HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc392-416

6. The proceedings on any Motion made in the House by a member of the Government for supplementing the provisions of this Order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

All that I had left to say at the end of the previous debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was to wish everybody a happy few days rest. I hope that it is not out of order if I start my speech on this debate with what would have been my concluding remarks for the last.

Ever since the Government proposed to bring forward legislation in this area, the timing of the passage of that legislation has been a matter of the keenest interest. In October last year, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was berated by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) for identifying a problem that he describes as urgent and then announcing that he proposes to remedy it some time during the middle of next year."—[Official Report, 26 October 1987; Vol. 121, c.29.]

In the Second Reading debate, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook described how in March 1987 the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) had written to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary saying that there was a need for tighter gun control. In those circumstances, it is somewhat surprising that the hon. Gentleman has said that he and his colleagues will oppose this motion to ensure the prompt passage after considerable discussion of the gun controls for which he had earlier called.

It is all the more surprising when one considers that I twice announced Monday's business—on 12 and on 19 May—and received no protest or criticism from the official Opposition. On 12 May, only the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) suggested that those arrangements would not provide sufficient time. I replied that my advice was that what I had announced was for the general convenience of the House and that we should have to see how we got on. At business questions the following week, no adverse comment at all was made, and there was nothing to suggest that the arrangements would not be generally acceptable.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

Is it not a fact that at the time of those business questions the Government had not tabled nearly 80 amendments? It was, in fact, the grouping by Mr. Speaker of 36 groups of amendments that made completing the Bill on Monday night so impractical, although the Government brought an end to the business long before it was necessary to do so.

Mr. Wakeham

I shall deal with all those points, but, of course, the Government always have to announce the business and agree it before Mr. Speaker has made his selection of amendments. As my hon. Friend, who has followed these matters closely, knows, the amendments were substantially about questions that had been raised in Committee and had been well rehearsed and discussed. Nevertheless, during my speech I shall seek to deal with the points that my hon. Friend has raised.

It would, I believe, have been generally unacceptable to have completed our consideration of the Bill on Monday by sitting well into Tuesday morning. As Leader of the House, it is my responsibility to ensure, whenever possible, that our business is conducted in an orderly way and for a length of time which is not unduly extended. That is why I have brought forward this motion. It provides for a maximum of five hours proceedings on this Bill from the start of this debate. At the very least, it will provide two hours to complete the Bill's remaining stages. If proceedings on the timetable motion do not last the three hours of which they are capable, there could be a further two to three in addition. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and his colleagues on having persuaded the Government that the further discussion of this legislation merits this extra prime time rather than extend proceedings in the early hours of the morning.

It is true that more than 30 groups of amendments remain to be considered in the time available. There are two points to be made here. First, the Bill and its proposals have already been the subject of considerable consultation and discussion both inside this House and between my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and interested organisations. In October there was a half-day debate, in Opposition time, on this subject, and in December my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was questioned on his oral statement announcing publication of the White Paper. On 21 January we had a full day's debate on the Bill, at the end of which it was given a Second Reading without a Division. Since then, the Bill has been considered in Standing Committee for 27½ hours and has already been considered on Report for more than six hours. For a Bill which comprises only 20 clauses and one schedule, I do not believe that that is unreasonable. Indeed, if the Standing Committee had wished to consider the Bill for longer, it could have done so.

Secondly, the time spent in consideration of the Bill has been well used—particularly from the point of view of my hon. Friends who wished to see changes to it in Committee. The Government have already agreed that a firearms consultative committee should be established and that it should be given statutory backing for an initial period of five years. We have also decided to "buy-in" firearms which will become prohibited under clause 1(2). We have made, and propose to make, a number of other changes to our original proposal——

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

First, on the point about compensation, I have been unable to obtain a copy of the Hansard report of the Second Reading debate because it is apparently out of print. Was there a Money or Ways and Means resolution and, if so, is a new one needed, given that compensation is now required? Secondly, I notice that the financial memorandum of the original Bill as at Second Reading made no reference to that. Should we not have a new financial memorandum on the Bill as it now stands?

Mr. Wakeham

My recollection is that we did that, subsequent to Second Reading, so I think that everything is in order. We have passed a Ways and Means resolution and all the necessary formalities. However, my right hon. Friend is right that that was not done at the time of the Second Reading. That covers the question of the buy-in scheme.

Mr. Higgins

Does there not need to be a financial resolution to finance the buy-in scheme?

Mr. Wakeham

Yes. The House approved that resolution at a later stage after the Bill had been given a Second Reading. It did so on one of the rare occasions when my right hon. Friend was not in his place.

My hon. Friends have identified three areas that require particular attention, and the Government have already made significant concessions on two—compensation and a consultative committee. Though differences of view in detail of bringing about these changes remain and may deserve further discussion, in the circumstances I believe the amount of extra time proposed in the motion is adequate for the disposal of the outstanding points.

The other area to which my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) referred yesterday, self-loading rifles and the integral magazine of five to eight rounds, has already been raised both in Committee and in the debate on Monday about new clause 1, when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State explained the Government position. Nevertheless, and though the grouping of amendments is not a matter for me, I understand that later groups of amendments—119 and 128, and 91, 128 and 129—may give my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside the opportunity he seeks for a vote.

I will end my remarks now, because the more promptly the House is able to agree this motion, the more time there will be for further consideration of the Bill itself. The proposals from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary attracted a broad range of support when they were introduced and have, I believe, attracted further support as they have been amended in the light of the Standing Committee proceedings. I cannot conceive that it would be the will of the House as a whole that a measure on this important subject, which many Members, including the Opposition Front Bench, have long regarded as a matter of urgency and which enjoys the general favour of the House, should be debated at undue length in the early hours of the morning. On that basis, I commend the motion in my name to the House.

8.2 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Everyone recognises that we are faced with a procedural curiosity. For the first time in living memory, a Conservative Government is introducing a guillotine motion to stop Conservative Members talking. The motion has not been introduced because the Opposition are opposing the Bill.

The Labour party supports stricter controls on the advertising, sale, use and possession of guns and ammunition. As the Leader of the House has said, London Labour Members, faced with the increasing unlawful use of guns in the capital, and in response to representations made by those whom they represent and from the Metropolitan police at all levels, have been urging such controls on the Home Secretary, and began to do so long before the disastrous events at Hungerford, which precipitated the Government's change of view and the introduction of the Bill.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made it clear on Second Reading that he supported the objects of the Bill. However, he expressed doubts, to say the least, about a considerable number of provisions and called for other provisions to be included by way of new clauses and amendments. Throughout consideration of the Bill in Committee the Opposition argued for amendments that have not been made and for new clauses that have not been included. On several occasions the votes of Opposition Members in Committee sustained the avowed objectives of the Bill as laid down by the Government. The Government would have lost a substantial number of Divisions to Conservative Back Benchers if the Labour Opposition had voted with those Back Benchers or had abstained. We voted with the Government in Committee on these occasions because we believed in the greater control of guns and ammunition.

We believe also that the Bill raises serious matters and deserves careful and well-informed consideration. It is because we want the Bill to succeed, and because we think that its provisions, the amendments and the new clauses deserve careful and well-informed consideration, that we oppose the motion.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

If that is so, will the hon. Gentleman tell us why there are only six Labour Members in their places to discuss the issue?

Mr. Dobson

It may have something to do with the usual quality of my oratory. I expect that many of my hon. Friends will arrive in the Chamber once the meat of the Bill is to be discussed.

Mr. Bennett


Mr. Dobson

No. I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman again. These are serious matters and I shall leave the hon. Gentleman to make his own comments in his inimitable way when he gets the opportunity to do so.

When we began to consider the Bill on Report, the Government had tabled no fewer than five new clauses and more than 60 amendments to cure some of the shortcomings that had been identified in Committee. They proposed, by a mind-boggling afterthought, to extend the provisions of the Bill to Northern Ireland. As everyone knows, death and injury from the use and misuse of guns are terrifying facts of everyday life in Northern Ireland. To think that a Bill that has been shown to be ill thought out and badly drafted even to meet the circumstances prevailing in England, Scotland and Wales can be applied in hasty afterthought to Northern Ireland beggars belief and is an insult to the House. To curtail debates on amendments that had to be tabled once it was known that the Government intended to extend the Bill to cover Northern Ireland is an extraordinary action on the Government's part.

If the motion is accepted—we believe that it will be—it will result in inadequate consideration of the Bill. That will lead to the enactment of a Bill that will be difficult to understand and difficult for the police to enforce. It will be puzzling for the courts to interpret. Legitimate gun owners and former legitimate gun owners will be left with a sense of grievance. All in all, it is a bad job and a botched job.

The inclusion of Northern Ireland at a late stage is not the only afterthought that the Government have had on the Bill. The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) has observed that at one stage the Government rejected the idea of compensation for those who owned guns that would have to be dispensed with when the Bill took its place on the statute book. At a later stage the Government said that they were willing to accept that the principle of compensation should be debated in Committee. So the House then had to consider a further supplementary money order, which was accepted.

I understand from hon. Members on both sides of the House that the debates in Committee were unsatisfactory and that important aspects of compensation have yet to be resolved. However, the guillotine motion will prevent the necessary discussions on compensation taking place. After the proceedings that are to take place this evening, and after the guillotine finally falls, the Bill will proceed to another place. It is curious that the guillotine motion does not propose a timetable for the consideration of any amendments that are made in another place. I am not sure whether this is a further oversight on the Government's part or whether it is the product of foresight. Can it be that the Government envisage that the shooting interests of those in another place will produce so many amendments that it will be impossible to avoid a lengthy debate upon them when they are referred to this place?

The Government have been crowing this week about the recent large majorities that they have enjoyed in the other place. It cannot be denied that when the Government sent their beaters through the backwoods they flushed out a remarkable collection of odd, old birds whose natural habitat is a long way from Westminster. There were even rumours running through this place that Lord Lucan had been spotted in one of the Lobbies—presumably among the Not Contents.

If the same hereditary peers who thronged within the other place to support the poll tax were urged to return to debate the Bill, the likelihood is that they would not like it and that they would do it severe damage. That makes it all the more odd to hear another rumour this afternoon—I hope the Lord President will take this opportunity to confirm its truth, or otherwise—that the Government have already decided they will not attempt to impose a Whip on the Bill in the House of Lords because they do not think it would stick. It seems preposterous and an odd way of doing things to guillotine the proceedings of this House without even trying to impose a Whip in the Lords.

8.10 pm
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

This is not a particularly happy evening for my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, but I want to assure him at the outset that I shall be happy to join him in the Division Lobby to ensure the prosecution of this proposal. I shall do so for a number of reasons—[Interruption.]—and my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) should not be too distraught.

First, I do not think that my right hon. Friend is the author of this evening's misfortune. I listened to his unmistakeable honeyed words, but I fancy the authorship lies with the Home Office. This would not be the first or last occasion when Leaders of the House have been required to use brisk methods to get through matters of Parliamentary business that have been sanctified by Front Bench agreement. That is exactly what there was when, on a previous occasion, Tory dissidents were subject to a timetable motion.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said this was a procedural curiosity, but I remember only too well the time when the Northern Ireland Assembly Bill wound its way with perhaps too much dilatoriness through the House. The timetable motion was carried, but let us look at the work that was then fashioned. What happened to the Northern Ireland Assembly Bill? Just because some item of business is sanctified by cross-Front Bench approval, that does not guarantee that it has any more merit or likelihood of durability. That is the dilemma and agony of my right hon. Friend; it is why I feel such a sense of brotherhood with him this evening, and why I shall support him.

I hope that the fact that I shall support my right hon. Friend tonight will mean that the four observations that I want to make will be the more firmly bound to his heart. But there is one other reason why I shall support my right hon. Friend with deep affection: he has conducted speech and argument with no reference to morality. The moral peaks have been deserted—suddenly, here is a sanctuary. I want to speak on behalf of what I believe to be the silent majority in the House—the publicans and sinners. We have been given some welcome respite from the foghorn of conscience that has blasted through the Chamber over the past few days.

I believe that my four observations are of real concern to the House. The first is really rather like the C. Northcote Parkinson syndrome: the board votes £50 million or £500 million-worth of capital expenditure and then spends half the morning discussing painting the bicycle shed. Here we have a timetable motion that we can understand. No one could contest the fact that the Education Reform Bill or the community charge legislation require timetables. On this occasion we are bound to ask why it has not been possible to find some occasion, either this side of the recess or shortly thereafter, when the necessary number of hours could be found to dispatch this business without bringing us here for the formalities of a timetable.

Many people watching our procedures outside will conclude that the Government's programme must be running into difficulties, or at least into tight circumstances. They will wonder what on earth would have happened if the Lords had not loyally supported the Government on the community charge. They would think that there must surely have been some provision, just in case the vote went wrong, but now it seems that the whole programme is so tightly structured that we must have a timetable motion to dispose of half the Report stage of what I suppose is a grade 2 unlisted piece of legislation. The House would like some reassurance about these points.

Secondly, no timetable motion is an island unto itself. This one will be looked at not only in relation to what has happened in the past but to what might happen in the near future. I have no idea what the final fate of the arguments about the Abortion (Amendment) Bill will be, but should the provisions of that Bill be attached to another piece of legislation, as has been postulated in the press, I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will think long and seriously before proceeding with any timetable motion that would affect legislation that incorporated the provisions of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill. We must consider that, because what happens now will inevitably cast a shadow on that possible legislative development some weeks hence. It may never come about, but the House would be neglectful if it did not consider the possibility.

Thirdly, the Bill now contains provisions for Northern Ireland that were introduced at a late stage. I would not anticipate the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) but the House knows, from its intimate concern with Northern Ireland affairs over the years, that the idea of transforming British legislation into United Kingdom legislation by making a common provision for the Province is a matter of considerable constitutional significance, which I suspect would split the House in several directions. I shall not dwell on that this evening, except to say that one cannot introduce legislation of this character, with its implications for precedent, on some sort of side wind introduced on Report. That is not a proper use of parliamentary procedure.

My final point about what will happen in another place has already been made. This is not a happy evening, but I hope with all my heart that it will see the end of this Bill in the House of Commons.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

What would be wrong if it had more time?

Mr. Biffen

That very intervention, coming from the quarter that it does, and with the zeal that it does, persuades me that it would be unhappy to have the Bill here again. It would all he stored up for the future, and its return in July would not be for the good health of the Government.

We know that the Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentleman-at-Arms, rightly described this evening as more of a beater than a Whip, has been extremely successful. My anxiety is that the flock that flew on Monday were homing pigeons, and that they will come back again and provide more embarrassment for the Government on this legislation than they did on the community charge.

We have made no provision to deal with the Lords amendments under the security of the timetable motion. Why was it decided not to provide the security of a timetable motion for amendments in the other place? There must be some rationale behind that. The House is entitled to answers to those questions.

I end as I began. My right hon. Friend has had a difficult task to discharge. I shall be delighted to support him, and I urge my hon. Friends to do likewise.

8.19 pm
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

We have listened to a most interesting and entertaining speech from the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). He referred to the fact that the Bill was extended to Northern Ireland at the last moment, a matter which annoys Northern Ireland Members intensely. That should not become a precedent. If the Government were to pursue this course in future, time and again legislation for Northern Ireland would be introduced and we would not even know it was coming. Only a fortnight ago today the amendment extending the Bill to Northern Ireland was tabled and it was just by chance that I happened to notice it the next morning.

That is not the only problem. The real difficulty is that, before we proceed with this Bill, we need to figure out exactly how we come to be here this evening and why we have a Bill which apparently needs so much amendment. It goes back to the Home Secretary's speech in September 1987, when he referred to rifles of the type used by Ryan. He gave a public undertaking at that time, no doubt speaking on behalf of the Government, that these rifles would be banned. Considering the period between the incident at Hungerford and his speech, he cannot have taken time to consult his hon. Friends, such as the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who know about these matters. In other words, he reacted without thinking the matter through. The Hungerford horror is the foundation of this Bill, and a mighty poor foundation it is.

If I had not served in Committee I might not have tabled as many questions as I did, but my interest was aroused by what I heard there and the correspondence that I received. I understand that the police should carry out the firearms procedures with great precision. When I started to receive answers saying that events happened on or about certain dates; when I was told that the ammunition used was armour-piercing when it was nothing of the sort, thereby betraying that the Home Office did not have the expertise to distinguish the one from the other; when I was told that the alleged bullet-proof jacket was a Barbour body warmer; when I was given wrong dates which were subsequently corrected but only after I had tabled further questions; and when I found out that some of the information for which I asked but which I was not given was safe and well in a policeman's pocketbook, I began to wonder what on earth was going on.

The only reasonable and proper course to follow is to have a full public inquiry into the offence on the day at Hungerford when there was immense confusion—which one can understand considering the unprecedented conditions—and, more important, into whether the Thames Valley police followed their procedures on the possession of weapons in Ryan's case. I am particularly interested to know whether Constables Hoyes and Wainwright, who interviewed Ryan at various times, saw his membership cards and all that they were supposed to see, or whether they merely took his word on that.

If there is no public inquiry, there is no way that the Government can prevent the reopening of the inquest into the incident. Sixteen people were killed and a great deal of material damage was done. There are also undoubtedly an enormous number of claims for compensation against insurance companies which can be reopened, when clever barristers will undoubtedly ask nasty questions of the police force which is looking after the Home Secretary's constituents.

I am skimming over this because there is a great deal to do and I do not want to waste time. The Government in their panic quickly to allay public fear found themselves running with the mob and shouting against firearms. The truth is that firearms legislation is an extremely difficult and complex subject. There should normally be two or three years of gestation before it comes to light, with full, long debates among all interested parties. The fact that we have this huge number of sensible amendments tonight is positive proof to anybody who knows the subject that the Government have lost the argument and are using the jackboot.

In Committee it was interesting to see how Labour Members, who were initially as committed to the legislation as the Government, changed their minds. The Government were committed by the Home Secretary's speech, but ineffective law is not the answer to the problems of gun control. There should be a common-sense acceptance of the limits that the law can accomplish. The Government should have done what the 1984 working party on the firearms legislation sought, which was to have a single, comprehensive system of administration of our firearms legislation in all police forces. If the Home Secretary had noted such advice and questions, Ryan might never have got his guns and we might not have been here this evening.

8.25 pm
Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

It is a sad day for me to know that we shall make further progress on a Bill which I know to be wrong. I have been in the House for a long time and I have never felt less happy about the passage of a Bill through Parliament.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) talked about morality, but with the high profile of the Home Office Ministers on moral standards, the words I use in this context are "fairness" and "justice". Few legitimate shooters feel that they are receiving justice from the Home Office tonight.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said that we had had a lengthy time to debate the Bill on Monday night, but the Government have tabled a huge number of amendments at a late stage. We made good progress on the subjects that we are discussing, considering the grouping of amendments. Some people may describe this as a guillotine, but shooting people think it is more like a firing squad, and they have had no chance to plead their case properly. We should oppose the motion so that they get a fair hearing, particularly bearing in mind the enormous addition of Northern Ireland to the Bill.

The sad event that we all deplore was in August. Without consultation, although the British Shooting Sports Council and other governing bodies asked for consultation, the Home Secretary made his announcement at the end of September in such detail that he could not have consultations later to reverse his recommendations. So we had a White Paper and, a couple of weeks later, a Bill. Nobody can conceivably believe that they were not both printed together. There was no effective consultation between the White Paper and the Bill.

The Second Reading certainly showed that there was little support for the Bill. We had a good Committee stage with all-party discussion and a number of Government defeats. There would have been many more Government defeats had we not listened assiduously to the Under-Secretary of State, who gave many intimations that he would look favourably on the amendments before the Committee. We should have examined in greater detail the small print which he produced in answer to our pleas.

Tonight we should have two debates—it is unlikely that we shall have time for both, which is disappointing and the reason why I oppose the motion—on the self-loading rifle in relation to disablement. On Monday the Minister did not respond to that issue. I wish to read out three extracts from letters I received today. John Brough of Halewood on Merseyside writes: I now have arthritis throughout my body and can hardly shoot at all, although it has been central to my life. Occasionally, if I am picked up and put in position, I can fire with my old self-loading rifle. Without it, that is the end for me. People like me had hoped and believed that Mr. Hogg was going to make an exception for small-magazine self-loading rifles. But now we see he has dropped the idea. I have also received information about Mr. Dave Adams in my constituency who had a serious accident, was caught up in a lathe and can now shoot only with a self-loading rifle. He will have to give up his sport because of the Bill. I have also received information about Mr. Colin Marshall of Carlisle, who admits that he has an FN FAL 7.62 self-loading rifle. He says that he accepts that he must part with that, but he would buy an integral-magazine rifle so that he can continue the sport he loves.

Why are the Government hammering away at the disabled and not allowing them to carry on with small integral-magazine self-loading rifles? I hope that the Minister will give an early undertaking that he will concede amendment No. 91 for five-shot integral magazines. If he does that, we can make rapid progress tonight, but I want to know in detail, when he winds up, why the Government have their knife into those people who are disabled and want to use small-magazine self-loading rifles. I cannot find any reason to justify the attitude that they have taken.

There are many makes of such rifles available. I have today received a telex from Ruger in America saying that it can provide a five-shot six-magazine rifle. If we make small-magazine self-loading rifles legal, the gun trade will provide those guns so that people can continue to enjoy the sport. The Minister's attitude, that there are not sufficient rifles to justify that course, does not stand up.

We have not had time to debate this issue tonight, but I am concerned that some police forces are now behaving as if the Bill were already in force, although it has a long way to go. They are making great difficulties about SLRs and are now being difficult about automatic pistols as well.

Amendment No. 148 and the other amendments in that group have been selected early but will be voted upon late. If the Minister wants his party to go home early tonight, he has only to say that he will not move amendment No. 148 and the others in that group and will therefore leave the consultative committee in the Bill, as we had expected him to do following debate in Committee. We were particularly disappointed, having been assured by the Government last Thursday that the consultative committee would remain in the Bill, to find, on Friday morning, that a whole host of amendments had been tabled, making a mockery of what we put into the Bill. That is why we resent so much the Government's approach.

Those are the two main reasons why we need more time tonight. Nothing in the Bill will have any effect on the armed crime in this country that all of us are so keen to see reduced. The Home Secretary has hauled out the 1973 Green Paper which was thown out by the Conservative party at that time, and has transformed it into this Bill, which is so unacceptable to those who know a little about shooting. We have had a Second Reading, a Committee stage and a Report stage and—perhaps the only honourable exception has been my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson)—no one has spoken in support of the Bill, except the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), which in itself should be the death knell for any Bill.

I ask the Government to think again about the SLR and the consultative committee. If the Minister agrees to do so, and announces it tonight, he will be able to make quick progress and the party can go home early. But he must announce those concessions.


Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

I also oppose the guillotine motion. Like other hon. Members, I look forward with interest to observing the fate of the Bill when it reaches the other place, but perhaps I might offer this advice to Ministers. If they ensure that the Bill reaches the other place after 12 August and before 1 February, many of those peers who turned out this week to help them on another matter might be engaged elsewhere and the Bill might have a better chance.

The unhappy circumstances in which we find ourselves this evening are a direct consequence of the history of this measure. The unfortunate events in Hungerford in August promoted, or perhaps to put it more correctly provoked, a very early White Paper. I do not blame the Government for that because the general sense of apprehension and revulsion which those events caused was undoubtedly a justification for an early implication of what the Government might propose to do, but that White Paper was followed hard on its heels by a Bill.

There can be no question but that there was no proper consultation with the relevant shooting authorities between the publication of the White Paper and the publication of the Bill. That lack of consultation has given rise to so much of my mail—I have no doubt other hon. Members have received similar mail—from people who are legitimately entitled to use and keep weapons. If the White Paper was rushed out as an early and urgent response to the events of Hungerford, that itself made even more acute the requirement that there should be proper consultation.

The Bill then received its Second Reading. I do not believe that it does any disservice to history to say that, on that occasion, the Bill had hardly a friend in the House. If the fate of the Bill had been determined by speeches made about it on that occasion, it would certainly have gone no further. I was not a member of the Standing Committee, so I cannot speak with authority about that, but the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has told us of the concessions that the Government have made in relation to compensation and the consultative committee. One pauses only to observe that, if there had been a consultative committee such as was conceded in Committee, many of the defects of the legislation which have been isolated by scrutiny in this House would not have existed and the circumstances in which the Government now find themselves would have been eradicated.

I would not for a moment seek to do other than accept the constitutional observations of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) about the Northern Ireland provisions. Those appear to be well taken points to which the House should give close scrutiny. However, the addition of Northern Ireland at that late stage was grossly provocative. What was in the Government's mind when they introduced Northern Ireland into the Bill? How did they expect Northern Ireland Members to respond? It was, at the very least, an insensitive and unnecessary provocation.

This legislation has been hasty. It may or may not deserve the description of botched, but it is certainly an example of Government mismanagement, and a guillotine in this House should not be available to save the Government from the consequences of their own actions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Perhaps I should remind the House that the longer we spend on this motion the less time there will be to debate the amendments.

8.39 pm
Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

I have never hidden from the House the fact that my reason for being involved in this Bill is, at least to some extent, the dreadful massacre that happened in my constituency nine months ago. Therefore, my last duty to the 16 people, almost all of whom were my constituents, who were killed on that day and to the 14 who were wounded is to see the Bill through and on to the statute book as soon as possible.

We all remember the media reaction to the news of that event. The view was expressed in many quarters that it was time for greater control on guns in this country. I suggest that this 20-clause Bill achieves at least some of the objectives that we want it to achieve.

I am told endlessly by people in the shooting lobby that if they had been given more time the Bill could have been much better. The shooting lobby has sent me material which I have ploughed through. I sat through 27½ hours in Standing Committee, and all I can say is that the amendments and the speeches do not seem to have produced any strong, fresh proposals which could have been enacted by any Home Secretary. The Bill is as good as any Firearms Bill could he at the moment.

No doubt arguments will be set out in later stages for other changes in the law. I suggest that at the moment this is the best Bill that could come before the House. I hope that it will become an Act before we reach the first anniversary of what happened at Hungerford.

8.41 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

We all echo sincerely the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). If the Government refrain from amending the Bill, as they intend, perhaps the Bill will reach another place in a reasonably acceptable fashion. The purpose of this guillotine motion is to remove from their shoulders the embarrassment that the Government feel at having got themselves into this position and place it on the shoulders of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have spoken on behalf of the 2 million shooters and 3 million people who support the shooting lobby—5 million people in all.

The Standing Committee did a first-class job. I was not a member of the Committee, but the Bill came out of Committee much better than it went in. The Government are now doing their best to emasculate the Bill and the consultative committee. They are not honouring their commitment on self-loading rifles with integral magazines of five rounds, and they are not going far enough on compensation. I do not want to be party to a conspiracy to rob people of their property. That is what the Bill does. Conservative Members are sometimes criticised for believing in private property. I do not want to support a party which says that it will make unlawful some property which has been purchased and provide only 50 per cent. of the value when unlawful weapons are confiscated.

On Monday the House should have recommitted the Bill to the Standing Committee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) proposed. It did not do so because when the decision to debate the Bill on Report was made the previous week, we had been given a firm sign from the Government that they would listen to our representations and perhaps compromise on their stand. We should have tabled the motion on Thursday. Had that happened, we would have had time to brief our Conservative colleagues, many of whom were supportive of the motion on Monday, but would not follow us in the Lobby because they had not been through the normal practice of warning the Whips that they would vote against the Government: on a three-line Whip.

Hon. Members have referred to Ulster. I have tried to discover how the House forms legislation for Ulster. The answer is simple. The Government do what they feel they should do according to the circumstances. There are no rules. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) was treated very shabbily in that respect.

The Government are likely to find themselves in an embarrassing position in another place. I have no idea what will happen this evening with regard to votes. We will listen attentively to what Ministers have to say. If we win the small concessions that we want, the chances are that the Bill will go to another place in a reasonable state.

We understand that there is no really effective official Opposition in this Parliament. Presumably that is why the Government now seem intent on winning recruits for their awkward squad from Conservative Members who have hitherto been among the Government's staunchest supporters. The Government are becoming the opposite of Austen Chamberlain. People said of him that he always played the game and always lost. This Government are beginning never to play the game, and, because of the three-line Whipping system, they will never lose.

8.45 pm
Sir John Farr (Harborough)

I want, first, to comment on the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who criticised my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for saying that there should possibly be a mechanism in the motion to provide for a guillotine in another place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North may not have thought of the fact, which I understand to be true, that the other place, by and large, believes that the Bill is not bad. Therefore, it may not be necessary for a guillotine to operate there. The Bill was considerably amended in Committee—more than it should have been, in my opinion—and when it is considered in the other place there may be only a few amendments, which would make a guillotine unnecessary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) said that he had not heard anyone in this place speak in favour of the Bill. I believe that the Bill is first-class. It has been first-class all along, and the only thing wrong with it is that the Government were bamboozled in Standing Committee into making outrageous concessions. The one concession which no self-respecting Government should have made relates to compensation for firearms that are removed from circulation. I have received information which establishes firmly for me the fact that anyone with a weapon that is taken out of circulation as a result of the Bill will receive the market price. There are always European and world prices for weapons. It is immaterial whether they are licensed.

The Government made another concession by agreeing to set up a statutory standing consultative committee, for which the firearms lobby has been clamouring for years. I never heard anyone say, "Thank you for the committee." For years my hon. Friends have said that that committee should exist to allow the firearms lobby to be heard and consulted by the Government. They have been given the committee, but I am not sure that they deserve it. They have been given the right to compensation, and also a statutory committee. In addition, the Government made a concession, which I believe was unwise, over Northern Ireland.

Most of my constituents believe that Hungerford changed the tenor and course of firearms legislation in Britain. They demand that the Home Secretary take action. I believe that the original Bill that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary placed before the House some time ago was far better than the amended creature before us today.

Another reason why I shall vote in favour of the guillotine motion, apart from the public's general desire for a new, meaningful Firearms Act on the statute book, is related to an incident that occurred nearly a year ago. Many people may have forgotten this. Alan Bray, a gun dealer at Hinckley in Leicestershire near my constituency, was beaten up by intruders, bound, doused with petrol and set alight while he was still alive. Local people will have to deal with such problems. The sooner we have a meaningful new Firearms Act, the better.

8.49 pm
Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

I had not been in the House very long before I realised the great merits of guillotine motions. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I shall vote against this one tonight. I have great sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), who joined the House on the same day as me. I too had a disaster in my constituency and I know what my hon. Friend has been through. I must tell the House that if the Bill had been enacted before the incident at Hungerford, it would not have prevented it. More than half of those who were killed in that terrible incident were not killed with a self-loading rifle. My hon. Friend has admitted that that proposition is correct.

I know that the House is in a hurry, and I have just one point to make because this is the first opportunity I have had to seek a response from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. What is the reason for the Bill? Throughout the Committee stage, the Under-Secretary denied that Hungerford was the reason. There is no secret in the fact, however, that a Bill was hastily brought down from a dusty shelf and produced before us in answer to some imaginary public demand that something should be done.

Nothing is being done in the Bill that will affect crime and nothing is being done that would have stopped the tragedy at Hungerford. I believe that the Government have made a grave mistake in responding so hastily and so unwisely. I make no apology for having given the Bill as rough a ride as possible. I believe that those who agree with me have won the argument, and I am sorry that we shall lose the vote.

8.51 pm
Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

I do not intend to delay the House long because I am aware that we want to get to the vote. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow. Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is making a lot of noise in support, which makes a pleasant change.

It saddens me that, and I confess that I do not understand how, somebody for whom I have the deepest respect—my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—can bring to the House a Bill that initially contained a clause that amounted to confiscation of lawfully owned property. That is something that the Conservative party has always opposed, and I understood it to be among the most important of our principles.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, in a speech marked for its humour and not its content, told us that a concession had been made in Committee. He said that the Government are now going to give compensation for taking away a lawfully owned rifle. I find it extraordinary that anyone can describe as a concession something that is fundamental to the beliefs that we hold. When we discuss that compensation, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be able to confirm that he is prepared to be even more lenient in his treatment of people who hold such weapons. I hope that that compensation will accurately and properly reflect the value that the owner could expect to get on the market. At the moment, the clause does not offer that.

On Monday night, we discussed Northern Ireland at some great length. I pay great credit to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office for apologising to the House for having introduced the amendments so late. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) that this is no way in which to bring in legislation of such great significance. It is disgraceful that the Government should have introduced such amendments after the Committee stage—which lasted a long time. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) sat on that Committee, but was denied the opportunity to discuss the implications for Northern Ireland because he did not know that such amendments were to be introduced. As I understand it from Monday night's debate, the Government were well aware during the Committee stage that they were proposing to bring in amendments to affect Northern Ireland.

The Government's decisions on compensation and on Northern Ireland are wholly unacceptable to me and I believe to most of us on the Government Back Benches. When the dreadful day comes when our party moves back to be the Opposition, we will rue the precedents we are creating in the Bill.

The first specific point that I wish to make relates to firearms. I do not understand why my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will not be more flexible about SLRs. It has been rightly pointed out many times that, in Committee, my hon. Friend was flexible and understanding on all the important issues in the Bill—or appeared to be—and he made concessions which we all recognise have vastly improved the Bill. In its initial drafting the Bill must rank as one of the worst ever brought before the House. Why is my hon. Friend sticking on SLRs? [Interruption.] I would he grateful if Opposition Members spoke more quietly, as I can hardly hear myself.

I want to know why the Under-Secretary believes that the banishment of the SLR from the arsenal of weapons that are held lawfully in this country is essential. I accept the argument that my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) has made, and I understand why he has done so. Of course a Bill had to be introduced, but it should not have been so rushed and it should not have been introduced in its present form.

What is so significant about the SLR? My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has already said that it is essential to the handicapped. It is useful to many deerstalkers and particularly for culling, as opposed to the sporting pursuit of deer. That rifle is essential to our sporting teams in international competition. They should be able to use the same weapons as their competitors.

The Under-Secretary of State has said that there are not many such rifles, and he mentioned the Beretta. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that more than 30,000 such weapons exist in the United States and more than 3,000 are to be found in Europe. I did not understand the logic of his argument that the number of SLRs is insignificant and that we should not allow for them in our legislation. That weapon is essential for our international sportsmen to compete adequately in the international arena. I must repeat that the compensation offered in the Bill is inadequate and must be improved.

You said earlier, Mr. Speaker, that when we moved on from discussing the guillotine, we could discuss the Bill in detail. In reality, we can do nothing of the sort. We took six hours to debate the first five groups of amendments on Monday and I can say with honesty that nobody to whom I listened during that debate—I was present for all of it—filibustered. All the contributions were sensible and to the point. We have 33 such groups left and we are supposed to debate them in the next four hours. That is absurd. I believe that the Government, aware of the weakness of their case, do not wish us to consider the Bill properly.

I do not accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) said. I did not understand the logic of his speech. He was not here on Monday night, he did not listen to the arguments. If he had been here, I am sure that he would not have made the speech that he did tonight. Nothing that he said in support of the Bill bears examination. I hope that he was wrong when he said that our noble Friends in another place will accept the Bill. I should have thought that when they consider the arguments they will find the Bill unacceptable. I look forward to a different Bill coming back to the House in due course.

8.57 pm
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I shall vote against the guillotine, for two reasons. First, I believe that it is a demonstration of extraordinary maladroit man management by the Government. I played some small part on the last occasion when a guillotine was directed by the Government against their own supporters on the Northern Ireland Assembly Bill. Certainly we were prolonging the proceedings with a view to trying not only to appeal to the broad spirit of Unionism within the country, but also to demonstrate that the Northern Ireland Assembly would never work. The fact that we were right and that the Government have since suffered a major humiliation is not material to this argument.

There are perhaps between six and 10 hon. Members who have strongly felt views about the details of the legislation. They are not seeking to appeal by great principles to a broad body of people outside the House of Commons; they wish merely to get a slightly better deal on some of the details of the legislation. Their legitimate complaint could have been dealt with perfectly adequately over a longer period by those on the ever-growing payroll in the Conservative party. If the payroll cannot stay up occasionally to vote down 10 people, it is a poor lookout.

This is a most disagreeable display of macho vigour, presumably by junior Ministers at the Home Office and the more energetic and less wise members of the Whips Office. It would have been a great deal better if the matter had been argued through for a few more evenings, if the payroll had been here to vote and if some of the younger and more enthusiastic members of the Tory party who wish to ingratiate themselves with the Administration had been obliged to look up a few points which no doubt would have been supplied to them by the Home Office. Instead, 10 or 12 hon. Members have been given a legitimate grievance which they will feel for the rest of this Parliament. That is a small House of Commons point, and it shows that even the Tory party, which used to pride itself on its wisdom and sensitivity in man management, can make mistakes.

However, there is a wider and more constitutional point. Some hon. Members in the Conservative and Unionist parties have tried to explain to the people of Northern Ireland that their interests and their grievances should properly be ventilated in this place. The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to say, "First of all, we had Stormont foisted upon us, and we did not want that. Over 50 years we achieved some affection for that institution. As our affection for that institution developed, our respect and affection for Westminster sadly diminished. Then they gave us direct rule and tried to persuade us that our interests would be dealt with in the House of Commons. They said to us, quite legitimately, that they in the House of Commons have proper rules of procedure and if we have a grievance we can write to our Member of Parliament and proper time will be given for him to consider our representations, and if he happens to agree with us, he will raise it on the Floor of the House and perhaps in Standing Committee."

It was an impertinence by the Government, who are still the historical holder of the flag of Unionism, to say to the people of Northern Ireland a week ago, "We shall extend the provisions of the Bill to Northern Ireland. We give you at most three days to consider the way in which the Bill will affect Northern Ireland." What chance has anyone who is not directly involved in politics to write to his Member of Parliament and explain, for instance, the special security aspects of Northern Ireland and to say whether he wishes the legislation to be extended to other activities, whether he wishes the legislation to be tightened or loosened in respect of Northern Ireland? That is the most offensive way in which to legislate for Northern Ireland.

I say that with great regret, because it is widely known that many Opposition Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland are coming to the view that the only proper future for Northern Ireland is to have some separate or devolved constitution. Those of us who wish to retain the union must be extremely careful to ensure that proper constitutional proprieties are always observed in respect of Northern Ireland.

This method of dealing with Northern Ireland is a disgrace. It has deprived the citizens of Northern Ireland of their proper rights. It is a manifestation of the most crass, arrogant English attitude towards Northern Ireland. Every hon. Member who has any sense of history and any sense of the union and of the great sacrifices made by Northern Ireland for the United Kingdom should vote with vigour against this disgraceful guillotine.

9.4 pm

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has given one good reason why we should oppose the guillotine this evening, but some of my hon. Friends may be in doubt as to what happened in Standing Committee and in Monday night's debate. There was not one single filibuster. We had a constructive debate on a lot of technical matters. Throughout the Committee, we made very quick and good progress, given the complexities of the legislation. I was under the impression that the guillotine was imposed only after deliberate filibustering by hon. Members trying to foul up the works, but in this case there was none of that.

Furthermore, I remember well that in Committee my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State told us that firearms legislation depended on trust and co-operation between the shooting community and the police. We want to expedite the Bill to put it on the statute book as soon as possible, but the patience of the shooting community is being pushed to the limit by the Bill's provisions. If the shooting community can say, as it will be able to, that the House of Commons did not even discuss measures that affect it, its freedoms and its liberties, it will resent the Bill even more.

If we support the guillotine, we shall bitterly regret doing so. The Bill is pushing the patience of the shooting community a long way, and if we support the guillotine motion it will have a genuine grievance. That is why I shall vote against the motion this evening.

9.6 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

Let me deal briefly with a number of points that have come up. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), in his glittering, amoral speech, expressed the hope that another place would not change the Bill. I share that hope, but we cannot be sure, so it is right to provide against that possibility. That is the purpose of paragraph 6 of the order which provides for a timetable if necessary in that event. It is opaque, it is difficult to constitute, but my right hon. Friend of all people should perhaps recognise that that is the traditional way of dealing with that particular problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has just made a powerful speech in favour of the union and gave that as a reason for voting against the guillotine. However, he seems to be under the misapprehension that the application of the Bill to Northern Ireland falls under the guillotine. This matter was discussed at some length on Monday night. As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) rightly pointed out, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office did, as it were, come clean on that matter. Therefore, it is not subject to the guillotine.

Mr. Budgen

The point I made was that, if a constituent in Northern Ireland wishes to make representations to his Member of Parliament, he will not have sufficient time to do so and to receive any sort of answer from his Member of Parliament.

Mr. Hurd

I am not talking about the whole question of the application, because that was dealt with on Monday night. It is not an argument for voting against the timetable motion.

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Hurd

No, I shall not give way. My hon. Friend and I will continue to disagree on that point.

Mr. Dobson

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, although the new clause extending the Bill to Northern Ireland was debated earlier this week, a large number of amendments relating to Northern Ireland will be caught by the guillotine?

Mr. Hurd

The general principle that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was addressing is not touched on by the timetable motion and is not relevant to a vote on it.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend clear up one point for us? If Ministers knew that the Bill would be extended to Northern Ireland before the Committee concluded its consideration of the Bill, why was the Committee not told?

Mr. Hurd

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office dealt with that specific point at some length on Monday night, as my hon. Friend will probably know. The question who received what letter when was exhaustively discussed that night.

Any firearms legislation is likely to be deeply controversial. Anyone who knows the history of the subject knows that to be true. On this occasion, the controversy on the Bill surfaced late. If we had rushed a Bill through using some emergency procedure in the autumn, we might have got it relatively easily. That is what we were urged to do by the Opposition and a large part of the press. We did not do that. We deliberately followed a normal procedure which allowed for reflection, criticism and change, and reflection, criticism and change is exactly what there has been.

All this time we were urged by the Opposition to move faster and further. I was accused of spending too much time with the gun lobby. I have all that history in mind when I hear accusations that there was some kind of knee-jerk reaction.

Since Second Reading, we have taken the view that certain pillars of the Bill had to be held to, and we have held to them. There are other matters on which we have been moved, and I congratulate my hon. Friends on their powers of persuasion. It was persuasion, because we could have removed at this stage clauses that were carried against us in Standing Committee. By and large, we have not done so. The result is a raft of Government amendments. The amendments are to a large extent the result of concessions, made and promised in Standing Committee, exacted by my hon. Friends. It is a little hard to press us to show flexibility and open-mindedness and then, when we do, to complain of the amendments tabled as a result.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

Does my right hon. Friend concede that the one aspect of the Bill which has been omitted is that concerning the availability of weapons to people with mental health problems? That point appears to have been ignored. The application form makes provision for self-certification, and applicants are asked to declare whether they have a mental health problem. However, the general practitioner is not asked to countersign. Should not an amendment be brought forward to cover that point?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department advises me that that matter will be raised at various stages in our discussions later, when my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) will have an opportunity to intervene and to receive an answer.

In the meetings which my hon. Friend the Minister and I have had with our hon. Friends, they have emphasised three points on which they sought concessions. The first was the modification of the prohibition on self-loading rifles, with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) in the van. The second concerned the buy-in procedure. The third related to the statutory advisory committee. We have done what my hon. Friend promised. We weighed up carefully whether concessions could be made in respect of self-loading rifles which would meet the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries without weakening a central pillar of the Bill.

For reasons which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has already given, and which he will repeat this evening, we concluded that that concession could not be made. However, the buy-in scheme and the statutory committee have been conceded. If my hon. Friends knew with what pain and difficulty my hon. Friend and I shook those two plums from the tree, they would be a little more generous when we offer that fruit to them on a dish.

Mr. Higgins

As my right hon. Friend has failed to provide an amended financial memorandum to the Hill, now that the one provided on Second Reading has been overtaken by events, will he explain why it is that the compensation arrangements propose to ask for certification of what was paid for the weapon but to reimburse only 50 per cent?

Mr. Hurd

There is an amendment covering that point, and I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill [Money] (No. 2) resolution, which was carried on I March, after Second Reading, as a result of the concession in principle that was made on that aspect.

We are anxious to continue and to complete informed discussion——

Mr. Higgins

My right hon. Friend has not answered my question. He must not try to rush this through and brush matters aside in that way. He has not explained why it is that somebody with a receipt showing what he paid for the weapon should be compensated only to the extent of 50 per cent. of its value.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal with that point later this evening. I thought that my right hon. Friend wished to refer to the point he raised when intervening originally, because it is that point with which I have dealt. I shall certainly give my right hon. Friend an answer to his other detailed point.

Mr. William Ross


Mr. Hurd

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Hon. Members

Give way!

Mr. Ross

There was considerable debate in Committee on the number of weapons that would be confiscated—the Home Secretary calls it compensation. Does the Home Secretary yet know how many of those weapons there are, and what will be the total cost, even on his miserly sums?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we are debating the allocation of time motion.

Mr. Hurd

The best estimate that we have, I am advised, is 8,000 to 10,000 rifles.

We are anxious to continue, and to complete, in an informed way, the proceedings on the Bill. I do not need to state the background and the reasons for it, because they have been eloquently stated by two of my hon. Friends who are in a particularly good position to comment—my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and for Harborough (Sir J. Farr). I do not need to labour or repeat their arguments. I hold those views strongly and believe that they amount to a powerful case for the motion.

Question put:

The House divided:Ayes 278, Noes 142.

Division No. 327] [9.15 pm
Adley, Robert Couchman, James
Alexander, Richard Cran, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Critchley, Julian
Amess, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Amos, Alan Curry, David
Arbuthnot, James Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Day, Stephen
Ashby, David Devlin, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Dickens, Geoffrey
Atkins, Robert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Atkinson, David Dover, Den
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Dunn, Bob
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Durant, Tony
Baldry, Tony Emery, Sir Peter
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Batiste, Spencer Evennett, David
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fallon, Michael
Bendall, Vivian Farr, Sir John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Favell, Tony
Benyon, W. Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bevan, David Gilroy Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fookes, Miss Janet
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Forman, Nigel
Blackburn, Dr John G. Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Forth, Eric
Boswell, Tim Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Franks, Cecil
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Freeman, Roger
Brandon-Bravo, Martin French, Douglas
Brazier, Julian Fry, Peter
Bright, Graham Gale, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gardiner, George
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Browne, John (Winchester) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Buck, Sir Antony Gorst, John
Burns, Simon Gower, Sir Raymond
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butcher, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butler, Chris Gregory, Conal
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Ground, Patrick
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grylls, Michael
Carrington, Matthew Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Cash, William Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hampson, Dr Keith
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hanley, Jeremy
Chapman, Sydney Hannam, John
Chope, Christopher Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Harris, David
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hawkins, Christopher
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hayward, Robert
Cope, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Heddle, John Needham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Neubert, Michael
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nicholls, Patrick
Hill, James Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Holt, Richard Oppenheim, Phillip
Howard, Michael Page, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paice, James
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pawsey, James
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Portillo, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Powell, William (Corby)
Irvine, Michael Price, Sir David
Irving, Charles Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jack, Michael Redwood, John
Janman, Tim Renton, Tim
Jessel, Toby Rhodes James, Robert
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Riddick, Graham
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Key, Robert Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kilfedder, James Rost, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rowe, Andrew
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Kirkhope, Timothy Ryder, Richard
Knapman, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knowles, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knox, David Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Lee, John (Pendle) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Speed, Keith
Lightbown, David Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lilley, Peter Stanley, Rt Hon John
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Steen, Anthony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stevens, Lewis
Lord, Michael Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Stokes, John
McCrindle, Robert Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Sumberg, David
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Summerson, Hugo
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Maclean, David Taylor, Ian (Esher)
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Madel, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Malins, Humfrey Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mans, Keith Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maples, John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Tracey, Richard
Maude, Hon Francis Tredinnick, David
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Trotter, Neville
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Twinn, Dr Ian
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Viggers, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Waddington, Rt Hon David
Miller, Hal Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Mills, Iain Walden, George
Miscampbell, Norman Walters, Dennis
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Ward, John
Moate, Roger Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Warren, Kenneth
Moore, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Wells, Bowen
Morrison, Hon Sir Charles Wheeler, John
Morrison, Hon P (Chester) Widdecombe, Ann
Moynihan, Hon Colin Wilkinson, John
Neale, Gerrard Wilshire, David
Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Yeo, Tim Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Young, Sir George (Acton)
Allen, Graham Howells, Geraint
Alton, David Ingram, Adam
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Barron, Kevin Kennedy, Charles
Battle, John Lambie, David
Beckett, Margaret Lamond, James
Beggs, Roy Leighton, Ron
Bellingham, Henry Livsey, Richard
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bermingham, Gerald McAvoy, Thomas
Bidwell, Sydney McCusker, Harold
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Macdonald, Calum A.
Boyes, Roland McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Bradley, Keith McLeish, Henry
Bray, Dr Jeremy McNamara, Kevin
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) McWilliam, John
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Madden, Max
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Marek, Dr John
Buchan, Norman Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Martlew, Eric
Buckley, George J. Maxton, John
Budgen, Nicholas Meale, Alan
Callaghan, Jim Michael, Alun
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Clay, Bob Monro, Sir Hector
Clelland, David Morgan, Rhodri
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cohen, Harry Mowlam, Marjorie
Colvin, Michael Mullin, Chris
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Murphy, Paul
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Nellist, Dave
Corbett, Robin Patchett, Terry
Cousins, Jim Pike, Peter L.
Cox, Tom Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Crowther, Stan Prescott, John
Cryer, Bob Quin, Ms Joyce
Cummings, John Redmond, Martin
Cunliffe, Lawrence Richardson, Jo
Dalyell, Tam Robertson, George
Darling, Alistair Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Rowlands, Ted
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Salmond, Alex
Dewar, Donald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dixon, Don Short, Clare
Dobson, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Douglas, Dick Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Duffy, A. E. P. Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Eadie, Alexander Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Steel, Rt Hon David
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Stott, Roger
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Strang, Gavin
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Flynn, Paul Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Turner, Dennis
Galbraith, Sam Vaz, Keith
Godman, Dr Norman A. Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Golding, Mrs Llin Wall, Pat
Gordon, Mildred Wallace, James
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Walley, Joan
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Grocott, Bruce Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Haynes, Frank Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Whitney, Ray
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Wigley, Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan Young, David (Bolton SE)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Nicholas Mr. Ken Eastham and
Worthington, Tony Mr. Martyn Jones.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Firearms (Amendment) Bill