§ (" .—(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 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, 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.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I also offer my support to the amendment. I take the opportunity to raise one related matter, which is not directly related to this particular amendment but is particularly important. I should be grateful if the Minister could give some consideration to it and possibly write to me between now and the next stage of the Bill. It is a matter which does not relate to this compensation scheme but, because the word "review" came in, I thought it right to raise it now. We might want to come back to it, depending on the scope of the Bill, at Third Reading.
The Minister might be aware of a case in the Cambridge Crown Court which came before His Honour Judge Haworth in an appeal of Reginald Butland. The judge gave his verdict on 11th September. It inferred that an applicant for a certificate had no right of appeal against a condition or conditions imposed by the chief constable. It had been my understanding and that of others that there had been such a right of appeal since 1920 or even since the 1968 Act. We now seem to infer from that particular case that the Home Office—I should be grateful if the noble Lord can comment on this point—has been advising the judges, courts and chief constables that no such right exists.
I am sure the noble Lord would agree that when such an issue arises in which there is no right of appeal, very serious consequences can follow to the individual which might relate to his employment or whatever. Certainly in this matter, it would mean that, for example, chief constables could impose impossible conditions on the certificate without satisfaction.
599 I should be grateful if the noble Lord would give some consideration to that point. I appreciate, having raised the matter now without notice, that it may not be right or directly relevant to this specific amendment. However, I should be grateful if he would consider the matter between now and the next stage. Having said that, and having said at the beginning that I support the amendment, I offer the support of myself and my noble friends on these Benches for Amendment No. 6.
§ Lord Cottesloe
My Lords, perhaps I may speak briefly. I intended to raise the same point as the last speaker raised. I understand that there is no right of appeal. The only resort is to a judicial review which is far more expensive and time consuming. My understanding is that some chief constables—I hasten to say, not my own—are using (dare I say "misusing") that fact to perpetuate injustices in certain police areas. It is therefore a matter which should be looked at with some urgency.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, perhaps I may deal with the last two points first. If the noble Lord, Lord Henley, would write to me with the particulars of the background of the problem, then I shall undertake to have researches carried out as soon as possible to reply to him and send copies to other noble Lords—I know the noble Lord, Lord Burton, may be interested—as appropriate. Without knowing the background, the problems and the specific focus, I cannot respond now. I cannot imagine that the Home Office would give advice to a judge in those circumstances. But it is perhaps best if I make inquiries in the usual way.
Amendment No. 6 is the same amendment as my noble friend Lord Stoddart put forward at Committee stage, withdrawing it on the basis that the Government would reconsider. We have. I am of the same view. We are not persuaded of the need for the new clause. A statutory requirement for a formal review and a report of the operation of the compensation scheme is wholly unnecessary.
My noble friend, as always, quite candidly said that the purpose of the review was to reopen the question of compensation all over again. I do not recall that such a review was called for as regards the compensation scheme for the larger calibre pistols and ancillary equipment. However, I recall—it slightly surprises me that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is offering support—that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was firm, doughty and unyielding in saying that there would be no wider compensation for the owners of large calibre weapons or of ancillary equipment or for those persons who had shooting ranges, wherever they may be situated.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. That scenario was very different. I was resolute, as the noble Lord appears to be being now. The owners were compensated. We are talking about businesses that may be affected by the 600 Bill. Under the original Bill, businesses could continue; shooting clubs could stay in place, albeit under stringent regulations as set out in the Bill, and some of those businesses could have continued. The difference is that this Bill is a wholesale demolition of the sport and of those businesses. It is a completely different scenario.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, before the Minister replies, can I ask him if it is not also true that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, moved an amendment to improve the compensation offered under the previous government's Bill which was carried by a substantial majority of the whole House? Therefore, the point remains for the noble Lord to answer.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is quite right. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, put forward that proposition. I must whisper the next part of my response, otherwise the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and my noble friend Lord Stoddart will be extremely cross. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, put forward that amendment on the basis of European rights.
The fact remains that the former then incumbent government set their collective face against any wider compensation scheme. For some businesses there would have been significant detriment. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, produced the precedent—rightly, I believe—to show that there would be no compensation.
This is a device—I use the word neutrally—to reopen the compensation question. On that basis we find it unacceptable and I invite your Lordships not to follow the rather seductive piping of my noble friend Lord Stoddart.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate and I listened carefully to what my noble friend said. He said exactly what I expected him to say; that is, that he would not accept the amendment and did not see any need for a review. Again we differ.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was right to say that we went through this matter on the No. I Bill, if I may so describe it, and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, moved his amendment. He did it successfully with a huge majority and, if I had had my way—unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would not go along with me—we would have insisted on our amendment and put it to the vote. The House, too, did not go with me.
I hope that the House will change its mind today and go with me on this amendment. We have got a listening, caring and giving government. I therefore expected my noble friend to give me something on this amendment. As he has not, I fear that I must—again regretfully—press the matter to a vote.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 68.602
|Division No. 3|
|Anelay of St. Johns, B.||Hemphill, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Henley, L.|
|Astor, V.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Kintore, E.|
|Blatch, B.||Lawrence, L.|
|Bridgeman. V.||Luke, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Mackay of Drumadoon, L.|
|Burton, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Molyneaux of Killead, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Monson, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Moynihan, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Newall, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Colwyn, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L. [Teller.]|
|Congleton, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Cox, B.||Seccombe, B.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Darcy de Knayth, B.||Stallard, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]|
|Dudley, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Swinfen, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Teviot, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Wharton, B.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Wilcox, B.|
|Haddington, E.||Young, B.|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Acton, L.||Howell, L.|
|Addington, L.||Hoyle, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Hughes of Woodside, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|Berkeley, L.||Judd, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Carter, L. [Teller.]||Lestor of Eccles, B.|
|Chandos, V.||Lockwood, B.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller. ]|
|Diamond, L.||McNally, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Dubs, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Newby, L,|
|Gallacher, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Gladwin of Clee, L.||Paul, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Rea, L.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal. ]|
|Haskel, L.||Russell, E.|
|Hayman, B.||Serota, B.|
|Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.||Shore of Stepney, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Simon, V.|
|Simon of Highbury, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Strabolgi, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Thomson of Monifieth, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
Lord Howell moved Amendment No. 8:
After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
§ REVIEW OF THE ACT
§ (" .—(1) The Secretary of State shall carry out a review of the operation and effectiveness of this Act as soon as is practicable after the expiration of 3 years from its coming into force and, in the course of that review, shall consider and have regard to the effect which the Act has or may have on the holding of the Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom in 2002.
§ (2) The Secretary of State shall prepare a report based on the review and shall lay a copy before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after it has been prepared.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall formally move this amendment in one sentence. It seeks to require the Government to review the Act within three years, which seems eminently sensible and does not need any further explanation. I beg to move.
§ Lord Burton
My Lords, I have one small disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, although I would otherwise very much like to support him. I feel that three years is too long. There are many anomalies in the legislation that was rushed through the House recently which require attention. Indeed, there was the one mentioned just now by my noble friend Lord Henley. I was going to apologise to the Minister—but I was told that I would be out of order—and say that in the case referred to by my noble friend he did not have the details. We tried to get papers before then but the court appears to have been very reluctant to release them. I hope that we shall have the papers shortly and that I shall be able to let the noble Lord have them.
On the question of the timescale, perhaps I may suggest that the answer might be that soon after the Bill passes, a committee of this House, where there is plenty of expertise, should be set up to look at all the firearms legislation. There are a number of anomalies. There is the question of transporting the ammunition and various other matters. A committee of the House might solve the problem and could try to put right some of the anomalies.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I think that I have already dealt with the final point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Burton. I have undertaken that when I have the particulars from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I shall cause inquiries to be made, so I cannot be accused of being guilty of discourteous conduct if I simply repeat that.
The amendment is not necessary. It is not customary to have a review after three years. My noble friend Lord Howell introduced the amendment with commendable economy. I hope to follow him and so I shall not go into 603 the ins and outs of the Commonwealth Games, or the 2002 Games, or any possible Olympic Games. My noble friend has not mentioned them. As he has not mentioned them, I shall not either.
There is no reason to have an examination of the Act in three years' time. We shall constantly keep the workings of the Act under scrutiny. We shall wish to see that all firearms controls are fully effective. Plainly, any responsible government will periodically review what happens if a Bill becomes an Act. There is no reason to single out this Act—no reason at all—any more than any other Act of Parliament. I therefore ask my noble friend not to press the matter to a Vote.
My Lords, how nice it is to hear my noble friend calling on my good example and thanking 604 me for not mentioning this, that and the other, which I did not. Alas, he did not follow my advice in other areas. But that, I suppose, is the price we pay for being in politics. I accept the logic of what he has said and therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ In the Schedule:
§ [Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved.]
§ In the Title:
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
§ House adjourned at eight minutes past seven o'clock.