My Lords, in Grand Committee my noble friend and I had a discussion on this subject and he said that he would do his best to find me the evidence that the Government were working on that rifles that are targeted in this part of the Bill are capable of a higher rate of fire than ordinary target rifles. I have not received, as far as I can find out, anything from my noble friend.
My amendment is not intended to look at the process. After all, targeting only where the energy source is the gas from the firing of the previous cartridge leaves the possibility that a similar mechanism might be powered by electricity or clockwork. I think that the Government are saying that they do not want in common use rifles that are capable of a higher rate of fire than a standard bolt-action rifle. That seems reasonable, and if that is what the Government want to achieve, let us have legislation that achieves that and does not go at just the particular way a higher rate of fire—if there is indeed a higher rate of fire—is being achieved. That will allow us to develop a weapon that can be conveniently used by disabled people but which will be acceptable to the Government in the long term. That was very much why these weapons came into being. They were perfectly legally created but were adapted to the needs of particular shooters.
Let us have out in the clear, in legislation, that the basic thing that the Government want to avoid is fast-firing rifles. Let us ban them. Then something that does not have a higher rate of fire, in the Secretary of State’s opinion, can be allowed and created to meet need of these particular target shooters.
Under this subsection we are looking at a compensation payment of around £15 million, as far as I can discover, which is not enormous on the Grayling scale but is nevertheless a serious amount of money for the Government to focus on whether this is a justified expenditure or not. I would like to be sure that the rifles are being banned because they exceed a rate of fire that the Government find acceptable. If we are going to do it by the mechanism in this Bill because we have not got time to change anything else, let us at least see the evidence. What measurement of the rate of fire of these rifles have the Government made to justify spending £15 million? If that evidence is not immediately forthcoming, let us refocus on the underlying concern—the rate of fire. Let us make that the prohibited thing. That way, we can adapt to changes in technology as they come along and make sure that this bit of the Bill continues to achieve its intended effect into the future, and not just until someone finds another technological workaround. I beg to move.