|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for so clearly laying out the order. Unlike the previous order, I commend the Government on it in general. I have only a few points of detail on which I would like clarification.
In respect of Article 17, I believe I know the answer but I would like clarification. It deals with firearm certificates and shotgun certificates granted in Great Britain, and the Explanatory Memorandum states:
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I rise to thank the noble Baroness for speaking to the order and giving us this information, and to support it. However, I do not find it attractive in any shape or form. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, the idea of being able to supervise my grandchild to cope with weaponry is not a concept that occurs to me in any shape or form. Indeed, I am appalled by this document, although I support it. It is important if we are to have legally held firearms that there is some form of regulation. Clearly, this is perhaps as good as it gets, and there must be proper regulation. The idea that there are 82 clauses and eight schedules on the one hand is appalling, because of all that waste of activity, but it is needed because of the concerns that there would be otherwise.
I am far from clear on the scope of the order. How many certificates are there? How many dealers are there? How many clubs are there? How many visitors will say, as soon as they arrive in Northern Ireland, "I must get a certificate in order to have a firearm"? I would like to have some concept of the scale of this
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I refer to Article 58, "Possession with intent", and Article 64, "Possession of firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances". I innocently suppose, though I recognise that this is largely about legitimate firearms in legitimate hands, that it cannot be wrong to reiterate the position to enable the police to act against individual paramilitaries if they have to. For that reason, I should have thought that it is useful legislation. I point out that there is a misunderstanding in Article 67. It is about the conversion of weapons, and it reads,
Lord Rogan: My Lords, it has been 23 years since firearms legislation for Northern Ireland was last changed in any major way, and I welcome the order in as far as it attempts to improve public safety. However, if the order is intended to bring Northern Ireland more closely into line with similar legislation in Great Britain, it does not go far enough. I will address that point later.
I would like to pick up on a few points that were raised by my colleague Lady Hermon when the legislation was debated in another place last week. I repeat her concernas it is one that I shareabout the extent to which police support staff are given increased powers to enter and search premises. Civilian staff will not have undergone any training in police operations, yet, through this order, we are dramatically increasing their powers by allowing them to,
There is also some concern that not enough is being done to ensure that those applying for and those in possession of a firearms certificate are of sound psychological and physical health. If, as my colleague Lady Hermon pointed out, it is entirely possible for someone suffering from dementia to be re-issued with a firearms certificate, it is also possible that someone in possession of a certificate could, in the course of the five-year period for which it is granted, suffer periods of depression, or psychological ill health.
Can the noble Baroness tell us whether any research is currently being carried out into how GPs, for example, can feed information on individual cases to the Firearms Licensing Branch, so that decisions to grant and to withdraw certificates are more informed and up-to-date? There must also be clear, good lines of communication from other departments in the PSNI to alert the Firearms Licensing Branch to any incidents that could suggest that the holder of a firearm certificate may no longer be fit to do so. I am particularly thinking of incidents of domestic violence or other such reported disturbances.
The current minimum age for shooting in Northern Ireland is 18. In Britain there is no minimum age, and this has never presented any public safety concerns. If we are attempting to level Northern Ireland's legislation with provisions in Great Britain, why not remove the minimum age? While many regard our experiences with terrorism as a reason for imposing strict regulationsI suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, feels thisI am unaware that any legally held gunsthose used in shooting competitions, in clay pigeon shooting and in other outdoor sportsare the terrorist weapons of first choice. Surely we are denying our young people the opportunity to learn a sport in a safe and responsible environment. The Northern Ireland Office promised to look at this issue. Perhaps the noble Baroness will indicate why that has been reneged on.
On a more positive note, I wish to welcome several aspects of the order, in particular that it will make it easier for estates and other businesses to offer shooting as a recreational activity to visitors to the Province. I am particularly referring to the provision to borrow shotguns and estate rifles under supervision and the introduction of controls on airguns to allow paintballing in Northern Ireland. Such provisions are excellent news for our tourist industry.
These are important points, and I trust that the Government will consider them seriously so that I, and everyone in Northern Ireland, may be reassured that what we have before us today will ensure greater public safety. I look forward to the Minister's reply.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page