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Further delays have plagued the project to create the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS).

Two forces that have been piloting the database, Lancashire Police and the Metropolitan Police, will now have to run further tests. They have been forced to do so by the need to cleanse data so that information can be shared, and to configure different networks that have so far proved incompatible.

The next pilot involving the two forces is due to start in May 2006, to be followed by a nine month roll out across the country should it prove successful. A roll out schedule is yet to be agreed, but it is hoped the system will be installed across all forces by March next year.

"The forces operate on different systems, and it's not possible to mandate them to run off the same network," a spokesperson for the Police IT Organisation told Government Computing News. "We are now working on procedures to get around this issue."

Legislation for the database was in place almost 10 years ago, but the project has been repeatedly delayed due to difficulties in implementing the necessary standardised IT systems across 43 police forces.

Initially, the budget for the NFLMS was set at £5.5m, but following delays this has expanded by £1.5m.

Ministers have received much criticism for failing to set up the register. Ahead of the 10 year anniversary of the Dunblane shooting, the chief constable of Merseyside Police Bernard Hogan-Howe spoke out against the delay.

"I understand they've had two pilots and we're told that there are IT problems to actually resolving it but...this is too long," he said.

"We want it, there's certainly no resistance from the police service to have it and clearly what we do need is a register of all the people with a licence."

Prime minister Tony Blair promised parents of children killed in the Dunblane massacre that a national register would be created during their visit to Downing Street a decade ago.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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