Thank you for contacting me about the Policing and Crime Bill.
I appreciate you have concerns about the introduction of statutory guidance, I too am always quite cautious when it comes to Government intervention on these issues but I have been reassured as to the purpose of the guidance.
In 2015, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) carried out an inspection of police firearms licensing. Their report, published in September 2015, found that police forces frequently did not follow the guidance, resulting in inconsistent application of the law in different police force areas: an issue of which many of us are well aware and which can lead to unfair treatment of licence holders.
The Government is amending the 1968 Firearms Act to give the Home Secretary a power to issue statutory guidance to chief officers of police on their firearms licensing functions. Placing this obligation on chief officers will provide certainty that the Government's policies on firearms licensing are being followed, and ensure consistent application of the law by police forces.
The new statutory guidance will be developed with input from the police and other interested groups over the coming months, to come into force as soon as possible following enactment of the Bill. At this stage, the Government envisages it focusing on the process and criteria for assessing suitability for firearm and shotgun licences. However, other matters relating to the police's firearms licensing functions could also be included.
Let me assure you that the Government keeps the system under constant review. The proposed change aims to ensure that the highest standards of public safety are maintained.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.