HL Deb 12 June 1913 vol 14 cc601-3

My Lords, I rise to draw attention to a circular which has been largely distributed in Ireland stating the fact that cheap Belgian sporting guns are sold in great numbers in Ireland, and inasmuch as these guns are most dangerous to use, especially with smokeless powder, to ask His Majesty's Government whether the Belgian proof marks are recognised by them, and whether these marks are considered as guaranteeing these guns in the same way as the London and Birmingham proof marks do.

It seems to me that these guns are stamped by the Belgian Government, and I believe the mark is recognised by the British Government as a sufficient guarantee that the guns are safe to use, though it is rather strange that this proof mark should be so recognised when English-made guns which are far superior may not be sold in this country unless they have been stamped under the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868. These cheap Belgian guns, which are admitted into Ireland without the proof mark which is necessary in the case of our own guns, are dangerous when black powder is used, but are exceedingly dangerous when smokeless powder is used. The farmers who buy these Belgian guns are not aware that there is great risk to their lives in using them. In some cases there have been serious injuries to the users through the explosion of the gun, and in one case there was loss of life. Your Lordships can imagine what the quality of the gun is when I tell you that it can be purchased in Ireland at the price of 29s. 6d., and you can buy the same gun for 16s. 6d. in Belgium. I believe that the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce recently drafted a Bill to prohibit the sale of unproof firearms, but I have not yet seen the measure.

The circular which has been largely distributed in Ireland is an anonymous one, but I wrote to Dublin to find out as far as was possible whether everything stated in the circular was correct. I asked the secretary of the Irish Game Protection Association to go round to the gunmakers in Dublin and make inquiries, and he writes to me as follows— I am in receipt of your letter and have to-day visited the principal gunmakers in Dublin, showing them the circular re unproved guns in Ireland. They confirm the statements made therein, and consider that the sale of the class of guns referred to is doing great injury in the country. I admit that the gunmakers are naturally interested parties. They do not want a large number of cheap guns introduced into Ireland. But not only are these guns dangerous to the users. They are also a great encouragement to poachers. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, so far as the Board of Trade are concerned they know nothing of the circular to which the noble Earl has referred, and I should be much obliged if he would be kind enough to let me have a copy of it. The question raised by the noble Earl is whether under the Gun Proof Act certain foreign marks are recognised by the two authorities in this country, one in London and the other in Birmingham, whose duty it is to impress gun barrels and pass them in this country. As far as England is concerned these two authorities have power to pass as adequate certain foreign proof marks, notably that of Belgium in the case of Liège. The Liège proof mark is registered with these two authorities and is accepted in England. But the Gun Act of 1868 does not apply to Ireland and Scotland. Consequently in those two countries gulls can be sold without any mark whatever. I fully recognise, as the noble Earl has said, that the sale of these cheap guns in Ireland must be a source of great danger to the users, especially in the case of smokeless powder, and I will raise the whole question with the Board of Trade and let the noble Earl have a reply in due course.