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10.21 pm

Mr. Straw: As we have just heard, the debate has produced some sharp exchanges. However, the whole House is united on one issue this evening: we join in praising my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) for one of the finest maiden speeches that I have heard in 18 years in this place. I commend her speech to the House--particularly in view of the fact that she delivered it without the assistance of notes and with great poise and fluency.

Doug Hoyle was well known to many hon. Members. I had the privilege of serving with Doug in the shadow Cabinet for many years and of canvassing for him in the dreary 1982 by-election. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) mentioned Lord Jenkins. It always rains in Warrington whenever I am there--and I travel through the town at least once a week while on my way to Blackburn, where it also rains a lot. That dismal experience of canvassing in Warrington, North in 1982 is fixed in my brain because Mr. Jenkins--as he then was--was the Social Democratic party candidate and I was canvassing in Jenkins road. It was a long time before I found a voter who was willing to support the Labour candidate. Despite my lack of persuasive powers on that occasion, Doug won the seat and he served the House and the Labour party very well. I am sure that my hon. Friend will prove a fine replacement.

We have been treated to a string of hyperbolic adjectives in support of the Opposition's position, which is that there is a huge gulf between the stance that they adopted in government in respect of the case for banning handguns above .22 calibre and the case that we are making for banning handguns of .22 calibre and below. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) went right over the top as he wound up his speech by suggesting that if we were to pass the Bill, it would somehow mean the end of civilisation as we know it.

18 Jun 1997 : Column 425

I should just like to remind the right hon. Gentleman of two things. First, as the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan pointed out, had there been a free vote on the Conservative Benches before the general election, this Bill would not have been necessary. The simple truth was, and remains, that there was an unwhipped majority in the House in favour of a total ban on handguns in general civilian use. Secondly, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border both asked me what is the case for the Bill. Let me remind them that it is one of public safety.

Under the right hon. and learned Gentleman's measure, 160,000 handguns were taken out of circulation right away; the remaining 40,000--the .22s--could be stored and used in what were described as secure gun clubs.

Before the general election, the House had to decide on the logical argument that if there were to be secure gun clubs safe enough for guns of .22 calibre and below, why would those gun clubs not also be safe enough for the storage and use of guns above .22 calibre? After all, guns below or above .22 calibre have the common characteristic that each can quickly kill a large number of people. In answer, the right hon. and learned Gentleman argued that those gun clubs could not be secure enough for the storage and use of guns above .22 calibre. He said:


One of the reasons why the right hon. and learned Gentleman lost that argument before the general election, if he did not quite lose the vote, was that he asked the House to accept that there was something intrinsically less safe in a .32 multi-shot handgun than in a .22 multi-shot handgun, but that is palpably not the case. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North said, .22 handguns have been the weapon of choice of assassins and criminals across the world. Robert Kennedy and Yitzhak Rabin were killed with .22 handguns. Had Thomas Hamilton been in possession of .22 handguns rather than .357 magnums he could have achieved exactly the same carnage as he tragically and sadly did on 13 March last year.

The debate has understandably concentrated on where we draw the line and on the people who will be adversely affected by the Bill if, as I hope, it is passed. We are talking about up to 40,000 people who currently hold handgun certificates for .22 weapons and below. Although their interests are important, we should remember that the Bill was introduced out of the deepest shock and revulsion that was experienced across the country when, on 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton ran amok in Dunblane primary and in the space of three minutes killed 16 children and one adult and injured many more children. In the course of that, he traumatised the families and friends of those children and the town of Dunblane.

Thomas Hamilton shocked the nation. Questions were asked about how we had allowed the situation to develop where there were 200,000 handguns in general circulation, not for occupational use, but for the pursuit of a sport. That terrible tragedy brought us up sharp and brought home to us the question whether this country should ever again allow

18 Jun 1997 : Column 426

such a large number of handguns to be in general civilian use and pose such a potential danger as that which tragically occurred at Dunblane on 13 March.

Mr. Colvin rose--

Mr. Straw: I am sorry, but I am about to conclude.

The House was almost united in supporting the passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 to take out of circulation 160,000 of those 200,000 weapons. But it allowed 40,000 lethal handguns to remain available for use.

I regret that there are perfectly law-abiding shooters who will be disadvantaged both by the 1997 Act and by the Bill when it is enacted. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said, we and he have approached this matter much more in sorrow than in anger. It is the Government's view, however, endorsed by the House, that the right to life must come before the right to practise a sport.

I believe that we owe the Bill to the parents and the children of Dunblane. It will bring into place tighter controls than those introduced by the 1997 Act. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that the levels of control of handguns are commensurate with public safety. The Bill fulfils that responsibility and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:--

The House divided: Ayes 350, Noes 164.

Division No. 36
[10.30 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard (Shefld Hallam)
Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Ms Charlotte
Austin, John
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Mrs Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Robert
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brand, Dr Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
(Hammersmith & Fulham)
Colman, Anthony (Putney)
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Ms Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)
Curtis-Thomas, Ms Clare
Dafis, Cynog
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Dean, Ms Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Ms Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Flint, Ms Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Ms Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael John (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr. Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Graham, Thomas
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Philip
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley
(Stretford & Urmston)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Glenda (Hampst'd)
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Ms Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Jowell, Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Tessa
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andy
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Ms Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Ms Shona
McKenna, Ms Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McMaster, Gordon
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Alice
Mallaber, Ms Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Ms Gillian
Michael, Alun
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Ms Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris Dan
O'Brien, Mike (Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Mrs Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Bridget (Lewisham)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Rogers, Allan
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salmond, Alex
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swinney, John
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs. Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R. (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis
(Wolverhampton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steven
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Whitehead, Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Dr Alan W
(E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:


David Clelland and
Kevin Hughes


NOES


Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin
(Grantham & Stamford)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Eric
Foster, Don
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green , Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Merchant, Piers
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
Opik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd 'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Bowen Wells and
Peter Ainsworth

Question accordingly agreed to.

18 Jun 1997 : Column 430

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

18 Jun 1997 : Column 431


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