Actors Of Parliament
This issue’s look at parliamentary gobble-de-gook.
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 15.
Not even The Sun, that most virulent of right wing tabloids, could believe six Tory MPs would fail to support the electorally lucrative idea of banning handguns.
But, despite the Home Office’s own research concluding that gun ownership and violent crime are linked, that’s exactly what happened.
The Select Committee of 11 MPs set up following the shootings in Dunblane, reported their findings on gun ownership to the Government in August. They were widely expected to recommend a complete handgun ban.
But six of the eleven, a majority, and all Tories, rejected the idea. Their position was especially surprising in view of the Government’s own unusually firm pronouncement that it would support such a ban. What could make these six fly in the face of common sense and the expected loyalty of Tory MPs to their government?
Perhaps a clue can be found in the attitude of a further 32 Tory members who told the Government they would vote against any ban. Each of these 32 list shooting amongst their recreations in the Parliamentary handbook, Dod’s.
And, what’s more, one of them - a certain Warren Hawksley - also sat on the Select Committee. Of course, we at Squall feel sure he would have declared his interest. Not.
Another five Tory MPs are said to be partial to “country pursuits”. But with such an emotive issue, surely not even these 37 wise and noble statesmen could sway the august body of Parliament?
After Dunblane, the gun lobby went into overdrive, hiring top PR consultants to fend off any potential curtailment of their enjoyment.
The British Shooting Sports Council began urging members not to use human looking targets or wear para-military uniforms. The Shooter Rights Association warned of higher taxes (?!) should handguns be banned. An umbrella group of gun ownership organisations has been established asking for £25 a head fighting fund.
But surely the gun lobby couldn’t nobble a parliamentary committee? Not even one with Warren Hawkesley on it?
Sir Patrick Lawrence is the vice chairman of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations - the voluntary wing of the Tory party. By an amazing coincidence he is the very same Sir Patrick Lawrence who chairs the British Shooting Sports Council - the organisation which co-ordinated the gun lobby’s evidence to the Dunblane inquiry.
Peter Atkinson is a Tory MP. The very same Peter Atkinson MP who is the parliamentary and public consultant to the British Fields Sports Society.
John Kendall PR Limited is the name of a top PR company which represents the British Shooting Sports Council. Amongst its directors is one Sir Peter Temple-Morris, - a Tory MP.
It is, of course, wholly unlikely that the six Tory MPs on the Select Committee - Sir Ivan Lawrence, David Ashby, Walter Sweeney, John Greenway, Dame Jill Knight and Warren Hawksley - took the rap for the decision the government really wanted to make.
AND on the subject of shooting, agriculture minister Douglas Hogg outed himself and his “ministerial colleagues” as lovers of blood sports during a Game Fair in July.
“My ministerial colleagues and I are passionate defenders of field sports. I shoot and I fish. I do not hunt - at least not yet - but I resolutely champion the rights of those who do,” he said.
The Eton-educated minister added that his government had “done a great deal to protect people from the disgraceful violent protests one finds at many hunts”.
Speaking at the Fair in Lincolnshire, Mr Hogg, who has been criticised for making a pig’s ear of the BSE crisis, added that the sports gave “pleasure to millions”.
“They are a traditional and significant part of country life,” he said. “People have an absolute right to go about their lawful business and I utterly condemn those who seek to frustrate them.”
He added that field sports injected £2.7 billion into the countryside economy.
Actors of Parliament - the latest hot air from the house - Squall 13 - Summer 1996.