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Plymouth Shootings | Commons debates

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement.

Today we mourn Sophie Martyn, who was only three, Lee Martyn, Stephen Washington, Kate Shepherd and Maxine Davison. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) for his work. I know that he has been affected very deeply, as has his community.

The juror’s conclusions are searing and the IOPC report damning. There was “catastrophic failure” at Devon and Cornwall police in the individual decisions taken, in the appalling lack of supervision, training and oversight, and in the rules themselves. There is no automatic right to bear arms in this country; there is no right to be given the benefit of the doubt.

After Dunblane, firearms units were to be given as much training and guidance as possible, yet Devon and Cornwall police had no formal training for two decades. The firearms licensing supervisor told the court that he had done a two-day training course in 1998 but nothing else until 2020. How could it possibly be that the person in charge of deciding whether someone was safe with a gun was not even trained on how to use the risk manual? That casual approach to risk was dangerous and proved to be fatally flawed.

The last HMIC inspection on firearms was eight years ago in 2015. I am glad that the Minister has told us that the next one will be completed in 2024-25, but why do we need to wait a year? Can it not be brought forward? The 2015 inspection raised concerns that police force practice on licensing was inconsistent, but the public consultation on statutory guidance started only in 2019. The Government failed to respond to the consultation. Jake Davison used his licensed weapon to kill five people in 2021. Since the Keyham shooting, Devon and Cornwall police now reject 6% of gun applications, but the national average across England is only 3%. It is terrifying to think that other pump-action shotguns could be in the wrong hands.

Jake Davison’s child and teenage history should have triggered far more questions and expert advice. There was information about him that was never revealed. The mental health marker is finally being introduced, but it is in statutory guidance rather than a legal duty, and experts have raised concerns about the new system. Is the Minister aware of those concerns, and is he satisfied with the new marker? What are the Government’s plans to ensure that there is a proactive approach to risk management on firearms licensing? How will the Minister ensure that statutory guidance is followed by police forces and that they are held to account on it?

Jake Davison was an incel. The online radicalisation of young men has been overlooked for far too long. In the past year, there were 77 referrals to Prevent for incel, and 154 referrals for potentially planning or thinking about a school massacre. Will the Minister explain whether there is a flag on Prevent systems to notify the police if someone referred to Prevent has a gun licence? What action are the Government taking to tackle misogynist extremism, because their watering down of the Online Safety Bill means that misogynists and incel gangs will continue to proliferate online? The current counter-extremism strategy is eight years out of date. When will the Government update the strategy? Why does the Minister not accept the IOPC’s recommendations in full? I understand he is waiting 60 days for other pieces of work to be concluded, but he could accept the IOPC’s sensible recommendations in full today.

The new chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police has called for legislation on firearms licensing. Does the Minister agree? We are alert to concerns about pump-action shotguns in homes. What is the Home Office view on that? Labour in government will initiate a review of gun licensing laws. We must learn the lessons so that what happened in Keyham can never happen again. Nothing else will do.