International Fund for Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 January 1996.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 12:00, 25 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of whether sums expended by the international fund for Ireland are targeted at those in greatest need. [9632]

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

Her Majesty's Government are kept fully appraised of the work of the fund through the advisory committee of senior officials, who, in turn, advise the fund's independent board. On the facts as advised to me, I am satisfied that the fund targets those in greatest need through its focus on disadvantaged areas, where some 70 per cent. of its resources are spent.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry

Is the Minister aware that whenever an application is made to the Housing Executive for a grant to repair a house, the applicant is means tested, but that no such means test applies when an individual, no matter how wealthy—and some of them are—applies for a grant to erect a dwelling or dwellings on derelict sites? Surely that is a total waste of public funds, since many of those sites could be sold profitably on the open market. Will the Minister arrange for serious consideration to be given to those matters?

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

The international fund is independent. As I understand it, it has helped to establish some 23,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and provides funding to a variety of organisations, including, the hon. Gentleman will be glad to note, some £330,000 to the Limavady small business agency in his constituency. I take note of what he says and I will ensure that the chairman of the fund is informed of his concern.