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The effect of the Government’s amendments is that where a local authority holds a premises licence, occupies a premises subject to a premises licence or has managed on its behalf a premises subject to a premises licence, a DPPO will be excluded from applying to those premises only at times when alcohol is being sold or supplied and for 30 minutes thereafter. At all other times, the premises will be able to be the subject of a DPPO. In other words, the DPPO, if one has been introduced by a local authority, will not apply while alcohol sales are taking place. The DPPO will apply once the alcohol sales cease and after the expiry of a 30-minute grace, or wind-down, period after the last sale has been completed. In effect, there will be a temporary suspension of the DPPO in such situations.

There are two other minor and technical changes related to the amendment. The first clarifies the 2001 Act to the effect that a DPPO is excluded from applying to a premises only where the premises licence under the Licensing Act authorises the sale or supply of alcohol. Other forms of authorisation—for example, licences authorising entertainment only—will not be affected and premises subject only to them

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can still be within a DPPO. The second ensures consistency with the main amendment by replacing “20 minutes” with “30 minutes” for the length of time after the expiry of a temporary event notice that a premises must remain outside the scope of a DPPO. A temporary event notice is an alternative form of authorisation for alcohol sales under the Licensing Act for occasional events.

The rationale in the 2001 Act for excluding TEN-authorised premises from DPPOs is the same as for licensed premises. Logically, the grace, or wind-down, period before a DPPO can apply should be the same after the end of an event as it is after the end of alcohol sales on local authority occupied or managed premises. The amendment would bring the two grace, or wind-down, periods into line.

I hope that that explanation is clear. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 pm

Lord Glentoran moved Amendment No. 32:

(a) that it is only for use in connection with training for and competing in the Olympic sport of target pistol shooting, (b) that it is only for use at regional shooting clubs designated by the Secretary of State as a place where such pistols can be used, (c) that it is stored at such designated sites and can only be removed subject to the authorisation of the Secretary of State.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I bring this amendment back on Report because we have no clarification and are nowhere near where I had hoped we would be in discussions with Her Majesty's Government. My objective is to persuade the Government to be clear about their intentions. The objective of the amendment is to persuade the Government to amend the firearms legislation so that

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it does not disadvantage UK competitors in small-bore/pistol shooting in forthcoming Olympic Games. I am sure that the Minister needs no reminder that training by all athletes for the 2012 Olympic Games has already started and is intense, vital and ongoing. As the law stands, pistol shooters and the like are at a significant disadvantage.

I have two letters in front of me. I hope that I am allowed to have them, but if not, bad luck for the Government. The first was sent to my noble friend Lady Anelay by Simon King, who states:

That is not what we are after—it really is not. It is a sensitive issue and great care is needed to ensure that public safety is not put at risk.

Let us not go totally crazy—we finished talking about the IRA and so forth only half an hour ago. Legislating for professional people to have specialised weapons under a special regime will not possibly, in anyone’s imagination, endanger anyone’s life anywhere. It is not real thinking. I understand the political sensitivity and I can see that people are frightened. I regret to say that my party started this legislation some years ago. It has carried on, but it should not have done and I ask the Minister to rethink it.

I am more concerned about a letter to Richard Caborn signed “pp Vernon Coaker”. Its earlier paragraphs say more or less the same as the letter to my noble friend Lady Anelay, but the last paragraph says:

I submit that the matter should be explored further and very quickly. A conclusion should be reached and the whole situation clarified. Frankly, as an Olympian and an athlete, and as one who cares about the medal tables in 2012, I think that bureaucratic stupidity is getting in the way of reality. I know that I am using strong words in your Lordships' House, but I feel strongly about the issue. Having talked to the Minister—I thank him for giving me his time—to Richard Caborn and to others, and having been received sympathetically, I think that it is time for the talking to stop and for the Government to come forward with a solution to this issue, which should not be difficult to dream up. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend. We are not trying to do anything that will in any way imperil public safety—just the reverse, obviously. We want assurances that our sports men and women will be able to practise freely and readily for these particular disciplines in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. We want them to be able

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to practise in this country at venues convenient to them, and we want permission to be given to all those who reasonably anticipate that they will take part in those disciplines at the Olympics. So far, it is as though they have been treading in treacle, with one department writing to another in occluded language and no one getting round to saying to the potential Olympians, “Okay, here’s your authority. Go ahead and practise”.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for his passion and commitment on this issue. I understand and sympathise with his frustration at treading in treacle, as the noble Baroness put it, and failing to make progress with officials. I want to make it clear that the Government and I are sympathetic to his point of view and I am sure that, when we come to deal with the issue in a practical way, matters will be resolved as we would all wish.

The Government have always made it clear that pistol-shooting events will be able to go ahead in the 2012 London Olympics without the need to change the legislation. Instead, we will use the Home Secretary’s powers under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 to authorise competitors and officials to possess competition pistols both for the duration of the games and for special warm-up events. As the noble Lord conceded, such arrangements worked well for the Manchester Commonwealth Games and there has never been a great difference of opinion between us on that issue.

However, there is more of a difference between us in determining the arrangements that might be made to allow people to train in the UK ahead of the games, which is at the heart of this amendment and a similar one tabled in Committee. It seeks to meet previous concerns that there was no sunset clause by giving a date of 31 December 2012, but still looks to keep the arrangements in place by providing for the date to be extended by Order in Council.

We are not persuaded that we have to change the legislation as proposed, although I can confirm that we have been working with colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and representatives of the sport to find a way through this sensitive issue. As we have said, this can be resolved using the Secretary of State’s powers under Section 5. These powers are not tightly circumscribed and it is possible to attach such conditions as may be thought necessary to ensure that public safety, or the police, are not endangered.

As with the previous amendment, the proposed new clause is not confined to those with a realistic chance of becoming an Olympian. As drafted, it would leave it open to any shooter to claim that he was training with that as his long-term aim. This amendment goes far too wide and, indeed, might be seen as a weakening of our gun controls.

Furthermore, if we are looking to allow an elite squad to train before the Olympics, I am not convinced that the shooting organisations would be happy with the proposed start date of 1 January 2010. I am sure that the noble Lord knows much more

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about it than me but, in my amateur thinking, it takes time to develop and maintain a performance pyramid to meet agreed targets, and any chance of success would be severely compromised by the limited time allowed by the proposed new clause.

Although I accept that the amendment is sensitive to the need to ensure that any training allowed takes place in a safe environment, I believe that it lacks the flexibility that can be achieved using Section 5 powers. As promised, we are fully engaged with the sport in trying to establish suitable arrangements, and we understand that it is content that this is a satisfactory way of progressing the matter.

The noble Lord, with his understandable passion and commitment, has made a case, but the amendment does not fit the Bill, as it were, and, because of its inflexibility, could have an adverse effect on the training programme for shooters wishing to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. I give an assurance that we will use the Section 5 powers flexibly to achieve the outcome desired by all sides in this argument; that is, to ensure that competitors and officials are able to possess competition pistols and to practise to perfect their skill for the Olympics. I am sure that they will be successful in the event.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Anelay raised the point that shooters will want to compete in the 2008 games. Will the Government be cognisant of that fact and bring the legislation in early enough to ensure that our teams have good success in 2008, which will give them even greater success in 2012?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not have eyes in the back of my head, but my colleague tells me that my officials are nodding. Let us take a nod and wink as saying yes on this occasion, as I am sure that that will be the case. I had assumed that it was already the case. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness and the noble Lord.

6.45 pm

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and his acceptance of my passion. He is right to say that I am driving at the need for athletes to train well in advance. That means today; it means tonight. I put the date of 2010 in my amendment with my fingers crossed because I thought that we would probably be in power by then and we would be able to sort it out. So I was fairly light-hearted when I chose a date to serve the purpose of the original probing amendment in Committee and I left that date in this amendment.

The nub of this matter, which I think everybody understands—I know that the officials do, because I have seen them nodding on different occasions, and I know that the Minister does—is that there is a big bag of medals available in a number of sports for Olympian men and women if they are good enough on the day. I have worked with dear old Richard in the past and we are doing our best to make sure that we get in the top four in that medal table. At the moment, the Home Office is, to put it kindly, not helping by

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being obdurate in not legislating or amending legislation and by not telling us how it plans quickly to help our star performers and our up-and-coming stars—our second XI—to train and to reach the standard required to win medals. I thank noble Lords for listening, and I hope that I may hear more from the Minister before Third Reading, either in the Chamber or outside it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I heard what the noble Lord said, and I will speak with our officials again to do what I can to ensure that things are put in train to enable what needs to happen to do so and to make sure that flesh is put on the bones of what we intend to do with Section 5 of the 1968 Act and how it would work.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that extra clarification. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 [Penalties etc. for offence under s.26]:

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved AmendmentNo. 33:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 deal with minimum sentences. I do not understand the rationale behind minimum sentence requirements in Home Office Bills. We have a sentencing council, mostly made up of practitioners, that gives recommendations. The Lord Chief Justice gives practice directions. The Court of Appeal deals with sentences and lays down guidelines for particular offences. These are all people who have spent a lifetime—the practitioners, at least—dealing with these problems. If anybody knows the right sentence in a specific case, it is them. But along comes the Home Office, with nil experience of the courts and how they work or of everything that goes into sentencing, and, through various Home Office Ministers and through the Home Secretary, demands that the court should impose minimum sentences, except when we come to Clause 27(6), where there is a proviso,

the court not giving a minimum sentence of three years. So there is a let-out clause for the judiciary if it thinks that the minimum sentence set out in that clause would be unjust.

Then in Clause 28 we come to complicated amendments of the 1968 Act. I find it impossible to trace through the Act to find out what is intended, but minimum sentences for certain firearms offences are again laid down. Why do Home Secretaries interfere with what is essentially a function of the courts in our constitution? One of these days, we will have a written constitution. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, has called for a written constitution that will clearly set out the responsibilities of the

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various branches of government and its relationship to the judiciary. But the Government cannot resist meddling. Here is a fine example of meddling, with a proviso—a “get out of jail free” card—stuck on to it. It is an excrescence. I hope that the Minister will be persuaded by my mild remarks to remove it from the Bill, not just from Clause 28. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I suppose that the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, were mildly provocative. I shall try not to rise to the bait too quick or too hard. As the noble Lord knows, in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Government introduced a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences in response to the rising level of gun crime. The aim was to deter criminals from using guns and to ensure appropriately tough sentences for those who still did. This approach has had some success. In 2004-05, there was a 5 per cent decrease in the number of crimes in which guns were used and handgun offences fell by 15 per cent. Statistics for the year ending 2005 show that firearms offences, excluding air weapons, were down 3 per cent and fatal injuries were down 30 per cent.

That shows that the minimum sentences can work. It is a tough measure, but the courts can still take account of exceptional circumstances—the noble Lord alluded to that—relating to the offence or the offender and can impose a lesser sentence if they consider it justified. The Government think that that is the right balance and are committed to the minimum sentence measures in the Bill.

Amendment No. 33 would prevent the courts from imposing a minimum sentence on 16 to 18 year-olds convicted of the new offence in Clause 26 of using someone to mind a weapon. I regret to say that it is not unknown for 16 to 18 year-olds to use guns and other dangerous weapons and it is therefore important that the minimum sentence applies to that age group, too. However, taking account of the fact that they are juveniles, Clause 27 provides for a different minimum sentence from that for adults. Instead of five years’ imprisonment, the minimum sentence is of three years’ detention.

Amendment No. 34 would remove from the Bill what we consider to be a useful addition to the existing minimum sentence provisions for firearms offences. At present, the minimum sentence applies only to simple possession of a prohibited firearm. Clause 28 applies the minimum sentence to other offences involving the possession of prohibited firearms, such as possession with intent to injure or possession with intent to cause the fear of violence. That will ensure that an offender who commits one of those serious offences does not escape the minimum sentence by inadvertently not also being charged with the simple possession offence. The Government believe that minimum sentences can work. There is rightly the provision for the courts to take account of exceptional circumstances and to impose different sentences on juveniles. The measures in the Bill reflect that and, we believe, are balanced and fair.

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I have little expectation that the noble Lord will agree with me, but I invite him to consider those comments before he, I hope, withdraws the amendment.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, there is not the slightest evidence that the decrease in gun crime is related to the fact that minimum sentences have been included in various Bills. There is not the slightest evidence to show that the sentence passed by a particular judge in court would have been any different with or without the minimum sentences. It is gesture politics. It is a political act; it is sending messages. I am totally opposed to using the criminal law to send messages via the red-top papers. I shall not press this to a vote, but every time the Government propose minimum sentences, I will say something along similar lines. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 [Minimum sentences for certain firearms offences]:

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Clause 35 [Specific defences applying to the offence under s.34]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 35:

“( ) the participation in the sport of airsoft organised by persons in such manner as may be specified for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Secretary of State”
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