§ 3. Mr. David Hunt
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many awards he has made under the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order; what has been the average amount awarded; how many applications are still outstanding; and whether he is satisfied with the progress made.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)
428 applications for compensation have been received in the period between 9th August 1977, the date on which the order came into effect, and 27th January 1978. None of these claims has yet been finalised but offers of compensation have been made in 12 cases; an interim payment of £1,000 has been made in one case; and three claims have been refused. I am satisfied that my Department is dealing with all claims as quickly as possible, but I should be happier if information could be supplied more quickly by applicants in support of their claims.
§ Mr. Hunt
Is the Minister satisfied that all potential claimants are coming forward? Will he take steps to publicise further the availability of this additional compensation so that people can be made aware of the procedures to be followed? Is he satisfied that the amount of compensation within his discretion is enough to meet the many tragic cases that exist, including that of my constituent Mrs. Pasarek?
§ Mr. Concannon
In reply to the last question about the hon. Member's constituent, I think that that has been settled, finalised and agreed. The type of details required include details of the accident in which the injury was caused, with full medical reports, plus information about the financial loss and expenses. It is my intention in the next few months to publish an explanatory booklet which will explain in some detail how claims should be presented.
§ 15. Mr. John Ellis
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many widows have received discretionary payments under the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Concannon
From 9th August 1977 to 13th January 1978, payments amounting to £248,221 have been made under article 8 of the order to 98 widows.
I am generally satisfied that this provision is meeting a need, but, strictly interpreted, it has proved impracticable to operate as drafted in respect of joint claims by a widow and children. Extra-statutory arrangements have been made, therefore, to ensure that, where the amount payable to such families is reduced by the deduction of benefits, the compensation awarded can be brought up as intended by Parliament either to £5,000 plus £500 for each child or to the gross amount if less.
§ Mr. Ellis
Will my right hon. Friend tell the House the percentage of people who are coming forward under this legislation and who might benefit under it? He will have in mind recent correspondence between us which involved lawyers. Therefore, will he have a word or two with the legal profession in Northern Ireland? My right hon. Friend's Department often gets blamed because lawyers are not processing cases fast enough in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Concannon
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I have been pressurised at times, but I think everyone knows that the fault cannot be laid at my door. As to whether all claimants are being identified, the answer is "As far as possible". We have checked the Army and police records as well as our own records, and advertisements have been placed in national and in Ulster news 1650 papers. If anyone has any doubts about a case under Section 8, perhaps he will inform my office and I shall have it speedily checked.