Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair today, Mr Wilson. I had not realised that you had been elevated to such heights. It is long overdue.
I will not delay the Committee for very long, as we obviously support the order, but I will ask for a couple of clarifications. The maximum penalty for a pawnbroker who takes in an air weapon when they should not is three months' imprisonment or a level 3 fine. On what basis have the Government come to that decision? Is that sentence enough to be a real deterrent? In my ignorance, I have not got a clue what level 3 means. Will the Minister give us some idea of that?
I welcome the fact that 19,000 weapons have been handed in, but they are obviously the people we should not be worried about. Can the Minister reassure us? When people are ordered to forfeit or dispose of weapons, how is it policed to ensure that that actually happens? Is it possible that, because the pawnbroker is no longer there, there is more chance of an underground black market in air weapons developing? Clearly none of us wants that, so what will be done to ensure that that does not happen? I guess that nobody in this room would argue with the order, but we should remind ourselves that only 12 years ago, a two-year-old was killed in Scotland. That is worth mentioning, because this is serious stuff.
Michael Ellis, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons: I reiterate what a pleasure it is to appear before you, Mr Wilson, and opposite the hon. Member for Blaydon. In response to his question, a level 3 fine on the standard scale is a maximum of £1,000. The court system operates fines on a scale of 1 to 5, to take account of inflation.
The sentence of three months' imprisonment would be a maximum. Officials and the relevant parties have considered that that would meet the merits of the offence because it is simply about possession, and there will always be the possibility of other offences in the case of misuse of a weapon.
The destruction of confiscated weapons would be a matter for the courts. I think the normal practice would be for the court to order the forfeiture or confiscation of the weapon, which would be securely destroyed by the authorities in a way that would put the weapon out of use, but if there is any difference in the process, I will write to the hon. Gentleman.
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