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After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Review of the Act

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall carry out a review of the operation and effectiveness of this Act as soon as is practicable after the expiration of 3 years from its coming into force and, in the course of that review, shall consider and have regard to the effect which the Act has or may have on the holding of the Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom in 2002.
(2) The Secretary of State shall prepare a report based on the review and shall lay a copy before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after it has been prepared.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment earlier. I beg to move.

Lord Gisborough: I should perhaps speak to Amendment No. 6 as it is grouped with Amendment

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No. 10. The amendment requires an impact analysis of the 1997 Firearms Acts. It is necessary to determine precisely what effects the Acts have had and whether the claimed benefits have occurred.

The lead up to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 involved mass confusion as the Home Office sought for firearms statistics on a wide variety of subjects. It was not until Lord Cullen requested the information that the Home Office applied any effort to trying to determine which crimes were committed with illegal guns and which with legal guns. Another example is that it is now becoming apparent that the Home Office estimate that there were 57,000 firearms certificate holders was an underestimate, as the police ran out of claim forms for certificate holders.

A further example is that no one knows the proportion of handgun-related crimes committed with centrefire handguns and those committed with .22 rimfire handguns. One would think that that was fairly essential information given the nature of the second firearms Bill. The amendment is therefore needed to fill the vacuum created by the lack of information on the subject.

Lord Monson: When legislation which deprives law-abiding citizens of their rights on the alleged grounds of public safety is pushed through with comparative haste and without much real in-depth research--neither House of Parliament has yet had the opportunity to debate the Cullen Report--it is vital to monitor its effects. We need to establish whether it was indeed necessary at the time and whether it remains necessary for all time.

If one or other of the amendments is accepted and subsequently homicides involving .22 pistols decrease in any statistically meaningful way from the already extremely low levels, the Government will be vindicated, and that must be something to which they look forward. On the other hand, if, as I suggest, the figures remain virtually unaltered, the Firearms (Amendment) Bill will be seen as an act of folly.

Without question some analysis is needed, but any such analysis must be as comprehensive as possible not only to cover the crime statistics, but also the burdens imposed upon the police and upon the British economy, as well as our competitive position in international sporting events. For that reason I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, rather than that of the noble Lord, Lord Howell.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Since my noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Lords, Lord Gisborough and Lord Monson, spoke quite briefly, I hope the Committee will not think me discourteous if I too try to be brief. The amendments essentially come down to two types of review.

I have already made the points, which remain valid, about Manchester's ability to hold the Commonwealth Games. It seems fruitless for me to repeat them. On the general issue of a report, which is really the burden of Amendments Nos. 6 and 10 in this group, we have already made it plain that we intend to take a wider look at the range of firearms controls in due course to see whether they are fully effective. If the Government conclude that there are weaknesses which may require tighter controls,

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we will bring them to the attention of Parliament. I respectfully suggest that that is a much more prudent and measured approach than focusing too narrowly on this particular Bill.

It is a duty of any government to keep under review all the legislation which it is necessary for them to administer. If there are unintended consequences or the evidence on which Parliament has based its decisions has changed, then Parliament should reconsider. But that is the general principle and it applies to each and every piece of legislation that Parliament passes.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, would bring this consequence. It would single out the effects of the present Bill alone--that is, the impact of banning small-calibre pistols. The consequence would then be that the analysis would not be required to take account of the effect of the banning of large-calibre handguns in the Act introduced by the previous Government, nor indeed of other firearms legislation. So we should be obliged, if the noble Lord's amendment were carried, to consider the impact of banning 40,000 small-calibre pistols and not to have regard to 160,000 large-calibre handguns already, I respectfully repeat, banned by the earlier Act introduced by the previous Government. There was no such provision in the earlier Act. The new clause requires analysis in five years' time or to be delivered at the end of that five-year period. I see no virtue or merit in doing that. If there were any unforeseen problems, they should be attended to in the usual way. I venture to suggest that a bureaucratic measure of review in primary legislation in this way is not needed or justified. I therefore invite the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Gisborough, not to press their amendments.

Lord Howell: As my noble friend understands, I did not intend to press the amendment in any event. Perhaps I may make one comment on what he has just said. He has put the argument forward that it is rather an unusual thing for Bills to have a review date read into them. I have sat on committees which have dealt with masses of Bills and many of them have had review dates built into them as a sensible procedure. I cannot understand why that should not be the case here. As my noble friend says, if any technical difficulties are found on the way they will naturally be brought to the attention of this House.

It may be a good thing to have the opportunity to sit back and undertake a general review after three years to see which way public opinion is moving, how the Act is working and what effect it has had on the pistol-shooting sports. We should do that particularly in view of the fact that we are driving our participants abroad to train, with the consequent effect that that might have on judges and the ability to produce judges. It might make matters a little clearer. I cannot see any objection to doing that. If my noble friend says that we do not want to do that, I listen to what he says with a degree of sadness. He is throwing overboard the clause

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which was intended to be a lifesaver for the Government. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, I seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Monson: Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I have taken on board what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has said. I accept his contention that it would be better if Amendment No. 10 referred also to the effects of the Act passed earlier this year by the previous Government. However, I suspect--the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, will correct me if I am wrong--that that is due to the restrictions imposed by the Long Title of the Bill. I believe that an earlier draft included an analysis of the effects of the ban on high-calibre pistols as well. That is the only reason for Amendment No. 10 being as restrictive as it is.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Peel had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 7:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Certificate granted for purposes of Olympic games

(" .--(1) The authority of the Secretary of State is not required by virtue of section 5(1)(aba) of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession or to purchase, acquire, sell or transfer a pistol chambered for .22 or smaller rim-fire cartridges if he is authorised under the Act to possess, purchase or acquire that weapon subject to a condition which complies with subsection (2) below.
(2) A certificate granted under subsection (1) above shall be subject to the condition that--
(a) the pistol is used for training in shooting disciplines approved by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the Olympic Games; and
(b) the pistol is used by a person approved by the Secretary of State and on the recommendation of a recognised governing body of the sport; and
(c) the weapon is stored and used only at premises designated by the Secretary of State; and
(d) possession of the weapon outside such designated premises shall be permitted only for transfer to and use at premises at which a shooting competition is taking place on such conditions as the Secretary of State shall specify.").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to this amendment in the debate on a previous amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. Perhaps I may say a few words in response to the Minister and other Members of the Committee. I am disappointed by what the noble Lord said, but I cannot say that I am in any way surprised. But I am extremely depressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. I sincerely hope that the Minister is also depressed by what he said. He has given this House a warning that if we do not accommodate the difficulties that we are addressing at the moment as regards the Olympic and other international games, there is a danger that this country will be precluded from participating. When that warning comes from the noble Lord who is an ex-Minister for sport, I believe that we have to take it very seriously indeed.

I cannot understand why, if suitable accommodation is to be made to allow international sport to take place in this country, with the facilities that will be required to do that, the people of this country will not be allowed to practise and ultimately to participate in those centres.

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That is complete nonsense. I imagine that we may have situations in which people from this country will go abroad to, let us say, France where they will, as I understand it, be able to hold certificates for .22 pistols. I imagine that they then will be applying to the Secretary of State in this country to bring the gun back to compete in international sport. Is that really what the Government are looking for and the way in which they perceive this nonsense is ultimately going to be sorted out?

I believe that I quote the noble Lord, Lord McNally, correctly and that he said that this Bill has not come from nowhere. Of course it has not and we are all very much aware of that. But I can tell him one thing: it is going nowhere. It is going nowhere at the expense of this country's ability to compete at international level without--and I am sorry to come back to this point but I believe it to be true--doing anything to prevent the real dangers of having illegal weapons in this country.

Of course I appreciate, realise and respect the role of government in listening to public opinion; but surely at the same time maintaining a degree of common sense, pragmatism and fair play is also the role of government. Therefore, I ask the Minister to bear in mind all the points that we have made, because at the end of the day his Government's decision may have a fatal effect on our ability to participate in the games, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has said.

I ask the Minister one final question before not moving my amendment. I wonder what he and other members of his party really feel the public reaction would be if the Government were to announce now that secure centres of excellence were to be established to allow us to compete on even terms with others in all the competitions that make up the Olympic Games. If he were to add to that the fact that disabled people were to be allowed to practise in those same centres of excellence, I cannot believe that he would not have public opinion behind him.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 8:

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