HL Deb 24 January 1978 vol 388 cc268-9

2.38 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reconsider their refusal to legislate to make the licensing of crossbows compulsory.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, we have no evidence that crossbows have been used for the purpose of serious crime or that they are misused to any significant extent. A licensing system would impose additional burdens on the police, which would be disproportionate to the scale of the problem.


My Lords, while rather lukewarmly thanking the noble Minister for his reply, may I ask whether he is really aware how lethal these weapons are? Is the noble Lord aware that modern crossbows are fitted with telescopic sights and fire a mechanically propelled steel bolt on a flat projectory, and are capable of killing a man at a distance of up to 100 yards? Moreover, would the noble Lord not agree that such a weapon, being silent and relatively cheap to buy, is tailor-made for criminal activities, apart, of course, from being highly dangerous in the hands of irresponsible or young people? Finally, does the Minister realise the hazard to wildlife and domestic stock made possible by these weapons in the prevailing lawlessness in this country?


My Lords, the situation is that there is very little evidence that crossbows are used for any criminal purposes. The noble Viscount says that they can be misused. Indeed they can, but so can many other articles, including carving knives. However, that is not an argument for a licensing system.


My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether these crossbows could not be supplied to engine drivers on the Southern Region so that they could protect themselves against passengers who ask silly questions?

Viscount ST. DAVIDS

My Lords, will the Minister not agree that the real point about the crossbow is that, although it is an extremely dangerous weapon—and on this point I agree with the noble Viscount—it cannot be put into one's pocket, and that that is what really makes it not very useful as a criminal weapon and therefore not needing licensing?


My Lords, is the Minister aware that, in fact, a man was shot by a crossbow not so long ago? Is the Minister further aware that I have seen two animals with these bolts in them? Only a short time ago I saw a young stag that had a crossbow bolt through its neck—it must have died a very unpleasant death.


My Lords, I have no doubt that crossbows can be misused. However, I am saying that I do not think that a case for licensing has been made out.

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