HC Deb 17 November 1997 vol 301 cc41-2W
Mr. Blizzard

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the proposed timescale for the payment of compensation for the surrender of firearms prohibited by the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 to those who surrendered guns before 30 September. [16367]

Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has to date been the average period between the surrendering of firearms under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and the payment of compensation to the former owners of such firearms; to what factors he attributes delays in the making of payments; and what proposals he has to expedite the payment of such compensation. [15886]

Mr. Michael

Claims submitted under options A and B of the compensation scheme are being processed in 12 to 14 weeks. The more complicated option C claims will be processed when the bulk of these have been cleared.

More than 37,800 compensation claims and ex gratia applications under the small calibre pistol scheme have been received since 1 July, and the volume is such that some delays are inevitable. More than 14,200 payments have been made to a value of more than £17 million.

It has always been recognised that the pressure of claims received over a short hand-in period was bound to lead to processing delays, and claimants were advised that they may have to wait several weeks before receiving any payment. Despite that, an additional factor in delay is the burden of telephone enquiries about the progress of claims. A recent survey showed that the Home Office was receiving around 2,000 such calls a week.

As I promised in July, everything possible is being done to process claims in the shortest time possible. For instance, weekend overtime is being worked and staff have been temporarily promoted to boost examiner numbers. I wish to record my thanks to everyone who has contributed to the efforts to date including officials and the police officers involved.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many firearms have so far been surrendered under the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997; and how many of those firearms have been (a) melted down, (b) otherwise destroyed, (c) sold in (i) the United Kingdom or (ii) overseas and (d)otherwise handled. [15885]

Mr. Michael

Further to my statement of 3 November,Official Report, column 56, just over 142,000 handguns were surrendered to police forces during the three month period which ended on 30 September.

The vast majority of these firearms are being destroyed under local arrangements in each police force area once the claimant has received compensation from the Home Office Firearms Compensation Section. Some forces have begun destroying firearms where the related claim has already been met, though no central record of actual destructions is being kept. None of the surrendered firearms will be sold either within the United Kingdom or abroad. A small minority of firearms may be retained by police forces for training purposes, and some by museums for public display.