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The Cullen Report

4.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the Cullen Report which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Statement is as follows:

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    authorities for the help, support and professionalism of the force. From my own experience that day, and on the days that followed, I reinforce those tributes.

    "He is, however, critical of the delay in providing information to victims' families. These criticisms were accepted by the Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, who himself made a written submission to Lord Cullen identifying procedural inadequacies and suggesting improvements which Lord Cullen has endorsed. The Government will ensure that these issues are discussed with all police forces throughout the United Kingdom.

    "An ambulance and a team of doctors and nurses from the local health centre were quickly on the scene. The health service's major incident plan was implemented and a number of expert teams from Stirling and Falkirk Royal Infirmaries went to the school. The report highlights the magnificent way in which all the health teams responded. The victims were taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary and the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary. The most seriously injured were later transferred to Yorkhill Children's Hospital. The professionalism of all concerned undoubtedly saved lives.

    "The report sets out the facts about Thomas Hamilton and his background, and Lord Cullen has considered, with expert advice from a psychologist and psychiatrist, what may have prompted Hamilton's atrocious act. He concludes that 'the violence which he used would not have been predictable.' Members of the House will want to study the report for themselves, but I conclude that this was an act of calculated wickedness.

    "Lord Cullen's report considers in great detail the granting and renewal of the firearms licenses which Thomas Hamilton had held since 1977. He points to weaknesses in the system used by Central Scotland Police for the carrying out of enquiries and the making of decisions about firearms applications.

    "In particular, the report is critical of the former Deputy Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, Mr. Douglas McMurdo, who was appointed earlier this year to H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland. I thought it right, Madam Speaker, that Mr. McMurdo should have sight of the relevant paragraphs in the report and he has today offered his resignation, which I have accepted. He has informed the Scottish Office that he also intends to resign from Central Scotland Police. The House will respect his decision.

    "The report makes two recommendations, which I have accepted, concerning improvements in school security. I will be introducing a specific grant to assist authorities to improve the security of school pupils and staff. All authorities will benefit, and I intend that councils should have as much discretion as possible on the measures to be taken. I would expect such measures to be in line with the action plans which Lord Cullen encourages individual schools to draw up. They will add to the measures which the

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    Government announced in May in response to the recommendations of the working group on school security.

    "Two further recommendations which I have accepted concern the vetting and supervising of adults working with children and young people. One concerns the development of a Scottish vocational qualification in respect of work with children, including the organisation of clubs and child development and protection. The other involves accreditation by a national body of clubs and groups involved with young people. This body would ensure that there are adequate checks on the suitability of leaders and workers with unsupervised access to children and young people. I also intend to introduce legislation to allow all youth organisations access to criminal records and to certain other information which does not relate directly to criminal convictions and is held by the police. I appreciate that this may cause concern in some quarters but I believe that the safety and protection of our children must come first.

    "The whole country has been struck by the courage and dignity with which the community of Dunblane has worked together in the aftermath of this terrible atrocity. They now look to this House for rapid and united action."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.23 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State for Scotland in another place. I also thank the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland for giving some of us the opportunity this morning to read the report of the Honourable Lord Cullen. I found it to be most helpful, although I should stress to the House that we read it in a state of purdah. We were pretty well locked in, so that there should be no premature exposure of the report until it was officially published.

The Minister has again told the House of the dreadful circumstances which occasioned the need for such a report and I too wish again to emphasise, and I make no apology for this, the enormity of the act which shocked all Scotland. In fact, the shock went much further afield. Put shortly--and I am repeating what was said by the Minister and Secretary of State--one man with four handguns and about 750 rounds of ammunition in a maximum time of four minutes killed 16 children and a teacher. A further 14 children and three teachers were injured.

I associate myself and this side of the House very strongly with the tributes paid by the Minister and the Secretary of State to the emergency services, the doctors, the nurses, the police and others, who worked as we have come to expect them to do in such circumstances. When we deal with the Bill which the Government have promised we must not forget this terrible background to our debates.

The Honourable Lord Cullen has produced a report which is commendably penetrating and informed. Some of us may think his conclusions lack bite but, on

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reflection, I think he carefully left the tough decisions to Parliament. That is, of course, as it should be because they are difficult decisions. He has given us the facts and pointed us in certain directions; it is for us to find out how we can change the law to make another Dunblane unthinkable.

The Statement made by the Secretary of State deals largely with what may be termed the Scottish responsibilities, but of course the whole of the United Kingdom is ultimately involved. The Home Office Minister and my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey will deal with the problem of gun control. That must be a United Kingdom law: there is no other way of dealing with the matter.

I wish to say a very brief word about the deputy chief constable. It is always regrettable when a senior member of the police finds it necessary to resign from the force. It may well be that further scrutiny of the report will give some indication as to why Mr. McMurdo felt it necessary to take the action he has taken. As the Minister and the Secretary of State have said, he thought it was perhaps the most honourable thing for him to do. However, it is always regrettable when someone has given a lifetime to a career and then decides that he must go.

One of the difficulties shown by the report, to which there are no easy answers--in fact the Minister dealt with this--is the question of school security. It is not easy, without having pupils incarcerated in a Fort Knox look-alike, to get real security in a school. Of course we do not want anything like that. Today one thinks of the success in town centres of street videos, which have reduced the incidence of crime. That is one way in which I hope we could use modern techniques. We should be conscious of the fact that, even in town centres, they have not completely eliminated crime. But they have undoubtedly helped.

When we get the Bill we shall have amendments moved in a spirit of co-operation and helpfulness, which we believe is what such a Bill demands. I believe that there should be a free vote in both Houses, although I am fairly sure that the Government will not be willing to go quite that far. I feel there are some matters on which we should take the view of the House and not by any means a party view.

We on this side of the House want a tough and uncompromising Bill dealing with the proliferation of guns, school safety and the rigid vetting of those involved with children at all ages and at all levels. The Secretary of State has promised support in terms of money to implement security in schools and also to increase the staff who will be able to vet and examine the background of people who deal with children. We thank him for that and assure him again that we shall co-operate in every way we can to achieve as much security as possible. All of us in both Houses of Parliament have a heavy responsibility. We will be closely watched by the people of Scotland, who are still haunted by the dreadful spectre of Dunblane.

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