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The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was kind enough to refer to the contribution that I made at Committee stage. Again, I do not wish to go over all that ground again. I talked rather too much about the sport of archery and I shall keep off that subject today.
I am bound to say a little about the forms of firearms shooting which are possibly the most suitable. At the top of the list one is bound to say that pistol shooting is perhaps the most appropriate. In fact, more often I use a shotgun or rifle, but there is a problem in using those from a wheelchair. It is all a question of balance. Without talking about fulcrums, cantilevers and so forth, the simple fact is that to lift a fairly heavy firearm in front of one's body and keep it in the right place is
The amendment mentions designated premises. I have been rereading the Committee stage debate. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, is not present because on that earlier occasion he had a good deal to say on this subject. The amendment presumably means that disabled shooters would attend the mainstream places and not perform in isolation. That, again, would be very much in accordance with their wishes. According to the amendment put forward in Committee such centres would be spread around the country to include the well known shooting areas of Bisley and so on. I should like to include such areas as Stoke Mandeville near Aylesbury and Wakefield in South Yorkshire. Both of those areas are well attuned to the problems of disabled persons--those with spinal injuries and so on.
To me, the combined efforts of the Olympic movement, with its shooters and other personnel, together with those who support places such as Stoke Mandeville could produce some startling results. I have recently attended many large fund raising events for the Wheelchair Sports Association. On those occasions the events were lit up by the presence of Diana, Princess of Wales. Here we have an obvious choice or objective for some of the funds now being raised in her memory. I can foresee some startling projects. I hope that all this will be examined before we become involved in the various bans and, I am afraid to say, the destruction of some people's sport--in many cases people who do not have a wide range of choices. I am pleased to support the amendment.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. Indeed, I have put my name to it. I shall speak briefly. The amendment in no way undermines the central purpose of the Bill which is to ban for general use handguns. We are here talking about a very specialist and narrow point. We are talking about removing a therapeutic sport from unfortunate people. Before we do that we really ought to examine not only our minds but our hearts as well.
I say this to the House and to my noble friends. If we were thinking of taking away any other facility from disabled people, there would be hell to pay, and rightly so. If we wanted to ban people from engaging in archery, there would be hell to pay. Why then is there not hell to pay when we are removing a therapeutic sport from disabled people? I hope there will be a Division on the amendment. I shall certainly be voting for it. When people are deciding whether to vote for it, I sincerely hope that they will take into account what I have just said about the central purpose of the
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Howell. In doing so I pay tribute to him. For many years in another place the noble Lord sat opposite me. We had many lively debates on the subject of sportsmen and sportswomen and always agreed on the importance of promoting facilities and opportunities for the disabled, recognising that their excellence was just as outstanding in their given fields as that of able bodied sportsmen and women.
Everything the noble Lord said on the amendment deserves support from all sides of the House. It has been sensitively argued and has focused on the fact that as the Bill stands it discriminates against the policy of successive Governments who have sought to promote the interests of disabled sportsmen and women. It discriminates against the principles behind the work of those assisting in the development of Stoke Mandeville and in the development of shooting as a sport for disabled sportsmen and women.
In that context, and with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the work he has done in this direction, I for one will have the privilege and pleasure of standing with him in the Division Lobby should the amendment be taken to a Division. It is an important amendment. It secures and protects the rights of disabled sportsmen and women who are no threat, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out in his opening remarks, in the context of the Bill. If the amendment is not passed, deep and lasting damage will be done to the interests of a significant group of outstanding sportsmen and women who would lose the opportunity to enjoy the sport of shooting.
Lord Swansea: My Lords, I wish to support the amendment. Pistol shooting is a sport that disabled people can take part in. To remove them from competition would be a severe blow to them. We have had success in shooting at the paraplegic games. We have won prizes at every shooting championship held for disabled people. The amendment deserves your Lordships' support.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, in rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Howell, perhaps I may also warmly welcome my noble friend Lord Henley to the Front Bench on this subject. It is a challenging portfolio and it is one which I know he will enjoy. I know that it is one which he will carry out with his usual consummate skill.
The arguments in support of the amendment are overwhelming. I know, from having sat on the Front Bench, that arguments in support of it have been produced from all sides of the House. I know also that the only thing standing in our way is the dogged determination of the Home Office simply not to give an inch. It sees this as a sign of strength. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Williams, well in taking the Home Office on
The Government's underlying concern is that there should be no threat to the community at large, particularly with regard to the example we had at Dunblane. However, if the amendment is accepted, it will represent no threat whatever to the community. We are talking about some of the most law-abiding citizens in our land.
My final point is this. There is a deafening silence from the one person who ought to be championing the cause of disabled people today. That is the Minister for the disabled. There is a real interest here for a group of people who have always been the subject of concern on the part of noble Lords. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will exercise what I know he is extremely capable of doing: taking on the giants of the Home Office. I hope that he will say that on this occasion, in the interests of the most law-abiding group of people, we should accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howell.
Lord Milverton: My Lords, I support the amendment, which is entirely right. It is very bad that disabled people who should have the possibility of healthy, therapeutic exercise and a social life should be deprived of that opportunity. I fully support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will have the courage to go against his Government and will give way and support the amendment.
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, like so many of us in the House, I was privileged to take part in the discussions on the Disability Discrimination Bill. It is a just and worthy piece of legislation which was supported by all parties and one which, like so many other laws, works best when continually reviewed.
That Bill set out to correct those who showed a misunderstanding of the needs of the disabled in matters of employment and leisure and in the very difficult and ever-present consideration of access and, of course, sport. The aim was to make those in society who are disabled congenitally, by syndrome, disease or accident, feel at home and at ease among the majority, the able-bodied in society.
Few of us have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be disabled. I do. Since the accident that impaired my sight, I tend to move furniture around involuntarily and also unfortunately--for which I apologise--individuals. Most of the disabled take life by the scruff of the neck. They achieve anything and everything that most experts and friends would believe impossible.
We in this House praise and admire those who refuse to give in. The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, gave many examples of that in his speech during the Committee stage. The spirit of unquenchable and inextinguishable effort never manifests itself more than in those who compete in the Paralympics. As we are addressing a specific amendment, let us look at the gold and silver
If noble Lords can bear with a repetition of facts that they may have heard already, I wish to read out facts and statistics. In 1994 the world shooting championship was held in Austria. We won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals--six medals. In 1995 the European championships were in Finland. We won one gold, two silver and one bronze medal--four medals. In 1996 the championships were in Atlanta where we won one gold and one silver medal. In 1997, at Lyons, we won two medals, both bronze. In 1998 it appears not to matter. We in this House and those in another place are, by this legislation, preventing our disabled from competing in a sport which, as noble Lords have heard before, all medical opinion says plays a very important part in rehabilitation, increasing self-esteem, enhancing co-ordination between eye, mind and limb and also allowing those who are medically unable to exert themselves a chance to enjoy a sport. As noble Lords have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, it is most therapeutic for the disabled to compete in competition shooting. Are we to deny them that therapy? Noble Lords have been asked the question and I repeat it.
As noble Lords can see from the statistics, shooting is a sport at which the disabled of this country can excel. The disabled are on a par, totally equal with those who are able-bodied. The Palace of Westminster, within two years of approving measures in the Disability Discrimination Act, has approved and, under pressure from the other place as well as from various Members of this House, has added clauses to the Firearms (Amendment) Act which will deepen the wounds of discrimination and make a mockery of the good that we have achieved with the Disability Discrimination Act. I support the amendment.
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