§ Mr. Paice
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance he has issued to police forces since 1 May 1997 with regard to the implementation and enforcement of firearms legislation; if the guidance suggested a reduction in approval or renewal of firearm licences or shotgun certificates; and if he will place copies in the Library. 
§ Mr. Charles Clarke
Since 1 May 1997, the Home Office has issued three circulars on firearms licensing matters to all police forces in England and Wales: Home Office Circular (HOC) 32/97 on the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, HOC 68/97 on the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 and HOC 41/98 on the Firearms Rules 1998. In addition, a letter to all chief officers on 19 October 1999 provided guidance on fittedness to possess firearms and a letter to all chief officers of 10 March 2000 provided guidance on the secure storage of firearms.
The Home Office has not suggested to chief officers that the number of firearm and shotgun certificates on issue should be reduced as a matter of policy. Home Office guidance on firearms licensing has always made clear that each case should be dealt with on its own merits. The aim of our controls on firearms is to protect public safety rather than to reduce the overall number of firearms in lawful hands.
Copies of the three Home Office circulars were placed in the Library at the time of their issue. I will arrange for copies of the guidance on security and the guidance on fittedness to be placed in the Library.