HC Deb 17 May 1988 vol 133 cc375-6W
Sir Eldon Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now publish details of the buy-in scheme in respect of firearms whose prohibition is proposed in the Firearms (Amendment) Bill.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The proposed "buy-in" scheme would operate for a period of three months from the date on which the relevant provisions came into force. Transitional arrangements would be introduced to allow continuing possession of the firearms involved during that period.

Payments under the scheme would be made to persons in respect of firearms which would become prohibited under the Bill and which were lawfully held by them on a firearm or shotgun certificate on or before 22 September 1987, when my right hon. Friend announced the Government's intentions in a speech to the Association of Police Superintendents. Certificate holders who acquired such firearms after that date because of a previous binding contract to purchase would also be accommodated where evidence of the contract could be produced. In addition, such holders who acquired them before and sold them after 22 September 1987 would be eligible upon production of evidence of sale.

Claimants would be required to complete a claim form obtainable from a police station or rifle or pistol club and to surrender the qualifying firearm(s). They would also have to produce the relevant firearm or shotgun certificate to the issuing police force, and police records would be noted accordingly.

We expect that most claims would be for self-loading rifles. For these, two options would be available. Claimants could apply for a fixed sum payment of £150. This figure takes account of the price which self-loading rifles of the Kalashnikov and equivalent models would have fetched at auction before my right hon. Friend's announcement of 22 September 1987. Alternatively, for the small number of firearms of considerably higher value, claimants could provide evidence of the purchase price or insurance value. Payment under this option would be 50 per cent. of the average retail value of the firearm in the summer of 1987. This formula is designed to produce the amount which in general an individual might reasonably expect to have obtained on the sale of the item at auction in the summer of 1987. Claimants who sold self-loading rifles after 22 September 1987 would be paid the difference between the sum received from the sale and the sum determined by an application under whichever of the two options were to be exercised.

In respect of all other firearms which would become prohibited, payment would be available only under the second option, and where accompanied by the relevant documentary evidence.

Any case that could not be reasonably determined by the application of these arrangements would be considered at the discretion of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, or in Scotland at the discretion of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

We have proposed the scheme because of the unique circumstances involved: namely, that individuals would be prohibited from holding firearms which they were previously authorised to hold by the issue of a firearm or shotgun certificate and which have lost most or all of their market value. It cannot be regarded as any sort of precedent.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any proposals for an amnesty for firearms held illegally.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Home Department and for Scotland propose that an amnesty be held for one month from 1 September this year. Planning is nearing completion; further details will be announced nearer the launch date.