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Mr. Paice: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) on the way in which he has proposed the amendments. I support them all, but I want to comment particularly on amendment No. 110 and the matter of raising the age from 17 to 18. As my hon. Friend noted, the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 raised the age limit from 14 to 17 only two years
14 Nov 2005 : Column 778
ago. At that time, I took on the same role as my hon. Friend of challenging the Government. It is fair to say that, even at that stage, there was little evidence that increasing the age at which one could buy or use, without supervision, an airgun from 14 to 17 would make any difference. What is abundantly clear now is that, since that Act came into force, there is no evidence that it has made any difference and there is certainly no evidence that the gap between 17 and 18 is a problem issue.

That is not to say, as I said umpteen times in Committee, that there are no problems with airgun misuse. We know that there are—in rural as well as urban areas—but there are already 30 different offences on the statute book for the misuse of airguns. As my hon. Friend rightly said, the answer lies with proper enforcement of those 30 existing offences. That is what the Government should be concentrating on, rather than this wilful act that appears to come from the "something must be done" school. What can we do about airguns? Let us raise the age limit from 17 to 18 without any evidence that it will do any good. If the Minister seriously believes that it will make any difference to airgun crime, let us hope that in the few minutes left for debate, she will stand up and present the evidence.

How many young people between 17 and 18 have been convicted for one of the 30 offences to which I referred earlier? In how many cases would the offence not have been committed if those young people had been unable to get hold of an airgun? It would be helpful if the Minister provided us with that information. Since the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, how much violent crime has been reduced by the fact that the age was increased from 14 to 17? Can the Minister provide us with some clear examples and statistical evidence—not just wishful thinking or what the Government think or believe—from the Dispatch Box this evening to justify taking away the opportunities of a group of 17-year-olds whose only interest is in using airguns lawfully, legally, safely and often in connection with their occupation in the countryside? That is the sort of evidence that she must put before the House if we are to accept that clause 29 will make any difference whatever.

Finally, we want to hear the Minister's justification for her stance, so she should tell the House what is wrong with simply ensuring that the 30 existing offences are properly enforced. Before she answers that, she might just check her book, so that she can give us the statistics on how many people have been prosecuted in the past few years. She will find that the figure is woefully small, compared with the existing problems. If the Government enforced the law properly, they would not need to take steps such as this.

Hazel Blears: I have not seen such passion in the House for some time. It is clear that Conservative Members are very attached to their guns—and they doubtless mean to stick to them during this debate.

I will resist the Opposition's amendments and I shall explain why. It is worth reminding the House of how serious this problem is. In 2003–04, 13,756 crimes were committed in which air weapons were used; in 2,395 cases, they caused injury; in 156 cases, they caused serious injury. Occasionally, someone is killed with an air weapon, as happened in the tragic cases of two-year-
14 Nov 2005 : Column 779
old Andrew Morton and 12-year-old Alex Cole. The misuse of air weapons is a serious problem and this Government are determined to meet it with effective action.

David T.C. Davies: Will the Minister give way?

Hazel Blears: No. We have heard a lot tonight about legitimate shooting and I have no doubt that there are legitimate shooters who act responsibly, but the Bill's purpose is to deal with people who use weapons irresponsibly, just as its purpose is to deal with those who use alcohol irresponsibly. It is about directing our action at the mischief that undoubtedly is caused in our communities. If the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) represented a slightly different area, he would know that older people, in particular, have been plagued by the misuse of air weapons. Various members of the Committee, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler), pointed out that some older people are cowering in their homes because people are taking pot-shots at them and their families. So I make no apologies for trying to ensure that sufficient restrictions are in place.

Amendment No. 108 would remove the requirement for air weapon retailers to keep a register of transactions, but that register is an important part of the controls. It removes purchasers' anonymity and should deter casual and irresponsible sales, which is what we want to achieve. At the moment, people can buy air weapons at car boot sales, through mail order and on the internet. Requiring that a register be kept and that air weapons be sold face to face brings a little more rigour to the system. I do not pretend for a moment that we are introducing a licensing system for the millions of air weapons in existence, but we are doing what we can, in a practical and proportionate way, to ensure that the sale of air weapons is at least a little safer. I realise that the licensing fee is £150, but that is for three years, so it is not an onerous requirement for those stores and shops that want to be responsible air weapon retailers. I am sure that many of them will be delighted to register with their local police force to enable them to sell their weapons properly.

Amendment No. 109 would modify the requirement in clause 28 by applying it only to air weapons with a muzzle energy in excess of 1 J, but such weapons are already included. I discovered in Committee that weapons of 1 J or greater are the only ones that meet the firearms definition of a lethal barrelled weapon in the Firearms Act 1968. Lethality does not occur until a muzzle energy in excess of 1 J is reached, so a weapon with a muzzle energy of less than 1 J is not a lethal barrelled weapon and does not fall within the definition of a firearm. It is very strange for me to be telling the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), an avowed shooter and an expert on the technicalities of such matters, that his amendment is therefore superfluous; nevertheless, I ask him to withdraw it.

Amendment No. 110 would remove from the Bill the increase in the age limit. It is right and proper that we bring the air weapons provision into line with that for knives, because we want to ensure that young people have access to potentially dangerous weapons only in the proper circumstances. Young people will still be able to shoot at approved clubs under adult supervision, or,
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if they are aged 14 or over, on private premises with the occupier's consent. That gives them sufficient ability to shoot under proper conditions.

I am glad that Government amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 48 have been welcomed by the Opposition. They clarify the situation in cases where people fire an air weapon beyond the boundary of one premises and into another, with consent.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 110, in page 30, line 24, leave out clause 29.—[Mr. Djanogly.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 146, Noes 315.

Division No. 92
[8.59 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Butterfill, Sir John
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Ruffley, Mr. David
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Wright, Jeremy

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Michael Fabricant


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, Danny
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Mr. Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burt, Lorely
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gapes, Mike
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hemming, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Holmes, Paul
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunter, Mark
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Love, Mr. Andrew
MacDougall, Mr. John
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Mr. David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Bob
Ryan, Joan
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Swinson, Jo
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Claire Ward and
Mr. Vernon Coaker

Question accordingly negatived.

14 Nov 2005 : Column 783

It being after Nine o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [20th June].

Remaining Government amendments agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

9.15 pm

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