The most recent assessment of the net cost to police of processing firearms applications was undertaken by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2009-10. Its report estimated that the gross cost was £23.6 million; the income received was £6.4 million; therefore the net cost to the police was approximately £17.2 million.
The cost and system of licensing firearms must be proportionate and fair. Work is continuing across government to ensure that that happens.
If the cost of processing the licence and making sure that weapons are stored safely and securely is £17.2 million in excess of what the Government have raised, given the answer to Question 2, should not those who benefit pay? Why do the public have to subsidise the shooters in this case?
I have some sympathy for the point made by the hon. Gentleman, but I must point out that we went from 2001 to 2010 under the previous Government without any increase in firearms fees at all. He will understand that these matters have to be agreed across government, and other Departments have perspectives that have to be taken into account, but I am determined to make progress on this matter.
May I draw attention to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? I am the chairman of the all-party group on shooting and conservation, which has been studying the matter in considerable detail. Is not the important the fact that there should be uniform treatment across all 42 constabularies and that the police should adopt best practice to drive down costs so that each applicant, wherever they come from, can be sure that they are getting the very best value for money?