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Lords approve Firearms Bill

The Government comfortably fought off opposing bids to defeat it in the House of Lords last night over the Firearms Bill it introduced in the wake of the Dunblane massacre.

A Labour attempt to impose a ban on all handguns was rejected by 215 votes to 81, while a pro-gun lobby amendment which would have delayed the Bill by referring part of it to a committee was not pushed to a vote.

The Firearms (Amendment) Bill bans 80 per cent of all handguns but allows gun enthusiasts to use .22 pistols which are kept in secure gun clubs. Labour has said that if it wins the election it will impose a total ban on all handguns.

Last night Lord McIntosh, for the Opposition , said it was a mistake to leave .22 guns out of the measures. They had been used in the assassinations of both the Israeli president, Yitzak Rabin, and of the American senator, Robert Kennedy.

For the Government, the Home Office Minister Baroness Blatch said Labour's amendment was unnecessary and would cost and extra pounds 180m to implement.

Earlier, the Conservative peer Lord Swansea, a former chairman of the British Shooting Council, had argued that part of the Bill should go to a committee, adding that Britain's participation in Olympic pistol shooting would be damaged by even a partial ban. A total ban would not make much difference, he said.

However, after hearing Baroness Blatch arguing that such a move would "imperil" the Bill, he withdrew. "The general feeling in the house is contrary to my suggestion," he said.