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Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 40, after ("regulations") insert ("made under section 1(3)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I suggest that we consider this amendment along with Amendment No. 5 with which it is grouped. On Clause 2 stand part in Committee, I referred to what I thought were some drafting problems to which the clause gave rise. Indeed, the Minister described it as a complex clause. I have tabled these amendments in the hope of achieving some clarity. In the meantime, I have received a helpful and courteous letter from the Minister, for which I should like him to know I am most grateful. I agree with some of the views expressed by the Minister in that letter, but not all of them.

We have before us an enabling Bill, which will enable Ministers to make regulations which will be the effective, operative part of the law. Therefore, we must try to get it absolutely clear what the scope of the regulations should be and how they are to be observed. If one looks at subsection (2), it is clear that we should not only make the drafting clear to capable lawyers, like the Minister, but that we must also make it clear to those lay people who may have to administer the law and, indeed, even more so, to those who will have to observe the law.

The Minister has pointed out to me that Clause 2 begins by saying:

I should explain that that means subsection (2) of Clause 2, not of Clause 1.

Before I proceed any further, I should like to point out to the House that there is no power stated in Clause 2 to make regulations: there is merely a reference to the regulations which can be made under Clause 1. That brings me to ask your Lordships to consider subsection (3) of Clause 2 which reads:

    "In this section--

    'prescribe' means prescribe by regulations".

I do so because it does not say which regulations; indeed, it does not say under which clause such regulations are to be made. I shall stop at that point for one moment. Bearing in mind the fact that there is no intention here of introducing a further power to make regulations, or prescribe by regulations, I believe that we should make it clear that these are regulations made under Clause 1(3). We can do no harm by putting that simple amendment into the Bill and, as I say, it may help to remove any doubt and to make the matter clear to lay people. I suggest that that is what we should do.

I was convinced by what the Minister said regarding the further point covered by Amendment No. 5. Therefore, I do not propose to put forward any argument in its support. I merely beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the noble Lord is always courteous and thoughtful in the suggestions

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that he puts forward, even when he is wrong. I have crossed swords with the noble Lord on many occasions in the past, both in this House and another place, but we have always done so on the most friendly terms. Indeed, the noble Lord is good at engaging in what this House should do; namely, to undertake the detailed scrutiny of legislation. Therefore, it is right that he should go into such drafting matters, even though I happen to disagree with the conclusions that he has reached.

As the noble Lord said, I wrote to him as promised, albeit a day before or perhaps even on the same day that he tabled the amendments, setting out why I thought that the amendments were unnecessary and, indeed, inappropriate. However, I do not say that in a pejorative way; I just do not think that they are required. I should add that I copied the letter to other members of your Lordships' House who spoke in Committee and copies of it have also been placed in the Library of the House.

I am glad that the noble Lord has given me the opportunity to share those thoughts with other noble Lords this afternoon. I hope that I shall be able to convince the noble Lord, who is always very reasonable about such matters, that his first amendment is unnecessary. If one looks at the wording of Clause 2(1), it is evident that the power to set fees derives from Clause 1. Clause 2 is concerned with the way in which the power is exercised; indeed, it does not confer any new regulation making power. The phrase that the amendment would add is therefore redundant for that purpose. Having heard the noble Lord speak on many occasions in this House, I know only too well that he shares my view that unnecessary wording in legislation is something that one ought to avoid. For that reason, together with the other reasons that I have just put forward, I believe that the noble Lord's proposed amendment is superfluous; it would not add anything to the Bill. I am glad that the noble Lord raised the matter because it has enabled me to clarify the position, although I believe that it is already pretty clear on the face of the Bill.

I note that the noble Lord has effectively not said anything about the other amendment and, therefore, there is no need for me to address it. With all his experience in such matters, I hope that the noble Lord will find the argument that I put forward points to the fact that to amend the clause in the way suggested would neither be necessary nor particularly helpful. Nevertheless, I thank the noble Lord for having tabled the amendment and enabling me to say these few words.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I have listened carefully to that explanation by the noble Lord. Of course I would not wish to divide the House on this. I merely say that there are times when it is as well for us to be cautious when drafting. Perhaps there is a slight excess of zeal on my part. In case any of your Lordships should think that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

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Firearms (Amendment) Bill

3.40 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Prohibition of small-calibre pistols]:

Lord Swansea moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 8, leave out ("the words "a small-calibre pistol" shall cease to have effect") and insert ("after the words "a small-calibre pistol" the words "which has a barrel length not less than 20.3 cm in length and which is incapable of holding more than one cartridge and is not derived from a multi-shot design" shall be inserted").

The noble Lord said: I was unable to take part in the debate on Second Reading due to a long-standing engagement in South Wales. However, I read the Official Report of the debate with great interest. It is evident that many noble Lords are concerned about the effects of this Bill. I fully agree with their sentiments.

I must declare an interest as a lifelong shooter, a life member and a member of the council of the National Rifle Association and also as a former chairman, now president, of the British Shooting Sports Council. My principal weapon is a rifle and I have never used a pistol in competitions. However, I have a working knowledge of many varieties of pistol. My amendment is designed to allow the continued use of a specialised kind of pistol which is known as a free pistol. It is designed solely for deliberate shooting at paper targets at a range of 50 metres. It has no magazine and is capable only of single shot fire. It has a fairly complex mechanism. Its stock is formed to fit the firer's hand almost like a glove. For greater accuracy it has an exceptionally long barrel.

The International Shooting Union, which governs the rules of the Olympic Games, lays down that the maximum overall length of a pistol is 420 mm, which is roughly 16½ inches. The rules also stipulate that the pistol should be capable of fitting inside a three dimensional box with certain limited measurements. The Committee will appreciate that the pistol cannot be described as concealable; neither can it be folded or readily dismantled. In short, the Committee can judge from this description that this pistol is totally unsuited for use as a means of assassination, being cumbersome to carry and incapable of rapid fire.

If the Government will recognise these facts and allow the continued use of these pistols that would slightly soften the blow of this painful Bill and allow our pistol shooters to continue to take part in one branch of international shooting. Practitioners of this sport pose absolutely no threat to public safety; it is pointless to pretend that they do. Public safety will not be increased one iota as a result of this Bill. A far greater danger is posed by the vast pool of underground weapons held

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illegally by the criminal element. If the Government would only tackle that side of the matter, they would have the backing of the whole country.

It must be unique among civilised countries for a government not to trust their own citizens, even those judged fit to hold a firearm certificate, and to subject them to the humiliation of preventing them from taking part in an international competition in which they have hitherto excelled. Government spokesmen have previously said that they must apply consistency, yet they have already allowed exceptions in this Bill for veterinary surgeons, slaughter-house workmen, starters of athletic races and others. One more exception such as this can surely do no harm. I beg to move.

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