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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate for the very

16 Oct 1997 : Column 594

important points that they made. My noble friend Lord Howell is an expert in this matter and ought to be listened to with the utmost respect. His view carries a lot of weight in this House, outside this House, in sporting circles at home and indeed in sporting circles abroad. He has had a lot of experience. I hope that noble Lords will listen to what he says, particularly in relation to the possibility of this country being able or not being able to host the Olympic Games in future years.

My noble friend mentioned our manifesto commitment. I remember very many Labour Party manifesto commitments. The one that I remember most is the glossy one that stated: "We believe in Britain". If we believe in Britain, we ought not to be preventing our sportsmen from competing for Britain. I hope my noble friend and other noble Lords will remember that. We do not want our country and our shooting sportsmen to be laughing-stocks, as my noble friend suggested they would be. We want them to be highly regarded, highly respected and highly successful. But they cannot be successful, because they will not be allowed to compete. How ridiculous it all is! It is possible within the context of a complete ban on handguns to accommodate the sport through this amendment or one which the noble Lord might care to bring forward himself.

As my noble friend said, British shooters will have to practise abroad, even if they are allowed to shoot--which they will not be. Many of them will be tempted to revoke their British citizenship and become French, or perhaps German, in order to be able to compete in the Olympic Games.

I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Henley. Obviously the noble Lord read the Labour Party manifesto more closely than I did. I did not realise that I was permitted, by the nation no less through the manifesto, to have a free vote. I am most obliged to the noble Lord for reminding or perhaps informing my noble friends of the manifesto commitment to give them a free vote. I note that my noble friend Lord Carter is in the Chamber. I am quite sure that he will take what was said very much to heart.

I listened very carefully to the reply of my noble friend the Minister. However, I am afraid that he did not convince me at all. Some Members of the Committee seem surprised. I am surprised that they are surprised. What I felt was so pitiful was his remark that the prospects of Britain hosting the Olympic Games were not zero. What does that mean? Are they just above zero? Finally, he said that a total ban on handguns is the only means of ensuring public safety. That is not so. The best way of ensuring public safety is to get handguns out of the hands of criminals.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, that is the priority; and that priority is being missed. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will support this amendment, which I intend to press. It is with some regret that I do so against my own party and their advice, but nevertheless I have to do so in the interests of justice and of the future of this country as a sporting nation. I ask the opinion of the House.

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6.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 90; Not-Contents, 77.

Division No. 2


Addison, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annaly, L.
Astor, V.
Attlee, E.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Berners, B.
Blatch, B.
Bridgeman, V.
Brookes, L.
Burton, L.
Cadman, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chesham, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Colwyn, L.
Congleton, L.
Cottesloe, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V.
Crawshaw, L.
Cross, V.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Denham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dilhorne, V.
Dudley, E.
Dundonald, E.
Erroll, E.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gainsborough, E.
Haddington, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L.
Howe, E.
Howell, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hylton, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Kintore, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Luke, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
McNair, L.
Marsh, L.
Mersey, V.
Milverton, L.
Molloy, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L. [Teller.]
Newall, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Rathcavan, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Renton, L.
Rowallan, L.
Saint Oswald, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B.
Shrewsbury, E.
Stallard, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Teviot, L.
Tollemache, L.
Wilberforce, L.
Wilcox, B.
Yarborough, E.
Young, B.
Young of Dartington, L.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.


Acton, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Banbury of Southam, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chandos, V.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lestor of Eccles, B.
Lockwood, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
McNally, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nelson, E.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Paul, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Russell, E.
Serota, B.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Windlesham, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

16 Oct 1997 : Column 596

6.38 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 6:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

Review of compensation scheme

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall undertake a review of the operation of the compensation scheme approved under this Act and shall report to Parliament the results of the review together with any recommendations for compensating all persons affected by this Act.
(2) The report under subsection (1) shall be presented to both Houses of Parliament within 6 months of this Act coming into force.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a small amendment to provide for a review of the compensation scheme. It is limited to the compensation scheme under the present Bill--that is, .22 calibre pistols originally permitted under the 1997 Act. This is the only amendment that I have been able to get in to order on this Bill. However, the problems arising from the Bill will be similar to those arising from the 1997 (No.1) Act and it seems probable that any recommendations made by a review for this group of shooters should also apply to those shooters previously affected.

The present plans will lead to gross injustice. The Bill provides for compensation for .22 pistols on the same terms as for higher calibre guns. The injustice of the scheme currently operated under the 1997 Act will apply to this Bill but is much worse. Clubs and businesses which might have been able to continue to operate with .22 pistols will no longer be able to do so. In other words, the opportunity for survival is no longer available. The same is true for many businesses. They will face costs not only to the value of the guns themselves but all the other costs and financial obligations involved in closing down their businesses.

Many clubs will be hit by the Bill. Many of the worst hit by this Bill will be ordinary club members who have pitched together to run their club or range. Many of those individuals will remain liable for long-term

16 Oct 1997 : Column 597

mortgages and leases for clubs and ranges which will be forced to close under the Bill. That is dreadful. Parliament should not allow it.

A survey of 139 clubs showed that 71 per cent. would not reach the Government's requirements for security under the 1997 Act. At that time, 126 clubs gave details of their expected losses. It was possible to calculate that their losses would come to over £64 million. That relates to individuals. The new Bill makes the situation even worse. All pistol clubs will now close, the 71 per cent. will be 100 per cent. and the loss for which no compensation is paid to clubs could be £100 million.

There is also the matter of businesses. Compensation is offered for stock but not for loss of business. Many dealers will lose their livelihoods completely as a result of this Bill. This situation is not just an occupational hazard. It is a sudden imposition by law, which will take away so large an amount of that trade that the enterprise could become unviable.

Moreover, there is the loss of employment within the industry, which is another serious consequence of the Bill. It is expected that 3,000 jobs will be lost.

The Bill affects ordinary people who have conducted what has been up to this point a proper, lawful and well regulated business activity. For example, an ammunition manufacturer, Roger Curtis, built up his own business supplying ammunition to shooting clubs and the police. He took a £30,000 bank loan and sold his home in order to raise a further £36,000 to start his business, which had a projected annual turnover of £75,000. He has now been forced into liquidation and has lost everything. Is that what we want to do to people? Surely not!

The Government say that public policy is public policy and that there are precedents for what will happen under this Bill. They say that it is what usually happens when governments pass new Acts: some people are bound to be hurt. But why should anyone be hurt by a change to public policy? If the public wish to change policy, they should fully compensate any persons who are adversely affected by that change. If that were so, perhaps we should not have so many ill-conceived and unfair Bills, such as this one. If the public had to pay the full price, it might very well be that we would more deeply reflect upon legislation and bring forward decent legislation which is properly drafted.

But, as I pointed out at Committee stage, there are precedents for compensation for loss of business. If agreed, this new clause would allow those to be looked at. Other countries are willing to compensate properly and fully those who are adversely affected by the new laws. The Australian scheme is well known. Indeed, it was set out at Committee stage and therefore I do not wish to describe it again.

Finally, I very much regret that a Labour Government--a Labour Government!--should bring forward this spiteful piece of legislation, which will not guarantee that there are no future Dunblanes, which will deprive innocent people of their legitimate sport, while demonising and punishing them for an act by a criminal madman, and will leave thousands of handguns in the possession of crooks. This new clause, if agreed, will at least ensure that the Government, within six months,

16 Oct 1997 : Column 598

will again have to confront the gross indecency of the financial mayhem that they will have caused to many people because of the rigid and uncaring stance that they have adopted. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, not for the first time the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, has spoken so well and so comprehensively that there is little that I can add in support. The analogies cited on earlier occasions by the Government, with other examples of businesses suffering financially in consequence of past public safety legislation, are not really valid; first, because in reality this is more a question of public relations than genuine public safety; and, secondly, because the degree of financial suffering involved is very much greater.

Take the case of Mr. Bruce Rainford, joint owner of the Nottingham Shooting Centre, who laboriously built up his business by working 15 hours a day until it had a value of £400,000. It is now worth £1,000. In other words, he has lost 99¾ per cent. of his assets. If Mr. Rainford had established his business in Australia, he would have been very much more fairly treated. Why cannot Britain behave as fairly and decently to law abiding citizens as does Australia?

All this amendment does is permit--not oblige--the Secretary of State to think again, after reviewing all the evidence, if he so chooses. Nobody can possibly complain that that violates any part of the Labour Party's general election manifesto. I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.

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