HL Deb 11 December 1996 vol 576 cc1075-7

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much money the city of Manchester has received from government funds to assist in the rebuilding of the city centre and the relocation of business following the Irish Republican Army bomb explosion in the city in June.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the Government gave £300,000 to the Lord Mayor's Appeal Fund for hardship relief and business relocation. They provided £150,000 towards the selection of an urban design team to plan the city centre rebuilding. Some £21.5 million has also been allocated from European funds to help with regeneration and business support and relocation.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that, bearing in mind the scale of what is required to repair the damage caused by the IRA bomb, the Government's response is pitifully small? It is strange that people who have taken no part in the violence should be funded at a lower rate than the people in Northern Ireland who sponsored the bomb. In Northern Ireland such damage is paid for by this country's taxpayers at a rate much higher than that paid here. Will the Government consider applying the Northern Ireland criteria to Manchester in order to give the people of Manchester justice?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that if one looks at the figures that I have given it appears that the Government's contribution has not been as substantial as he might wish. However, he will realise that the money coming from European funds is essentially British money because we are net contributors to Europe. He will also realise that as yet no proposals have been fully costed. When that has been done, and if an appropriate bid comes forward, they will be considered sympathetically by Her Majesty's Government.

The noble Lord will know that Northern Ireland has the Compensation Agency simply because there are no circumstances for insuring against terrorism. There are in the United Kingdom, which is covered under the Pool Reinsurance. That is the reason why the two are not strictly comparable.

Lord McNally

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the £21.5 million from European funds, which he and Ministers often quote, is conditional? As the head of the Government Office in the North West recently made clear, it is conditional on matching private funds. Manchester needs government help up front which can get the rebuilding process moving quickly, otherwise the scheme will fall behind. Other schemes, such as the Trafford Park shopping centre, will move ahead of those in Manchester, and the Government will be left with a derelict city centre. It needs government action now.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in one respect; that money from European funds is dependent upon an equivalent amount of money being found whether from the private or the public source. I have no doubt whatever that that money will be forthcoming.

The noble Lord will also realise that the Government cannot commit funds until a proper system has been evaluated, costed and prepared. That has not happened yet. When it is complete it will be up to Manchester to make an appropriate bid, which, as I have said, will be considered sympathetically.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the Minister said that there are insurance policies available in the United Kingdom which are not available in Northern Ireland. Will he give an assurance that the Government's financial arrangements will top up any insurance policies which may be defective or insufficient in order to ensure that properties throughout the United Kingdom are treated by the Government in exactly the same financial manner?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if I understand the noble Lord's question, it is going further than the position in respect of Manchester. I understand him to have asked whether the Government will top up insurances which do not cover the shortfall. I cannot give that undertaking. That is why in 1993 we set up the reinsurance scheme called Pool Reinsurance in order that insurance cover should be available for terrorism in the United Kingdom.

With regard to Manchester, we expect that most of the rebuilding will be met by businesses. If there is a shortfall, it will of course be up to the city council to make an appropriate bid.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, does the Minister understand that, if the peace initiative unfortunately fails and the IRA resumes its activities on the mainland resulting in other city centres being blown up, other Members of your Lordships' House will complain bitterly about the treatment that other cities in this country are receiving as compared with Northern Ireland? Is the Minister aware that last year, for instance, Northern Ireland put £3 billion in the kitty and took out £7 billion? Those are startling figures and the Government are asking people in this country who are suffering as a result of the dispute to bear the cost without speaking out loudly about it. It is about time that the system was reviewed and that justice was dispensed over here.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, everyone enormously regrets the damage that is done by the IRA when it carries out bomb attacks. Everyone considers that they are quite disgraceful and unjustified.

One cannot obtain insurance against terrorism in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, wags his head in despair but I am telling him the facts. In this country one can get insurance against terrorism. It is not for the Government to underwrite every single act of terrorism. It is appropriate for businesses and people to take out their own reasonable and responsible insurance when that is available, and it is available here.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, does the Minister accept that when one travels around the Republic of Ireland one sees frequent acknowledgement of the money which has been provided by the European Union? Can the noble Earl say whether any public acknowledgement has been made of the £21 million given to Manchester, even though, on strict accounting, some of that sum—although, I would argue, not all—probably comes from British funds?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if such an acknowledgement has not been given, I readily give it now. We are most grateful to the European Union for providing that money. As we are contributors, it is perfectly reasonable to argue that quite a lot of that money comes from British taxpayers' money which has gone to the European Union and come back again. But it is certainly a great and welcome addition.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of difference between acknowledgement of money by ourselves from the European Union and acknowledgement by the Republic of Ireland? After all, the Republic of Ireland is a net beneficiary to the tune of £1,500 million a year—that is, £500 per person—whereas we are net contributors to the tune of £2.5 billion per year.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that may well be so, but that does not stop the people of Ireland from being very grateful to the European Union for providing the money. Indeed, it does not stop us from being very grateful to the European Union for providing the money for Manchester.

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