Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?
Keith Vaz: We published our report only 18 hours ago, so I do not expect the Minister to respond to each and every one of its 22 recommendations, but the fact that he has picked up those three points makes it clear that the Government understand the nature of the inquiry and the need for further consideration of the recommendations. Can he give me an idea-without necessarily specifying a month-of the approximate time within which the Government will respond to the report?
Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tells me that he is going to say “two months” in his winding-up speech. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman considers that a suitable period within which to respond to such a sensitive issue.
The issue of the mental health of applicants for firearm and shotgun certificates has also been raised. As the Committee has noted, it has now been agreed between the British Medical Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police will notify a GP of the grant and renewal of a firearm and/or shotgun certificate. The implementation of that arrangement is being sought within the next six months. In essence, the process will involve a system of notification by way of a standard letter, which means that GPs will be in a position to alert the police if they have any concerns. The police will then be able to request a medical report under the procedures mentioned at the start of the debate. I believe that that is a welcome move. There will be further discussions in due course about the possibility of placing a marker on computerised medical records to create a more enduring record of which patients own a firearm.
I believe that that development indicates that the authorities have been able to take sensible steps to improve the operation of firearms laws in the light of public concern. However, I agree with the Select Committee’s suggestion that requiring firearms applicants to undergo a compulsory medical check would be costly and would be regarded as disproportionate.
Overall, the Committee’s contribution to an ongoing subject of consideration is very useful, and we will consider it fully before deciding on our final course of action. As we consider our response, it will be important to provide an opportunity for wider engagement with the issues, and we will announce shortly how we will ensure that it is provided.