HC Deb 19 January 1984 vol 52 cc433-4
6. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the recent national publicity campaign on the misuse of air weapons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The campaign had two main aims: to encourage owners and users of air weapons to use them responsibly and safely, and to educate people about the existing law. The campaign was launched in London and Edinburgh in November to coincide with the pre-Christmas period. It is too early to assess what effect the campaign has had, but we shall evaluate it with the help of the police and others.

Mr. Chapman

I appreciate that it is too early to form a considered judgment on whether the campaign has been beneficial, but during the next few months will my right hon. Friend carefully monitor reports of the misuse of air weapons, especially when that results in injuries to people or animals? In the meantime, will he give a pledge to the House that he will keep an open mind about the need to tighten the complicated law and regulations on the misuse of these weapons?

Mr. Hurd

We are not thinking of introducing further firearms legislation, but I note my hon. Friend's point. It is worth noting that between 1981 and 1982 the number of offences involving air weapons fell by 5 per cent. in England and Wales and by 6 per cent. in Scotland, but we are certainly not complacent about this matter.

Mr. Corbett

Will the Minister consider running a national publicity campaign against the misuse of crossbows? Will be hear that in mind when he is reviewing the legislation on other weapons?

Mr. Hurd

We are watching carefully the evidence about crossbows which comes to us.

Miss Fookes

I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should introduce legislation to control airguns and crossbows instead of spending time on publicity campaigns, which I believe can be of only limited value.

Mr. Hurd

The legislation on air weapons is already fairly tough. Most of the incidents which come to the attention of the police or others involve the commission of an offence under existing legislation.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Skinner

You have only five years left, Robert.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does the Minister accept that although we welcome the Gun Sense is Good Sense campaign, it is clearly inadequate in both intention and effect, especially as there are about 4 million air rifles in circulation and such weapons are increasingly used in the commission of serious crime, being responsible for about 2,000 accidents every year, many of them serious? Is it not time to do as the Minister's hon. Friends have suggested and embark on a more vigorous publicity campaign against abuse and review the legislation?

Mr. Hurd

The House is clearly delighted at the elevation of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) to the Opposition Front Bench. Perhaps because he has not yet had time to study these matters in detail, I believe that he is rushing to unjustified conclusions about the campaign, although I note his suggestions.

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