Members of the House of Lords piled pressure on the Government yesterday (6 February) by expressing support for an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill on firearms licensing guidance.
The amendment, tabled by Conservative Peer, Lord Shrewsbury, would place a legal duty on the Home Secretary to report to Parliament on the problems experienced with firearms licensing guidance, particularly around medical procedures. The amendment was supported by a number of Peers, including Lord Caithness, but was not voted on.
The Countryside Alliance has consistently argued that this Bill is an opportunity to address the crisis afflicting the firearms licensing medical procedures and worked closely with Lord Shrewsbury to table the amendment, which has the support of the British Shooting Sports Council.
During the debate, Lord Shrewsbury said: “I find it incredible that in a modern country such as ours, the Home Office and general practitioners cannot come to some sort of agreement for a level playing field on fees.” His comments were supported by Lord Ribeiro, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, who said “Providing firearms reports for the police is part of a GP’s job but not part of their core general medical services, so they have the freedom to charge as they wish to… we must address that lack of conformity now.”
Prior to the debate, representatives from the Countryside Alliance met the Home Office Minister, Baroness Williams of Trafford, and Labour’s Home Affairs Spokesperson, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, to raise the problems experienced by many people going through the licensing process.
Lord Kennedy supported the amendment in the debate saying: “The amendment is clearly a good addition. We certainly want consistency on medical checks, police checks and how people look at this issue.”
Deputy Lords Leader, Lord Howe, responded for the Government by saying that the Home Office recognised the problems with medical checks and said that these problems would be addressed as part of moves to make firearms guidance statutory. However, he conceded that the statutory guidance will only apply to the police and not to GPs, and was unable to confirm when the consultation on this would begin, saying it would be launched “shortly.” The same response given by Home Office Minister, Nick Hurd MP, in September last year.
Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, commented: “There have been problems in this area since the Home Office guidance on firearms licensing law was introduced in April 2016 and we now believe the only way to see action from the Government is the prospect of a statutory reporting duty on the Home Secretary.
“The Government must get its priorities right. Public safety would be better served by addressing the crisis with medical procedures, which affects every firearm and shotgun certificate holder, rather than seeking to ban certain types of large calibre rifles, which affect a very small number of people and present no proven risk to public safety.”
The Bill now moves to Report Stage where the Countryside Alliance will again be working closely with Lords to ensure the shooting community are treated fairly and all legislative changes are evidence-based.