Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie was on the Daily Politics earlier today, outlining Labour’s economic plans to tackle the deficit, ahead of this afternoon’s motion on the ‘Charter for Budget Responsibility’. Sounds jolly, doesn’t it?
So, exactly what tax rises and spending cuts do Labour have up their sleeves to tackle the deficit? Well, from what Chris Leslie had to say, there are two: the 50p tax rate, and increasing the price of gun licences. Obviously! Why hadn’t anyone thought about raking in the cash from gun licences earlier?
Well, probably due to the fact that since there are currently just over 700,000 firearm and shotgun licences on issue in England and Wales, they’d need to up the price a fair bit to cover even the tiniest fraction of the deficit. Is singling out gun owners really the most constructive way of cutting the deficit that Labour can come up with? As Andrew Neil pointed out to Leslie, anything they’d raise from licences would be ‘tuppence’. And anyway, according to the Conservatives, Labour have already promised that any money raised from gun licence changes will go towards the police budget; so that won’t do the deficit much good.
Of course, there’s more to the gun licence issue than just cartridges and barrel sizes. Earlier this year, David Cameron was criticised for refusing to increase the price of gun licences, which since 2001 have cost £50 for a five year licence, and there are claims that the current price means that the police have to find £17million a year from their own budgets to fund them. Why wasn’t Cameron keen to raise the price? Who knows – but some say it may have something to do with his own penchant for having a pop at pigeons.
Either way, in late November the government and the police jointly proposed a raise in price for all firearms licences. The new fees were proposed after the police and shooting organisations, including BASC, worked together with the Home Office to examine police costs and processes. The updated price would cover the full cost of issuing licences, and would see the price of a shotgun licence raised to £79.50.
To many, singling out gun owners could be seen as just another example of class warfare from Labour; it’s very easy to simply assume that anyone who has a gun licence must be a toff. First they came for hunting, then for their houses; could the guns be next? It certainly seems like a fairly odd issue for them to focus on, especially when it would raise so little money. Even if it they did raise the price to £200, it wouldn’t do much good for the deficit. My maths tells me that something in the region of £140,000 per licence would be more suitable; perhaps a bit pricey for a few pheasants.