HC Deb 21 June 1973 vol 858 cc844-6
3. Mr. Tope

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will publish the latest report of the Community Relations Commission in Belfast on the social problems created by intimidation; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Howell

Publication of the report is a matter for the Community Relations Commission, but I understand that a summary will appear in the next issue of the Commission's journal "Community Forum".

Mr. Tope

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but will he ensure that the recommendations of the working party of the Community Relations Commission are published in due course, and make known to the House the action he proposes to take on this serious problem?

Mr. Howell

I agree that this is an extremely serious problem. A working party, chaired by the Chairman of the Community Relations Commission, has been established, and it is not for me to anticipate its conclusions or how it wishes to present its recommendations. The hon. Gentleman need have no fears about full recognition being given to the serious situation. A number of agencies are at work, such as the Task Force and the Public Protection Agency. Those agencies are all concerned with intimidation, and it is a matter of which my right hon. Friend is closely aware and which we have under constant scrutiny.

Mr. Maginnis

Does not the Minister agree that the question of intimidation will continue until such time as the IRA lays down its arms?

Mr. Howell

The question of intimidation will certainly continue until those on all sides are prepared to come under law and order.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

This problem of intimidation is not an easy one, but it does not involve just the IRA, although IRA members must be the greatest exponents of intimidation, in the very nature of things. It happens in Protestant areas as well. We read and hear a great deal about intimidation, and it relates not just to housing, though undoubtedly that has led to large numbers of people being moved from one part of Belfast to another. Do I understand that only the recommendations are to be published and that it will be a matter for the Community Relations Commission to decide whether we should see the full text?

Mr. Howell

No. I was talking about the outcome of the deliberations of the working party that is being set up. The summary of the Community Relations Commission report which was referred to in the original Question is to be published in the next issue of the Commission's journal.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I recognise the enormous social problems created by intimidation, but will my hon. Friend look at the position of owner-occupiers who are forced out of their houses? The recent scheme announced by the Housing Executive to purchase such properties is a move in the right direction. However, the main criterion is that premises must be vacant for six months. In that time houses can be almost completely destroyed by vandals, yet compensation is based on the value of the premises after vandalisation. Surely this is wrong.

Mr. Howell

I recognise the seriousness of this problem. However, may I point out to my hon. Friend that Question No. 8 directs itself to precisely this problem?

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