Target Practice

Lord Tyler

I wonder if any colleagues, or any regular readers, have ever tried to find the “Parliamentary Rifle Range”.  For some years, while I was still an MP, there were regular requests for this apparently anachronistic  facility, somewhere in the basement, to be replaced with a creche for the children of staff and members of both Houses.  One Conservative MP naughtily suggested that the two roles could be combined.

A few weeks back, I spotted the following exchange in the Commons:

Rifle Range

9. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): What the cost to the House of Commons Service of the rifle range on the parliamentary estate was in the latest year for which figures are available. [52659]

John Thurso: The range is situated in the House of Lords, so there is no direct cost to the House of Commons other than in respect of that percentage of the estate which is paid for by the House of Commons.

Diana Johnson: Given the continued sniping about some of the family-friendly measures that have been introduced, such as the crèche, and the need for the House of Commons and the House of Lords to make cuts to their budgets, are we not shooting ourselves in the foot by continuing to pay for a rifle range in the House of Lords?

John Thurso: I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for her attempt to brown the covey, but I suggest that she has to take a more targeted approach. This is a matter entirely for their lordships.


That seemed to throw the responsibility in our direction, so I initiated an exchange here, with the Chairman of Committees in the Lords:

House of Lords: Rifle Range

Asked by Lord Tyler

    To ask the Chairman of Committees what was the cost to the House of Lords of the rifle range on the parliamentary estate in the latest year for which figures are available.[HL4463]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): No such figures are available. The rifle range uses minimal amounts of lighting, but it is not possible to calculate the particular costs attributable to the rifle range. The House does not incur any other costs in relation to the rifle range, other than in respect of that percentage of general estate costs which is paid for by the House.

More mystery.  If this facility costs the taxpayer almost nothing, who runs this outfit?  Who is responsible for the security of the rifles and their ammunition?  Surely selected members are not permitted to wander round the building with them?  Is this not a potential weakness in our otherwise tight security?  And who pays for that security?   I tried phoning the Rifle Range (ext 3350 if you want to know), to get answers to these questions, but it rang without anyone answering.

This is all very unsettling.  If the House authorities are not responsible, who is?  To whom should I target my questions now?

19 comments for “Target Practice

  1. Shooter
    24/01/2013 at 4:28 pm

    You’ll find the range telephone rings through because, as is the nature of any sporting facility, it isn’t manned when not in use. Think of a Sunday league football team’s clubhouse.

    Assuming there is a “Parliament Rifle Club”, that body will be responsible for any firearms or ammunition stored on the premises. Storage may only occur with prior inspection and authorisation by the police. Otherwise, individual club members are responsible for their own personal firearms and ammunition.

    I cannot comment on security arrangements, not being a parliamentarian, but I would imagine any members bringing their own firearms and ammunition onto the estate will have arrangements to do so approved by Parliament’s security people, including protocols to ensure that public safety is maintained. That is, it’s inconceivable that anyone could just wander around Parliament willy-nilly with a firearm and/or ammunition. Extra security is not normally required at shooting venues, other than the legal requirement never to hand possession of a firearm over to a person who is not a member of a rifle club, or who does not hold a firearm certificate. Of course, it is illegal to possess a firearm in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse; the latter generally meaning the direct movement of a firearm to and from a range or other shooting venue.

    In terms of costs – again, assuming that the notional “Parliament Rifle Club” runs similarly to other rifle clubs, without subsidy – the running costs of the range other than building services such as lighting and fans will probably be met by club members from their own subscriptions. Expenses such as paper targets, target holding devices and ancillary shooting equipment such as shooting jackets and telescopes are customarily met by the club.

    The only potential area of expense would be a deep clean. If carried out by a specialist company – and bearing in mind that it is entirely comparable to deep cleaning your garage, and is a task well within the capability of the club’s members – that would incur a cost.

  2. 24/01/2013 at 5:02 pm

    Is it not even more concerning that the lighting on the rifle range is “limited”. Are they firing guns at each other in the dark?

    • Cristina Parker
      14/05/2013 at 8:09 am

      Perhaps they have signed up as some of the hired mercenaries planning to kill our badgers and they need to get some practice in.

      After all, we know how they are struggling to feed themselves. Luckily the taxpayer subsidises their meals to the tune of £6.1 million to keep them from starving.

  3. Hywel
    24/01/2013 at 5:14 pm

    That is worrying as there must be certain requirements regarding the operating of any gun club and I’d have thought that the rules on bringing firearms in to the Palace of Westminster were pretty tight. I can’t see how that runs at no cost.

    The comment here suggests there is a rifle club so this is more than just MPs and Peers.

  4. Gareth Huw Howell
    24/01/2013 at 6:22 pm

    Who is responsible for the security of the rifles and their ammunition?

    Rifles and ammunition of any sort now has to be securely locked up at all times, when not in use. I have an idea that the flightéd pellet/non lethal variety does have to as well, since even their barrels can be scrubbed up to do nasty things.

    I presume that this regulation is to prevent burglars shooting people with the guns they find when they break and enter to steal.
    That is what I was told, but it takes some beating to believe that is what a burglar would do. If he found the gun encasing he might think twice about breaking and entering that as well.

  5. Robert Doyle
    24/01/2013 at 11:25 pm

    My understanding was that the infamous rifle range was controlled by the Houses of Parliament Sports and Social Club.

    It was still being mentioned in the staff handbook in 2008, but appears to have vanished from the 2012 edition

  6. MilesJSD
    25/01/2013 at 7:30 am

    Even snapshooting is dominintly a one-dimensional skill having to operate within a seconds-&split-seconds slot within a narrow sub-window of a very limited, and holisticly limiting, timeline within the (possibly co-greatest-with-Space) Time domain.

    WW2 we had a .22 rifle range in almost every Public school in Britain; an essential survival skilling prep-place, briefest of ‘tactical’ skills.

    Surely the Parliaments have a much greater Need for an all-round-3D snapshhoting practice range, or virtual-room ?

    And a greatest-of-all Need for a longest-term Time sub-domain practice place for Recognising and Best-Meeting every citizen’s and lifesupport’s real-life Need & How ?

  7. Michael
    25/01/2013 at 9:05 am
  8. Gareth Huw Howell
    25/01/2013 at 11:54 am

    That is, it’s inconceivable that anyone could just wander around Parliament willy-nilly with a firearm and/or ammunition

    You would think so.

    I am not connected in any way with Hywel above, although I have used that name in the past, being the Welsh spelling of my patronymic.

  9. maude elwes
    25/01/2013 at 2:43 pm

    This appears to me as a boys game. The equivalent for women is?…..

    A health spa, with the opportunity of a beauty salon, massage of all kinds, reflexology and so on.



    Tanning boothe for those who like the mediteranean look.

    Ladies only Turkish Bath.

    Only fair after all.

  10. Senex
    25/01/2013 at 4:26 pm

    So this is where the firing squad trains? If you’re looking for the politics of US gun control – not going there.

    Well except to comment on the English Bill of Rights 1689 and its ‘Subject’s Arms’ clause: “That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.” More to the point why was this clause placed there, it looks out of place?

    In Scotland 1687 James II requires an oath to be taken:

    “…and that it is unlawful for subjects, on any pretence, or for any cause whatsoever, to rise in arms against him, or any commissionated by him; and that I shall never so rise in arms, nor assist any who shall so do; and that I shall never resist his power or authority, nor ever oppose his authority to his person, as I shall answer to God: but shall to the utmost of my power assist, defend, and maintain him, his heirs and lawful successors, in the exercise of their absolute power and authority against all deadly. So help me God.”

    This binds Protestants until the Bill of Rights releases them. The Bill does not release other faiths from the oath and they are still bound to defend James II. Oath loyalty is a big issue big thing at this time.

    Ref: Bill of Rights [1688]: Subject’s Arms
    Scottish Declaration of Toleration, February 12, 1687

  11. Tini
    28/01/2013 at 2:21 pm

    I would suggest that a room in the HoL basement without windows and down a steep staircase and some rather unpleasant corridors isn’t exactly suitable for childcare…
    I also believe it is paid for by the Sports and Social club and subscription.

  12. Mr Smith
    02/02/2013 at 12:42 pm

    I shall email you with all your answers Lord Tyler. However for the public, there is no cost towards the taxpayers. Also all members are check by Mi5 and have a background check.

    As for turning it into a creche? Do we want to put our children behind two strong doors in a windowless basement? We are not Austria!

    • maude elwes
      04/02/2013 at 11:26 am

      @Mr Smith:

      Leaving a child is a torture imposed on women by the sick politics those who call themselves ‘feminists’ in this stupid country have adopted as a normal practice. And then to give the idea to the nation that this is a good practice is sick.

      Women should fight back.

  13. Lord Blagger
    04/02/2013 at 11:40 am

    So are MI5 working for free?

    Of course there’s a cost to the public.

    • Mr Smith
      04/02/2013 at 10:55 pm

      The only people who are or can be members work on the Parliamentary Estate. Everyone who works on the PE need a background check. This is standard practice working here.

      So there is no direct cost to the taxpayers. As the answers given to Lord Tyler, the only thing you would be paying towards are the lights. However you cannot break down a company budget to work out how much each light cost to run in Parliament and bill everyone individually.

  14. Cristina Parker
    13/05/2013 at 4:33 pm

    In view of the fact that those who practice and condone cruelty yo animals are ‘borderline psychotic’ is it a good idea to have this facility available?

Comments are closed.