23 May 2016 – It appears that the sensible amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill 2016 tabled by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP have been “kicked into the long grass” after all.
The amendments themselves first appeared in the Parliamentary record on 26 April and were deconstructed by UK Shooting News here.
However, a fresh reading of the literature published with the bill reveals that the amendments were prevented from reaching a vote by the government.
In the first of the report stages on the bill, which took place on 26 April, the record reveals that new clauses 7, 8 and 9 – the firearms amendments that would have ended the expanding bullet stupidity, ensured expired FACs and SGCs continued in force until police make a decision on renewal, and a host of other useful, practical and sensible matters, were “not called”.
A handbook on tabling amendments to public bills, produced for MPs by the House of Commons’ clerks, explains: “On the day before a committee meeting, the Chair makes the selection of amendments… Selection is wholly at the discretion of the Chair and should not be questioned in debate.”
If an amendment is not called by the chairman of the committee, there is no formal reading of the amendment and therefore no vote is taken on it – so the amendment cannot make it into the bill. Thus, these useful and sensible amendments have failed for now.
On the day of the Parliamentary discussions on the amendments, government spokesman Karen Bradley, Parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Home Office, said: “The purpose of the firearms provisions in the Bill is to close the most pressing loopholes in the current legislation, which are open to exploitation by criminals. The Government accept that firearms legislation needs a general overhaul, but our priority must be to address the issues that pose the greatest risk to public safety.”
Bradley rubbished the amendments after comparing them to the Law Commission review of firearms law, saying: “The provisions in the Bill have been subject to detailed consideration and consultation by the Law Commission, unlike the proposals presented by the British Shooting Sports Council. We need to think carefully about the impact on public safety before legislating on any of these matters.”
She also made an off-the-cuff reference to possibly including the amendments’ substance in a future act of Parliament codifying Britain’s chaotically jumbled firearms laws, which seems to have been intended to calm a clearly miffed Clifton-Brown. While the Law Commission recommended a codification exercise leading to a new act, the government has made no indication it will do this, so the assurance is meaningless.
The Policing and Crime Bill has been republished for the start of the current Parliamentary session and is now at its report stage, the 4th of the 5 stages that all bills must pass through. MPs can still insert amendments to the bill at the report stage, though it seems likely that if they do re-insert the Clifton-Brown amendments, the government will simply ensure that they are not called again.
The bill must also pass through the House of Lords, where the full committee and report stages must be gone through again. The make-up of the Lords still favours the government.