HC Deb 20 July 1994 vol 247 cc284-5W
Mr. Shersby

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the level of firearms fees and extend the period of validity of a firearms or shotgun certificate.

Mr. Byers

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are used in determining the level of fee paid for a firearm or shotgun licence.

Mr. Howard

We have been reviewing the level of fees under the Firearms Acts and considering whether the life of a firearm or shot-gun certificate should be increased. As a result of this, I will be laying an order in both Houses in the autumn increasing the following fees:

Current Fee Proposed New Fee
Firearm Certificate
Issue 46 56
Shot Gun Certificate
Issue 17 43
Renew 11 18
Registered Firearm Dealer
Issue of certificate 94 118
Home Office Club Approval 33 84

The following fees will remain at their current level:

Firearm certificate renewal 46
Firearm certificate variation 26
Firearm certificate replacement 9
Shotgun certificate replacement 8
Registered firearm dealer renewal 50
Register dealer in new area for purpose of game fair, etc. 12
Individual British visitor's permit 12
Group British visitor's permit 60
Museum licence 1200
Grant of coterminous certificate 5
1 Maximum.

I also intend to lay an order before both Houses in the autumn increasing the life of firearm and shot-gun certificates from three to five years, using the power granted to me by the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1992. I intend that both orders will take effect from 1 January 1995.

The proposed fee levels are designed to reflect the cost to the police service of operating the system, taking into account the best practice guidelines for administering the firearms licensing system which we issued to chief officers in 1991 and a subsequent costing exercise undertaken by the consultants Ernst and Young.

In calculating costs we have assumed that police forces are already well on the way to operating best practice and will continue to make efficiency savings during the five-year period over which costs have been calculated. In the case of shotgun fees the cost of additional checks required since the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 is reflected for the first time. In particular, on first application, the police must make a home visit to make sure that the requirement for safe keeping at all times is satisfied. The increase for issue of a shotgun certificate amounts to only £3 per year over the five-year period of certificate life. The fee for renewal of a shotgun certificate remains almost exactly the same per year as it is now.

Those shooters who take advantage of the coterminous certificate arrangements will be better off as they will still pay £51 for five-year certificates instead of three-year certificates.

Without these increases there would be a shortfall in income of some £8 million over the five years to meet the police costs, a shortfall which would have to be met at the expense of some other police activity.

I have today placed in the Library of both Houses a copy of the Ernst and Young report "Firearms Licensing Costs".

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be making a similar separate order in relation to fees in Scotland.