My Lords, in my nine years in your Lordships’ House, I have never had to come to the Dispatch Box and speak to two amendments that were originally in the government Bill. I am proposing a government clause here. I suppose we all have to do new things at some point, but it is a strange situation when the opposition spokesperson moves to add two clauses on these matters that were in the Bill in the other place.
I shall read out a couple of quotes that may interest the House. First:
“There is concern about the availability of .50 calibre and rapid-fire Manually Actuated Release System (MARS) rifles being available to some civilian firearms licence holders. The range and penetrative power of .50 calibre rifles makes them more dangerous than other common firearms and were they to be used in criminal or terrorist activities would present a serious threat to the public and would be uniquely difficult for the police to control. Due to the rate of discharge MARS rifles pose a comparable risk to the public and police as other self-loading weapons already banned in the UK. The Government need to intervene to ensure the purchase, ownership or possession is illegal”.
That is the opening statement of the Government’s impact assessment.
“We based those measures on evidence that we received from intelligence sources, police and other security experts … According to the information that we have, weapons of this type have, sadly, been used in the troubles in Northern Ireland, and, according to intelligence provided by police and security services, have been possessed by criminals who have clearly intended to use them”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/6/18; cols. 918-19.]
What happened? What persuaded the Government to do a complete about-turn by Third Reading? I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response. Apparently, these weapons can immobilise a truck or hit a person over a mile away. I am surprised by the about-turn between Second Reading and Third Reading. We raised this issue in Grand Committee and have still had no explanation. I seek to put two government clauses back into the Bill. I look forward to the debate and I beg to move.