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Firearm Certificates

Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total number of firearm certificates in force in England and Wales at the latest available date; and how this compares with 1970.

The number of firearm certificates in force in England and Wales on 31st December 1974 was 185,865. The corresponding figure for 1970 is not available, but the figure for 1971 was 190,649.

I thank the hon. Lady for that information, which shows a slight decline in the number of licensed firearms. Will she say when the present review of firearm fees in the United Kingdom will be completed? Will she assure the House that any decision announced by the Government will not amount to a quadrupling of the fees required to possess firearms, as happened recently in Northern Ireland?

The firearm fees were set in January 1971 and various bodies are now being consulted about a possible increase. In the light of their comments, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will decide whether an increase is necessary.

Is my hon. Friend aware that a useful body to consult on these matters would have been a central advisory committee on the control of firearms—a body which I have suggested from time to time? Is it not more important to control the pool of illegally-held weapons, including automatic and other weapons, rather than the pool of the legitimately-held weapons, which includes only single-shot and semi-automatic weapons?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern. Every opportunity is made to tackle the problem of illegally-held weapons, but it is a difficult one. Even with certification of arms, they still get into the hands of irresponsible and unqualified people.