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Volume 979: debated on Thursday 28 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the provisions for obtaining licences for firearms.

I have nearly completed a review of firearms matters generally, and hope to be able to make a statement shortly.

In view of the frequent use of shotguns in crimes of violence and the comparative ease with which a shotgun certificate can be obtained, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure, as a matter of urgency, that the regulations for obtaining shotguns are as stringent as those for obtaining other firearms?

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the issuing of firearms certificates is a matter for chief officers of police. It is one of the matters which I am considering and discussing with them.

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of introducing regulations for the control of the crossbow, which is an extremely dangerous weapon, not least because of its silence?

My hon. Friend will be the first to appreciate that a weapon such as the crossbow is not a firearm, by definition. I am advised that the police consider that they have adequate powers to deal with this matter, but I shall, of course, consider the position.

When reviewing the use of firearms, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the growing problem of the use of air weapons, especially by youngsters under 17 years of age? Will he give an assurance that in that review he will consider the issue in detail and see whether there is some way of bringing a growing social problem under control?

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about air weapons. It is an issue which I shall have in mind.

When my right hon. Friend is considering this procedure, will he consider whether he can make sensible economies in the issuing of shotgun and firearms certificates, perhaps by extending the life of the certificates?

I shall naturally consider that proposal. The cost of issuing the certificates and the charge that is made have to be considered at the same time.