Back to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill. Last thing yesterday dozens of amendments were published for the weapons part of the bill. But first we have to finish up on Alcohol Disorder Zones. This is with an argument from the Lib Dem about an absurd bit of the proposals which gives the area proposed for a disorder zone an opportunity to put forward an action plan and sort things out first – but then says that if the Local Authority doesn’t like the way the things are going it can step in and impose the zone anyway. You can’t have a mechanism for giving people a chance to do things the right way and then not give them that period. Unless you’re a Labour Government!
So then we arrive at guns. My Lib Dem No.2 on the Committee (there are only two Lib Dems) is a gun using Scot. He has lawful possession of a number of guns and is expert on the ins and outs of firearms certificates and the like. I have some relationship with alcohol – but none with guns.
We are arguing with the Government on a number of aspects. First there is an issue with tightening up on the transport of guns. As John Thurso points out, if he had his gun locked in his boot (which is the only way you are allowed to transport guns) and he popped out from the car to buy something and his friend was left in the car, he could then be had for this ‘crime’ – and moreover he could get 5 years minimum mandatory sentence for the pleasure – under Labour’s proposals, as currently written.
Latter on I argue against minimum mandatory sentences – partly because we believe law makers should not lay down what should rightly be decided by judges as to particular circumstances of each case, but also because it is another example of Labour being ‘tough’ without thinking things through. In this case, we’d have a dog’s breakfast of some offences having a mandatory five-year minimum sentence but equivalent acts with other firearms had completely different penalties. The whole structure would become a nonsense – and the Government has promised and promised a reviews and consultations – and then nothing. Sentencing is already becoming nonsense with Charles Clarke letting prisoners go because the prisons are too full. It’s all ‘gesture’ and ‘message’ with existing laws not enforced properly and a whole pile of new laws instead.
Anyway – Labour have a right go at me – but I stick to my guns (so to speak)!
We finish around 5pm and will resume where we left off next Tuesday – just before which pagers vibrate to bring us the news that Cameron and Davis will fight it out.