§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Miss Widdecombe
Clause 3 provides that a person does not need the Secretary of State's authority, under section 5(1)(aba) of the Firearms Act 1968 as inserted by clause 1 of the Bill, to possess, purchase, acquire, sell or transfer a firearm held on a firearms certificate that is subject to a condition that it is to be used only for the humane killing of animals. That would cover not only vets and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials but others, including hunt servants, whom the chief constable is satisfied have a genuine need for a handgun for that purpose. That may involve producing evidence to prove that need.
Vets and others have long used handguns for the humane killing of animals, and it would be wrong to expect or require them to change their practices. We accepted the argument that the alternatives available, such as rifles, shotguns and tranquilliser darts, would not be as effective. The advantages of using pistols to put animals out of their misery are obvious. The circumstances of the exemption are clear and only professionals or other experienced persons will be able to prove their need to the chief officer.
We believe that in those cases it is right that the chief officer of police should have the discretion to grant section 1 certificates and that each case should be assessed on its merits. We believe that it would be unnecessarily bureaucratic to require such people to obtain the Secretary of State's separate authority.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does the exemption have the agreement—which seems to be implied—of the British Veterinary Association? Has that group been consulted and has it agreed to the exemption?
§ Miss Widdecombe
The organisation has made its views known and it is beyond me why it would not agree to our proposal, given that vets clearly must be exempt.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.