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Baroness Hanham: My point does not really arise directly out of this amendment, but I believe that it is relevant. I should like to ask the Minister another question about the constitution or the make-up of the board of governors. What happens when a member of

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staff who has been elected as a staff constituency member leaves? Does he or she remain a member of the board or does he or she automatically have to retire from the board? There is nothing within the constitutional definition which states that. Nor is there any information about what happens if a person who lives within the local area, and who is elected to the board, leaves the local area. Will there be an obligation on them to retire or stand down and thus trigger an election all over again for a couple of positions?

I should be grateful if the Minister could direct me to where that answer might be found. If not, it may be appropriate to put down amendments at a later stage to make the constitutional position clear.

Lord Warner: I will write to the noble Baroness rather than guess at answers to her always interesting, but often rather detailed, questions on this issue. In a sense, all these amendments raise the point that we discussed earlier; essentially the Government's willingness to trust NHS foundation trusts to make considerable judgments of their own about many of their governance arrangements. What all these amendments have in common is a wish to prescribe in more detail than we think appropriate at this stage of the life of foundation trusts.

Against that context, perhaps I may deal with the particular amendments. Amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 37 lay down a rather rigid requirement on the percentage of NHS patients who live outside the membership area being brought into the electorate. Although, rightly, the Bill leaves it to the discretion of foundation trusts whether to have patient members, it is clear that where a trust serves a significant proportion of out-of-area patients, these people should be eligible for membership. But it is not right to specify an arbitrary percentage.

The variation of people who will live outside a particular trust area could be huge if we look at some of the applicants for foundation trust status. There could be an area which draws virtually all its patients from, say, somewhere like Rotherham, whereas somewhere like Moorfields draws its patients from not only a national constituency but almost an international constituency. We do not believe that an arbitrary percentage is the best way of dealing with that issue, which is a real world issue for many of the applicants for foundation trust status.

We have some concerns about Amendment No. 16. Some specialist centres take patients from all over the country. Many teaching hospitals provide a wide range of services to people outside their immediate area. In both cases, it may be appropriate to include patients and carers from outside the local area as members of the public constituency. But other trusts provide almost all their services to people living in a clearly defined area. In those cases, it may not be necessary to make special provision for the inclusion of patients who live outside that area, even though they may treat a small number of patients who pass through while on holiday or are taken ill at work.

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Again, we do not think that we are clever enough to lay down prescriptively now arrangements which will fit the needs of all applicants for foundation trust status.

Amendment No. 17 raises the issue of current patients' eligibility for membership. I agree with the principle that both current and former patients should be eligible for membership of an NHS foundation trust, if the constitution includes provision for patient membership. However, the amendment is unnecessary as the wording used in the Bill—


    "individuals who have attended any of the corporation's hospitals"—

would capture both current and former patients.

Amendment No. 18, in effect, removes reference to attendance at an NHS foundation trust facility. I assume that the intention behind the amendment is to ensure that all patients of an NHS foundation trust would be eligible for membership by removing the requirement to have attended an NHS foundation trust hospital. However, under Section 128 of the NHS Act 1977, the definition of a hospital includes,


    "any institution for the reception and treatment of persons suffering from illness",

including clinics, dispensaries and out-patient departments. It is difficult to imagine how someone could be a patient of an NHS foundation trust without attending any of these. Therefore, this amendment is unnecessary.

I have already dealt with the issue of private patients. I managed to surprise the noble Earl in what I had to say. I think that what I said earlier dealt with the issues concerned with Amendments Nos. 19 and 20. Amendment No. 21 is about defining carers. I have the greatest respect for the experience and knowledge in the area of carers of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley. However, the amendment would strictly define who was a carer. One of the things which we have learned—certainly from my own experience and association with the carers area—is that definitions and expectations of who is a carer have changed historically over time. At this point, it is somewhat difficult territory to have an arbitrary definition of carers which may exclude people who one would want particularly to be able to participate in the work of the new foundation trusts.

Again, using the argument of flexibility, we are doubtful about any attempt to draw up a definition of carers that would limit participation for all time to that particular definition—and I shall certainly not attempt to do so now.

8 p.m.

Earl Howe: I thank the Minister for his explanation. In view of the time I do not propose to speak at length, except to say that I believe he has misunderstood the amendment concerning patients who have not actually attended the hospital. The issue here is tele-medicine, as I mentioned earlier.

Turning to the issue of carers, the definition I have used in the amendment was lifted straight from the draft mental incapacity Bill. It also featured in the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, so it has a good pedigree attached to it.

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As the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, indicated, there is real potential for considerable argument if some kind of definition is not put into the Bill. I do not think that any noble Lord envisages giving the vote to someone who helps out with the occasional bit of shopping for their next-door neighbour, any more than it is envisaged giving the vote to a professional paid carer who has been drafted in to do a job. The kind of carer with a legitimate personal interest in the way that a foundation trust functions is the individual described in my amendment. I hope that the Government might feel disposed to think again on this point. Given the hour, however, I do not propose to say more and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 to 21 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Anti-social Behaviour Bill

8.1 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (The Countess of Mar) in the Chair.]

Clause 45 [Prohibition of certain air weapons]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 183:


    Page 37, line 9, leave out from "subsection" to end of line 12 and insert—


"1(c) insert—
"(d) any air weapon which—
(i) either has a barrel less than 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall, and
(ii) uses, or is designed or adapted for use with a self contained gas cartridge system, or
(iii) is readily convertible to fire ammunition capable of discharging a missile by the force of gunpowder or a like propellant.
(1ZA) In this section—
(a) a self contained gas cartridge is a single unit containing a propellant charge of air or carbon dioxide, a valve or other device for releasing the charge, and a propellant together with a projectile;

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(b) the term "readily convertible" has the meaning ascribed to it in section 1(6) of the Firearms Act 1982 (c. 31) (control of imitation firearms readily convertible into firearms to which section 1 of the 1968 Act applies).""

The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury I shall speak to all the amendments grouped under Amendment No. 183. Those who have taken the trouble to read the amendments will have observed that there is a remarkable degree of congruence between the amendments tabled by my noble friend and those put down by myself.

Air pistols and air rifles fall neatly into two categories: those that are operated by a lever-action compressor on the actual weapon and those powered by an independent, attached high-compression gas bottle. There is no difficulty with the lever-action weapon; the problem that the Bill seeks to deal with concerns gas-powered air weapons. A specific problem arises with gas-powered air pistols. I have been informed that they can be converted relatively easily into something else. In fact, they can be converted to take rimfire ammunition using an explosive charge. Of course that turns them into a weapon completely different from and separate from air weapons.

In order to deal with the problem, in my view the Government have taken a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They propose to deal not with the specific problem of a particular brand of air pistol, but to prohibit all gas-powered weapons. It is proposed that they should all come within the firearms regulations. So far as the particular air pistol is concerned, I accept that that is a perfectly reasonable proposition, but whether it is the best way of dealing with the issue is entirely another matter.

These weapons have very low value. A firearms licence costs #50, although the security measures required to keep a weapon would probably cost considerably more than that. These weapons will disappear, which may be the best solution. However, the provision is to apply equally to gas-powered air rifles. There is no reason for air rifles to disappear. If there is any fear that such weapons could be cut down and converted into a weapon that can be used with a single hand and not used as a rifle, I understand that in order to do that it is necessary to cut off the means of attaching the gas bottle. No doubt a nifty armourer could find a way of achieving it, but the game would not be worth the candle. One could go to an East End pub and get a proper firearm with less trouble—if one may put it that way.

The amendments in this grouping have been drafted to do two things. The first is to exclude the gas-powered air rifle so that such weapons are not brought under the provisions of the Firearms Act 1968. We do not think that that is unreasonable. The Minister will see that the amendments contain dimensions which we believe would make this a secure proposition. We do not see why the use of gas-powered air rifles should not be allowed to continue.

Secondly, turning to gas-powered air pistols, the particular brand that is the cause of the problem is a thing called a "Brocock". I have handled a good many

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different weapons with the police and it has been an interesting experience, but I have not encountered this firearm.

I understand the wonderful and terrifying use of a sawn-off shotgun, but sawing down a rifle, which in reality is a sniper's weapon, would be an act of incredible folly and would certainly not make it a more usable weapon at close quarters, which is what criminals are mostly concerned with. A sawn-off shotgun is entirely another matter, but that is a diversion. I seek simply to make the point that a sawn-off air rifle, even if that could be done, would be a useless weapon. There would be no point in doing so. However, these pistols are a problem.

The amendments have two purposes. The first is to limit the effect of the Bill. They seek to take the pistols—not the rifles—out of commission by bringing them under the firearms regulations. Secondly, the effect of the final amendment and of bringing these weapons within the firearms regulations will be that the people who own them will have to get rid of them. As the Firearms Act removed ordinary handguns from general use, so this part of the Bill will have the same effect on these weapons.

Where people feel that it is necessary to get rid of these weapons, we believe that they should be eligible for compensation. The sums of money involved will not be large because the weapons involved are relatively low cost. We are not dealing with game guns and those kinds of weapons, which can cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds; we are talking about handguns which may cost #50 or #60. I do not know the numbers involved, but the amount of compensation in these circumstances would not be unreasonable. There should not be any difficulty because a precedent has been set by what was done with ordinary handguns.

That is the purpose of this group of amendments. I do not intend to go through them one by one and spell them out in detail. An outline of their purposes is sufficient. I hope that the Minister might find it in her heart to treat them with some sympathy. She has that steely glint in her grin, which means that she may well not do so. That will mean simply that we shall have to return to the matter again on another occasion. I beg to move.


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