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Firearms Certificates (Fees)

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the review of the method of assessing firearm fees will be commenced and will be completed.

Preliminary work has already started, and I expect the review to be completed in the autumn.

As firearm certificate fees increased by 70 per cent. on 1 July, and in recent years there have been many startling increases, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that no further increases will be made until a restructured method of assessment is arrived at which puts the matter on a fairer basis?

In the considerable discussions that I had with my hon. Friend before the firearms fees were increased, I made it clear that we should have a review to see how matters could be improved for the future. I stand by that.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that law-abiding holders of legally registered firearms would be grateful if he would confirm that firearms used by criminals are a completely different matter? Will he accept that the proposed increase cannot be justified on any ground, including inflation? Will he reconsider the increase in the cost of firearms certificates?

I have undertaken to review the length of certificates and the possibility of putting firearms certificates and shotgun certificates together. I believe that that is reasonable. I shall not go into the arguments for raising fees, which we have already debated. I could give the right hon. Gentleman a more convincing answer if I could bring the Treasury in on my side.

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that shooting in the countryside is a natural pursuit, enjoyed by a wide range of the community? Does he agree that it is not solely a rich man's sport, and should, therefore, not be used as an excuse for revenue-raising?

Shooting in the countryside is certainly not being used as an excuse for revenue-raising. It will not surprise the House to hear that I fully endorse what my hon. Friend says.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he might be greatly assisted in carrying out the review if a joint working party was set up consisting of Home Office and shooting sports interests?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I had discussions with the shooting sports interests both on whether further legislation is necessary, which I decided against, and the increased fees for firearms certificates, on which we disagreed. I am always prepared to discuss such matters with shooting sports interests. I take such matters seriously.