I am perfectly open to discussion about who should be on that committee. I simply make the point to the hon. Gentleman that by now we should have such a committee, and it does not exist. Will the Minister reassure the Committee that the FAC will be established, and will play an active role in assisting the Government in compiling the list of exceptions and exemptions?
The purpose of amendment No. 263 is to shift the burden of proof from the accused, who may be carrying a gun safely and responsibly, on to the prosecution to show that the accused does not fall within one of the exemptions or defences that are being created, and was indeed holding the gun for an illegal purpose. If respectable and law-abiding citizens are to be criminalised, albeit that they will have a defence, it should be clear and unambiguous that it is not for the re-enactor or museum owner to show that he is not guilty of the offence. It should be for the prosecution to show that that person cannot rely on the defence.
The amendment preserves the presumption of innocence, and will allow actors, re-enactors, collectors, airsoft participants and even museums to go about their legitimate activities without threat or constant fear of contravening these complicated provisions relating to imitation firearms. It should still prove sufficiently straightforward for the prosecution to show that an accused person does not fall within one of the exemptions or the defence and therefore to ensure that justice prevails. The amendment is an attempt to safeguard civil liberties.
Amendment No. 271 would provide for compensation for the many holders of valuable imitation firearms, as well as to the businesses that stand to lose substantial parts of their revenue due to the clauses—
It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned till this day at Four o'clock.