§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill now be read a second time.
It is now nine months since, on 14th March, my noble friend Lord Lindsay repeated a Statement in this House on the tragic events in Dunblane Primary School. The House listened in shock and sadness. Noble Lords on all sides of the House spoke of the horror felt throughout the United Kingdom.
Now, nine months later, we are debating the Bill which the Government have introduced in response to those events and the report upon them made by Lord Cullen.
1289 Thomas Hamilton was the legal owner of four high calibre handguns. In the gym in Dunblane Primary School he fired 105 shots in a period of under four minutes. He killed 16 children and their teacher. He wounded 12 other children and three adults. This gave rise to a reappraisal of firearms controls in this country. Lord Cullen was invited to hold a public inquiry and to make recommendations to the Government.
Lord Cullen's report contained 22 specific recommendations to improve upon the existing controls on handguns and, in some cases, firearms in general, and all of these recommendations have been accepted by the Government. Those that require legislation to be brought into effect are covered in this Bill: recommendations which do not require legislation will be introduced administratively. We are also considering his suggestion for amending the appeal system for firearm certificates.
As noble Lords will know, the Government adopted a different approach from that suggested by Lord Cullen on the control of handguns, and I shall explain why we reached that judgment in a moment.
First, I should tell the House that the Government have incorporated a number of changes to the Bill since it was first published on 1st November. These take account of points made during debates in another place and the Bill is strengthened as a result. We have extended the scope of the compensation payment scheme to include ancillary equipment that is used in connection with the high calibre handguns that will become prohibited as a result of the proposals set out in the Bill. We have also taken a power to make payments to owners of small calibre handguns who decide to surrender their pistols to the police if they choose not to join a club.
We have amended the principal clause to exempt muzzle loading guns from the general prohibition on handguns, and we have similarly taken the opportunity of putting carbon dioxide weapons on a par with ordinary air weapons. That is in Clause 38.
Exemptions have also been made to the provisions on expanding ammunition so that people needing to use it for killing wildlife while carrying out their estate management duties will continue to be able to do so. The current wording, "in connection with" in Clause 26 already allows those entitled to use this ammunition for the humane killing of animals to "zero" or adjust their rifles for accuracy.
There will be no change to the existing arrangements for antique firearms. The Government fully understand the importance of the antiques trade and the sentimental and historical value that such guns have. The Government need to do whatever they can—commensurate with public safety—to preserve the nation's historic collection of handguns in private ownership.
My department has been discussing proposals which have been advanced from a number of heritage groups, and has also listened to the views of the Firearms Consultative Committee. In the light of these discussions the Government will table an amendment 1290 for Committee stage which will allow some historic handguns to be exempted from the general prohibition. We are still working on the details.
The amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Strafford, calls upon your Lordships to decline to give the Bill a Second Reading because it runs counter to natural justice and does not represent a considered response to the Dunblane tragedy. I have to say that the Bill has come to this House, having been presented to, considered and amended by another place. I believe that today we should follow the normal convention of this House and give the Bill a Second Reading. Consideration in Committee, on Report, and on Third Reading presents the proper opportunity for this House to give full expression to its views and its concerns and, where necessary, to seek amendments to the Bill.
Lord Cullen made no formal recommendation on the control of handguns, which he saw as a matter,peculiarly within the province of Government and Parliament to decide".That appears in paragraph 9.111. But he did make two alternative suggestions which are set out at paragraph 24 of his list of recommendations. He saw these as matters which should be considered further by the Government.
His first suggestion was for the disablement of multi-shot handguns when not in use. Lord Cullen suggested that the disabling of multi-shot handguns could either be by removing the slide assembly or cylinder, either of which might be kept securely at an approved club, or by fitting a locked barrel block by an official of the approved club. Many handguns, perhaps more than 90 per cent. of them, could be dismantled in some way or another. However, there are problems with such an approach which have been identified by the Forensic Science Service.
First, it would not provide a guaranteed measure of assurance against the possible misuse of the pistol by a determined and motivated individual. Such an individual could find it easy to obtain an illicit spare. He might do this by holding back a part of the gun from storage. For example, some individuals will possess more than one set of barrel and slide components for their pistol. Alternatively, the purchase of an officially deactivated firearm of the same make and model as that held on his certificate would provide outwardly convincing components to be substituted at the time of storage. A barrel block could be readily removed by someone with access to metal working tools.
Lord Cullen went on to say that if disabling was not workable, consideration should be given,to the banning of the possession of such handguns by individual owners".As Lord Cullen explained in paragraph 9.113 of the report, he envisaged that such guns could be owned only by shooting clubs, where they would be available for use by members. This suggestion would have put an end to serious competitive shooting, since it is vital for a competitive shooter to have a gun which is made and tailored to his specification.
1291 I believe that if the case is accepted for allowing some handguns to be kept in licensed clubs, as Lord Cullen did, then individual target shooters should be free to continue to own them. Indeed, competitive target shooting would not be viable unless those taking part were able to use their own guns and to use them exclusively. The Government therefore have decided to adopt a different approach which draws a distinction between low calibre and high calibre handguns.
As Lord Cullen said, in paragraph 9.44, higher calibre handguns are not target guns in the true and original sense. Many have been developed by the police and the military for self-defence. Their wider use has encouraged some shooters to don the trappings of combat—such as camouflage clothing—and this has, in Lord Cullen's own words in paragraph 9.44,caused others to feel uneasy about what appears to be the use of guns as symbols of personal power".Target shooting with high calibre handguns has not been a sport in the Olympic Games for some years.
In contrast to higher calibre cartridges, the power of a .22 rimfire cartridge is limited by its special design. It is constructed of thin metal to enable the rim to be crushed when hit by the firing pin. A .22 rimfire handgun is between four to six times less powerful than a typical full calibre handgun.
Taking account of all these factors and having regard to public safety, the Government have concluded that it is no longer acceptable for higher calibre guns to be owned and used by private individuals. Nor could the Government accept that any handguns could be stored in people's homes. The Government believe that with adequate security measures .22 rimfire cartridges can be stored safely in licensed clubs which will have to meet stringent conditions. That is our position which is reflected in Clause 1 of the Bill.
Clauses 2 to 5 set out certain exemptions to the ban. Clause 2 deals with those working in abattoirs; Clause 3 with vets, RSPCA officers and others who are involved in the humane killing of animals.
Clause 4 exempts match officials at sports meetings who use starter pistols, and Clause 5 exempts handguns obtained as trophies of war before 1946. The Government will be tabling an amendment to allow trophies to be inherited by the families of the original holders. In all these exemptions, the holder will be required to hold the guns on a firearms certificate and conform to any conditions that the police may place upon him.
Clauses 6 to 9 set out the arrangements under which smaller calibre pistols will be kept in clubs. Clause 10 requires the surrender of guns and ammunition which are to be prohibited. Clause 11 deals with the subject of compensation payments. I hope that the House will forgive me if I now take a little time to make the Government's position clear on that issue.
It has always been the Government's position that payments should be made to those to whom we have a legal obligation. That obligation covers all handguns which become prohibited and are surrendered to the 1292 police, as well as certain accessories that can be used only in connection with those guns. Both individuals and dealers will be eligible for compensation for such guns and accessories.
In the case of individual higher calibre guns and accessories, the Government intend to draw up a list of approximate values which they will discuss with the British Shooting Sports Council and the Firearms Consultative Committee. We are also discussing with these bodies which accessories should be included. Gun owners will be able to accept either a flat rate payment or a payment based upon this list of values. If individual gun owners seek to challenge these valuations—for example, in respect of individual guns which they claim have special features which make them more valuable than the norm—they will be able to provide their own valuations and there will be access to independent valuation.
In addition, the Government will make payments available to the lawful owners of small calibre pistols who decide to surrender those pistols to the police rather than become a member of a licensed pistol club and store them on the club's premises.
Although the previous compensation scheme which was followed in 1988 was dealt with administratively, the Government have agreed that the details of the new scheme will be subject to parliamentary approval by affirmative resolution. A suitable amendment will be tabled for a later stage of the Bill's progress through this House.
As I said, we shall pay compensation for guns and accessories. We cannot, however, make payments for losses suffered by business. As far as I am aware, there is no precedent for paying claims for business losses which occur as a result of Government legislation. Where the effect of Government legislation is to deprive people or businesses of property or of the use of that property, then it is right that taxpayers collectively should pay those property owners for the value of that property. This obligation arises also from our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. But this is different from paying compensation for business losses or losses associated with the operation of a club.
The Government are obliged to act when they identify an issue which threatens the safety of the public. This happens with some regularity in one part of government or another. The BSE crisis, for example, has imposed huge losses on beef farmers, on those who provide feed stuffs and on the meat processing industry. It has caused some parts of the industry to be shut down entirely. The introduction of new fire regulations for hotels in the 1970s imposed very large costs on some hotel businesses and caused others to close completely. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State gave a number of other examples in debates in another place.
If the Government were to be required to pay compensation for business losses suffered by gun dealers and clubs as a result of this Bill, I believe that it would be very difficult for the Government to refuse to do so in relation to some of the other kinds of issues that I have mentioned. Much as I deeply regret the 1293 difficulties which gun clubs and firearms dealers are facing, the Government do not believe that their losses can be or should be underwritten by the taxpayer.
I turn now to the remainder of the Bill. Part II deals with the new arrangements for licensed pistol clubs. These will be licensed only if the Home Secretary, or the Secretary of State for Scotland in the case of Scottish clubs, is satisfied that they meet stringent conditions of security. Owners of these small calibre handguns will be able to use and store them only at these clubs. It will therefore be essential that very meticulous arrangements are in place for ensuring their safety. We are currently consulting the police service and others about the criteria that will be needed. The rest of this part of the Bill deals with the licensing regime that will apply, including the need for these clubs to maintain comprehensive registers of their members' attendances, which is in accordance with Lord Cullen's recommendation.
Part III of the Bill deals with the prohibition on expanding ammunition and the requirements on certificate holders to notify the police about the destruction of firearms listed on their certificates or of transactions involving those firearms. Part III also sets out a new requirement, as recommended by Lord Cullen, for applications for firearm certificates to be accompanied by the names and addresses of two referees who can be required to provide such information that may be prescribed. It is intended that referees will be asked to fill in a structured questionnaire, as Lord Cullen suggested. This part also amends the procedures for obtaining and granting firearm certificates. It gives the chief officer additional powers to revoke certificates if the holder no longer has a good reason for possessing the firearm, and partially to revoke a certificate. It extends constables' powers of entry, search and inspection, with warrants, to civilian officers authorised by the chief officer of police.
Lord Cullen recommended that consideration be given to the reform of the scope for appeal against decisions by the chief officer of police by restricting it to enumerated grounds which do not trench on the exercise of his discretion (para. 8.119). We are consulting on this issue and expect to be able to come back to the House with the results of that exercise.
The final part contains financial provisions which provide for payments to be paid out from money voted by Parliament and fees received by the Secretary of State to be paid into the Consolidated Fund. It also makes provision for minor and consequential amendments and repeals, and provides that the Bill is to come into force as appointed by the Secretary of State.
There are three schedules. The first of these covers the transitional arrangements for the handing in to police stations of the small calibre pistols and their subsequent reissue once a certificate holder becomes a member of a licensed pistol club. Schedules 2 and 3 deal with minor amendments and repeals.
I understand that noble Lords may have strong concerns about this Bill. I also accept that there is one aspect on which we are all united; that is, in sharing with 1294 the nation our horror at what took place in Dunblane and our grief at the loss suffered by the families of the children who were murdered there.
I know that there are many who will speak in the debate today who feel very strongly about this issue and who have concerns about this Bill. I think that I can also claim that there is one issue which unites the whole House; it is the horror that I have mentioned. The convention of this House is that Bills sent from another place are given a Second Reading and usually without a vote. The House will wish to give expression to support for and opposition to the Bill and, therefore, I hope that consistent with the convention the House will give the Bill a Second Reading so that full consideration of the detailed provisions can be given by this House at the further stages of the Bill.
The dreadful tragedy of Dunblane placed on the Government an inescapable duty to consider what controls there should be on the ownership and possession of guns. We have not shirked that duty. We have derived great assistance from Lord Cullen's report. We shall implement all 22 of his specific recommendations. This Bill sets out the way in which the Government believe that his objective of strict control on access to handguns can most effectively he achieved. It places rigorous controls over the procurement, ownership, storage, use and disposal of the small calibre pistols that may continue to be used for the sport of target shooting. It puts the safety of the public first. I commend it to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Blatch).
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Earl of Strafford rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, That the Bill be now read a second time, to leave out all the words after ("That") and to insert ("this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading because it runs counter to natural justice and does not represent a considered response to the Dunblane tragedy.")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, first, I must apologise for not being in my place at the start of the debate. I had expected there to be a Statement. I believe that it would also be courteous to advise the House that I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. I know that that will be a great relief to the Government Chief Whip and most, if not all, Members of your Lordships' House.
§ I owe it to the House to explain why I placed this amendment on the Order Paper and why I left it there. I have become increasingly concerned about the way this legislation is moving and tabled this amendment to get a reaction not only within this House but outside. It has, somewhat to my surprise, achieved its purpose. I was greatly heartened to discover that my noble friend Lord Monson had already tabled a reasoned amendment which has shown that I am not alone. The long list of speakers for this afternoon's debate emphasises that fact. I would also like to thank my noble friend Lord Monson for his courtesy in withdrawing his amendment. We felt that two amendments on the Order Paper would be over-egging the pudding.1295
§ The first point that I should like to make is that we have never had a proper debate on the Cullen report in this House. That in itself is remarkable. It is normal after any major tragedy to have a public inquiry, which culminates in a report. This report is then debated in both Houses of Parliament, and if it raises important issues requiring legislation, a well-established procedure is followed: a Green Paper followed by a White Paper and finally a Bill. This lengthy consultation period allows time for all the options to be carefully explored and weighed. That is especially important after the emotional tidal wave of Dunblane.
§ The only justification for short-circuiting that considered approach is if existing legislation is seriously flawed and there is a real danger to public safety. That is clearly not true in this case. Lord Cullen, on page 88 of his report, states that the current legislation for the granting or refusal of firearm certificates is satisfactory, but the interpretation needs revising and strengthening.
§ On the issue of public safety there have been only two gun massacres in living memory: the first nine years ago at Hungerford; the second this year at Dunblane. The Cullen report identifies serious failures in administration of the gun laws by central Scottish police. If they had interpreted these laws more broadly, which was within their powers, it is highly unlikely that Hamilton would have been granted a gun licence, and Dunblane need never have happened.
§ It is worth reflecting on why we were not given an opportunity to debate this emotive and vital issue. First, the enormity of the Dunblane tragedy shocked the nation, and the waves of emotion that spread out from it touched us all. The understandable reaction of the Dunblane families was "ban all guns". This initial reaction became more focused, culminating in the Snowdrop Campaign, which became a crusade. Secondly, there is the political consideration. We are in the countdown to the general election. Politicians are starting to woo the voters. That can affect their judgment.
§ Those two elements came together at the Labour Party Conference, when Anne Pearston made her eloquent and very moving appeal to ban all handguns. The conference said yes, and "ban all handguns" became official Labour Party policy. The Cullen report was not yet published. The Conservatives responded by waiting until the report was published when they immediately stated their position: all handguns heavier than .22 calibre would be banned. Party politics were now colouring the agenda.
§ The Cullen report came out on 13th November. On 14th November, the Government gave their immediate reaction in both Houses of Parliament. Opposition leaders were given copies of the report but told to keep it under wraps. Backbench Peers only had sight of the report just before our debate. Clearly, no one in this House had time for a considered response to this full and detailed report which raised fundamental issues concerning the place of firearms in our democratic society.1296
§ The result is that the Bill which has come up to us is seriously flawed. I asked a respected fellow Cross-Bencher his initial thoughts on the Bill. His answer was: "an emotional reaction with tinges of political expediency". I agree with him. Our politicians have not been able, with a few honourable exceptions, to move through and beyond their first emotional reactions. They are now trying to smuggle the Bill through Parliament. That is highlighted by the undignified speed with which it is being hurried through.
§ The next event was a fully fledged Government Bill and it was clear that the politicians' thinking had not changed since their first reaction to the Bill, which was either to ban all pistols or most of them. That view went beyond Cullen, who advised that pistols be de-activated but not banned.
§ I should now like to give you another reaction to this Bill. And this from a police constable with 27 years' service. His comment was: "A knee jerk reaction—banning guns will achieve very little. What we've got to do is stop the odd lunatic having them". I believe that is the central issue. We must look at all guns, which of course includes rifles and shotguns, both of which can be deadly. The point has to be driven home that the shotgun is lethal at close range. Several Members raised this issue on Second Reading in the Commons, but they were brushed aside by the Home Secretary.
§ The Chief Constable of Hampshire, to whom I talked last week, was just as concerned about shotguns as he was about pistols and rifles. And the question which has to be faced is: would the Government be taking the same attitude if Thomas Hamilton had used a shotgun? He could certainly have obtained one legally.
§ In examining the gun laws we have to look beyond Dunblane and not exclusively at it. If we do, I believe that we will come to the same conclusion as Lord Cullen. Verification is the key. We must concentrate on the person and not the gun. Using the pistol shooters as scapegoats solves remarkably little. I believe the Cullen report should be our directive. We must keep open minds and find balanced solutions to this complex and highly emotive issue. I beg to move the amendment.
§ Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, That the Bill be now read a second time, to leave out all the words after ("That") and to insert ("this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading because it runs counter to natural justice and does not represent a considered response to the Dunblane tragedy.")—(The Earl of Strafford.)
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, the House listened with very serious attention to everything said by the noble Earl and I have sympathy for the remarks he made, about the desirability of having had a debate on the Cullen Report, although I speak now in retrospect, as do many of us. The more I examine the report and look at the complexity of the Bill, the more I can see that there was a case for a debate in your Lordships' House and another place before the Bill was drafted.
1297 As the noble Earl said, the process of legislation has been accelerated by political circumstances, but I do not place responsibility for that only on the Government. All of us who have been concerned about the events in Dunblane and the need to do something about it have played our part in accelerating a process which has perhaps gone a little too far too fast.
Nevertheless, I must say that had there been the prospect of a Division on the amendment this evening, I should have advised my colleagues to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill as it stands, not because it is wholly satisfactory, it is not; and not because the opponents have no case, I think they do. But on balance, given the circumstances of the occasion and the Bill which the Government have brought forward, then I believe that the Bill is worthy of support rather than the alternative recommended by the noble Earl.
There are legitimate arguments for four distinct solutions to the problems which led to this Bill. First, we might not prohibit handguns at all but simply tighten the regulations relating to their ownership, storage and use. That is a solution which the noble Earl had in mind, although his amendment does not say so. Secondly, we could act on the proposal in Chapter 9 of the Cullen Report to disable rather than to ban handguns. Thirdly, we could legislate as the Government broadly propose today. Fourthly, we could extend the provisions in Part I, Clause 1 to prohibit .22 handguns as well.
All those courses need to be considered and I am sure that arguments in favour of each of them will be aired very properly in your Lordships' House today. I think that in our debate your Lordships will approach the Bill driven by two underlying motives that tend to pull in somewhat opposite directions. As the noble Baroness has said, we are united in our feelings about the terrible events at Dunblane on 13th March. We share the pain of those who suffered and we want to bring them comfort. More particularly, we want to show them that we have learnt the lessons that will save others—parents and children—from their tragic fate.
At the same time we cannot, having escaped the tragedy, let our sense of guilt and helplessness, lead us into legislation that is unnecessary, unworkable, or irrelevant. The legislation—whatever form it may take—must stand on its merits and not just be a deeply felt emotional response to Dunblane, nor a response to the unpredictable act of one man, Thomas Hamilton. What has to be said—whatever your Lordships may decide, and whatever form this legislation may eventually take—is that this Bill cannot guarantee there will never be another Dunblane. We would send the wrong message to the country if we pretended that. It may well be that public safety will still mainly depend not on legislation but on how the regulations are enforced and the competence of the police in dealing with illegal weapons.
I wish to comment briefly on the options I have mentioned and then on compensation. There are many other detailed matters but I think they can all wait until the Committee stage of the Bill. I wish first to comment on the position of the handgun holders who will lose their sport, to a lesser or greater degree, as a result of 1298 this Bill. I have received letters from 60 or more of them, and no doubt your Lordships have also received many. A few are naïve, a few are angry, and a few are silly, but for the most part they are responsible and fair minded. I do not believe that anyone has a natural right to own a handgun, least of all one of a particular calibre. However, we should not take away the opportunity to do so without good cause. The test must be the public interest. What we must ask ourselves—to set against the extent to which we deprive shooters of their legitimate sport—is: will this make the country a safer place for its citizens? That is the criterion by which we must make our decisions.
As for the options, if there is no prohibition on the ownership and use of handguns, 160,000 will remain in circulation, owned and used by 57,000 certificate holders. Given their lethal capacity and the problems of storage and transport, they will represent a serious, potential threat to the public, even if all the regulations are effectively enforced. On balance, I believe this is a risk we should not take.
The second option was the one that was spelt out by Lord Cullen. As the Minister of State has said, he made no recommendation but explored certain possibilities for disabling handguns. I agree with the Government, with the Home Secretary on Second Reading, with the Minister of State today, and with the Forensic Science Service, that these proposals are unconvincing. Indeed, Lord Cullen had some doubt about them himself. I do not believe they would work well enough to justify their embodiment in legislation.
As for the third option—the Government's proposals—they are simpler and more practical than Lord Cullen's suggestions and they will do more to relieve public anxiety. In the absence of anything else, I believe they deserve your Lordships' support. However, my preferred option, and the one I would recommend to my honourable friends, is something better; namely, a ban on all handguns, including .22 rim-fire handguns and smaller calibre weapons. As the Minister of State said today—repeating what has been said in another place—it is perfectly true that they are less powerful than heavier weapons. However, a .22 will kill as readily as any other, heavier handgun. The line drawn between the two is, in my view, an arbitrary one.
The next point has carried much weight with me in forming my opinion. As the police have said, there are many practical obstacles to a half-and-half scheme which will prove expensive and possibly unworkable and will eventually please no one. On logic alone, the only real alternatives would be either no prohibition of handguns at all, or total prohibition and no messing about in between.
I have said that I think there are overwhelming reasons—although I recognise a different point of view—for banning handguns. I therefore conclude that banning all handguns in the circumstances set out in this Bill, including .22 rim-fire handguns, is the right course to follow. As the Minister of State has said, the Government have moved their ground on compensation during the progress of the Bill in another place. I hope 1299 they will move further. I certainly welcome the changes where were made, which were perhaps reflected in the financial effects of the Bill. The Bill, as initially printed, stated that it estimated the total amount of compensation to be paid could range between £25 million and £50 million. However, the Bill before your Lordships' House estimates that the total amount of compensation to be paid could be about £150 million. I welcome these changes and I am sure the whole House will do so. It is a recognition of the extent to which the Government have been prepared to follow the lead given in another place and to look again at what they proposed. Compensation will now be paid both on guns and accessories. There will also be independent financial arbitration, as the Minister has said, and the details of the compensation scheme will be subject to parliamentary approval. I share the welcome that has been widely given to these changes in the legislation.
There remains the awkward question of compensation for loss of business. The Minister of State in another place, Miss Ann Widdecombe, referred in Committee to the precedents that would be set,if we departed from the long-established principle that, if we ban something, we compensate for the banned products but do not compensate across a general sphere for any associated business loss".She then offered examples of what had happened in the past. She was supported by the Labour Party spokesman, Douglas Henderson, when he said that these businesses, meaning dealers in guns and accessories, were,no different from businesses in the past that had to modify their operations because of Parliamentary decisions".That view has been stated again this afternoon by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.
I can understand the fear of the consequences for public expenditure of an even larger figure of compensation than the one now in the Bill. However, I believe that that cannot override what is just and fair to those who will inevitably be the victims of the legislation. I found the precedents for the proposals, or rather the arguments for not changing the rules (if they are rules) offered by Miss Widdecombe in Committee in another place unconvincing. I must tell the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I found the reasons she gave today unconvincing. I thought that the remarks of the Home Secretary on Report were more to the point, but I am far from sure that we have yet got the extent and incidence of compensation right. I shall say no more, but we shall wish to pursue the matter further in Committee.
Clearly the Bill will be subject to close scrutiny on all sides of the House. These are not party political issues. There are differing views in each party. We need legislation that will make the events of Dunblane less likely, but legislation that is credible, fair and will endure.