HL Deb 07 August 1972 vol 334 cc937-8WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(1) What sums have been allotted from official funds for the relief of private individuals and families in Northern Ireland, what proportion of such funds has already been paid out, and whether the sums provided are sufficient in view of the number of persons harrassed and intimidated out of their houses and of the actual damage to and destruction of dwellings.

(2) What progress has been made in paying compensation for malicious damage to private property and what is the average delay between the submission and the settlement of a claim.

(3) Whether adequate arrangements have been made in England and Wales for the reception and welfare of families forced to flee from Northern Ireland, and whether greater use should not be made of empty council houses, for example, in some new and expanding towns, of prefabricated and mobile homes and of military camps and other temporary accommodation.

(4) Whether they will take all possible steps to warn families from Northern Ireland of the unwisdom of coming to overcrowded cities with acute housing shortages such as London and Birmingham.


In August of last year the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments jointly set up an emergency fund for the relief of distress caused by communal disturbances in Northern Ireland. Initially £500,000 was made available and various relief schemes financed out of this fund are still in operation. To date £230,000 has been paid out and a further £100,000 has been committed. Most of the schemes currently in operation relate to housing problems, and sufficient funds are available to permit the continuation of these schemes. In recent years the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland has operated an emergency scheme for immediate cash grants to people who have lost household effects, clothing, etc., as a result of civil disturbances and terrorist attacks. The amount paid out under this scheme is over £360,000.

The Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 provides statutory rights to compensation for physical injury or death. Over £1,800,000 has been paid under this Act already. In addition, grants-in-aid of £20,000 and £30,000 were made by the Northern Ireland Government during 1971/72 to the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Widows and Dependants Fund respectively.

Compensation for malicious damage to property is provided for in the Criminal Injuries Acts (Northern Ireland) 1956–1970. Since 1968 payments for damage to property under these Acts have amounted to over £15 million. Claims lie against the County Council or County Borough Council concerned and are adjudicated by the appropriate Recorder's or County Court. The volume of claims has caused great difficulties for the local authorities, but considerable progress has been made in building up staff and machinery to meet the situation. In addition to special court sittings, extra statutory arrangements have been made to enable smaller claims to be settled without recourse to the courts, and for special advances of financial aid pending eventual award through the courts. The delay between the submission and settlement of a claim varies between two and six months.

There is no evidence of families leaving Northern Ireland in great numbers, and the local authority social services are adequate to deal with the position. In the circumstances no special arrangements are necessary. The allocation of council houses in England and Wales is a matter for the local authority concerned, but as there is no evidence to suggest that families are leaving Northern Ireland in great numbers, no special action is considered necessary.