HC Deb 09 June 1997 vol 295 cc783-4
8. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many pistol clubs there are in the United Kingdom; how many there were a year ago; and what was their total membership. [921]

Mr. Michael

The total number of pistol clubs approved by the Secretary of State throughout the United Kingdom is 1,605. Precise information about the number of such clubs a year ago could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The Government have no information on the number of members of approved pistol clubs.

Mr. Colvin

It seems clear from that reply that a number of pistol target shooting clubs have managed to survive on the basis of small-bore. 22 shooting alone. As the Minister will know from the introductory explanatory memorandum to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, which the House will consider on Wednesday, it is highly likely that none of those clubs will exist if the Bill is enacted unamended. Will he ensure that proper compensation is paid not only to the owners of firearms and ancillary equipment, but to owners of clubs that will lose their premises, their business and their fee income? That would rectify one of the injustices of the present Act and give the Minister, whom I congratulate on his appointment, an opportunity to rectify an injustice and to demonstrate to the House that new Labour really is new.

Mr. Michael

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome and for the implied criticism of his right hon. and hon. Friends in that he is inviting us to go way beyond the compensation allowed for in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which was enacted before the general election. Of the 1,440 clubs approved for pistols in England and Wales, only 49 were approved for pistols only—less than 4 per cent. of the total. In any event, it is right that individuals who were affected by the legislation should be compensated. We have no intention of going beyond that.

Mr. Salter

Is my hon. Friend aware that replica pistols that are exact copies of those used in gun clubs are openly and lawfully on sale to young children in Reading and elsewhere? Is he further aware that those replica weapons, including imitation Magnum. 45s, are indistinguishable from the real thing, and can be, and have been, used in armed robberies? What action does my hon. Friend propose to take to deal with the issue?

Mr. Michael

I am aware of the problem, which has been highlighted on a number of occasions. My hon. Friend will be aware that we have targeted one specific gap in the law for action this Session—that is the continuation of the availability of. 22 handguns. We have taken the view that the legislation, which will be debated in the House later this week, needs to be narrow in order for it to proceed through the House quickly. We decided, therefore, that we would not address wider issues. We shall return to issues of the sort that my hon. Friend raises. I shall look carefully at the evidence he has described which, I am sure, he will wish to supplement following today's discussion. We shall certainly wish to address the issue he raises.

Forward to