§ The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
§ 98. * Mr. Austin.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider an appeal to the public for the surrender of all unlicensed firearms, such surrender to be made on a basis of no penalty for improper possession.
§ At the end of Questions—
§ Mr. Ede
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer Question No. 98.
I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about the serious risks to the public arising from the existence of large numbers of firearms and quantities of ammunition which there is reason to believe are being held without firearm certificates issued by the police. It is an offence punishable by heavy penalties to hold a firearm or ammunition without a firearm certificate.
With a view to reducing this risk and providing an opportunity for the surrender of firearms or ammunition which are unlawfully held, I have asked chief officers of police in England and Wales, with whom the enforcement of the Firearms Act, 1937, rests, to arrange that proceedings are not taken against anyone who surrenders firearms or ammunition so held by 31st March. My right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate has agreed that proceedings will not be taken in Scotland against anyone who surrenders by that date firearms or ammunition unlawfully held.
539 The Government appeal to all concerned to take advantage of this arrangement and so help to put an end to a situation which has already resulted in a number of tragic accidents. Firearms and ammunition may be handed in at any police station.
§ Mr. Austin
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his long answer, may I ask whether he will give the greatest possible publicity to this statement in the Press, through the cinema and over the radio?
§ Mr. Ede
I have already had a Press conference on this matter with, I think, quite satisfactory results, judging by the information that has been given. A statement will be made on the radio this evening, and I will consider whether there are other means of giving publicity to this statement which we regard as being of urgent importance.
§ Mr. McGovern
As a considerable number of people are in possession of firearms which have been stolen, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, when the firearms are handed in, any inquiries will be made and proceedings taken against the people in unlawful possession?
§ Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew
Will this concession cover people who wish to keep firearms which they illegally hold if they license them?
§ Sir J. Mellor
To avoid any possible confusion, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that that does not apply to shot-guns?
§ Mr. Garry Allighan
Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing more severe penalties than exist at present for the un-lawful possession of firearms, after 31st March?