Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative 10:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I should like to express my very strong support for this amendment. I have had a good deal to do with the association representing disabled police officers in Northern Ireland. Many officers are tetraplegics or paraplegics. All of them suffer from terrible stress, as do their families. The children have to live with a man who may have no arms or legs. They have to see him living still in danger and still under threat. This group deserves very special recognition.

That is particularly the case since Sir Kenneth Bloomfield looked into the issue of victims. Both his report and the government reached the conclusion that nothing could be done retrospectively over the issue of compensation. Many of those affected received compensation which had been fixed 30 years ago. They received less then than they would ever have received had they suffered from industrial injuries. They were badly advised. Most of them were poor and did not have access to good solicitors. Many ended up with disgracefully low settlements.

Nothing can be done because--I can understand it--no government would be prepared to consider retrospective compensation. However, in view of the splendid gesture towards the Japanese prisoners of war, we ought to think carefully about a special, one-time compensation for those people. I would strongly support a special provision in the Bill specifically for those victims.

A great deal of money has been spent on victims in Northern Ireland during the past three years--government money, EU money and private money--but, necessarily, an awful lot of it has gone not to the RUC and their dependants but to the people who put them in that situation--the children of prisoners. The children, of course, are blameless. Nevertheless, I know, for instance, that the DPOA wanted some computers which were being made available to victims for educational purposes. It was told that its members could not have them because they did not comply with one of the conditions--namely, that they had to have had an uninterrupted education. Most of them became officers at the age of 18 or 19; very often they were blown up when they were 22. They never had much chance to have an education. It is not that they had it interrupted--they just did not have it. But, nevertheless, they were excluded.

Something very special should be done for this not very large and dwindling--because they are dying--group of people. This would be something tangible that people could see and understand.