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Deregulation

15. Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what new deregulation initiatives he intends to introduce in the next six months. [38721]

Mr. Kynoch: The Scottish Office will continue to take action on all aspects of the Government's deregulation initiative.

Mr. Steen: While I pay tribute to the Secretary of State's well-known commitment to promoting the Government's policy of deregulation, does my hon. Friend agree that the test for the Government is how many rules and regulations that impinge on business they have repealed, rather than to argue that, but for the Government's deregulation policy, there would have been even more statutory instruments? Since January 1994, there have been 8,101 statutory instruments.

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Mr. Kynoch: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will appreciate that much business legislation is United Kingdom-wide legislation, and therefore the responsibility of other UK Departments. I can assure my hon. Friend, however, that we in the Scottish Office are adamant that we will reduce the burden on industry and encourage business in Scotland. That is something which the Opposition parties are totally against, because all their proposals for business in Scotland are counterproductive, counter-competitive and would be bad news for Scottish business, and, therefore, Scottish employment.

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Mr. Ernie Ross: How can anyone take the Government seriously when, of the 3,500 regulations that have been introduced and directly affect manufacturing industry, 2,625 have been introduced by this Government?

Mr. Kynoch: That is absolutely nothing, as the hon. Gentleman may realise in due course, compared with the burdens his party would put on Scottish business and United Kingdom business. I shall name but a few--the social chapter, the minimum wage and the tartan tax. They would all be exceedingly bad news for Scottish business, UK business and the people of Scotland.

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Dunblane (Cullen Report)

3.30 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth): With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the publication of the report of Lord Cullen's inquiry and the Government's response.

On 21 March, following a resolution of both Houses, I appointed the Hon. Lord Cullen to inquire into


Lord Cullen concluded that he should not make an interim report. He completed his report within the demanding timetable he set himself by the end of September. But I received a letter from the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) saying that it would be


    "wrong for the Report to be published during any one of the party conferences".

I discussed that request with him, and with the hon Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), and with their approval I requested Lord Cullen to delay submitting his report to me until Monday 14 October. It is being published today, together with the Government's response, as a Command Paper. I can also tell the House that the report will be available on the Internet, so that there will be access around the world for those who expressed support for the community of Dunblane.

I am also grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for your agreement that I should allow the families of the victims to receive copies of the report and the Government's response ahead of its presentation to Parliament.

I am enormously grateful to Lord Cullen for the dedicated, prompt and efficient way in which he has carried out the inquiry. I appointed him in the knowledge of the careful way in which he conducted the Piper Alpha inquiry and the rigour and the practicality of his conclusions on that occasion. He approached the present inquiry with sensitivity, courtesy and care. As the inquiry proceeded, he deservedly gained the wide respect of the parties to the inquiry, the media and the public. He has had to consider the most harrowing of circumstances, and to acquaint himself with a number of very complex issues--issues which are of great concern to the people of Dunblane and throughout Scotland.

It was right for there to be a full investigation of all the background to the events of that day and of the policy questions raised by them. And it was essential that the House had before it a full analysis and the facts before attempting to reach conclusions about further action.

I can tell the House that we are going to accept all Lord Cullen's recommendations, and in some respects intend to go further. Many of the recommendations relate to firearms legislation for which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has lead policy responsibility. He will be making a statement about that immediately after mine.

Lord Cullen's report describes in detail the tragic events of Wednesday 13 March. The gunman, Thomas Hamilton, entered Dunblane primary school shortly after 9.30 am and made his way to the gymnasium armed with two 9 mm Browning self-loading pistols and two .357

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Smith and Wesson revolvers, together with 743 rounds of ammunition--all of which he lawfully held, and which he legally kept at home, together with more than 1,000 further rounds of ammunition. Within three or four minutes, he fired 105 rounds with the 9 mm Browning, resulting in the deaths of Mrs. Gwen Mayor and 16 children, and injuring a further three teaching staff and 14 children. He then used the .357 Smith and Wesson to take his own life.

Of the head teacher and his staff, the report says that they


Lord Cullen also commends the general quality of the work of Central Scotland police and, in particular, the individual officers involved. He records the gratitude of the relatives and the school authorities for the help, support and professionalism of the force. From my own experience on that day, and on the days that followed, I reinforce those tributes.

Lord Cullen is, however, critical of the delay in providing information to victims' families. Those criticisms were accepted by the chief constable of Central Scotland police, who made a written submission to Lord Cullen, identifying procedural inadequacies and suggesting improvements, which Lord Cullen has endorsed. The Government will ensure that those issues are discussed with police forces throughout the United Kingdom.

An ambulance and a team of doctors and nurses from the local health centre were quickly on the scene. The health service's major incident plan was implemented, and a number of expert teams from Stirling and Falkirk royal infirmaries went to the school. The report highlights the magnificent way in which all the health teams responded. The victims were taken to Stirling royal infirmary and Falkirk and District royal infirmary. The most seriously injured were later transferred to Yorkhill children's hospital. The professionalism of all concerned undoubtedly saved lives.

The report sets out the facts about Thomas Hamilton and his background, and Lord Cullen has considered, with expert advice from a psychologist and a psychiatrist, what may have prompted Hamilton's atrocious act. He concludes that


Hon. Members will want to study the report for themselves, but I conclude that this was an act of calculated wickedness.

Lord Cullen's report considers in great detail the granting and renewal of the firearms licences that Thomas Hamilton had held since 1977. He points to the weaknesses in the system used by Central Scotland police for the carrying out of inquiries and the making of decisions about firearms applications.

In particular, the report is critical of the former deputy chief constable of Central Scotland police, Mr. Douglas McMurdo, who was appointed earlier this year to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland. I thought it right that Mr. McMurdo should have sight of the relevant paragraphs in the report, and he has today offered his resignation, which I have accepted. He has informed the Scottish Office that he also intends to resign from Central Scotland police. The House will respect his decision.

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The report makes two recommendations, which I have accepted, concerning improvements in school security. I will be introducing a specific grant to assist authorities to improve the security of school pupils and staff, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment will be doing likewise in England. All authorities will benefit, and I intend that councils should have as much discretion as possible on the measures to be taken.

I expect such measures to be in line with the action plans that Lord Cullen encourages individual schools to draw up. They will add to the measures that the Government announced in May in response to the recommendations of the working group on school security.

Two further recommendations, which I have accepted, concern the vetting and supervising of adults working with children and young people. One concerns the development of a Scottish vocational qualification in respect of work with children, including the organisation of clubs and child development and protection. The other involves accreditation, by a national body, of clubs and groups involved with young people. That body would ensure that there are adequate checks on the suitability of leaders and workers with unsupervised access to children and young people.

I also intend to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to allow all youth organisations access to criminal records, and to certain other information that does not relate directly to criminal convictions and is held by the police. I appreciate that that may cause concern in some quarters, but I believe that the safety and protection of our children must come first.

The whole country has been struck by the courage and dignity with which the community of Dunblane has worked together in the aftermath of this terrible atrocity. That community now looks to the House for rapid and united action.


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