10. We have taken oral evidence from the three main
bodies representing the police service in England and Wales (the
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Police Superintendents'
Association (PSA) and the Police Federation); Mr Colin Greenwood,
a firearms consultant who acted as specialist adviser to our predecessor
Committee in 1996; researchers into gun control issues from the
Scarman Centre for the Study of Public Order at the University
of Leicester; representatives of the British Shooting Sports Council
(BSSC) and the National Farmers' Union (NFU); a representative
of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(RSPCA), and representatives of the Gun Control Network (GCN).
We also took evidence from the Chairman of the Firearms Consultative
Committee (FCC), the body established in 1988 to advise the Home
Secretary on firearm matters, and from the Minister of State at
the Home Office, Mr Charles Clarke MP.
We greatly appreciate the assistance of all our witnesses in the
course of this inquiry.
11. On 1 February we visited the Firearms Licensing
Section of Northamptonshire Police at the invitation of the Chief
Constable, Mr Chris Fox. We are most grateful to him, his officers
and staff for organising the visit, and to the heads of the firearms
licensing sections of the West Midlands, Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire
forces who were also able to meet us on the day.
12. We have received a substantial number of written
submissions, many from representative bodies, but the majority
from individual members of the public. We are equally grateful
to those who have taken the time to make their views known to
us in this way. The principal written submissions are printed
in Volume II. A list of those submissions received but not printed
is contained at page lxxiii.
13. The law on firearms control in the United Kingdom
is not uniform. Controls over firearms in Northern Ireland are
provided for in the Northern Ireland (Firearms) Order 1981,
which is separate, and significantly different, from the body
of legislation which provides for firearms control in England,
Scotland and Wales.
In April 1998, following a consultation exercise, the then Secretary
of State for Northern Ireland announced proposals for reform of
the 1981 Order. Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, responsibility
for firearms issues is reserved to the Secretary of State. We
believe that a new Order may be made this year. We make no recommendations
regarding the present or proposed controls over firearms in Northern
Ireland, although we naturally expect the Home Office and the
Northern Ireland Office to be in close contact on this subject.
14. Under the Scotland Act 1998 the operation of
the vast majority of the provisions of the Firearms Acts 1968
to 1997 are reserved to the Secretary of State and not devolved
to the Scottish Ministers.
The Scottish police associations,
the Scottish Countryside Alliance,
the National Union of Farmers of Scotland
and a number of Scottish residents have all made submissions to
the Committee, many of which have stressed particular Scottish
issues and concerns to be taken into account in any consideration
of firearms control. Although the controls established under the
Firearms Acts apply equally across England, Scotland and Wales,
individual chief officers of police have responsibility for the
application of firearms licensing policy in their force areas.
Scottish police forces are as heavily involved in the administration
of firearms licensing as are their counterparts elsewhere in the
United Kingdom. As responsibility for those forces now lies with
the Scottish Executive, the scrutiny of executive policy in this
area is more properly undertaken by the Justice and Home Affairs
Committee of the Scottish Parliament. We hope it may find our
report of interest.