Government removes proposals to ban military-grade weapons from key legislation

Labour calls move 'staggering' as home secretary promises public consultation

Wednesday 28 November 2018 22:04
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Sajid Javid said he would launch a public consultation on the rifle issue
Sajid Javid said he would launch a public consultation on the rifle issue

The government has come under fire for failing to ban certain military-grade guns in its new Offensive Weapons Bill.

Labour accused home secretary Sajid Javid of ignoring the advice of security experts after language outlawing 0.50 caliber rifles was dropped amid pressure from several Conservative and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP )MPs.

Louise Haigh. the shadow Home Office minister, called the move “staggering” and accused those members of being ”prepared to risk public safety”.

The bill, which was created following the recent spike in serious violence and targets acid and knife sales, would initially have implemented the ban but the home secretary later tabled amendments to remove it.

The amendments were supported by 309 votes to 274, majority 35, by MPs at the report stage.

Tory MP Huw Merriman told the Commons he was “a little hesitant” to support the changes given that two women were murdered near his constituency by a man who took guns from a shooting range.

Ms Haigh later told the debate that Labour had offered its support to the bill but expressed frustration at the “relatively meagre” proposals before MPs, adding they had been “watered down” as the government had “rolled over” in response to its backbenchers.

She said: “In the government’s complete paralysis in the middle of Brexit negotiations within their own party, the government has refused to listen to the voices of the most senior counter-terror and security experts in the country, and instead have once again allowed ideology to win the day.”

Labour supported a ban on 0.50 caliber rifles, she said.

She added: “It is frankly staggering we have arrived at this point. This was the secretary of state’s clause. It was backed by the opposition and he could have easily passed it through the Commons. The home secretary has not only caved in, he’s in fact gone a step further than even the rebels on his own benches were suggesting.

“These amendments will simply seek to preserve the status quo, leaving the security of these very dangerous weapons unchanged.”

Ms Haigh said Tory opponents of the ban favoured keeping the gun, bolt and ammunition in three separate safes but that the government had now proposed to keep security measures the same.

Conservative former minister Jonathan Djanogly, chairman of the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC), earlier thanked ministers for “having listened and acted” on 0.50 calibre weapons and said the BSSC wants to “fully engage with the government on getting the law right in this area”.

He said: “The proposal in this bill to ban firearms of more than 13,600 joules muzzle velocity, including 0.50 calibre guns, was not under any interpretation of the facts going to help the fight against crime. These guns are very expensive, costing around £20,000 each.”

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Mr Javid, speaking at the third reading, acknowledged there had been “tricky issues” with certain aspects of the bill and told MPs he would be launching a public consultation on the rifle issue.

The home secretary added that the bill would “prevent young people from getting their hands on dangerous weapons, such as knives and acid and causing irreparable damage”.

The bill passed its third reading unopposed and will head to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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