HC Deb 05 November 1987 vol 121 cc1057-9
8. Mr. John Mark Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received regarding his proposals for reviewing firearms legislation.

9. Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has received to his proposals to amend the firearms legislation.

11. Mr. Eastham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about his proposals for the further control of the ownership and use of firearms.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

We have received over 400 letters from right hon. and hon. Members and over 3,600 from members of the public, including secretaries of rifle and pistol clubs. We have also received correspondence from shooting organisations, police and local authority representatives and a number of other bodies with an interest in the review of firearms controls. Although many, but not all, shooting interests oppose the proposals that we have already announced, they seem otherwise to have been well received generally.

Mr. Taylor

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but will he acknowledge that there is a substantial body of careful, lawful gun owners and that there are limits on the extent to which illegal activity can be squeezed out by putting pressure on the law-abiding?

Mr. Hogg

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The majority of the shooting community are as law-abiding as any other part of the population. It is essential that we achieve a proper balance between the public need for increased firearms control and the legitimate interests of the shooting community, which is what we propose to do.

Mr. Tim Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only sensible approach to this matter is to achieve a fair and proper balance between the legitimate interest of shooters, the genuine public concern about the wide availability of guns, and the specific requests, to which we must pay attention, of the police? Is not my hon. Friend's approach entirely right?

Mr. Hogg

Yes, Sir. I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Eastham

Is the Minister aware of the overwhelming support on the Labour Benches for the control of firearms? However, will the Minister consider another dimension of the gun problem—airguns? We allow 12 and 14-year-olds to carry around these powerful weapons, and they are causing millions of pounds of damage up and down the country, and often damaging people's lives and limbs?

Mr. Hogg

We must concentrate on priorities. If we were to extend the substantial controls to include airguns, it would not be a proper use of existing facilities.

Mrs. Peacock

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern that is being expressed by many of my constituents, who are responsible people owning guns for rifle shooting or other such sports? Will he assure the House that he will listen carefully to all the representations that are being made to him?

Mr. Hogg

Most certainly we shall listen carefully to the representations that are made to us and we shall take them into account. We want to achieve a fair balance between the public interest and the interests of the shooting community.

Mr. Devlin

In the new firearms legislation, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of changing the minimum age from 17 years to 25 years or thereabouts, which is a suggestion that I have received from many of my constituents who are members of the shooting community?

Mr. Hogg

I shall certainly take into account the points that have been put forward by my hon. Friend, but I rather doubt that we shall want to move in that direction.

Mr. Ashton

Why is it that when there are problems involving violence in a working-class sport such as football, chief constables immediately become involved, the Home Secretary issues orders regarding membership cards, restrictions on travelling, drinking, the time of kickoff and everything else, but with an upper-class sport such as shooting, the Home Secretary is virtually saying that they can do what they like?

Mr. Hogg

That sort of question shows why the Labour party is wholly disqualified from ever forming a Government. There is nothing class-based about shooting. It happens to be one of the most popular sports in the country and it is enjoyed by everybody.