HL Deb 15 December 1970 vol 313 cc1276-8

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the use of shot-guns, sawn-off or otherwise, by criminals, to consider asking for the following additional information on application forms for shot-gun certificates issued under the Firearms Act 1968

  1. (1) The maker's registered number stamped on each shot-gun; and
  2. (2) The number of shot-guns in the holder's possession.]


My Lords, to be fully effective, these suggestions would have to be accompanied by changes in the present law, which imposes a control based on the holders of shot-guns rather than on individual weapons. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked H.M. Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales to review the present arrangements for the control of all kinds of firearms, in consultation with chief officers of police; and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be associated with this arrangement. The noble Lord's suggestion will be examined as part of the review.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. In view of the fact that this particular Act was tagged on to the end of the 1937, out-dated Order, does he not think that the whole of this question should, from the Parliamentary point of view, be re-examined?


My Lords, I think it is a very technical question. The Home Office have published some statisstics recently in the paper, Firearms in Crime; but it has been only one full year since shot-guns were brought under the firearms certificate procedure, initially under the Criminal Justice Act 1967 which has now been consolidated in the Firearms Act 1968. A review of the type my noble friend has in mind is a first step.


My Lords, do not Her Majesty's Government consider that their present system of Class 1—rifles and other smooth-bore weapons—is really a complete anachronism? As these weapons are used in crime, do not Her Majesty's Government realise that one of the more powerful pistols has an impact energy of about 400 foot-pounds over a diameter of half an inch; whereas a shot-gun at point-blank range has an impact energy somewhere in the region of 2 foot-tons over about a one-inch diameter? Is it not now an anachronism to try to draw a distinction between small pistols which may have rifled barrels and shot-guns which are smooth-bore and the ammunition for which can be purchased at any ironmongers?


My Lords, these are considerations which might be borne in mind and which will be included in the review. The difficulty is—and this point was debated at length during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill in 1967—the very widespread use of shotguns. There are something like two million shot-guns in use. The number of rifles and pistols is much smaller.


My Lords, would the Government report the results of this review—at any rate to Parliament?


My Lords, I should like to take note of that suggestion.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he will take careful note of the points made? Is he aware that clearly there is a great deal of anxiety in the House? Will be consider making a statement on this matter as soon as possible?


Yes, my Lords, I will certainly take note of that. My right honourable friend has received representations on this subject and it is for that reason that he has asked, initially, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary to make a review in consultation with the chief officers of police. These are the people who have the responsibility for enforcing control. We think that the correct step is to see what the practical implications have been in the couple of years since the law was changed.