HC Deb 27 March 1980 vol 981 cc1641-2
16. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the review of firearm matters currently taking place.

Mr. Whitelaw

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) on 6 March.

Mr. Newens

Does the Home Secretary recognise that the more time that elapses before more stringent regulations for the possession of shotguns are introduced, the greater will be the number of deaths and injuries from their use in crimes of violence? Does he recognise that many members of the police, and the majority of the public, believe that action is long overdue to stop the abuse of the use of shotguns in crimes which are totally unjustified in anybody's eyes.

Mr. Whitelaw

I made it clear in the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) that I did not believe that legislation, which would involve a great deal of bureaucracy and more police time, was justified in this case. I therefore believed it right to proceed by means of a voluntary code on the safety of firearms with the various bodies concerned. That I have done. Those bodies have co-operated very willingly and are now producing those safety codes.

Mr. Burden

Will my right hon. Friend extend his investigations to the use of the crossbow? It is a deadly and silent weapon which is being used more widely. Will he consider that matter to see whether some control can be exercised?

Mr. Whitelaw

The crossbow, by its very nature, is not a firearm, but naturally I shall look into the matter that has been raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ford

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is adequate evidence to show that if one punitively restricts the number of legitimately held firearms, it is not an automatic corollary that the number of unlawful firearms is thereby reduced?

Mr. Whitelaw

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. That was one of the reasons why I came to my decision in regard to legislation. It was also one of the reasons why I believed that a voluntary code of conduct on the control of firearms was the right way to proceed.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Does not my right hon. Friend understand that throughout the big conurbations the shotgun has now become the preferred weapon of the serious criminal? One of the most effective ways in which the Government can fulfil their pledge to protect the police is to have far more effective controls over shotguns.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have made clear the way in which I wish to proceed without legislation, which is through a voluntary code of conduct which I hope will have the support of Opposition Members. I hope and believe that that is the right way to proceed, and I shall proceed with it as hard as I can.