§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 13 January 1998,Official Report, column 165, for what reasons the average turn round time between receipt of claims from the police and processing of options A and B was 19 weeks. 
§ Mr. Michael
With over 116,000 handguns and associated equipment surrendered over a short period, an initial build-up of claims was inevitable. Processing rates were initially held up by computer problems, now resolved, and are currently determined by a combination of factors, including: the nature and complexity of the claims that are being examined; the numbers of staff available at any given point; and the time that can be spent on processing claims, as opposed to non-productive work such as dealing with inquiries. We are doing all we can to keep the length of time that claimants must await payment to a minimum. This includes weekend working; the use of casual staff and of data processors on short term contract to input the claimant details; allowing the examiners more time on processing the payments; and increasing the number of trained examiners available. A recorded telephone mailbox message giving current processing times has been introduced to reduce the distractions to staff.
§ Mr. Steen
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 13 January 1998,Official Report, column 165, on the Firearms Compensation Scheme, what was the reason for the delay in returning Mr. Fowles's incorrectly completed firearms compensation application; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Michael
Errors in the completion of compensation claims are normally identified when the claim is examined prior to payment. Having been lodged on 23 September 1997, towards the end of the hand-in period, Mr. Fowles's claim has not yet reached that stage, and the error in his claim has come to light as a result of the previous Question. The form has been returned to 147W Mr. Fowles for correction. There has been no delay in notifying him of the error, and the processing time for the case will be unaffected, so long as Mr. Fowles completes the form correctly and returns it promptly.