Terrorism (Compensation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd December 1976.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Kingston upon Thames Surbiton 12:00 am, 2nd December 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will introduce legislation to ensure that public funds are not made available for compensation to terrorists or those closely associated with terrorists or with violent or illegal organisations.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

I must ask the hon. Member to await the detailed proposals for amending generally the law on compensation for criminal injuries to persons in Northern Ireland, which my right hon. Friend hopes to publish as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Kingston upon Thames Surbiton

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is much public disquiet about awards made to suspected terrorists? At least two recent cases have shown the need to give the courts geater discretion in assessing the extent to which payments are involved with terrorist organisations.

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

Under the present law, the courts have such discretion now. But it is, and has been, a very complicated affair. We have had reports on both criminal personal injuries and property injuries, and we are acting as speedily as we can.

If the hon. Gentleman and others will show a little more patience for a little longer, I am sure that they will be satisfied.

Photo of Mr Anthony Nelson Mr Anthony Nelson , Chichester

Does the Minister agree that the basis of assessment of compensation under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Act is grossly unfair, not only to terrorists but to the widows of British soldiers killed in the Province? Will he please ensure that in any future legislation on this subject less account is taken of the pure financial loss to the victims and their families, and that the very large differences that exist under the present legislation will no longer be tolerated?

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will have to wait a little longer. It is a very complicated affair, as is obvious from the way that the hon. Member started his question, when he said that the system is unfair to terrorists as well as to soldiers and others. We have to be very careful what we do in this respect, so that in cutting out one we do not cut out all the others.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

Is the Minister of State aware that the Chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in Britain, Mr. Ogden, has stated that in future he will make no awards to persons convicted of terrorist activities? Is not this the legislation which should be amended to bring Northern Ireland into line with that principle? Does the Minister agree that compensation awards should be made on the same basis throughout the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

Again, I can go no further. I am aware of Mr. Ogden's statement, with which I, personally, concur, but I still ask the hon. Gentleman to wait a little longer, until the proposals have been prepared.