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Antique Firearms Regulations 2020

Volume 809: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2021

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

My Lords, the regulations were laid before this House on 9 November. This country has some of the toughest gun controls in the world and we keep them under review to safeguard against abuse by criminals and terrorists. The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 banned certain rapid-firing rifles and devices known as bump stocks and, in December, we began a three-month surrender and compensation scheme to take these and a range of offensive weapons out of civilian possession. In November, we launched a public consultation on a range of firearms safety issues, including security requirements for high-powered rifles.

The regulations will prevent criminals exploiting a lack of clarity in the current law to gain possession of antique firearms for use in crime. Under the Firearms Act 1968, antique firearms that are possessed, purchased, sold or acquired as “a curiosity or ornament” are exempt from most of our firearms laws, including licensing control. Unfortunately, the Act does not define “antique firearm”. The Home Office has published guidance on which firearms can safely be regarded as antique, but criminals have been taking advantage of the lack of a legal definition to obtain old but functioning firearms for use in crime.

The number of antique firearms recovered per year in criminal circumstances increased from four in 2007 to 96 in 2016. The number of recoveries has since decreased but remains at an unacceptably high level. In more than half these recoveries, ammunition capable of being used with a firearm was also present. Sadly, there have been six fatalities since 2007 linked to the use of antique firearms. The problem was highlighted by the Law Commission in 2015. It recommended that there be a statutory definition of “antique firearm”. The Government accepted this recommendation and included a power in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to define “antique firearm” in regulations. The Home Office held a public consultation to seek views on the detail of the definition. After careful consideration of the feedback, and following discussions with expert stakeholders on the technical aspects, I am pleased that we are now able to bring forward these important regulations.

The regulations will define in law which firearms can safely be regarded as antique and therefore exempt from control, and which should be subject to licensing. They are based closely on the existing Home Office guidance, so will be familiar to law enforcement, collectors and dealers alike. They specify a cut-off date of manufacture, after which a firearm cannot qualify as an antique. They also specify a range of propulsion systems and obsolete cartridges which are safe to be regarded as antique.

When read with the relevant provisions in the Firearms Act 1968, the regulations will mean that, to be regarded as an antique, a firearm must be held as a curiosity or ornament, have been manufactured before 1 September 1939, and either have a propulsion system specified in the regulations or be chambered for one of the obsolete cartridges specified in the regulations. Following concerns raised by law enforcement, the list of obsolete cartridges does not include seven types that, together with their associated firearms, feature most often in crimes involving antique firearms. This means that those firearms will no longer be regarded as antique.

I realise that omitting these seven cartridges will be disappointing for collectors, who will see a drop in the value of their associated firearms. However, public safety is paramount, and it is the Government’s duty to protect communities from gun crime. We are being balanced in our response to this problem. Existing owners of firearms will be able to retain them on a firearms certificate and we will make commencement regulations to allow a transition period of three months for them to do so.

We have also added 23 obsolete cartridges to the list following advice from law enforcement that they will not present a threat to public safety. This brings additional firearms into the definition of “antique”.

The Government want to ensure that these regulations remain relevant and effective. There will be annual reviews to consider the latest developments in criminal use of antique firearms. We will also carry out a full review of the regulations every three years. Law enforcement and representatives of collectors and dealers will be involved in these reviews.

Public safety is the Government’s top priority and these draft regulations will help to prevent criminal use of antique firearms. I commend them to the Committee.

My Lords, I appear to be stalking the Minister, as I turn up on all occasions when she presents, as she did yesterday on the important domestic abuse legislation. On every occasion I find myself reflecting on the past and wishing that I had done more in the areas she addresses. That is true today.

We are iterating as we go, because the changes the Minister described this afternoon build on what has been done over many years since 1968. I remember the terrible events at Dunblane and the actions we had to take under the then Conservative Government, and the changes we made when I was Home Secretary. On each occasion there appeared to be a loophole and something else that needed to be done. As I said yesterday in the Chamber, I appreciate that this is inevitable because we are learning as we go along, and so are criminals and perpetrators. They learn how to adapt and to adopt new methodologies as we close a loophole.

I am strongly in favour of the regulations. It may appear to be a very small measure but I am clear, as the Minister said, that we are attempting to close loopholes on risk. If anything puts people at risk—and use of these historical weapons has grown—we should try to close the loophole.

My only comment is that there is absolutely no real inconvenience to collectors, whether in the public sphere such as museums, or individuals who have developed a collection over the years. There is no real harm in asking them to register what they have because criminals will redeploy their skills on those historical weapons and in some cases make them operable, although it is more difficult with the ammunition. We sometimes create a bureaucratic barrier that does not really exist and would not be a problem for people registering. I put that on the table.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, I really do not have much objection to these regulations in principle. My gut reaction, however, is about the cut-off date of 1939, and the stability of the technology—creating a bullet and firing it down a metal tube, which is spun to give it accuracy. It is very established and goes back a long way, certainly to the mid-part of the 19th century. I wonder if we should not have pushed it back a bit further; I would have thought that the end of the First World War had a nice ring about it, as opposed to the start of the second. At just over 100 years, it would also make it antique even in the most pedantic of senses.

The main question here is: what criteria and threshold are we going to have for introducing the calibres of weapons that will be regarded as antique, which are not to be used but banned in future? It may be established that it is comparatively easy to repurpose, if you get the right technology and list of chemicals together. If you have the propellant and the chamber for it, you can fire it. What criteria will be used to make sure things are added to this list, or indeed taken off it? I do not think that will happen often but it could be there. If we could get an idea about this, I would be slightly happier about these provisions because of some small steps.

For instance, I live near Hungerford and catch a train there. There was a handgun used in part of the Hungerford attack; we waited until Dunblane to ban it. When are we going to get something slightly more proactive to deal with this? Handguns, in particular, are small and very short-range weapons designed for killing people. Historically, to put it in context, they replaced a sword. They are for killing people up close. They are not weapons for accuracy or sporting weapons. Can we have a better idea about how we will judge when something is deemed to be dangerous?

My Lords, I refer the Committee to my entry on the register. I broadly welcome these regulations, which bring changes to the law on antique firearms. Section 58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 provides that an antique firearm possessed, acquired, et cetera

“as a curiosity or ornament”

is no longer subject to the provisions of the Act. However, Parliament has consistently refused to give a definition of an antique firearm. I well recall during my term as chairman of the Firearms Consultative Committee—I was appointed two weeks before Dunblane—that we regularly struggled to define antique firearms and continually deferred discussion on the issue to the next meeting. I am not sure whether that next meeting ever arrived.

This statutory instrument is therefore to be welcomed, but with a word of caution. It provides that an antique firearm can only be one which conforms to the criteria that it was manufactured before 1 September 1939 and is of a defined propulsion system. Any other firearm, irrespective of age, type and more, cannot be considered antique in law if it does not meet these criteria. The chief officer of police no longer has any discretion, as was formerly the case. I welcome the clarity being imported into what has for many years been a very uncertain area.

What is less welcome is the modification of the so-called obsolete calibres list. Some revolver cartridges will be removed from the list, including the .44 Smith & Wesson, the 11 mm French and the 10.6 mm German. I would go further, but my time is restricted. Many people have acquired antique firearms chambered for these calibres since the guidance changed in 2002. Values range from the low hundreds to many thousands of pounds; they were bought as investments in many cases. It will be possible to apply for a firearms certificate to continue to possess such firearms, and the good reason test will not be applied, as I understand it. However, not all applicants will match the suitability criteria currently required for FACs. Those people affected will have to dispose of their lawfully acquired property for whatever value the market will give them, so the value of those firearms is likely to plummet and there will be no compensation.

The amendment of the obsolete cartridge list has been based on imperfect data supplied by NABIS, which alleges that there has been a steady rise in the number of antique revolvers used in armed crime. In truth, there have been seven fatalities, six of which were encounters between violent criminals who would have used any type of firearm available to them to settle their scores. The small proportion of antiques used in crime therefore surely makes the measure wholly disproportionate. Some 23 cartridges will be added to the obsolete cartridge list. Can my noble friend give me an assurance that the regulations, and the list, will be reviewed every three years and that the review group will include both collector and trade representatives?

My Lords, my interest in this matter is sparked by the fact that, before the first lockdown in March, I was in discussions with the British Shooting Sports Council to become an officer of that organisation. It is not declared in the register because I think I have been proposed but not yet nominated; I am not quite clear what has happened in the past nine months but I will find out.

Having read the documents, this does not seem a huge issue. The Government’s response is fairly balanced. What always concerns me is using a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut; I hope that that is not the case here. I note the Law Commission recommendation. I heard the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. As a former Home Secretary, he knows a lot about this and his comments seemed sensible.

I note the cut-off date of 1939. When I was at school, I was in the CCF. In the school armoury, I think we had pre-1939 Lee-Enfield mark 4s. Times have changed but, as far as I am aware, none of the Merchant Taylors’ schools—

My Lords, I must adjourn the Committee for the next five minutes, as a Division has been called. Oh, my apologies; it is in the Commons. Let us begin again.

I was just going to say that all the rifles—about 100 of them—in the school armoury were pre 1939, were not used in crime as far as I am aware and were extremely accurate. They have now all been dispersed, of course. There was an occasion when the IRA tried to steal rifles from, I think, Felsted School around 1968; they were dangerous and it is obviously much better that we do not have dangerous weapons hanging around.

I support my noble friend the Minister.

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s introduction. I was anxious to find out what policy the Government were pursuing. I have been through the 1968 Act, which is probably one of the most amended Acts we could see.

From what my noble friend the Minister has told us, it appears that we are following the Law Commission’s recommendation in defining more closely what constitutes an antique rifle. There certainly has been a problem with uncertainty over what exactly was covered in the previous legislation.

Section 58 seems to lay down weapons that are not subject to the firearms legislation and to which licensing does not apply. Does that suggest that any gun manufactured before 1939 could be argued to qualify for not requiring a firearms certificate? I am sure that there are guns in estate gun-rooms from well before that time. I declare my interest, in that I have used quite a few guns from before 1939—some of which the police have persuaded me to hand in and a couple of which I retain.

I understand that any breach-loading gun desired to be kept as an antique in Scotland has to be disabled and the breach sliced open before it can be kept as unlisted. Have the unscrupulous people that my noble friend the Minister mentioned been able to restore such guns so that they can sell them illegally to individuals?

What will be the situation once the measures are in place? I have some ammunition that features in the schedule. My noble friend the Minister gave some information on the criteria used to draw up the list of ammunition, but it would be useful to know whether it is merely a question of what is no longer commercially manufactured.

My Lords, the use of antique firearms in criminal activity has risen in recent years. Antique firearms kept as ornaments are currently exempt from several provisions in firearms legislation. At present, there is no statutory definition of an antique firearm. For that reason, this instrument will better regulate the sale of such firearms and responds to concerns raised with the Government by law enforcement agencies about the increase in their use in criminal activities in recent years.

Section 58(2) of the 1968 Act exempts from most controls under that Act antique firearms

“sold, transferred, purchased … as a curiosity or ornament”.

This includes being able to possess them as a “curiosity or ornament” without needing a firearms certificate and trade in them without being registered with the police as a firearms dealer.

Recently, an increasing number of antique firearms have been recovered in criminal circumstances. There is obviously a need to regulate the sale and purchase of antique firearms; I welcome this initiative. There are also antique knives, swords, et cetera. Do the Government intend to regulate their sale and purchase?

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the evidence base and proportionate response to the problems addressed in these regulations. I note that it implies a confidence in the police’s ability to cope with a technically complex list of obsolete calibres and models of pre-1939 air guns, as well as being able to tell the difference between, for example, an antique Brown Bess musket and a modern one for use by re-enactors that will require licensing. That is most welcome. The police will not be able to do that, of course; they will turn to experts, who are readily available, but between them they will get these distinctions right.

If these regulations are passed today, a number of obsolete calibres can be freely gifted, loaned or sold because the Government have agreed with experts that these items pose an extremely low risk to society. I am delighted that the Home Office is considering things at this level of detail and very much hope that this will lead to a reconsideration of the concerns expressed during the passage of what is now the Offensive Weapons Act, in particular the assertion that the police could not tell the difference between a pre-1945 item and a modern one—a task that is much easier than the one that this regulation places on them. This had led to wording that threatens the destruction of some fascinating parts of our heritage and profitable parts of our film industry. I hope that, in future, we will see the spirit in which this regulation has been brought forward applied to our Second World War heritage.

My Lords, I recommend the article by Rupert Jones, “Firearms and Fury: The Rise of Gun Crime in the UK”, published in Counsel magazine for June 2018 and helpfully drawn to the Committee’s attention by the Library in advance of this debate. Together with the clear explanation by my noble friend the Minister, it makes the case for these regulations unanswerable. Were it permissible to do so, it should be annexed to the Official Report for this debate.

The penalties for gun crime are almost invariably severe. Mr Jones wrote about a registered firearms dealer who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for transferring illegal firearms and ammunition. He had Home Office authority not only to possess prohibited handguns but also to sell them. His criminal sideline involved making ammunition to fit antique guns. Despite being in prison since 2015, this man’s ammunition was being discharged by criminals on our streets and recovered by the police long afterwards. It very probably still is. It seems that one can lawfully buy a working handgun without any record of the transaction.

Despite the post-Dunblane restrictions, for some reason it was not thought that antique firearms, for which ammunition was no longer commercially manufactured, would be seen other than as items to be admired in collections. The non-commercial manufacture of ammunition is as old as gun-making itself. I have known people like me, who are legitimate and licensed owners of pre-1939 shotguns used only for game shooting, who used to make their own shotgun cartridges either to save money or as a hobby. That skill is well beyond me. However, my great-great uncle, the sixth Lord Walsingham—a trustee of the Natural History Museum until his death in 1919, perhaps one of the greatest game shots of his generation and a world-renowned ornithologist and lepidopterist—used to make paper cartridges filled with dust for a gun with a barrel no bigger than a pencil. He used them carefully to stun hummingbirds in the tropics so that he could study them close up.

Unfortunately, the private manufacture of modern ammunition specifically designed to be fired from otherwise lawful antique weapons in the course of crime is all too common. When I was Solicitor-General a decade ago, I learned that remarkably few handguns were used in a great many criminal shootings. A small number of illegally held handguns are available for hire to criminals and passed around from gang to gang. What I had not realised until I prepared for this debate is that the market is not limited to modern handguns and longer-barrelled weapons. Antique weapons are also used to commit crimes. If they are—I am sure that they are—we must do all that we can to prevent it. If these regulations help with that, so much the better.

Before concluding, I will say one more thing. At the time of the Dunblane reforms, ill-considered damage was done to the legitimate, competitive, Olympic sport of target shooting and its innocent participants. I join my noble friends Lord Shrewsbury and Lord Lucas in hoping that these otherwise commendable regulations cause nothing similar to law-abiding collectors of antique guns.

My Lords, I welcome the policy intent of these regulations and the Minister’s introduction to them. They seek to remove a category of firearms from harmful and malevolent use.

However, the Minister must explain the delay in bringing forward this new law. It is now over three years since the consultation on these regulations ended. The Government’s response to this consultation was published only last November, and that took just under three years. If the obligation to protect the public from harm is the prime objective, keeping the country waiting for this length of time is certainly not the way to go about it. I am bound to draw a parallel with the Surrender of Offensive Weapons (Compensation) Regulations 2020, which had a very similar consultation period, from October to December 2017. It took two and a half years to bring forward that legislation as well. Can the Minister reassure the Committee that there is no endemic failure in her department that prevents public safety measures of this sort being dealt with at pace?

One piece of information that was not clear from the documentation supporting the regulations is the source of the antique firearms recovered during criminal circumstances. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the current situation

“is being exploited by criminals to obtain old but still functioning firearms.”

Can the Minister explain how criminals are obtaining these weapons? Are they being purchased on the open market or are they being stolen from collectors, dealers or museums? If they are being purchased on the open market, that obviously adds considerable strength to the case the Minister made for these regulations.

However, on their own, these regulations will be insufficient because licensing alone does not completely stop malevolent use, particularly from theft of weapons of this sort. Supplementary to that issue, is it safe to assume that collectors and museums would not wish to render these weapons useless as firearms by altering or damaging them in any way because they would then lose market value or, in the case of museums, their importance as genuine artefacts?

As a result of the delay in implementation, these regulations are being introduced in the midst of a lockdown. This is particularly important for the impact on museums. At present, all museums are closed, certainly for the next few months and possibly for longer. That is right across the UK, not just in England. Many museum staff are furloughed, particularly for museums run by charities and private sector bodies. Zero income is being achieved through visitor entries and other footfall and their financial future is challenging to say the least.

The impact assessment demonstrates that these regulations will have cost implications for museums. For those affected by the regulations—some 200 museums in all—the costs fall unevenly on smaller institutions. The figures given in the impact assessment are £200 for a licence and £3,000 for appropriate storage facilities. These set-up costs can be crippling when museums are struggling with the effect of the pandemic and when there is zero visitor income. So much of their revenue comes from entry charges, where there is no free entry support from Governments across the UK, and from sales in catering and shopping outlets—as any visitor to the Imperial War Museum will see, these are very important—as well as any income they get from corporate and sponsored function hire. All of these options are closed. Will the Government, having delayed the introduction of these regulations since the consultation period ended more than three years ago, provide an appropriate period of grace, not just a fixed three-month period, for museums—at least to coincide with museums’ ability to bring staff out of furlough and recommence income generation so that they are not hit with a financial burden when their income is zero?

Finally, I welcome the regular review indicated in the regulations and the review body proposal. The challenge for the Government is to achieve an appropriate balance on the review body between the interests of collectors and dealers, law enforcement and museums. Can the Minister tell us the arrangements the Government are making for that balance to be achieved? With satisfactory answers to these points, it will be appropriate to welcome these regulations.

We are certainly not opposed to these regulations, but there appears to be some doubt on the Government’s part as to whether they will have any impact on the serious issue they are intended to address.

As the Minister said, the regulations seek to resolve concerns about the increased use of antique firearms in crime by providing a statutory definition of antique firearms. In so doing, the regulations set out to provide certainty on which firearms can be possessed or traded as an antique and thus be exempt from the need for a firearm certificate and the provisions of the Firearms Act 1968, as amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The Minister gave the figures. The number of antique firearms recovered in criminal circumstances was four in 2007, reached a peak of 96 in 2016 but was still at a figure of 68 in 2019. Since 2007, six fatalities have been linked to antique firearms.

The lack of a statutory definition of an antique firearm, as opposed to Home Office non-statutory guidance, has enabled criminals to obtain old but still functioning firearms without the control provisions and licensing requirements under the 1968 Act being applicable. As has already been commented on, in 2015 the Law Commission recommended defining “antique firearm” in legislation to remove ambiguity over what was meant and provide greater clarity for the police and other criminal justice agencies in enforcing the law and prosecuting offenders. That recommendation was accepted by the Government and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provided for a statutory definition, which led to a public consultation that year on the detailed aspects of the statutory definition.

Like the noble Lord, Lord German, I ask the Government to say in their response why it has taken more than five years to implement a Law Commission recommendation on a matter impacting on serious violent criminal offending at a time when violent crime has risen, and why it has taken three years from the conclusion of the public consultation on the detail of the statutory definition to bring these regulations forward. This might suggest a somewhat laid-back attitude to the incidence of violent crime, unless the Government say that the reason for the delay is that they still do not think that the regulations will actually have any impact on violent crime involving antique firearms.

If that is the case, such a stance would appear to be in line with the statement in the impact assessment—if I have understood it—that

“there is no robust evidence to indicate that re-classifying antique firearms in this way will reduce criminality involving antique firearms, serious violence, wounding or homicides.”

Does that statement represent the Government’s view of the effect, or rather non-effect, on public safety of these regulations, which have taken more than five years to appear following the Law Commission recommendation and have a net cost to business of £500,000 a year on top of set-up costs of £6 million? In their response, a clear statement is needed from the Government on not only the reason for the time it has taken to bring these regulations forward, but, in the light of the statement in the impact assessment, which I accept I may have misinterpreted, whether and why the Government think that these regulations will address two specific government issues.

The first issue is the concern mentioned in paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum:

“Law enforcement has raised concerns with the Government about the increased use of antique firearms in crime.”

In the light of the statement in the impact assessment, do the Government think that the regulations will address that concern?

The second specific issue arises, once again, in the light of the statement in the impact assessment that

“there is no robust evidence to indicate that re-classifying antique firearms in this way will reduce criminality involving antique firearms”.

The issue is whether, and why, the Government believe that these regulations will deliver on their stated primary objective, as set out in the impact assessment:

“The primary objective is to preserve public safety by strengthening firearms legislation to prevent the criminal misuse of antique firearms.”

Again, in the light of the statement in the impact assessment, do the Government believe that these regulations will deliver on that primary objective?

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.

Turning first to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, he nobly assists me in so much these days. Yesterday, he and the noble Lord, Lord Young, gave an absolutely fantastic lesson in how, by not doing things, we will come to regret them years later. Far from feeling as if I have been stalked, I have been greatly assisted by him, particularly when we can improve on what went before. The noble Lord stated his support for the regulations and I agree with his words: there is no real inconvenience in registering what people have and, if it helps to improve safety, all the better.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked about the cut-off date of 1939 and thought that 1914—or maybe 1918—would be a rather lovely date. Law enforcement and some other respondents to the Home Office’s consultation preferred a 1900 cut-off date. Although moving the date from 1939 to 1900 would reduce the risk from firearms of that period by requiring them all to be licensed, the majority of firearms manufactured during that period do not in fact feature in crime. They are held safely and responsibly by museums and collectors, with no danger to the public. Licensing them all would therefore add extra burdens on the museums referred to by the noble Lord, Lord German—along with collectors, dealers and the police—without significantly increasing public safety.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked me about the criteria, as did my noble friend the Duke of Montrose. I will go through those criteria again: to be antique, a firearm must be held as a curiosity or ornament, have been manufactured before 1 September 1939 and either have a propulsion system specified in the regulations or be chambered for one of the obsolete cartridges specified in them. He also asked a sensible question: how do we define “deemed to be dangerous”? There is no actual legal definition but the judgment on what is deemed dangerous is, I guess, the evidence of criminal use.

My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury questioned the reliability of NABIS data. I will take his points back. I concur that there were some inconsistencies in the NABIS data in its 2017 and 2018 annual reports in respect of recoveries of antique firearms. The head of NABIS subsequently had the data examined and found administrative errors in the figures used in the 2017 report. She has removed that inaccurate data from the NABIS website and put in place measures to ensure that there is no recurrence. The review of the list will be done every three years.

Moving on to my noble friend Lord Robathan, I just love listening to the stories from him and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier. Honestly, what went on in their schooldays? We did not have such fun at all, but I thank my noble friend for his support for these regulations.

My noble friend the Duke of Montrose asked about disabling guns in Scotland before they can be antiques. That is not part of the current arrangement or the new regulations, so it will not be required.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, is pleased with the regulations but he asked about knives and swords. They are subject to different controls.

My noble friend Lord Lucas asked—no, he was delighted with the regulations. He was pleased about the clarity of it being pre-1939 firearms, as opposed to post-1939 ones.

The noble Lord, Lord German, asked how firearms were obtained. The answer is: through a variety of methods. There is evidence that criminals are taking advantage of the lack of legal clarity to obtain old but still-functioning firearms for use in crime. In recent years, there have been several notable convictions involving antique firearms, with substantial sentences handed down by the courts. For example, in 2017, a former firearms dealer was convicted and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for firearms offences including supplying antique firearms to criminal gangs. In 2018, a firearms certificate holder was convicted and sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment for firearms offences including making ammunition for antique firearms and supplying it to organised crime groups.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked how the regulations would help. Basically, as I said, the problems of the current law on antique firearms were highlighted by the Law Commission in its 2015 report Firearms Law: Reforms to Address Pressing Problems. It recommended defining “antique firearm” in law, essentially following the model used in Home Office guidance.

The noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Rosser, lamented the delay in laying the regulations. As I understand it, it was necessary to take some time to consult widely on the detail of the regulations, some aspects of which are quite technical, and consider them carefully with expert stakeholders. However, I am pleased that we can now bring the regulations forward, which will strengthen the controls on antique firearms to prevent them falling into criminal hands.

Finally, I understand and empathise with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord German, about museums. I will take it back and see whether I can get a response for him.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.