HC Deb 23 May 1988 vol 134 cc80-170

Order for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

7.25 pm
Mr. Speaker

I have selected the recommittal motion in the name of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin). I remind the House that it is subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 72, by which the proposer of the motion may speak for 10 minutes with a similar limit for the reply.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

I beg to move, That the Bill be recommitted to the former committee.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for selecting this motion in somewhat unusual circumstances and I appreciate that you will be operating under the usual ten-minute Bill procedure.

It is reasonable to ask why the Government brought the Bill before the House for consideration in the first place. Of course, we all understand that after the disastrous events at Hungerford there was an instant lobby that demanded that the Government do something. However, I have to tell the House that if that something is this Bill, the events at Hungerford could still have taken place because there is no legislation that can legislate against a madman. A madman can kill with whatever weapon he chooses.

There is nothing in the Bill that will reduce crime. The Government are quite wrong in simply wishing to reduce the number of firearms by seeking out a section of the community for no good reason. Self-loading rifles and pump-action shotguns are the main objects of the legislation. The interesting thing about rifles is that they are scarcely ever used in crime. In 1976, the last year for which figures are available, in nearly 10,000 crimes involving firearms, about half were with air weapons and only 53 were with rifles—0.6 per cent. The police acknowledge that pump-action shotguns are the least useful weapon to take if one is bent on criminal assault. They are least useful because they are bulky, heavy and difficult to saw off.

I sympathise with the Government's wish to increase the security of weapons and to understand more about the ownership and disposition of weapons. However, that could have been done by administrative procedure. Instead, we have this Bill which was hastily drawn up, written in a few minutes and written very badly. Before the Committee stage, the proposal was that a cardboard tube, which I produced in Committee, was an item that would from thenceforth require a firearms certificate because it was a mortar. The advisers to the Home Office had forgotten about fireworks. That is one example of many.

I shall come to the substantive part of my argument in moving the motion. There are no fewer than 36 groups of amendments on the Order Paper.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)


Mr. Wiggin

Yes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said, there are 36 groups. By anybody's interpretation, the Bill is being rewritten and that will happen unless the House votes for my motion. Surely it is not right to rewrite a Bill on Report; that should be done in Committee.

My most important reason for seeking the support of the House was last week's inclusion, for the first time in all the months that we have been debating the Bill, of Northern Ireland. It cannot be constitutionally right for a Bill to pass Second Reading and Committee without including Northern Ireland and then, at the eleventh hour, to be changed to include it. As we constantly debate the unity of the United Kingdom, that was a grave error by the Government, and it is another good reason to send the Bill back to Committee.

We believe that my hon. Friend the Minister gave us several commitments that the Government are refusing to honour. The exclusion of self-loading rifles with integral magazines was given in all but name. My hon. Friend used weasel words, but he has now gone back on that commitment.

The one thing in the Bill that those of us who are interested in the subject believed was a step forward was the statutory committee to advise the Government so that we should not get into this sort of mess again. The lack of expertise in firearms in the Home Office is only too apparent. On Friday morning the Government tabled a series of amendments to neuter that statutory committee and make it a puppet of the Home Secretary—and effectively useless.

I see no reason to take the full 10 minutes that you have kindly allowed me, Mr. Speaker. My final and most overpowering argument is that if the House votes for this motion everyone should be having their dinners in their homes before 8 pm. If it does not, 36 groups of amendments will have to be gone over carefully. It is just conceivable that in the early hours of the morning some of my hon. Friends may turn a little critical. If they want a night's sleep, I hope that they will support the motion.

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

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) played his best card last. The only thing in favour of the motion is that it would give us an early night. I cannot commend it on any other ground. Much as I should enjoy serving on another Committee with my hon. Friend to examine this Bill, I do not think the facts justify my asking the House to give me that indulgence.

It is perfectly true that there is a substantial number of amendments on Report, but there is nothing unusual about that. I have always made it plain that the Government would respond to reasonable criticisms, and that is what we have done. With the exception of the amendments related to Northern Ireland, all the substantive amendments reflect exhaustive debate in Committee. Indeed, in most cases they reflect the Committee's conclusions.

The main changes can be summarised as follows. First, we are leaving three-shot self-loading shotguns in clause 2. That matter was extensively canvassed in Committee and in making that concession we responded to the Committee's wish. The second major change relates to the deactivation and conversion of guns, which was also extensively debated in Committee, and these amendments respond to what was said.

Although our movements on compensation do not feature on Report in the form of Government amendments, they were widely debated and are, I think, broadly welcomed by hon. Members.

Other major changes relating to museums were also debated a great deal in Committee, and, without exception, the amendments that we are bringing forward today respond to what hon. Members who served on the Committee wanted us to do.

As for Northern Ireland, most of the powers that have been taken by way of order either accord with existing practice or are of minor impact.

What we have done with the consultative committee is to put in proper form that will be acceptable to the House the intent of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members. We tidied up the provisions about the nomination of its members and provided clear guidance on its remit. We have honoured the intent of hon. Members on the Committee in every respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare has always been candid; he is instinctively opposed to firearms control and believes that this is a bad Bill. He is entitled to those views, although I disagree with both. But the motion that he so lucidly and briefly introduced was more a reflection of his hostility to the concept of firearms control and to the Bill than of his desire to spend another few months in Committee with me. I do not criticise him for that—he is entitled to his views—but hon. Members listening to the debate need to be clear about the reasons that lie behind the motion.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 254.

Division No 318] [7.36 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, Graham Clay. Bob
Anderson, Donald Clelland, David
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Armstrong, Hilary Cohen, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Coleman, Donald
Ashton, Joe Colvin, Michael
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Corbett, Robin
Barron, Kevin Cousins, Jim
Battle, John Cryer, Bob
Beckett, Margaret Cummings, John
Bell, Stuart Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bellingham, Henry Cunningham, Dr John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Dalyell, Tam
Benyon, W. Darling, Alistair
Bidwell, Sydney Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Blair, Tony Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Boateng, Paul Dewar, Donald
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dixon, Don
Boyes, Roland Dobson, Frank
Bradley, Keith Douglas, Dick
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dunnachie, Jimmy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Eadie, Alexander
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Eastham, Ken
Buchan, Norman Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Fatchett, Derek
Buck, Sir Antony Faulds, Andrew
Buckley, George J. Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Caborn, Richard Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Callaghan, Jim Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Flannery, Martin
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Flynn, Paul
Canavan, Dennis Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Cartwright, John Foster, Derek
Foulkes, George Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Galbraith, Sam Moonie, Dr Lewis
George, Bruce Morgan, Rhodri
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Morley, Elliott
Godman, Dr Norman A. Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Golding, Mrs Llin Mullin, Chris
Gordon, Mildred Murphy, Paul
Gould, Bryan Nellist, Dave
Graham, Thomas Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) O'Neill, Martin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pike, Peter L.
Grocott, Bruce Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Grylls, Michael Prescott, John
Hardy, Peter Quin, Ms Joyce
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Radice, Giles
Haynes, Frank Randall, Stuart
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Reid, Dr John
Heffer, Eric S. Richardson, Jo
Henderson, Doug Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Robertson, George
Holland, Stuart Robinson, Geoffrey
Holt, Richard Rogers, Allan
Home Robertson, John Rooker, Jeff
Hood, Jimmy Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Rost, Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Ruddock, Joan
Illsley, Eric Sheerman, Barry
Ingram, Adam Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
John, Brynmor Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Short, Clare
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Skinner, Dennis
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Kennedy, Charles Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lambie, David Snape, Peter
Leadbitter, Ted Soley, Clive
Leighton, Ron Spearing, Nigel
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Steel, Rt Hon David
Lewis, Terry Steinberg, Gerry
Litherland, Robert Stott, Roger
Livsey, Richard Straw, Jack
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Loyden, Eddie Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
McAllion, John Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
McAvoy, Thomas Turner, Dennis
Macdonald, Calum A. Vaz, Keith
McFall, John Walker, Bill (T'side North)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Wall, Pat
McKelvey, William Wallace, James
McLeish, Henry Walley, Joan
McNamara, Kevin Warden, Gareth (Gower)
McTaggart, Bob Wareing, Robert N.
McWilliam, John Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Madden, Max Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Marek, Dr John Wiggin, Jerry
Marland, Paul Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wilson, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Winnick, David
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Worthington, Tony
Martlew, Eric Young, David (Bolton SE)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Meale, Alan Tellers for the Ayes:
Michael, Alun Sir Hector Monro and
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Mr. Robert Hicks.
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Allason, Rupert Baldry, Tony
Amess, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amos, Alan Batiste, Spencer
Arbuthnot, James Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bendall, Vivian
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Ashby, David Bevan, David Gilroy
Aspinwall, Jack Biffen, Rt Hon John
Atkinson, David Blackburn, Dr John G.
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Boswell, Tim Hill, James
Bottomley, Peter Hind, Kenneth
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Howard, Michael
Bowis, John Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Brazier, Julian Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Browne, John (Winchester) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Irvine, Michael
Burns, Simon Jack, Michael
Burt, Alistair Jackson, Robert
Butcher, John Janman, Tim
Butler, Chris Jessel, Toby
Butterfill, John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Carrington, Matthew Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Carttiss, Michael King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cash, William Kirkhope, Timothy
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Chapman, Sydney Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Knowles, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Knox, David
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Lang, Ian
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Latham, Michael
Conway, Derek Lawrence, Ivan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Lee, John (Pendle)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Cope, John Lightbown, David
Cormack, Patrick Lilley, Peter
Couchman, James Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Cran, James Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Critchley, Julian Lord, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Curry, David McCrindle, Robert
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Maclean, David
Day, Stephen McLoughlin, Patrick
Dicks, Terry McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Dunn, Bob Madel, David
Durant, Tony Malins, Humfrey
Emery, Sir Peter Mans, Keith
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Maples, John
Evennett, David Marlow, Tony
Fallon, Michael Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Farr, Sir John Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Favell, Tony Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Mates, Michael
Fookes, Miss Janet Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Forman, Nigel Miller, Hal
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mills, lain
Forth, Eric Miscampbell, Norman
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fox, Sir Marcus Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Franks, Cecil Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Freeman, Roger Moore, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Gale, Roger Morrison, Hon Sir Charles
Gardiner, George Moss, Malcolm
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mudd, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Neale, Gerrard
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Nelson, Anthony
Gorst, John Neubert, Michael
Gow, Ian Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Gower, Sir Raymond Nicholls, Patrick
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Oppenheim, Phillip
Grist, Ian Page, Richard
Ground, Patrick Paice, James
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Patnick, Irvine
Hanley, Jeremy Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Harris, David Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Haselhurst, Alan Porter, David (Waveney)
Hawkins, Christopher Portillo, Michael
Hayward, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Price, Sir David
Heddle, John Raffan, Keith
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Stokes, John
Redwood, John Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Renton, Tim Sumberg, David
Rhodes James, Robert Summerson, Hugo
Riddick, Graham Tapsell, Sir Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Roe, Mrs Marion Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rowe, Andrew Thorne, Neil
Ryder, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Sackville, Hon Tom Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Tracey, Richard
Sayeed, Jonathan Trippier, David
Scott, Nicholas Trotter, Neville
Shaw, David (Dover) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Walden, George
Shelton, William (Streatham) Walters, Dennis
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Ward, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Watts, John
Sims, Roger Wheeler, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Widdecombe, Ann
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wilkinson, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wilshire, David
Soames, Hon Nicholas Winterton, Mrs Ann
Speed, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Speller, Tony Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wood, Timothy
Squire, Robin Woodcock, Mike
Stanbrook, Ivor Yeo, Tim
Stanley, Rt Hon John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Steen, Anthony Younger, Rt Hon George
Stern, Michael
Stevens, Lewis Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N) Mr. Stephen Dorrell.

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that, in moving his motion, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) referred to Northern Ireland. May I point out that in Committee I was prevented from discussing the effect that the Bill would have on Northern Ireland because there was no reference to it in the Bill? The House should be aware of that. What guidance can the House be given about whether Northern Ireland may be fully discussed?

Mr. Speaker

The matter has been resolved by the House and we must now proceed. If the hon. Gentleman catches the eye of the occupant of the Chair, he will be able to deploy his case then.

  1. New Clause 2
    1. cc85-99
    2. DE-ACTIVATED WEAPONS 7,942 words
  2. New Clause 3
    1. c99
  3. New Clause 4
    1. cc100-16
  4. New Clause 5
    1. cc116-22
  5. New Clause 12
    1. cc123-59
  6. New Clause 1
    1. cc159-61
  7. New Clause 8
    1. cc161-3
    2. APPEALS IN CASES OF REFUSAL OF REGISTRATION 1,253 words, 1 division
  8. New clause 11
    1. cc163-5
    2. RENEWAL OF AND TEMPORARY CERTIFICATES 1,226 words, 1 division
  9. New Clause 14
    1. cc165-70
    2. REGISTER OF FIREARMS ETC 2,600 words, 1 division
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