asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied that Government compensation for bomb damage to property is being used for purposes for which it is intended.
Compensation for bomb-damaged property is payable under the Criminal Injuries to Property (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. This provides that any person having an estate or interest in the damaged property who suffers loss from that damage may obtain compensation for his loss. There is no requirement in the Act that the recipient shall apply the compensation for any particular purpose. But all aspects of the administration of the Act are naturally kept under constant review.
Will the Minister confirm or deny recent reports in the Press that under present compensation arrangements for bomb damage the British taxpayer has subsidised the IRA to the tune of £5 million through protection rackets from property owners or through property owners absconding south of the border? If that is true, will he amend the Criminal Injuries to Property (Compensation) Act to stop that scandalous situation?
Obviously I have seen the reports in the Sunday Telegraph, but I have no evidence to confirm those reports. Fraud and extortion are criminal matters which the police will investigate if evidence is given to them. Section 4(1) of the Act reads:
The Act is constantly under review."the amount of compensation may be reduced by such sum as is just and equitable having regard to the general conduct in the circumstances of the person suffering loss, including, in particular, his conduct as respects any precautions which might reasonably be taken by him or on his behalf to avoid loss."
Is my hon. Friend aware that a report was issued on Sunday of last week on this subject which suggested that the family of a person who was the owner of 26 betting shops had received compensation amounting to several thousand pounds arising from the loss of his life and that the compensation given to the wife of a soldier who lost his life at about the same time compared most unfavourably? Has my hon. Friend any comments to make on that disparity?
The Question concerns compensation for property damage. I am afraid that my hon. Friend will have to table another Question on the matter he has raised.