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Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 5:00 pm, 7th December 2016

My Lords, perhaps I may first deal with some of the questions that have arisen out of Amendment 169A. Both the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friend Lord Hailsham asked about the age threshold of 17—the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, probably thought that it was too low and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, thought it too high. The age of 17 or over for borrowing rifles reflects the current position under Section 16 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988—which the noble Viscount may have taken through Parliament himself.

The noble Viscount asked about firearms accidentally left in someone’s house, and I will write to the noble Viscount on that. I understood that if you held a firearms licence yourself, it was okay for someone to leave something in your house, but I am not certain on that point so I will write to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether the provisions were new. The answer is both yes and no, because they amend current legislation. After careful consideration, we have decided to clarify and align the existing provisions for the borrowing of a rifle or shotgun to practise the hunting of animals and the shooting of game or vermin on private land. He also asked whether individuals with a qualifying criminal record are prohibited from possessing a firearm under Section 21 of the 1968 Act. It is for the lender to satisfy himself or herself that a borrower does not have a relevant criminal record when he or she is lending them a firearm.

On being present, the lender would have to be present. If the borrower needed to go to the toilet, for example, they would have to leave the certificate-holder with the weapon while they went to the loo.

I will just respond to Amendment 169B from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. The Government agreed that fees for firearm certificates should be set on a cost recovery basis. I am happy to confirm, as I did in my letter to the noble Lord, that the cost of these certificates is expected to reflect the full cost of licensing once a new, more cost-effective online licensing system is in place. We already increased the fees for civilian firearm certificates in line with this objective, and Clause 117 allows us to set fees for licences issued by the Home Office and the Scottish Government. As I think I said in Committee, this will save the taxpayer around £700,000 a year.

As I also think I said in Committee, work is under way on the new system, managed by the police ICT company in conjunction with police forces. I recognise that the noble Lord would like greater certainty about when the new online system will be in place and what will happen in the interim. I share his frustration regarding the progress made with the development of the online licensing system. Accordingly, the Policing Minister will write to the national policing lead for firearms for an update on progress.

However, I am able to offer greater clarity on the timing of the next review of police firearms fees, which will commence in the new year and consider both the levels of fees and the progress made in implementing online licensing. In addition, we will review the current firearms licensing IT system to ensure that it continues to meet the operational needs of policing until a new capability is delivered. I will keep the noble Lord—and other noble Lords—updated as this work progresses.

To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the Government’s position is that all fees should be set on the basis of full cost recovery, as set out in Treasury guidance. There is therefore no discrimination against any particular category of fee payers. I hope with those words of explanation—