HC Deb 19 November 1996 vol 285 cc859-60

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

4.41 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Ann Widdecombe)

Clause 2 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 slaughtering instrument if he is duly authorised by a firearms certificate. The Secretary of State's authority will not be required for a person to have a slaughtering instrument in his possession if he is already entitled, under section 10 of the 1968 Act, to possess it without a firearms certificate. That will allow a slaughterman licensed under the Slaughterhouses Act 1974 or the proprietor of an abattoir to continue using a slaughtering instrument as part of his normal duties.

For many years, the firearms Acts have exempted licensed professional slaughterers from the need to hold certificates and we propose that that should be allowed to continue. The instruments that they use—many of which have a captive bolt—pose no threat to the protection of the public. We believe that in those cases it is right to allow the chief officer of police the discretion to grant section 1 certificates to such people. He will be able to assess each case on its merits.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) is the Government Whip on duty, it seems appropriate to ask about starting pistols used at athletics meetings. There are all sorts of anomalies; will that one be covered?

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman is ahead of the Committee's discussions. The issue of starting pistols will be debated under one of the clauses—I think it is clause 4—that we shall discuss this afternoon.

We believe that it is right that the chief officer should be able to assess each case on its merits and that it would be unnecessarily bureaucratic to require people in this category to obtain the Secretary of State's separate authority.

Sir Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

It is essential that such people are able to possess and use the appropriate instruments, and we support the special exemption. As to bureaucracy, it seems a little elaborate to include two clauses—clauses 2 and 3—that appear to say the same thing. Perhaps my hon. Friend might consider tidying up the legislation on Report.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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