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Lord Henley: My Lords, I also offer my support to the amendment. I take the opportunity to raise one related matter, which is not directly related to this particular amendment but is particularly important. I should be grateful if the Minister could give some consideration to it and possibly write to me between now and the next stage of the Bill. It is a matter which does not relate to this compensation scheme but, because the word "review" came in, I thought it right to raise it now. We might want to come back to it, depending on the scope of the Bill, at Third Reading.
The Minister might be aware of a case in the Cambridge Crown Court which came before His Honour Judge Haworth in an appeal of Reginald Butland. The judge gave his verdict on 11th September. It inferred that an applicant for a certificate had no right of appeal against a condition or conditions imposed by the chief constable. It had been my understanding and that of others that there had been such a right of appeal since 1920 or even since the 1968 Act. We now seem to infer from that particular case that the Home Office--I should be grateful if the noble Lord can comment on this point--has been advising the judges, courts and chief constables that no such right exists.
I am sure the noble Lord would agree that when such an issue arises in which there is no right of appeal, very serious consequences can follow to the individual which might relate to his employment or whatever. Certainly in this matter, it would mean that, for example, chief constables could impose impossible conditions on the certificate without satisfaction.
I should be grateful if the noble Lord would give some consideration to that point. I appreciate, having raised the matter now without notice, that it may not be right or directly relevant to this specific amendment. However, I should be grateful if he would consider the matter between now and the next stage. Having said that, and having said at the beginning that I support the amendment, I offer the support of myself and my noble friends on these Benches for Amendment No. 6.
Lord Cottesloe: My Lords, perhaps I may speak briefly. I intended to raise the same point as the last speaker raised. I understand that there is no right of appeal. The only resort is to a judicial review which is far more expensive and time consuming. My understanding is that some chief constables--I hasten to say, not my own--are using (dare I say "misusing") that fact to perpetuate injustices in certain police areas. It is therefore a matter which should be looked at with some urgency.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, perhaps I may deal with the last two points first. If the noble Lord, Lord Henley, would write to me with the particulars of the background of the problem, then I shall undertake to have researches carried out as soon as possible to reply to him and send copies to other noble Lords--I know the noble Lord, Lord Burton, may be interested--as appropriate. Without knowing the background, the problems and the specific focus, I cannot respond now. I cannot imagine that the Home Office would give advice to a judge in those circumstances. But it is perhaps best if I make inquiries in the usual way.
Amendment No. 6 is the same amendment as my noble friend Lord Stoddart put forward at Committee stage, withdrawing it on the basis that the Government would reconsider. We have. I am of the same view. We are not persuaded of the need for the new clause. A statutory requirement for a formal review and a report of the operation of the compensation scheme is wholly unnecessary.
My noble friend, as always, quite candidly said that the purpose of the review was to reopen the question of compensation all over again. I do not recall that such a review was called for as regards the compensation scheme for the larger calibre pistols and ancillary equipment. However, I recall--it slightly surprises me that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is offering support--that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was firm, doughty and unyielding in saying that there would be no wider compensation for the owners of large calibre weapons or of ancillary equipment or for those persons who had shooting ranges, wherever they may be situated.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. That scenario was very different. I was resolute, as the noble Lord appears to be being now. The owners were compensated. We are talking about businesses that may be affected by the
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before the Minister replies, can I ask him if it is not also true that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, moved an amendment to improve the compensation offered under the previous government's Bill which was carried by a substantial majority of the whole House? Therefore, the point remains for the noble Lord to answer.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is quite right. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, put forward that proposition. I must whisper the next part of my response, otherwise the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and my noble friend Lord Stoddart will be extremely cross. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, put forward that amendment on the basis of European rights.
The fact remains that the former then incumbent government set their collective face against any wider compensation scheme. For some businesses there would have been significant detriment. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, produced the precedent--rightly, I believe--to show that there would be no compensation.
This is a device--I use the word neutrally--to reopen the compensation question. On that basis we find it unacceptable and I invite your Lordships not to follow the rather seductive piping of my noble friend Lord Stoddart.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate and I listened carefully to what my noble friend said. He said exactly what I expected him to say; that is, that he would not accept the amendment and did not see any need for a review. Again we differ.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was right to say that we went through this matter on the No. 1 Bill, if I may so describe it, and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, moved his amendment. He did it successfully with a huge majority and, if I had had my way--unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would not go along with me--we would have insisted on our amendment and put it to the vote. The House, too, did not go with me.
I hope that the House will change its mind today and go with me on this amendment. We have got a listening, caring and giving government. I therefore expected my noble friend to give me something on this amendment. As he has not, I fear that I must--again regretfully--press the matter to a vote.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.