On Monday in the House of Commons Kit Malthouse, the Minister of State for the Home Department and the Minister responsible for Policing issues answered a question that Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham had asked in written form. The question raises a number of concerns about the motivation that lies behind it and clearly many elements could have been answered more locally, and indeed may well have been. Of course there is also a possibility that Mr Loughton is setting out to try to challenge the local behaviour of a very credible public service who on this matter should be being defended as Kit Malthouse did. The question was as follows under the theme of Explosives and Firearms: Licensing
“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on what basis Sussex Police has instituted a mandatory requirement for anyone applying for the grant or renewal of a shotgun, firearm or explosives certificate from 1 January 2020 onwards to have their medical declaration information verified by their GP confirming that they do not suffer from any relevant medical conditions; and what guidance her Department has published on that requirement.”
One of the nonsensical aspects of the question is that irrespective of any statutory or mandatory questions, that before giving an individual the renewal for a shotgun, firearm or explosives certificate, it seems perfectly reasonable to get the person verified for their health. Of course this will no doubt irritate people who know their health is good, but sometimes such an issue can lead to a major challenge and such licences should not be handed out without some level of assessment. Indeed although there is currently no mandatory requirement for this, it was obvious from Malthouse’s response that the approach being taken by Sussex Police is very credible.
“The police are responsible for assessing the suitability of those applying for the grant or renewal of firearm, shotgun and some explosives licences, to ensure that they do not pose a danger to public safety. Consideration of an applicant’s medical suitability is part of the assessment. The Government consulted last year on the introduction of new statutory guidance to the police on their firearms licensing functions. The consultation included proposals for revised medical arrangements to ensure a more consistent approach in which forces do not grant a licence without sight of medical information from the applicant’s GP. We will publish the statutory guidance in due course following consideration of the responses to the consultation.”
Given that Tim Loughton used to be a Government Minister, one wonders why he cannot work this out for himself and indeed why he did not get a satisfaction from the question he raised with Sussex Police, assuming that he did so?