HC Deb 30 November 1998 vol 321 cc538-40
21. Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

How many gun owners are waiting to receive compensation for handguns surrendered under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. [61111]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng)

Around 23,000 individual compensation claimants have yet to receive full payment of their claims. However, the great majority of those have received a part payment. Full or part payments totalling £62.6 million have been made to more than 50,300 claimants. Those figures were correct as at 20 November.

Mrs. Laing

I thank the Minister for that accurate and informative answer, but does he agree that 23,000 is a very large number of debts outstanding from the Government to individuals, many of whom live in my constituency? When Parliament decided that handguns should be given up, those people willingly gave up their handguns and, therefore, the recreational use of those guns, and they are now waiting for compensation so that they can reconstitute the sporting clubs to which they belonged for some other purpose. They cannot do so without the money that is owed to them by the Government. Will the Minister undertake to pay those claims as soon as possible?

Mr. Boateng

I hope that the hon. Lady is equally concerned about the number of unlawfully held and adapted handguns in her constituency. She will realise the danger that they present. She will realise also the action that the Government have taken to speed up processing claims under the compensation scheme. My predecessor as Minister of State—now the Secretary of State for Wales—took action on the matter as long ago as last July. Only recently, I announced expansion of the scheme, to bring forward the completion date for the task as far as we possibly can. The task is a complex but important one. I am sure that the hon. Lady will wish unlawfully held and adapted handguns to be dealt with.