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There is no criticism of the police in their handling of the direct situation which was excellent. However, there is criticism of them in relation to the licensing process and it is absolutely essential to put that right. It is obvious that this man had a large collection of guns. He was able to fire off rapidly 107 rounds of ammunition killing 17 people and wounding others. He could do that only because there was enormous slackness in the application of our laws.
The report reveals that the deputy chief constable, who has now resigned, received a strongly-worded report about this man. Such was the complexity of dealing with the man, whom he knew, and the fact that an appeal might well not be successful, he took an easy course. We shall back the recommendations of the report: we are delighted that the Secretary of State is backing them all. The report contains the important recommendation that an appeal against a decision to grant a licence should be only on grounds of new circumstances or questions of fact; it should not question the judgment of the chief constable. That new provision will be absolutely vital in improving the system for the licensing of guns of all sorts.
I join with the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, in approving strongly of the decision to fund the improvement of security in schools. That funding should not only take account of improvements in security--fences, doors and that sort of thing--but also the provision of staff. In small schools in the countryside, a good janitor is of enormous importance. Permanent funding of staff for security purposes, as well as funding for structural matters, will have to be examined by the Secretary of State.
The main recommendation of Lord Cullen is that the licensing process and the holding of guns should be conducted through a system of gun clubs controlling everything to do with the firing of revolvers; locks on guns; the removal of parts; and holding guns in the gun club. The Government have rightly accepted the second recommendation which is a complete ban.
However, the ban is not complete. It is a complete ban on all guns over calibre .22. As we all know, a calibre .22 gun can do damage. Therefore, the 20 per cent. of guns which remain will have to be under the same strict control through gun clubs as was proposed by Lord Cullen for all handguns. Surely the same standards apply to .22 calibre guns as apply to the larger calibres which were used by Hamilton in his appalling act. That is the main snag I find with the admirable attitude and proposals of the Secretary of State with regard to the report.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the sentiments they expressed. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, says that this is an extremely important report. That is an opinion which I commend to all noble Lords.
I am grateful also that both noble Lords have promised their support and co-operation in seeking to bring legislation to the statute book in what we hope will be a very small number of months, possibly this side of Christmas.
Both noble Lords drew attention to the firearms issue which lies at the heart of the incident and the report. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that the enormity of the statistics which attach to both Mr. Hamilton's personal ownership of guns and those which he took to the school are partly the reason that we now have 24 recommendations, from the 28 of Lord Cullen, on firearms alone.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, went on to discuss the remainder of the guns which are not to be banned outright. I remind the House that overall responsibility for firearms legislation rests with the Home Secretary. My noble friend Lady Blatch will shortly be repeating a Statement made by the Home Secretary and will be able to explore further that area with the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, focused rightly on school security and mentioned the progress being made by CCTV in other areas. Lord Cullen points out that it is very important to strike a balance in this area. On the one hand, schools are a vital part of the community. They welcome both parents and children throughout the day and very often welcome other community activities in the evenings, at weekends and holiday times. Therefore, there is a balance to be struck between the fortress and prison, which is one extreme, and completely open-plan style, which is the other. Lord Cullen makes that point in the report. I would commend anyone with an interest in that aspect to read that part of the report.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, mentioned the grounds on which appeals will be possible against a decision by a chief constable in refusing to grant a firearms licence. That is an issue which will go out to consultation. It is also an issue with which my noble friend Lady Blatch will deal in greater detail.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I see from a very rapid look at the report that the Scottish Standing Conference of Voluntary Youth Organisations gave evidence to Lord Cullen on the matter of vetting adults involved in work with young people. As a member of the Council of the Guide Association in Scotland, I ask my noble friend whether the views of organisations like the Scouts and Guides, the Boys Brigade, the Girls
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I did not have the privilege of seeing the report until about half an hour ago and therefore, I cannot comment on the detail. However, I welcome what has been said with regard to achieving a consensus on all sides of the House. In the past few weeks I have been disturbed that newspapers in Scotland, particularly the popular press, and some politicians have started to develop a political campaign arising out of this tragedy. We would be failing the people of Dunblane, and we would be failing our own sense of responsibility, if we were to try in any way to exploit this situation to achieve any advantage of any kind. I hope very much that the assurance given by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that the Opposition will play their full part in being helpful in devising good legislation will be accepted by the Government and that we shall have a real consensus in the development of sensible policies.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, makes a good point. From the start of this chain of events we have placed a high priority on moving forward in consensus and with as much co-operation as possible. Therefore, we similarly regret the excesses of some in recent weeks which have led them to introduce party politics into the Cullen Report and into the consideration of the Dunblane incident. That fails many more people than just those involved. I believe that the people of Dunblane and all those affected in any way by that incident expect the parliamentary response to the report and to the whole incident to show greater co-operation than some have displayed in recent weeks.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I wish to return to the accreditation of voluntary youth and community workers. I may have misheard the noble Earl but I think he said that voluntary youth organisations would have to be accredited rather than individuals. I hope that that is not right because I think it important that anyone taking part in youth and community work should be accredited, irrespective of how they work. Normally adults require great encouragement to become involved in youth work. Therefore I regret, but certainly accept, that accreditation may possibly be regarded as a hurdle. The good side is that not being accredited presumably means that one will not run youth clubs or similar organisations.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, the noble Earl raises some important issues on the proposals for accreditation and for vetting. As I said earlier, this is an area where we shall consult all those involved in order to find the best way forward. I should point out to the House that Lord Cullen himself decided against compulsory registration. However, he believes that voluntary accreditation by a national body would be a sensible way forward. What is also recommended, and accepted by the Government, is the need for wider access to information about individuals who may well be employed or involved in those groups and organisations. We very much hope that the consultation process surrounding these two proposals will address the concerns that many will have in this area. For instance, in Scotland alone there are an estimated 80,000 volunteers and 500,000 young people involved in youth activities. That gives one an indication of just how carefully the new proposals for this area must be constructed.
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