§ 3.45 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ LORD SWANSEA
I should like to say briefly that I think it is a pity the Government are seeking to remove this subsection from the Bill. I think that any legislation of this sort ought to be flexible. We are introducing provisions of an entirely new sort: I do not know of any parallel case. I feel that there ought to be some provision for this period in respect of overseas visitors to be varied at the discretion of the Minister. These requirements for a shot-gun certificate are likely to prove rather irksome to visitors from abroad. Quite a number come over from year to year for the purposes of shooting, and they bring in some very valuable dollars and other foreign currency. A person may come into this country twice within a period of twelve months. For instance, he may come over in November or December to shoot pheasants, and he may come over again the following August to go up to Scotland to shoot grouse. If his combined stay during that period exceeds one month, he then has to go to the police and go through all the palaver of applying for a shot-gun certificate.
The noble Lord, Lord Bowles, has said that there will be no trouble about issuing these certificates; that they will be issued "on the nod" to respectable people. That may be; but one would have thought that in the case of foreigners the police might reasonably be expected to make certain inquiries into the background of a person to make sure that he really is a respectable person. A period of one month is, I think, too short. As the Bill stands at present, there is discretion for the Secretary of State to reduce that period still further. I cannot 828 think of any circumstances in which that period should be further reduced, but it would be quite easy to think of circumstances, after these provisions have had a period of trial, in which it might be decided that this period should be extended. I feel that some provision should be left in the Bill for a discretion in that respect.
§ LORD STONHAM
Although the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, presents his case with such restraint, I am bound to say that I find his criticisms somewhat captious, and that he is rather difficult to please. I very carefully explained that, as a result of long discussions in another place with people who are keenly interested in this subject, and very knowledgeable about it, the original provision of three months, plus flexibility for the making, of rules by the Secretary of State, was withdrawn in favour of a period of one month. It was thought that in any case there would be no wish to reduce the period below one month, and that accordingly there was not need for subsection (7), which I sought the agreement of the Committee to remove from the Bill. That is to say, the period would not be less than one month.
The noble Lord regrets the removal of the subsection mainly, as I understand it, on the ground that it is likely to be irksome to some visitors who come here for one month during the year and then later in the same year come for another month. I do not think it is very irksome to expect the visitor who comes here for two separate months in a year to have to apply for a shot-gun certificate. If they are well-known people—as they would be if they were coming regularly in that way—they would not have any difficulty with the police. I am sure that there would not be any need to consult Interpol about their antecedents and background. I thought that this was a proposal that the Committee in general, and the noble Lord in particular, would welcome. I only hope that on reflection he will find that it is one that can be supported.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD STONHAM
Another Statement has to be made, and I think this would be a convenient time to break off.
§ House resumed.