§ Mr. Sproat
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under what circumstances his Department pays fares and accommodation for the relatives of IRA prisoners, or prisoners convicted of terrorist activities, to visit the prison where the IRA or other terrorist prisoner is held, either in Northern Ireland or in another part of the United Kingdom; on how many occasions this has happened in each year, respectively, since 1969; to which prisons the visits were paid; what was the cost of the fare on each occasion; and what was the cost of the accommodation.
§ Mr. Concannon
The assisted visits scheme is administered by the Northern Ireland Supplementary Benefits Commission on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office and is based on the scheme which operates in Great Britain. It applies to all prisoners, irrespective of the nature of their offences.
The scheme applies to prisoners' close relatives who receive supplementary benefit or who, although in part-time employment, are near the qualifying level for supplementary benefit. Assistance is generally limited to one visit every four weeks. If the visit to the prison involves a lengthy journey and an overnight stay, the cost of bed and breakfast in modest accommodation may be met.
Prison records do not separately identify persons convicted of terrorist offences, and in any case figures for particular groups are not readily available. 311W However, the following table shows the number of payments made under the scheme and the total expenditure for the years 1975 and 1976:
Year Payments Total Amount Paid 1975 … … … 2,344 £10,936.88 1976 … … … 1,464 £7,560.76