HL Deb 19 October 1988 vol 500 cc1126-39

3.6 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Prohibited weapons and ammunition]:

Lord Swansea moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 16, leave out ("or pump action").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I first declare an interest as a life-long shooter and chairman of the British Shooting Sports Council, which co-ordinates the views of shooting interests throughout the country. I hope it will not be necessary for me to repeat my interest every time I rise to my feet.

I spoke on this subject in Committee and I should like to bring it to your Lordships' notice again because it is illogical that rifles and firearms of this class should be lumped in with self-loading rifles, which the Bill seeks to prohibit. A pump-action rifle is entirely different. Just as any bolt-action or lever-action rifle is manually operated, so also is a pump-action rifle. Some are capable of being operated faster than some bolt-actions but that is no reason, in itself, to prohibit them.

I hope that your Lordships will consider this point carefully because there are a number of such rifles in use. Generally they do not have a large magazine capacity. The magazine capacity aspect was dealt with at some length at various stages of the Bill's progress through the other place and in this Chamber. In my submission it is illogical that rifles of this description should be lumped in with self-loading and other fast-firing weapons. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, your Lordships will recall that the whole purpose of this Bill is to get the most lethal weapons out of circulation. My noble friend Lord Swansea has argued that full-bore pump-action rifles should be exempted from the prohibited category because they do not have the same level of lethality as self-loading rifles.

We discussed this point at some considerable length in Committee. What it boils down to is that my noble friend is saying that a pump-action rifle cannot be fired as quickly and as effectively as a self-loading rifle and is therefore less lethal. I do not agree. The advice I have from the Forensic Science Service—which is, after all, expert on such matters and is called in to give evidence in the courts—is that there is very little to choose between pump-action and self-loading rifles in the hands of an experienced shooter. I am sure that my noble friend will agree that both self-loading and pump-action rifles have a significantly higher rate of fire than bolt-action rifles. That is what we are primarily concerned with.

Pump-action rifles are not commonly used for sporting and competition purposes in this country, and that might explain why they are so rare here. We can be quite sure of one thing; namely, that were my noble friend's amendment to find favour with your Lordships, pump-action rifles would become much more common than they are at present. They would be imported to take the place of self-loading rifles and I cannot believe that that is something that your Lordships would wish to see. That is why I cannot advise your Lordships to accept the amendment.

Lord Swansea

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. This is one matter upon which I must beg to differ from him. He mentioned the question of lethality. It is very hard to see whether rifle A is more lethal than rifle B. Both are equally lethal, and I do not believe there is any such thing as degrees of lethality. Perhaps my noble friend can give me an example of something which is only slightly lethal.

Of course the pump-action rifle can be operated faster than some bolt-action rifles, but in skilled hands there are bolt-action or lever-operated rifles that can be operated almost as fast. Another point I wish to make about pump-action rifles is that they can be operated with equal facility by left-handed shooters as well as by right-handed ones. However, this amendment is not going to succeed and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Portsmouth moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 17, at end insert ("except as provided by section [disabled persons]").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I am also speaking to Amendment No. 7. The purpose of the amendments is to allow disabled rifle shooters who, because of the nature of their disability, cannot shoot with a full bore bolt-action rifle, to continue with their sport. Noble Lords who took part during the Committee stage of this Bill will recall that my noble friend Lord Wynford moved an amendment with a similar aim but the Committee felt unable to agree to it despite the considerable degree of sympathy which was expressed on all sides of the Committee.

In his speech my noble friend gave some examples of disabled shooters who will be affected by the Bill as it stands. They range from ex-servicemen, one of whom was disabled as a result of being wounded in action, to an arthritis sufferer and a man suffering from polyneuritis. I know of a keen rifle shot whose shoulder has been dislocated in an accident and who has had to switch to a self-loading rifle as his shoulder has been put out of joint by the recoil of a bolt-action rifle.

To allay the anxieties of your Lordships and of the Government, my amendments leave the decision to the discretion of the police. The burden of the proof of need is upon the applicant who may well be required to produce supporting evidence in the form of a doctor's opinion or a medical certificate in addition to having to fulfil all the normal requirements pertaining to the grant of a firearms' certificate. I stress that this concession would be exclusive to the disabled shooter. Therefore, there is no question that acceptance of these amendments would open the floodgates to all those who wish to own self-loading rifles.

I also draw the attention of noble Lords to the type of rifle which is specified in the amendment. This firearm is hardly in the same league as the Kalashnikov which was used by Michael Ryan in the Hungerford massacre. Unlike that rifle with its large and detachable magazine, it is incapable of holding more than four cartridges. My noble friend Lord Ferrers,with the support of some noble Lords, has made much of the lethality of the self-loading rifle and has said that this was the prime factor in the decision to ban it. I remind both my noble friend and the House that at the same time the Government have seen fit to leave in Section 1 full bore bolt-action rifles with unlimited magazine capacity together with self-loading pistols.

I am not advocating banning these weapons in any way and that is not the subject under discussion here. I refer to them in order to illustrate my point. There are many firearms experts who agree that a bolt-action rifle with a large magazine has a greater fire power than a self-loading rifle with a magazine which is restricted to four shots only. Self-loading pistols are just as lethal as self-loading rifles particularly at close range and, as the evidence shows, they are used far more often for committing crime.

There are some noble Lords whose minds are virtually closed on the issue of the self-loading rifle. I appeal to them to look afresh at this amendment. We are here dealing with people who do not have the option of changing to a bolt-action rifle. Either they are allowed a self-loading rifle or they will be forced to give up shooting. My noble friend Lord Ferrers said at the Committee stage that the Government had looked at the legitimate use of weapons such as the self-loading rifle. If he can find a legitimate reason for self-loading pistols to remain available in Clause 1 then surely he will agree that disabled shooters have a legitimate reason for being allowed to own self- loading rifles with this very limited magazine capacity.

I hope that I can prevail upon my noble friend to look at the matter again. I hardly think that this measure, directed as it is to a very small number of people, can be said to be endangering the public any more than it amounts to wrecking the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene in order to let the Minister know how we on these Benches feel regarding this amendment and any which follows a similar line. At the Committee stage the noble Earl was asked by several Members of the Committee whether something could be done for the disabled. The indication was that the Minister would think about that problem, realising as he did the hardship that might be imposed upon those who were disabled without the public being endangered in any way.

In the course of his reply to this and any similar amendment, I wonder whether the noble Earl can give an indication of the Government's thinking on this matter and whether he has anything constructive to offer. I am not in any way trying to weaken the strength of this amendment, but it may well be that if we have a frank statement made before the House as to what the Government are doing for the disabled we and those who are moving amendments might be able to support them. However, if nothing is being thought of to help the disabled, then possibly we may have to take another line. In this sense, can the noble Earl help the House?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I should like to say a word in opposition to the amendment. It involves an important derogation from the fundamental principle of the Bill that the SLR is far too dangerous a weapon to be held by private individuals whose homes and motor-cars may well be broken into and the SLR sold by the thief to an armed robber. It raises the question of derogation from principle as indeed is proposed in other amendments such as Amendment No. 3 which is grouped with Amendment No. 8.

Amendment No. 2 seeks to impose upon the chief officer of police a mandatory statutory duty, enforceable in the courts of law by judicial review, to issue certificates for SLRs with a four-shot capacity magazine to persons with disability who cannot use any other firearm. Certain questions arise. First, what is the nature of this rare disability? I ask this question with respect and sympathy. As your Lordships know, on many occasions in the House I have spoken in favour of facilities for the disabled, so I speak not without sympathy. I ask an objective question. What is the nature of this rare disability?

Secondly, how is this to be established? Many medical practitioners would not be competent to advise in any categoric terms. Thirdly, if there is to be a medical certificate, is it to be conclusive to satisfy the chief officer? Ought it to be conclusive? Fourthly, how does one control the changing of the magazine by sophisticated armed robbers with access to workshops and perhaps bent gunsmiths? Fifthly, how many of these SLRs with a four-shot capacity are available? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, why is there to be a statutory mandatory duty enforceable in the courts?

Of course it is accepted that in a few cases this type of disability would be established—perhaps where recoil is an important and relevant consideration or perhaps where a person has only one arm. But surely one has to balance this limited and restricted personal private hardship against the greater public interest which demands that SLRs are too dangerous to be held by private individuals lest they should find their way by theft into the wrong hands.

One must seek to retain a sense of perspective. I beg leave to point out that no derogation from this fundamental principle is involved in enlarging the scope of Amendment No. 21 to include a young member of the occupier's family under bona fide instruction, which is a matter of interest to my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. Indeed there is no derogation from this principle in Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 which deal with expired certificates of members of Her Majesty's Forces and Crown servants serving abroad. Those are matters which my noble friend the Minister may consider on their merits in due course; as to the merits of this amendment, I hope that your Lordships will not accept it.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, I should like to emphasise the fact that the number of cases in which a disabled person genuinely could not use a bolt-action rifle would be very small, and thus that the risk of self-loading rifles falling into the wrong hands would also be very small.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I should disclose that I am a patron of the Greater London Association for the Disabled, and, like my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, I try on occasions in your Lordships' House to speak up for the disabled. However, I am not in favour of the amendment for various reasons, some of which my noble friend has expressed. There is a fundamental defect in the amendment. It would appear to apply to any kind of disability. The rather vague words of limitation upon the discretion of the chief officer of police do not resolve that problem.

We should bear in mind that there are so many different kinds of disability. Only the very rare one could possibly justify this proposal. If the amendment were accepted, disabled people could use such rifles for sporting purposes while people who were not disabled, perhaps alongside them or on the same occasion, would be prohibited from using the same lethal weapons. We should if possible avoid that. It should be avoided on this occasion because I do not feel that the case has been made out.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I should like to speak against the amendment. I have always supported the needs of the disabled. If one permits the use of a self-loading rifle with a magazine that will hold only four rounds, will not a larger magazine that can carry eight or 16 rounds be available? If that were the case, this would not he a very good amendment.

The Government are banning self-loading rifles because of the danger that if they were to get into the wrong hands—into the hands of a psychopath—they could cause the most terrible injury. Is it not possible that such a weapon could get into the hands of a disabled person who was also mentally unstable? Such a person could have a lethal self-loading rifle whereas people who were not disabled in any way would not be allowed to have such a weapon. This is a bad amendment and I oppose it.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I too feel grave anxiety about this amendment. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, I thought there was a general feeling in the House that self-loading rifles were themselves so dangerous that there ought not to be any kind of mandatory obligation on the chief officer of police, even that of the restricted kind suggested in the amendment, compelling him to issue a certificate to enable a person to have a self-loading rifle. That is how I understood it. It is the rifle which is sought to be prohibited, not the person. The provision is not aimed at people. It is aimed at a particular kind of weapon. The danger is not simply that a small number of people might misuse the article. It is that the article should not be available to anybody.

I am obviously disabled. I need not emphasise the point because anyone can see the two sticks in my hands. I hope therefore that I may be excused from any suggestion that I am against disabled people or against special privileges for them. The more I think about the amendment the more I think it is flawed in its conception. Its authors have overlooked the fact that it is the weapon itself, in the wrong hands, that is the source of danger rather than the kind of person who may have the certificate to use it.

Moreover, the amendment leads us into an almost incredible degree of absurdity because it says that before one can take advantage of the amendment one must be disabled to the extent that one cannot use any kind of authorisable weapon. In other words, one cannot even use a little pistol. One has to be as disabled as that. Then, when one can take advantage of the amendment the only advantage one gets is that one will have something one may not want; namely, a self-loading rifle. If one cannot even use the pistol one can get the advantage provided by the amendment, but the only sort of weapon one is then allowed to have, as of right, is a self-loading rifle. That seems to me to be an absurd assertion. I hope therefore that my noble friend on the Front Bench will examine the matter with great care before accepting it.

3.30 p.m.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I should briefly like to speak against the amendment for the reason which has already been so plainly brought out: that the type of weapon under discussion should not really, even to a small degree, be in anyone's hands in this country.

However, I should like to say a word or two about the disabled people who might be concerned and disappointed. Like many other noble Lords, I have always tried to support disabled people in the House. Indeed, I remember well a debate which took place many years ago, which I think was instigated by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, during the Year of the Disabled. During that debate, the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, made a speech in which he made the strong point that you cannot do everything for the disabled. I think that that is a truism in life; you cannot provide for them all the way down the line. For instance, he cited as an example adapting public transport, and other such matters.

Therefore I sincerely believe that, for the greater good, the very few people who have been mentioned who will be unable to use the bolt on a rifle and who need a four-shot automatic rifle of some sort must, like many of us, turn away from that pastime and sport. They must shrug their shoulders and go off and do other things which they are probably far better equipped to do, if they put their minds to it, and from which they might receive equally as much enjoyment.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I do not wish to repeat arguments which have already been deployed, but I very much agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, said. I do so in the context of the situation where my noble friends and I have voted consistently in this House in support of the position of special rights for disabled people. I understand the immense problems that they have in getting through life but I do not believe that such an amendment makes any sense whatever, especially for the reasons given by the noble and learned Lord. The amendment is far too widely drawn and indeed it imposes a mandatory obligation on the chief officer of police which in my view is wholly undesirable in terms of the legislation now before us.

The Earl of Northesk

My Lords, there appears to be a conviction among the general public, the Home Office and some Members of your Lordship's House that a self-loading rifle is the most dangerous weapon that exists. That is patently not true. It is no more or less dangerous than any other gun; it is the person behind the gun that matters and not the gun itself. That is the essence and reason behind the amendment, the object being that no one should shoot a self-loading rifle until such time as he has proved himself to be reasonably competent to do so.

I doubt whether it is possible to remove the blinkers—the sort of mental blockage that exists—but I wonder whether it is possible to clear up some misapprehensions in this connection. Not all self-loading rifles are Kalashnikov-type guns. They are in fact exactly what their name implies; that is, a gun with a magazine which when it is charged loads itself. It does not fire itself. It is not an automatic rifle. It is not a rapid-fire weapon; it is simply a rapid-loading gun. It takes away the necessity of manual movement of a bolt or lever and produces less recoil because some of the energy is used in re-loading the gun. In essence that means that there is less disturbance to the shooter between each shot which in effect means that he has more time to take aim. As I have already said, that does not make it any more or less dangerous, because it is the person who is more dangerous and not the gun.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I feel that the many misapprehensions which have been expressed so far in the debate are unjustified. There has also been an element of panic. As the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said, the number permitted would he very small indeed—how correct she is. Further, those that were permitted would only be allowed with the chief officer's consent. I was somewhat confused about the remark made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham that it would be mandatory upon him. I cannot see that it is in any way mandatory. The chief officer of police can refuse a permit for any number of reasons.

The number of crimes committed with stolen weapons—that is, with any type of weapon—is very small indeed. I think I am correct in saying that something like I per cent. to 2 per cent. of all crimes involving firearms are committed with stolen weapons. Therefore when one starts off with a minute quantity in the first place, the chance of anything happening is negligible. The vast majority of such crimes are committed with sawn-off shotguns, followed closely by pistols. In fact very few other weapons are used.

As one or two of my noble friends have said, the weapon will have only four rounds. It seems to be totally unreasonable, even if there are only a few people involved, that they should not be allowed to shoot at all and that they should have to give up one of their hobbies just because some people have unjustifiable fears.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I recall when I first came to your Lordships' House, that we had a Firearms Bill before us at that time. Lady Summerskill—who was then alive—was always strongly opposed to boxing and she certainly opposed firearms. I remember her saying, "You won't get very far with this, you know, because their Lordships just want to have these firearms to shoot a few harmless birds and animals."

The point is: what do the disabled want the gun for? I am trying to visualise the kind of sport that they would indulge in. I think it would be slightly difficult and awkward. I have been the recipient of various correspondence from people who seem to think that I am in the gun lobby. It is most curious. One such group has even sent me one of their raffle books so that I may sell tickets for them. I suggest that these people do their homework a little better. Indeed, some of the prizes of the raffle seem to be certain weapons, which I certainly do not want.

However, I seriously suggest that one should never try to introduce exemption clauses into such a serious Bill. The Government have had the courage to introduce the Bill—and it needs courage to bring in such legislation. If only a handful of disabled people are involved, for heaven's sake, let them take up some other sport that they will equally enjoy.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I should like to follow what my noble friend Lord Burton said, in that I think that some people are getting slightly overexcited about the matter. The concept of self-loading rifles and bullets flying off in all directions at 100 mph is obviously unacceptable to everyone. However, as my noble friend rightly said, we are only talking about four bullets in a magazine. The noble Baroness has just asked what sort of sport people would want the gun for. Moreover, my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham asked how a doctor would be able to certify whether or not a person is disabled. The point is that if a sportsman is minus an arm he cannot very well reload a rifle. It does not take a doctor to decide whether one has an arm.

There are many sportsmen who have enjoyed all manner of sports with such rifles, on the hill, stalking or wherever. If they have had an accident—perhaps on Her Majesty's Service, may I say—and they do not have an arm and cannot re-load their rifle, it does not seem entirely fair to deny them the right to continue the sport which they have enjoyed.

The amendment is perfectly reasonable and I hope that after consideration your Lordships may consider that it would be right to give the disabled a chance.

Lord Nelson

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Burton brought in the word "panic". No one has said it yet, but I believe it needs to be asked if there is panic anywhere, why is the gun lobby trying to put a wedge into a blanket ban on self-loading rifles?

No one disputes that we all have sympathy for the disabled. Why, oh why do they have to be used in this way? There is no question but that some disabled people shoot. However, no one seems to have considered the other side of the argument. Many disabled people support the Bill. What is their reaction to their name or disability being used as a reason to keep self-loading rifles for a certain section of the public?

If we agree to allow disabled people to have self-loading rifles, which will be the next special case in the line? Who is next? I see the following amendment which could possibly be construed as the next special case in the line. If a self-loading rifle is in the hands of a disabled person, I am sorry to say that other people would find the temptation to use it too great. We must consider what happens if such weapons are stolen from a disabled person. A disabled person by definition would probably have a harder job to hold on to the rifle than an able bodied person if someone wanted to steal it. I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps he can tell us how many people have been killed or wounded by the rifles in question over the past 20 or 25 years. If he investigates, he will find that there have been very few cases.

Lord Swansea

My Lords, I shall follow what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has said. The whole of the Bill is founded on last year's tragedy at Hungerford when 16 people were killed. However, only about half of them were killed by a self-loading rifle in the hands of a madman. I believe that that is the only case on record of the misuse of a self-loading rifle. The Bill is panic legislation. It is based on that one incident of a self-loading rifle in the hands of one who was mentally deranged. I am unaware of any other example.

We all agree that the disabled person should be allowed to take part in the recreation of his choice if it can be made humanly possible for him to do so. I fully support the amendment.

Lord Rootes

My Lords, I live on the outskirts of Hungerford and have lived in that area for over 50 years. I was therefore especially conscious of the need for some action in regard to firearms after the tragic incidents in Hungerford last year.

In general, the Bill's provisions seem sensible. However, some amendments are necessary. I have listened carefully to the arguments in respect of the amendment. As the Bill stands, there are some disabled sportsmen who would be precluded from taking part in legitimate sports such as stalking. I therefore support the amendment.

Earl Peel

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Nelson referred to how the disabled would feel about being used as an argument for an amendment which they did not desire. The simple answer to that question is that if he does not agree with the amendment a disabled person need not apply for such a weapon.

I should like to pick up a point made by my noble friend Lord Northesk. It was extremely valid. A number of noble Lords, and others elsewhere, have expressed their concern about the self-loading rifle. I fully accept the principle that the self-loading rifle should no longer be available. However, your Lordships should cast back your minds to when the Bill was being discussed at an earlier stage. It was at the last minute only that the Government decided to restrict the use of the self-loading rifle with a magazine capacity of four. Early in the discussions it was much in their mind that that weapon should continue to be allowed to be used.

I shall not take up any more of your Lordships' time. I support the amendment. The points that have been made about the rights of the disabled are so fundamental that I cannot understand why the Government cannot accept such a simple, straightforward and tight amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Portsmouth has moved a sensible amendment with great care and moderation. He wanted to see that those who are disabled are provided for. Such an amendment strikes a chord of sympathy with everyone because we are all concerned that those who are disabled should be able to live their lives as fully as possible, and it is up to Parliament to try to ensure that that comes about.

My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham said that before accepting the amendment he hoped we would consider it with great care. I am bound to tell him that we have considered it with great care and not, as my noble friend Lord Northesk said, with blinkers on.

I shall put the position as simply as possible. If we accept the premise which lies behind the Bill that there are certain weapons which are so dangerous that they should be out of circulation then it is difficult to make an exception. I understand that many noble Lords feel that there are certain weapons which we have put into the Clause 5 category which should not be there. A posse of my noble friends have explained that point and will doubtless do so again on a later amendment. If one accepts the basic premise that those weapons are so dangerous as to be put out of the light, is there a reason to make an exception?

I do not believe that we can make such an exception. I do not believe that we can make such an exception for the disabled. One of the tragic aspects of disability—there are many—is that it means curtailment of activity. One must realise that if we decide to put certain weapons out of circulation there are groups of people, of which the disabled form one, who have previously used such weapons, legitimately and responsibly, who will find themselves inconvenienced and curtailed.

My noble friend Lord Radnor quoted my noble friend the Duke of Buccleuch, as saying that we cannot always help the disabled. That is right. I ask your Lordships to consider that if the amendment were to be accepted one might well have people attending a shooting exercise where a disabled person can use a self-loading rifle but the next door person, who used to have a self-loading rifle, finds that he cannot. That person will say, "You, although you are disabled, can use this. I, although I am fully able, cannot use it."

The argument stands logic on its head. I do not believe that the point is sustainable. If such weapons are in the hands of disabled people, others will borrow them and others will steal them. The weapons will be in circulation. The whole point of this part of the legislation is to put such weapons out of circulation. For a number of reasons I do not believe that one can make a blanket exemption for disabled or handicapped shooters.

My noble friend Lord Renton mentioned one difficulty. He said that the new clause offers no definition of the degree of disability which would qualify a person to benefit from the provision. He is quite right. There are different types of disability, different degrees of disability, many of which have no effect on a person's ability to use a bolt-action rifle. While I accept that a very limited number of shooters may have a disability which makes using a self-loading rifle easier than using a bolt-action rifle, it is difficult to envisage one which would entirely preclude the use of a bolt-action rifle but would permit the use of a self-loading rifle, save in a very few cases.

As regards the disability, one wonders what happens when, as is sometimes the case, the disability becomes worse. A person given permission to use the weapon because he was disabled might find his disability becomes worse, but he is still entitled to use the rifle. If we are simply talking about the need to reduce recoil, there are many ways of doing that. It can be reduced by choosing a rifle of greater weight which is usually acceptable for various forms of target shooting.

The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said that there are only a few cases where a self-loading rifle seems the only practical option. She is quite right. There may be only a very few, but I ask her to consider whether that is a good enough reason for allowing those who are disabled to have in their possession weapons which are thought dangerous for those who are fully able-bodied.

My noble friend Lord Portsmouth drew a distinction as regards pistols, and he used that as an argument against banning self-loading rifles. We have applied precisely the same criterion of the lethality and legitimate use. A self-loading pistol is less powerful and less accurate over distance. It has a very long-established use in competition and to have banned the pistol also—which is where this argument would lead—would have been disproportionate. The fact that we have not done so in any way does not reduce the force of the case for banning the self-loading rifle.

I am bound to say to the House that my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham is quite right. If this amendment were accepted by your Lordships it would prove quite unworkable. It refers to a person who is prevented from using any kind of firearm authorised by Sections 1 and 2 of the Act. This means that any disabled person who could handle the smallest of pistols would not be entitled to obtain a firearms certificate for a self-loading rifle. There can be few occasions when a person is so disabled that he cannot use a pistol. If he were so disabled, one wonders whether it is right for him to use a self-loading rifle. If this amendment were passed, I doubt that it would have the effect intended by my noble friends. For the reasons that I have given, I hope your Lordships will not accept the amendment.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I wonder whether he can give an indication, as I requested him to do, as regards consideration of the problems of the disabled. Many of us are thinking of ex-servicemen who have been disabled as a result of gallant service. Are the Government able to make any concession in the provisions of this Bill by way of application for licences for firearms, or whatever? Although we realise the general purpose of the Bill, all of us who are in sympathy with the specific case of ex-servicemen may feel that it has been carefully considered and the Government have made some concessions. Is there anything that the Government have to offer them in the course of the Bill?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, quite rightly asked me that question at the beginning. I did not refer to it because I thought that ray speech had answered the question. We have looked at this with the concerns of the disabled acutely in our minds. As regards matters of such substance as this, I do not believe that it is right to make a difference or to make a separate arrangement for those who are disabled to use weapons of great lethality.

The Earl of Portsmouth

My Lords, we have heard the arguments. In view of the reply of my noble friend Lord Ferrers to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I have no alternative but to divide the House.

3.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 197.

Borthwick, L. Mountgarret, V.
Broadbridge, L. Moyne, L.
Burton, L. Mulley, L.
Cathcart, E. Northesk, E.
Cottesloe, L. Peel, E. [Teller.]
Dacre of Glanton, L. Portsmouth, E. [Teller.]
Ferrier, L. Rootes, L.
Goschen, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hylton-Foster, B. Savile, L.
Ironside, L. Seafield, E.
Liverpool, E. Strange, B.
Lovat, L. Swansea, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Torphichen, L.
Monson, L.
Addington, L. Ellenborough, L.
Airedale, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Allerton, L. Elphinstone, L.
Amherst, E. Elwyn-Jones, L.
Ardwick, L. Ennals, L.
Arran, E. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Ashbourne, L. Ezra, L.
Attlee, E. Ferrers, E.
Balfour, E. Foot, L.
Banks, L. Forbes, L.
Barber, L. Fortescue, E.
Barnett, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gainford, L.
Beloff, L. Gallacher, L.
Belstead, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Bessborough, E. Gibson-Watt, L.
Birk, B. Glenarthur, L.
Blackstone, B. Goold, L.
Blyth, L. Grantchester, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Greenhill of Harrow, L.
Briginshaw, L. Grey, E.
Broxbourne, L. Gridley, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Butterworth, L. Guildford, Bp.
Caccia, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Caithness, E.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Halsbury, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hanworth, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Carnock, L. Harvington, L.
Carter, L. Havers, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hesketh, L.
Colnbrook, L. Hives, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hooper, B.
Craigavon, V. Hughes, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Hunter of Newington, L.
David, B. Irving of Dartford, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Jeger, B.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
De Freyne, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Kagan, L.
Denman, L. Kilbracken, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Killearn, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Dundee, E. Kirnberley, E.
Eccles, V. Kinloss, Ly.
Eden of Winton, L. Kinnaird, L.
Effingham, E. Lauderdale, E.
Leatherland, L. Reay, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Renton, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Long, V. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Longford, E. Romney, E.
Lothian, M. Rugby, L.
Lyell, L. Russell, E.
McGregor of Durris, L. Sainsbury, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Macleod of Borve, B. St. Davids, V.
McNair, L. St. Germans, E.
Mais, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Mar, C. Seear, B.
Margadale, L. Selkirk, E.
Marley, L. Sempill, Ly.
Marsh, L. Sharples, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Shepherd, L.
Merrivale, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Meston, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Middleton, L. Slim, V.
Mishcon, L. Somers, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Stedman, B.
Moran, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Morris, L. Strathclyde, L.
Mostyn, L. Sudeley, L.
Mottistone, L. Suffield, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Munster, E. Terrington, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Nelson, E. Thorneycroft, L.
Nicol, B. Thurlow, L.
Ogmore, L. Tordoff, L.
Oram, L. Trafford, L.
Orkney, E. Tranmire, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Trefgarne, L.
Paget of Northampton, L. Trumpington, B.
Pender, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Pennock, L. Ullswater, V.
Penrhyn, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Peston, L. Whaddon, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Whitelaw, V.
Phillips, B. Winterbottom, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Wise, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Young, B.
Radnor, E. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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