§ Mr. Wallace
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what proportion of compensation claims made under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, excluding option C claims, had been settled in(a) the Surrey County Constabulary area, (b) the Metropolitan Police area, (c) the Northern Constabulary area, (d) Orkney and (e) Shetland by 1 November; 
(2) what proportion of claims, excluding option C claims, for compensation for those who surrendered weapons and ancillary equipment under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 had been settled by 1 November: 
(3) by what date he expects all compensation claims under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, excluding option C claims, to have been settled; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Michael
It has always been recognised that the pressure of claims received over the short hand-in period was bound to mean processing delays, and claimants were advised that they may have to wait several weeks before receiving any payment.
The target for the completion of claims submitted under Option A and B is the end of March 1988, and that for the completion of claims submitted under Option C, the end of December 1998, although the great majority of claims will have been settled well within these target times. Claims are dealt with in the order in which they are received. Information about the number of claims submitted by different force areas is not yet available. 543W As at 21 November 1997, 39,553 claims had been received, including those for small-calibre pistols submitted under the ex-gratia scheme. Of these, 18,673 payments had been made, to a value of £24 million.
A number of measures have been taken to increase the processing rate by minimising distractions to examining staff. Weekend overtime is being worked, staff have been temporarily promoted to boost examiner numbers, and efforts are being made to recruit additional staff. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of everyone in the Home Office and in individual police forces who is working so hard to cope with the challenge. It is appreciated that any delay will irritate those who have handed in their weapons, especially those who were opposed to this legislation. However, we are honouring the commitments made by the previous Government during the passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and doing as much as is reasonable to minimise delay, consistent with the need to control public expenditure, while fulfilling the clear will of Parliament.