not simply on a point of principle. It is a poor principle that imposes burdens and restrictions on people for no good reason except to appear unyielding. I am sure that those who have listened to our debate this evening agree that we have heard no such justification from the Minister.

If the issue of principle has any real bearing on the matter, it surely points in the opposite direction from the one taken by the Government. English law has always followed the general tenet that everything is permitted unless the public interest demands its prohibition. The Government have failed miserably to show why competition shooting poses such a threat to the community that its complete suppression is warranted. If the amendment is defeated, the Bill will go completely against the grain of every principle on which our law generally has been established.

Conservative Members have concluded that the Government's stand on the matter tells us rather more about their character than it does about any sensible, coherent attitude towards gun control. Minority interests simply do not count if, as in this case, they get in the way of the Government's declared intentions, no matter how much their policy objectives are shown to be unnecessary and distinctly unfair.

Increasingly, the Government appear bossy, dictatorial, authoritarian and tyrannical. Any of their Back Benchers who have different points of view are sidelined or silenced. That is true whether we are talking about a referendum on a Welsh Assembly, tuition fees for university students, cold weather payments, the tax on pension funds, the withdrawal of tax relief on medical insurance for pensioners, or assisted places for working-class children in private schools. If the Government do not agree with people, they may as well save their breath, for all the notice the Government will take.

As the hon. Member for Stockton, North has shown, public support for a complete ban is already waning. Let us make no mistake: unless action is taken along the lines suggested in the amendment, the issue will return to haunt the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary when it becomes increasingly obvious that, by their stubborn refusal to compromise and their high-handed and dismissive attitude towards the views and interests of others, they have single-handedly confined our pistol competitors to the third division of also-rans in international shooting competition.

What will happen when Britain bids to hold a future Olympic games? The answer is obvious. It is all very well for the Minister to say that dispensations are available. Other countries will use the ridiculous ban on pistol shooting to undermine the British case. It is an absolute gift. That is not my view, but the view expressed by Lord Howell, a much-respected former Minister with responsibility for sport, when he supported the amendment in another place. He said: There is no doubt in my mind that if we cannot say that at an Olympic shooting event British shooters will compete on equal terms with everyone else, that will be held against us." —[0fficial Report, House of Lords, 16 October 1997; Vol. 582, c. 589.]

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not quote non-ministerial Members of the other place.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that reminder.

The House must recognise that there are senior members of the Labour party who have great experience of negotiating to bring international competitions to this country and who express their views in no uncertain terms. Their arguments are compelling. They have explained that it is not enough simply to say that there will be a dispensation. The real issue is that, in view of the way things work in such negotiations, our attempts to bring prestigious games to this country will be undermined. That view will become increasingly common. The Government are keen that we should host the Olympic games in future. When they try to do so, they will come up against the problems I have outlined.

That point leads me to ask what the Minister for Sport intends to do. How will he vote tonight? Will he agree with Lord Howell, the former Minister, who backed the amendment in another place?

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) steals my thunder by asking whether the Minister for Sport is even here. Will he be here for the vote? We shall have to check the voting record in tomorrow's Hansard.

This is a bipartisan issue. More than one former Minister for Sport in the other place clearly supports the amendment. My noble Friend Lord Moynihan joined forces with Lord Howell to ensure that the amendment was passed in the other place. [Interruption.] Colleagues may barrack. I suspect that history will show that the two former Ministers for Sport, Lord Howell and Lord Moynihan, have performed rather better in their task than the present Minister for Sport, who, in his own words, regards himself as something of a bar-room sage. Where does he stand on the amendment?

We can begin to conjecture about what will happen in the run-up to the Commonwealth games —not in 2002, but next year when they will be held in Kuala Lumpur—or about what will happen in the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. Our pistol-shooting competitors will not be able to train or prepare in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Stockton, North used the word "embarrassment". I can see The Sun editorial now. It will say, "What half-baked Minister thought this one up?"

When, two or three years ago, we pressed Treasury Ministers to do something about what was called the Dublin trip, whereby horses went to Dublin to avoid high rates of VAT, we quickly persuaded them that the position was indefensible. What sort of trip will our shooting sportsmen have to undertake to train for their sports? The problem will arise next year and in 2000, not just in 2002.

One of the lessons Conservative Members have had to learn is the extent to which tabloid editorial writers appear to have short memories. The day of reckoning will come. The public and the tabloid press may have supported a total ban, but when the consequences begin to be seen, Ministers will find themselves in an embarrassing position.

There is an alternative for Ministers to consider tonight. The Government could admit here and now that they have got the legislation totally wrong. They could accept the amendment, and their Back Benchers could use their free vote to support it. Alternatively—I know the way these things work—they could give an undertaking to take the issue away and to come back with a new proposal to give effect to what our shooting sportsmen deserve and need, and to accommodate the needs of the disabled, about which we talked earlier.

Either way, they can rest assured that the House is certain to pursue the issue again, because the ban is unprincipled, unnecessary, unjustified and unworthy of a tolerant and enlightened society, which, without any compromise on public safety, nevertheless should recognise its responsibilities to minority interests. The Government failed that test in another place two weeks ago and they deserve to be defeated again tonight.

7 pm

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

With the permission of the House, let me say that I thought that the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) made a rather sad speech. It is clear that he has an awful lot to learn about effective opposition. He must know in his heart of hearts that, however much he may disagree with our view, we are doing what we believe is right, and not merely what we believe is popular. We are dealing with important issues, and an important Bill.

The hon. Gentleman made himself totally absurd when he tried to say that the Government were being tyrannical and then went on to quote the words of my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) and for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) and Lord Howell in another place —three Labour Members who have engaged in debate on the issues. Quite frankly, rational debate is alive and well on the Government Benches, and seems to be completely dead within the ranks of the Conservative party.

The hon. Member for Ryedale suggested that there were inconsistencies. His view is consistent only if he does not want any ban on handguns. That is a reasonable view, but the issue was decided before the recess, when the House voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on .22 handguns.

The hon. Gentleman accepted that we can and will allow overseas shooters to use pistols in order to participate in Olympic and Commonwealth competition. It is rather sad that he then went on almost to give succour to those who might argue against the ability of the United Kingdom to stage those events. His was hardly a patriotic approach.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

In two sentences, one following the other, the Minister contradicted himself. He stressed the great need to ban handguns, and then he said that he would tolerate the exception in respect of certain sportsmen from abroad. Having accepted that, how does he then justify not providing another exception allowing Olympic sportsmen to train?

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

Once again, the hon. Gentleman was not listening. It has become rather a habit of his. I was responding to the hon. Member for Ryedale.

Quite simply, we have accepted that the ability of Britain to stage the Olympic and Commonwealth games justifies making an exception—as we have agreed to do in respect of Manchester—in order that sportsmen and sportswomen should not be excluded from the possibility of participating in games hosted in Britain. We have always made that quite clear.

We have also made it clear that we shall not extend that exception, which is why we cannot accept the amendment. We have always been perfectly honest and open about the implications of the decision that we have taken. In theory, we could refuse to use those powers in the interests of the consistency that so interests the hon. Gentleman, but it seems pragmatic and sensible to follow the course for which we have argued.

In answer to the hon. Member for Ryedale, it is not a matter of being careless of the interests of sportsmen and sportswomen. We started by considering whether such sports could be protected, and we reached the conclusion that they could not. It is not a matter of sportsmen posing a threat; it is merely that the amendment strikes at the heart of the legislation.

We do not believe that keeping small-calibre pistols at designated sites, as envisaged by the Lords amendment, would provide sufficient protection for the public. We believe that it would create a dangerous loophole, and that no security system would guarantee that pistols were not removed from those places. Therefore, we consider that their continued possession cannot be allowed. We have always accepted that the implications for the sport are serious. We do so with regret, but openly and honestly.

The question was raised about the extension of the Bill to Northern Ireland, and I shall make the position clear. The Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997—introduced by the previous Government—does not extend to Northern Ireland. Consequently, the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) (No.2) Bill will not apply to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has had its own firearms legislation for a number of years. Lord Cullen's report was given separate consideration in Northern Ireland, in tandem with the review of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981.

The review of the legislation and the consideration of Lord Cullen's findings have now been completed, and separate recommendations on each have been passed to Ministers. They are currently being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a response to Lord Cullen's report, including the question of a handgun ban, together with proposals for the reform of the firearms legislation generally, will be announced as soon as decisions have been taken.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) asked about the possible misuse of a handgun brought in for international sporting events within the Olympic and Commonwealth games. When discussing the exemption that was made in September, I told my hon. Friends that we would have an opportunity to look at the lessons that needed to be learned in terms of controlling the admission of weapons into the country. However, we cannot isolate permission for Olympic or Commonwealth status. Who is to determine whether any individuals could rise to that skill and quality at some point in future, even if they have not reached that standard of competition now?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that foreign visitors need a British visitor's permit, and that, in addition to the Secretary of State's authority to get a permit, the visitor must have a British sponsor. So safeguards are built into the requirements.

The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) regretted the end of the sport of pistol shooting. His speech reflected the nature of this afternoon's debate. Basically, he did not accept the will of the House that there should be a ban on .22 handguns. To a great extent, that is what the debate has been about. We consider that the Bill is necessary and that the proposed exemption would have a serious and significant effect on the legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North said that people were sick and tired of waiting for compensation. The problems of getting compensation through quickly and undertaking proper assessments of all the costs involved will be considerable, and we shall undertake that work as quickly as possible.

My hon. Friend also raised the serious matter of an article in the press. I understand that the author is under police investigation as a result of the issues that he raised. My hon. Friend is certainly right to say that the law must be applied properly and without distinction.

The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) seemed to display some embarrassment and guilt. I remind him that there were twice as many Labour Members present as Conservatives when he intervened. At best, his was an unfortunate intervention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) spoke out for common sense and for the wishes of the House, as well as for her constituents, in favour of the ban on .22 weapons being carried into legislation without the proposed Lords amendment which the House should reject.

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

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 160.

Division No. 78][7.8 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeBenn, Rt Hon Tony
Ainger, NickBennett, Andrew F
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Benton, Joe
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Bermingham, Gerald
Armstrong, Ms HilaryBerry, Roger
Ashton, JoeBest Harold
Austin, JohnBlears, Ms Hazel
Barron, KevinBlizzard, Bob
Battle, JohnBorrow, David
Bayley, HughBradley, Keith (Withington)
Beard, NigelBradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretBradshaw, Ben
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon GordonGrocott, Bruce
(Dunfermline E)Gunnell, John
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Hain, Peter
Buck, Ms KarenHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Burgon, ColinHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Byers, StephenHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Caborn, RichardHanson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Campbell-Savours, DaleHealey, John
Canavan, DennisHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Caplin, IvorHepburn, Stephen
Casale, RogerHeppell, John
Caton, MartinHewitt, Ms Patricia
Cawsey, IanHill, Keith
Chaytor, DavidHinchliffe, David
Clapham, MichaelHodge, Ms Margaret
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr LyndaHoon, Geoffrey
(Edinburgh Pentlands)Hope, Phil
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hopkins, Kelvin
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clelland, DavidHowells, Dr Kim
Clwyd, AnnHoyle, Lindsay
Coaker, VernonHumble, Mrs Joan
Coffey, Ms AnnHurst, Alan
Coleman, IainHutton, John
Colman, TonyIddon, Dr Brian
Connarty, MichaelJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cooper, YvetteJamieson, David
Corbyn, JeremyJenkins, Brian
Corston, Ms JeanJohnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cousins, JimJohnson, Miss Melanie
Cranston, Ross(Welwyn Hatfield)
Crausby, DavidJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cummings, JohnJones, Ms Jennifer
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John(Wolverh'ton SW)
(Copeland)Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairJowell, Ms Tessa
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Keeble, Ms Sally
Dean, Mrs JanetKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Denham, JohnKelly, Ms Ruth
Dismore, AndrewKemp, Fraser
Dobbin, JimKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankKhabra, Piara S
Doran, FrankKidney, David
Drew, DavidKilfoyle, Peter
Drown, Ms JuliaKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Eagle, Maria (L pool Garston)Kingham, Ms Tess
Edwards, HuwKumar, Dr Ashok
Ellman, Mrs LouiseLadyman, Dr Stephen
Ennis, JeffLawrence, Ms Jackie
Fearn, RonnieLaxton, Bob
Field, Rt Hon FrankLepper, David
Fisher, MarkLeslie, Christopher
Fitzpatrick, JimLevitt, Tom
Fitzsimons, LornaLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Flint, CarolineLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Follett, BarbaraLinton, Martin
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Livingstone, Ken
Foulkes, GeorgeLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Fyfe, MariaLlwyd, Elfyn
Gapes, MikeLock, David
Gardiner, BarryMcAllion, John
Gerrard, NeilMcAvoy, Thomas
Gibson, Dr IanMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Godman, Norman AMcCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Goggins, PaulMcDonagh, Siobhain
Golding, Mrs LlinMacdonald, Calum
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs AnneRuddock, Ms Joan
McIsaac, ShonaRyan, Ms Joan
McKenna, Mrs RosemarySawford, Phil
Mackinlay, AndrewSedgemore, Brian
McLeish, HenryShaw, Jonathan
MacShane, DenisSheerman, Barry
McWalter, TonySheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Mrs AliceSingh, Marsha
Mallaber, JudySkinner, Dennis
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Martlew, EricSmith, Angela (Basildon)
Maxton, JohnSmith, Miss Geraldine
Meale, Alan(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Merron, GillianSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Michael, AlunSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Milburn, AlanSoley, Clive
Miller, AndrewStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Moran, Ms MargaretStevenson, George
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)Stinchcombe, Paul
Morley, ElliotStoate, Dr Howard
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mountford, KaliStuart, Ms Gisela
Mowlam, Rt Hon MarjorieStunell, Andrew
Mudie, GeorgeSutcliffe, Gerry
Mullin, ChrisSwinney, John
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Naysmith, Dr Doug(Dewsbury)
Norris, DanTaylor, David (NW Leics)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
O'Hara, EddieThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Organ, Mrs DianaTimms, Stephen
Palmer, Dr NickTodd, Mark
Pearson, IanTouhig, Don
Perham, Ms LindaTrickett, Jon
Pickthall, ColinTruswell, Paul
Pike, Peter LTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Plaskitt, JamesTurner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Pollard, KerryTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Pond, ChrisVaz, Keith
Pope, GregVis, Dr Rudi
Pound, StephenWalley, Ms Joan
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Ward, Ms Claire
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Watts, David
Prescott, Rt Hon JohnWebb, Steve
Primarolo, DawnWhite, Brian
Prosser, GwynWhitehead, Dr Alan
Purchase, KenWicks, Malcolm
Quin, Ms JoyceWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Quinn, Lawrie(Swansea W)
Rammell, BillWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Rapson, SydWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Raynsford, NickWinnick, David
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Wood, Mike
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)Woolas, Phil
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)Wray, James
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, TerryTellers for the Ayes:
Rowlands, TedMr. Clive Betts and
Ruane, ChrisMr. Kevin Hughes.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Beresford, Sir Paul
Amess, DavidBoswell, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelBottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Arbuthnot, JamesBottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBrady, Graham
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Brake, Tom
Baldry, TonyBreed, Colin
Barnes, HarryBrooke, Rt Hon Peter
Beith, Rt Hon A JBrowning, Mrs Angela
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bercow, JohnBurnett, John
Burns, SimonLuff, Peter
Butterfill, JohnMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)McIntosh, Miss Anne
Chapman, Sir SydneyMacKay, Andrew
(Chipping Barnet)Maclean, Rt Hon David
Chidgey, DavidMaclennan, Robert
Chope, ChristopherMcLoughlin, Patrick
Clappison, JamesMactaggart, Fiona
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)Madel, Sir David
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyMalins, Humfrey
Collins, TimMaples, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Marek, Dr John
Corbett, RobinMates, Michael
Cormack, Sir PatrickMaude, Rt Hon Francis
Cotter, BrianMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Curry, Rt Hon DavidMay, Mrs Theresa
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Nicholls, Patrick
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Öpik, Lembit
Day, StephenOttaway, Richard
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenPaice, James
Duncan, AlanPaterson, Owen
Evans, NigelPickles, Eric
Faber, DavidPrior, David
Fabricant, MichaelRandall, John
Fallon, MichaelRendel, David
Flight, HowardRobathan, Andrew
Forth, Rt Hon EricRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fraser, ChristopherRowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gale, RogerRuffley, David
Garnier, EdwardRussell, Bob (Colchester)
George, Andrew (St Ives)St Aubyn, Nick
Gibb, NickSanders, Adrian
Gill, ChristopherSayeed, Jonathan
Gillan, Mrs CherylShepherd, Richard
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gorman, Mrs TeresaSoames, Nicholas
Gorrie, DonaldSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Gray, JamesSpicer, Sir Michael
Green, DamianSpring, Richard
Greenway, JohnSteen, Anthony
Grieve, DominicStreeter, Gary
Grogan, JohnSwayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnSyms, Robert
Hammond, PhilipTapsell, Sir Peter
Harvey, NickTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, NickTownend, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Tredinnick, David
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidTrend, Michael
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelTyler, Paul
Hoey, KateTyrie, Andrew
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelViggers, Peter
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Wallace, James
Hunter, AndrewWalter, Robert
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelWardle, Charles
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Waterson, Nigel
Jenkin, BernardWells, Bowen
Johnson Smith,Whitney, Sir Raymond
Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWhittingdale, John
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)Wilkinson, John
Key, RobertWillis, Phil
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Wilshire, David
Kirkbride, Miss JulieWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lansley, AndrewWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Leigh, EdwardWoodward, Shaun
Letwin, OliverYeo, Tim
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterTellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Mr. Oliver Heald and
Loughton, TimMr. James Cran.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Not all the Division bells are working. I think that it is due to people not checking whether all the plugs have been put back in following building work during the summer recess. Could that be looked into, especially in relation to the Cloister Huts block? Some hon. Members could be substantially embarrassed by not knowing of the Division because—due to meetings—they do not have their television sets switched on. It is a matter of fact that not all the Division bells are working, and it is bad form.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Does the hon. Member wish to hear my response to his point of order?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I am grateful to him for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I am sure that it has been noted by the Serjeant at Arms. If there appears to be any sign of difficulty, I may be a little generous in the time that I allow for the Division.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their amendments to the Bill: Mr. James Cran, Mr. John Greenway, Jane Kennedy, Mr. Alun Michael and Mr. Colin Pickthall; three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Alun Michael.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.