HL Deb 14 October 1991 vol 531 cc942-3

2.52 p.m.

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to introduce legislation to control the use of crossbows.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, there is no evidence to suggest that the existing legislation is inadequate to deal with crossbow misuse.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. However, is he aware of the power of crossbows that one can buy in this country? The other day I bought the least powerful crossbow and loaded it with a pencil. I fired it into a phone book and it pierced up to 300 pages. Is that not a frightening weapon to be readily available without restriction?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, there is no doubt that crossbows are powerful weapons when used inappropriately. However, the effort required to register or license those weapons is not in proportion to their misuse.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, were not the longbow mark IV used at Agincourt and even the longbow mark I used at Hastings, in spite of a higher trajectory, infinitely more accurate and dangerous than the crossbow?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I have no reason to disagree with my noble and learned friend. But I cannot see what that has to do with the licensing of crossbows.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, can the Minister say how many casualties or accidents have been caused by the misuse of crossbows? Can he say also whether one is able to buy crossbows by mail order?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the answer to the last question of the noble Baroness is yes. With regard to her first question it is difficult to give accurate numbers because the statistics available do not accord with her question. However, the number of crossbows referred to the forensic science service following serious offences against the person were six in 1986, eight in 1987, eight in 1988 and 10 in 1989.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, can the noble Earl tell the House how many prosecutions have been brought under the 1987 Act and how many of those resulted in convictions?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not possess that information. If I can find it I shall advise the noble Lord.

Lord Monson

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that the modern crossbow appears to be as lethal as a 410 or 28-bore shotgun, if not more so? Logically therefore it should be subject to the same restrictions as the shotgun.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, crossbows are mainly used for recreational practice. The amount of police time required to register or license those weapons would be disproportionate to the savings made. I do not believe that that would be practical.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, what does the noble Earl think shotguns are used for if not for recreational purposes?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, is correct. Crossbows are used for recreational purposes. However, they also have a more nefarious purpose. As the noble Lord is aware, it is necessary to license both shotguns and firearms. Crossbows do not fall into the same category for the reasons I gave.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in 1987 the Home Office estimated that around 200,000 people in this country owned crossbows, of whom only 3,000 belonged to crossbow shooting clubs? Has the Home Office collected any evidence as to why the other 197,000 people want crossbows?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, to provide the answer to that question would be more time consuming than licensing the crossbows.

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