HC Deb 21 April 1999 vol 329 cc584-5W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many legally registered firearms have been(a) reported stolen, (b) found to be missing and (c) otherwise separated from (i) private and (ii) public owners in each of the last 10 years; and what percentage that represents of the total number of legally held weapons. [81134]

Mr. Boateng

The information is not available in the form requested. However, figures for the misappropriation of firearms are published annually in Chapter 3 of "Criminal Statistics: England and Wales", copies of which are in the Library.

"Misappropriation" in this context covers firearms stolen, obtained by fraud or forgery, or handled dishonestly but not accidental loss, for which the Home Office does not maintain records. Before 1995, the figures for the misappropriation of firearms were for the number of incidents. A single incident could relate to more than one firearm. From 1995, figures record the number of actual firearms reported as having been misappropriated. The figures cover all firearms including those that do not need to be held on certificate. Details of ownership are not recorded. The totals for each of the last ten years for which figures for England and Wales are available are given in the table.

Misappropriation of firearms
1988 1,875
1989 1,821
1990 2,089
1991 2,500
1992 2,750
1993 3,190
1994 2,830
1995 3,915
1996 3,679
1997 2,912

Prior to 1995, only estimates of the number of firearms and shotguns held on certificate were recorded centrally. Although details of actual numbers were subsequently recorded, comparing the figures for misappropriated firearms for the last three years against the total number of firearms held on certificate in those years does not provide a reliable estimate of the proportion of lawfully owned firearms that are misappropriated every year. The former figures include firearms that need not be held on certificate (eg air weapons, starting guns and imitation firearms) whilst the latter figures do not cover all lawfully owned firearms (eg they do not cover firearms held by registered dealers, those held by the Crown or those that do not require a certificate). Subject to those significant caveats, the figures given in the table provide a very rough estimate of the proportion of lawfully owned firearms in England and Wales which have been misappropriated since 1995.

Number of firearms on certificate Number of firearms misappropriated Percentage
1995 1,739,400 3,915 0.225
1996 1,753,300 3,679 0.210
1997 1,648,900 2,912 0.177

Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the types of (i) public and (ii) private institution falling within his area of responsibility in which individuals aged under 18 years may be trained in the use of firearms; and if he will estimate the numbers of individuals receiving such training in each type of institution in each of the last five years. [81135]

Mr. Straw

There are currently a total of 113 target shooting clubs at schools in England and Wales which have been approved by the Home Office under the terms of section 15 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. All approved clubs are expected to have at least ten members but no record is kept centrally of the number of members at any one time. Nor is any record kept by the Department as to which of these are state and which are private schools.

The Home Office is also responsible for the approval of target shooting clubs other than those based at schools. There are 1,314 clubs approved in England and Wales many of which will have younger members under the age of 18.

Prior to the passage of the Armed Forces Act 1996, the Home Office was responsible for the approval of cadet corps based at schools, colleges and universities. In 1996, there were 600 such corps, of which approximately half were based at schools and likely therefore to have members under 18. The number of individual cadet members at that time is not recorded.

It is not possible on the basis of the information kept to provide an estimate as requested of how many young people have been trained in the use of firearms over the last five years.