§ 1. Mr. Townsend
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what conclusions he has reached on the working of the Northern Ireland Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act 1968.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
The working party referred to in the reply given to a Question from the hon. Member on 15th May—[Vol. 892, c. 635–6.]—has not yet completed its review. I am, therefore, not yet in a position to reach any final conclusions.
§ Mr. Townsend
Can the right hon. Gentleman do anything to expedite this important review? Can he assure the House that its provisions will be suitably back-dated when it finally emerges?
§ Mr. Rees
Certainly expedition concerns me. I am very concerned about this matter as a whole. As regards backdating, decisions in that respect are matters for the courts. My ministerial 748 colleagues and I are very concerned about this matter. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me know about it.
§ Mr. Rees
I set up the investigation in March this year and, given the complications of the matter, I do not regard this as a long period. The investigation is based on legislation that went through the Parliament in Northern Ireland in 1968. I am also keeping closely in touch with any changes in the ex gratia scheme operated by the Home Secretary. These are complicated matters but we are trying to operate the scheme as well as is possible. Everyone takes into account the people who have suffered as a result of the problems in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread disgust that is felt at the glaring unfairness between the vast sums awarded to internees and prisoners for alleged injuries and the relatively small sums paid to the widows and families of soldiers, policemen and civilians murdered by the IRA? Surely this is a matter which should be expedited Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that four months is too long?
§ Mr. Rees
As regards the last part of his question, the hon. Gentleman is wrong given the nature of the situation. The payments to which he refers are a different matter. I fully understand how people feel in Northern Ireland when payments are made to certain people, but the law is the law and that is what I have to operate. It is the legal aspect that is being investigated.