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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness and apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for not having dealt with the point. Let me put the matter this way. I have had little opportunity to confirm that question of detail. I see that the noble Earl has the grace to smile at my unpreparedness. It was not a question, frankly, which I expected to have in such detail. My understanding--I stress that it is only a temporary piece of research--is that a European pass would not allow someone coming to our country to be in lawful possession of a weapon. But perhaps I may write to the noble Earl and, of course, copy it to the noble Baroness. I stress that I have done the best I can in limited time. I know that people read Hansard and a dot, comma or semi-colon misplaced is the subject of frequent rebuke. Therefore, I shall do further research and write within, I hope, a period of less than 60 days.
Lord Howell: My noble friend says that he listened to the arguments but is not persuaded and that that remains his condition. I am sorry to find him in such a disagreeable condition, especially as he has had a hard day. I put that condition down to the overwork to which he has been subjected today. He will understand my profound disappointment that his answer, unlike his reply about disabled persons, does not offer even a glimmer of reconsideration.
If that is the view of Mr. Jack Straw, who is also my right honourable friend, I am sorry that some of us will not have the opportunity to put our views to him. As I usually find myself sitting next to him at Wembley, I wonder whether my noble friend would mind telling him that his next supper at Wembley will not be quite so harmonious as previous suppers that we have enjoyed. I do not like Ministers who say, "I have made up my mind and will take no notice of what is said in another place or what is said by anyone who might happen to know what he is talking about." It is not a posture which should be taken up.
Let me deal with the main response of my noble friend. He says that the Home Secretary can exercise his powers to allow events to take place in the next Olympics, having already admitted that no British citizens can train for them. That means that they cannot participate in them. He goes a little further: not only can no British citizens train for them, they cannot act as judges or stewards. There will be no competitions held here between now and the next Olympics in which they can qualify as judges or stewards as they are required to do by international sporting law. My noble friend may care to contemplate from where we shall obtain foreign judges to officiate at competitions for which, apparently, we cannot provide qualified persons.
With great respect to my noble friend--this is my main point--he has misdirected himself, as have his colleagues and officials. Even though he can say technically, "We shall use our powers to allow these events to be held in an Olympic Games in this country", the fact remains that no International Olympic Committee will ever accept that explanation. My noble friend shakes his head. Perhaps he would like to have a discussion with President Samaranch about the matter. I wonder whether anyone in the Home Office has talked to President Samaranch or any other member of the International Olympic Committee. One of our representatives is Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. Perhaps my noble friend will talk to her and ask her view as to what opinion or action her colleagues might take. The other British representative is the chairman of the British Olympic Association, Mr. Craig-Reidie. I do not have the privilege of talking often to the Princess, so I cannot quote her. But I have spoken to the British Olympic Association, which has consulted Craig-Reidie. What I say is absolutely right. Although technically agreeing with what the Government are saying, I am told that we shall have placed such a handicap upon ourselves in the bidding procedure against the rest of the world--cities and nations seeking to have the games--that it is totally unrealistic to think that we have any prospect at all of staging them. If my noble friend and my right honourable friend Jack Straw say that they accept that the likelihood of hosting the Olympic Games in the future is almost non-existent and that is the price that they are prepared to pay, so be it. I shall respect that because that is the position.
I have told the Chamber before that I have led at least two bids to bring the Olympic Games to this country, one from my own city of Birmingham. The bidding procedure is an extremely hazardous business. One is
I make my plea to my noble friend. Will he please ask the Home Secretary to consult some of us and give us the opportunity to take him through the whole matter? We can tell him of the difficulties we envisage. Will he also consult the International Olympic Committee, if that will help to clarify the situation? I believe that that is the least that we can demand or expect. I invite the Committee to consider the viewing figures when the Olympic Games are held. In fact, the complaint generally from the British public is that there is too much television coverage of the games, morning, noon and night. The television companies, especially the BBC which does it superbly, have to cover the games from morning to night because some great British athlete may win a gold medal. It would be inconceivable for that achievement to occur and not to be televised for the public to see, especially at the time it happens.
Those are very important factors. We wanted to go through them. I cannot think that Mr. Jack Straw is frightened of us--I have had many discussions and arguments with him over the years. We have usually been on the same side, though not always in relation to Europe. But I have always been on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in relation to Europe. The noble Lord does not realise what he is doing to European competition sport. Are we good Europeans if we say that we will hold the European championships but will impose restrictions on ourselves when we are competing in Europe? That is a subject that has not even been discussed in respect of the competitions.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, realises the difficulty in which he has placed himself and throws himself on the mercy of my noble friend. He says that whatever argument my noble friend produces, he will adopt. And if it gets him off the hook he will be very pleased.
Lord McNally: The noble Lord, Lord Howell, keeps inviting people to go and see other people--President Samaranch and others. Will he come to the primary school of my seven year-old son and talk to the mothers of children of primary school age? He can then try to put forward his argument that sport is more important than gun control. That is the kind of audience that he should be addressing.
Lord Howell: Indeed, I address that audience every week; it happens to be my daughter who works in a nursery school in Birmingham, where I have discussed this matter. For good or ill, whenever they see my name in the paper they always discuss with her what I have
So, while I am happy to talk to his seven year-old son, I shall also introduce him to my eight year-old grandson as well as my daughter. We can have a quid pro quo about the matter. The fact is, if that happened we would at least be discussing the issue. My complaint is that we are not discussing it today. The Government have not discussed it with anybody. They produced this policy--we all understand why, as did the previous government--in response to enormous outrage and emotionalism following the obscenities of Dunblane. They felt that they had to take action. We all understand that.
Nevertheless, given the passage of time and the fact that this sporting nation wants to see our sportsmen properly treated and given a fair opportunity to compete against the world--that is what we are asking--I am confident, as the two last MORI polls showed, which I quoted, that the feeling of the country will move more and more away from Dunblane and nearer to the Commonwealth Games. By the next Olympics the feeling of the country will be that we ought to accommodate reasonable, honest shooting men of integrity.
I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment in a moment. But before I do, my noble friend knows that I did not want any votes and victories today against the Government. My main purpose today was to seek to get sense out of the Government with conciliation and understanding; to persuade them to think again. But, if the Government say that they are not going to think again, that their mind is made up and that they will take not a blind bit of notice of anything that has been said in this Chamber, then when the matter comes back in October, they may well be in for a profound shock. I for one will try to administer that shock. However, I hope that it will not be necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.