by Countryside Alliance

The Government has announced that a public consultation on plans to introduce statutory firearms licensing guidance will begin by July this year, and will include measures to resolve the crisis afflicting the firearms licensing medical procedure.

The commitment was given during the latest debate on the Offensive Weapons Bill in the House of Lords, following pressure from peers from all parties, including Lord Shrewsbury, who tabled an amendment which would have forced the Government to publish the consultation within three months of the Bill becoming law.

The Countryside Alliance has consistently argued that this Bill is an opportunity to address the crisis afflicting the firearms licensing medical procedure and worked closely with Lord Shrewsbury to table the amendment.

Home Office Ministers have given repeated assurances that the problems with the medical procedures will be addressed as part of moves to place the existing advisory guidance on a statutory footing. However, until the debate yesterday (Monday 4 March) no timetable for this had been confirmed.

Responding for the Government, Lord Howe said that the three month time limit proposed by Lord Shrewsbury was “not an unreasonable commitment” and announced that “the Government are ready to give a commitment to open the consultation [on statutory guidance] by the Summer Recess” and therefore Lord Shrewsbury did not push his amendment to a vote.

Amendments tabled by Labour’s Home Affairs Spokesperson, Lord Kennedy, to reinstate the proposed ban on .50 calibre rifles, which was taken out of the Bill in the Commons, were not pushed to a vote. However, the Government backed an amendment which will force the Home Secretary to produce specific security and travel arrangements for large calibre rifles following a public consultation.

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, commented: “We are pleased that after months of frustration, the Government has announced a timetable for the long awaited firearms licensing consultation. However, the fact that proposals might not be published until the end of July shows that the Home Office is still a long way from getting to grips with the problems.

“The Countryside Alliance will continue to work with the Home Office, the police, and the medical profession, to ensure a fair and consistent approach to firearms licensing, which addresses the variation in how GPs are responding to police requests for medical information and the fees being charged to applicants.”

The Offensive Weapons Bill now moves to Third Reading before heading back to the House of Commons for final consideration, and finally Royal Assent.

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