HL Deb 24 March 1987 vol 486 cc113-4

3.1 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to limit the ownership of crossbows by licence and to limit the use of crossbows to target shooting.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have no such plans. However, the Government fully support the Crossbows Bill, introduced in another place by the honourable Member for Leicester, East, which creates offences relating to the sale and letting on hire of crossbows to persons under the age of 17 and the purchase, hiring and possession of crossbows by them. We hope that the Bill will shortly be received into your Lordships' House.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. It is slightly more encouraging than a reply I received about two or three years ago when I asked more or less the same question. Does he realise that such silent and lethal weapons can cause a grievous wound that is more serious than an injury from a high velocity bullet? I understand that a great number of crossbows are obtained through mail order houses. How will a mail order house ascertain whether its prospective customer is under 17 years old? I know that this is a very long and involved question and perhaps not quite fair, so if my noble friend prefers he can write to me.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, with regard to the mail order business, I can tell my noble friend that we are at present consulting the crossbow manufacturers and sporting organisations that use crossbows about the text of a guidance note for distribution to traders and a safety code for issue with all new sales of crossbows. I hope that answer will assist him. It seems to me that his Question is an excellent one to bring forward when the Bill comes before your Lordships' House.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, is the Minister aware that that there are many shops that sell crossbows over the counter without taking into consideration the points that he raised? I have put this question before and I shall continue to put it. Will Her Majesty's Government look at the ease with which people can purchase offensive and potentially offensive weapons?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we are looking at this question at the moment particularly because of the very serious concerns about which the noble Baroness, among others, has told us.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, in dealing with crossbows, will my noble friend bear in mind that if ever we were to have a Government headed by Mr. Kinnock, these would be the most formidable weapons left to us?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I note with interest what my noble friend says.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, following the very witty intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. would the Minister care to ask his noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard whether he intends to be a militant propagandist for designating his area crossbow-free?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I expect that my noble friend will talk to me later about this matter but I am sure that there are certain people who will take up the noble Lord's suggestion.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, has the Minister seen a programme on television which went out in the middle of last week and which I think was called "London Report"? It showed the immense cruelty that is now involved in large-scale deer poaching, particularly in the South-East of England, and the use of crossbows for such poaching which is causing immense pain and suffering to many animals. When he has seen that programme, will it be possible for him to consider circularising magistrates and inviting them to use more readily their powers of confiscation in respect of such weapons when poachers are caught and also to use their power to confiscate lurcher dogs which, as shown in the programme, are also causing immense suffering?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I have not seen the programme to which the noble Lord refers and I shall make a point of watching it. I hope that it has been videoed; that might be my best opportunity to see it. Of course, as I said in answer to the last Question, we draw to the attention of magistrates their full powers under the Acts of Parliament.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Bill which is passing through the Parliament in another place and which it is expected will have its Third Reading on Friday is widely supported both inside and outside Parliament? Is he also aware that the only criticism of the Bill is the sentencing power under Clause 6, which does not go quite wide enough? Will Her Majesty's Government see what they can do to extend it?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is something for my noble friend to take up at a later stage if he is concerned.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the crossbow is not merely an amusing and archaic weapon, as exhibited in your Lordships' House, but is a very real weapon that is capable of dealing tremendous and horrific wounds to people and animals? Is he further aware that some of my best friends are lurcher dogs?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we consider that the crossbow can be an extremely lethal weapon in the wrong hands. That is why we are giving support to the Bill that is in another place.