HC Deb 11 June 2002 vol 386 cc1201-2W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures are in place to protect the rights of victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland; which of the measures for victims' rights contained within the Belfast Agreement have been implemented; and what plans he has to protect victims' rights. [53690]

Mr. Browne

The Belfast agreement 1998 makes specific reference to the importance of acknowledging and addressing the suffering of victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation, and recognises the need to provide services that are supportive and sensitive to their individual needs.

In November 1997 the Government had appointed Sir Kenneth Bloomfield as head of a Victims' Commission to examine the feasibility of providing greater recognition for those who have become victims in the last 30 years as a consequence of events in Northern Ireland and asked him to consult various organisations concerned with the welfare of the bereaved and disabled as well as with community groups, churches and political parties and to make recommendations. Following publication of his report "We Will Remember Them" in April 1998, the Government appointed Adam Ingram as Minister for Victims and the Victims Liaison Unit was established to take forward the implementation of the report. Since then Government have committed more than £18.25 million to support victims of the Troubles, funding a number of initiatives including: £700k for a family trauma centre in Belfast which provides therapeutic service addressing the psychological needs of families and young people. £300k for an educational bursary pilot scheme-for individuals whose education was directly affect by the Troubles. 350 people received awards. £4 million to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund with a commitment of a further £1 million for 2003–04. The fund has put in place a number of schemes including:

  • The small grants scheme
  • The chronic pain management scheme
  • The respite break scheme
  • The wheelchair assessment scheme
  • The amputee assessment scheme
  • The education and training scheme
£225k initially for a victim support grants scheme to assist community groups and voluntary organisations to take forward recommendations in the Bloomfield report; and more recently a further £750,000 to extend this small grants scheme. £6.1 million core funding for groups who support victims of the troubles. £500k for initiatives in Great Britain including £250k for the legacy project. This project aims to identify and meet the needs of victims of the troubles living in Great Britain. £1.5 million over the next three years for the development of the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation. £1.5 million over the next two years to the Devolved Administration's Strategy Implementation Fund to help NI Departments fulfil their commitment to addressing victims' needs. It is now four years since the Bloomfield report was published and I replaced Adam Ingram as Victims Minister last June. I am currently reviewing the Government's strategic approach to the needs of victims in the context of the ongoing political process.

Also, as part of the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was given the responsibility of advising the Secretary of State on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the ECHR which, taken together with the ECHR, could constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The agreement also says that the Bill should reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.

The Commission consultation document "Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland" indicated that the rights of victims, both those arising from the conflict and more generally, should be included in a Bill of Rights. The Government have drawn no policy conclusions from the consultation document but will give careful consideration to the formal recommendations made by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which we expect to receive in 2003.