HC Deb 18 February 1988 vol 127 cc1137-8
6. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of present controls on the import of firearms into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

In the light of our review on firearms controls the Firearms (Amendment) Bill contains a provision whereby visitors to Great Britain will be required to obtain a permit if they wish to import a firearm or shotgun.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he confirm that we have harsher controls for the exporting of personal firearms, for use in international shooting competitions, for example, than we have for the importation of firearms? Should it not be the other way round?

Mr. Hogg

We thought that there were shortcomings in the legislation regarding the importation of firearms into this country and we have tried to cure those shortcomings by the Firearms (Amendment) Bill.

Mr. Frank Cook

The Minister will be aware of my personal anxiety about the Common Market Council directive, approved in September last year, which affords member states — [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I am refreshing my memory — which affords member states the requisite guarantees for them to agree to abstain from police checks for the possession of weapons when internal Community frontiers are crossed. The Minister will also be aware of my concern that the Council's definition of firearms encompasses portable grenade launchers, portable rocket launchers and flamethrowers. Will he give the House an assurance today that Her Majesty's Government will not support that kind of directive in any way?

Mr. Hogg

The Government's view is that the proposed directive is misconcieved, not amenable to drafting improvements, and needs to be withdrawn or rejected.

Mr. Colvin

Is my hon. Friend aware that police man hours required to administer the Firearms (Amendment) Bill will double in the first year of its administration to 1,550,000? Will he ensure that if the Bill reaches the statute book in the way proposed resources will be made available to the police to administer its implications?

Mr. Hogg

I am afraid that there is no sound basis for supporting the calculation of hours put forward by my hon. Friend. It is undoubtedly true that our proposals are broadly welcomed by the police service and by the House.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Is the Minister satisfied that the proposals to which he has referred will not constitute an obstacle to those who wish to import weapons into the United Kingdom for legitimate purposes such as target shooting and game shooting?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. and learned Member makes a sound point. It is important that any checks that we impose should take account of legitimate sporting and commercial interests. In my judgment, clause 12 is correct in both regards.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern about the importation and sale of stun guns? Can he say whether any action by the Home Office is envisaged?

Mr. Hogg

The Bill will make a stun gun a prohibited weapon to which section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 applies.