§ Helen Jackson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what discussions he has had with the South Yorkshire Police about the suspension of officers of the Firearms Branch of the force over recent weeks; 
(2) how many and what percentage of firearms compensation claims are outstanding in the South Yorkshire area. 
§ Mr. Michael
The Home Office is in regular contact with the South Yorkshire Police about the progress of their investigation into potential fraud involving compensation claims. Decisions on suspension are a matter for the Chief Constable but the latest information is that a further two640W police officers in the Firearms department were suspended on 13 March, bringing the total number of staff suspended to six. Around 240 claimants in the South Yorkshire area have not yet received payment under Options A and B of the compensation scheme, around 38 per cent of the total. Payments on claims returned by the police after checking are expected to resume this week.
The investigation has resulted in some delays in payments but every effort is being made to keep delays to a minimum, as I explained in my letter to my hon. Friend and the other South Yorkshire Members on 20 February immediately after the problem had been drawn to my attention. As a result of the inquiries, the South Yorkshire police have returned about 100 claims to the Firearms Compensation Section (FCS) after checking them against the surrendered goods. About half of these have not yet been paid. There are a number of queries arising on the claims and the FCS is considering these against our normal checking criteria. Where it is not possible to clear all items in a claim, a part payment will be considered. Payments on those items which are satisfactory began this week. A second batch of 100 claims is expected shortly under the arrangements agreed with the police for returning claims on a regular basis after they have been examined.