HC Deb 04 May 1972 vol 836 cc563-4
1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many families are now estimated to be on rent strike.

21. Mr. Molyneaux

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons are currently withholding rents and rates in Northern Ireland and in which areas.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Channon)

I would refer the hon. Members to the answer given to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) on 20th April.—[Vol. 835, c. 133.]

Mr. Meacher

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that nine months after the rent strike began, and despite the retaliation of the Payments for Debt Act, these figures show an unyielding solidarity for the principles that provoked the strike in the first place? Since the Secretary of State has honourably started a policy of conciliation, will he now provide an amnesty for rent defaulters, as a further means to peace?

Mr. Channon

My right hon. Friend is doing everything in his power to work for conciliation, but to have an amnesty for rent arrears would cause tremendous bitterness to those who have paid their rent throughout.

Mr. Molyneaux

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the loss will be borne by central Government rather than local government? Has he been able to ascertain from those who first launched this campaign what justification there now is for its continuance and against whom are they now protesting?

Mr. Channon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that there is now no need for any rent strike. On the matter of who shall bear the loss, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is now in charge of housing in the Province and there is to be a reform of local government. All these matters are in a state of flux.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the hon. Gentleman think that the time has come when he or his right hon. Friend should make a clear call to the people engaged in this strike to cease? Will he impress upon the politicians who were responsible for launching this strike that they now should make a contribution and call for its complete cessation?

Mr. Channon

My right hon. Friend has again and again made it clear that he hopes that the Province will return to normality in every possible way. Certainly my right hon. Friend very much hopes that the people who have been engaged in this strike will cease from doing so.