Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Seventh Report

Letter from Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, Minister of State at the Home Office, to the Chairman

I am writing to bring to your attention to Government amendments to Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Bill, which were tabled on 28 and 29 October for consideration at Lords Report Stage that concern delegated powers.

Part 11 contains provision for a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences (clauses 265-269) and an increase in the maximum sentence for smuggling prohibited firearms (clause 270). The Government believes these measures are necessary to tackle the recent unacceptable rise in gun crime. We want to deter criminals from using firearms and to ensure they receive appropriately tough sentences on conviction.

The relevant clauses in the bill apply to specific types of firearms that are already prohibited. However, we need to be in a position to deal with any new, dangerous firearms that come onto the market and which Parliament agrees should be prohibited. There is an order-making power in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 which allows the Secretary of State to prohibit specially dangerous firearms. This power is being extended by means of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. However, we need to extend it slightly further to allow an order to include all the amendments necessary for the minimum sentence, and maximum sentence for smuggling, to be applied to any future firearms.

Government amendments were also tabled to Part 11 on 29 October that provide for the early removal from prison scheme for foreign national prisoners. These contain two proposals for delegated powers. I enclose a copy of a letter sent to the Opposition by Baroness Scotland on 29 October that explains the background to the foreign national amendments. I also enclose the text of our amendments[3] together with a supplementary memorandum giving details of how they would work.

31 October 2003

3   Not printed in this Report.  Back

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