Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)

WEDNESDAY 20 DECEMBER 2000

MS OLWEN LYNER AND MR PAT CONWAY

Chairman

  240. I am going to ask a final question myself but I will, having done that, turn to my colleagues to ask if there are any other supplementary questions they want to ask similar to the one which Mr Thompson has just asked. This Committee, no doubt like your organisation, has been together for some time and the capacity for badinage develops within the group. I will remark on Mr Pound's question to you because he is prone to doing the same thing to me. I think he has not noticed that NIACRO, with an `O' for Offenders at the end, resembles a Greek word, whereas if he put a `V' at the end it would be moving in the direction of a Bulgarian word and Greek words are much easier for the British to pronounce than are Bulgarian words. It was foolish of me to say that because he will undoubtedly come back to me before this occasion is over. I want to ask whether you have further plans for Base 2 in terms of development?
  (Ms Lyner) I think it would be useful. Obviously the best development there would be at this stage would be the numbers coming to us significantly reducing, and if we were in a position to put the resourcing behind the appropriate re-entry of those individuals who wish to return either from the UK or from other places to their home locations. In terms of that, I think it would be useful for us to be saying to you that, in order for that to happen, we do need to look at the resources that there would be in those jurisdictions that they need to return from for them to know where a central point would be for them to make that initial contact so that issues like travel, moving furniture, moving families, can be organised in the same way that we have been able to move people out of Northern Ireland. There are also statutory policies which I think require some attention and critically that would be in terms of housing policy. If people are wishing to return to Northern Ireland and they leave housing in any one of your cities, it can be construed that they have made themselves effectively homeless by the impulse to return to Northern Ireland and, therefore, there is no call on the public housing authority in Northern Ireland to rehouse them. If we are to take seriously movement towards the peace process, bringing people back to where they want to be located, it is important that we look at policies such as housing policies to ensure that they are as fully inclusive as they need to be. There are issues around policies and practices in terms of re-entry which need examination and need resources. In terms of the actual work of Base 2 at this stage in terms of verification, risk assessment and safe placement of individuals, we would like to be planning along with many others to be downsizing the problem, but until we evidence that we will still be bound by our charitable and humanitarian policies to care for the individuals who come to us. So we will be scratching around for funding.

  241. I think the extra dimension you are proposing to give it is admirable. Going back to the number of referrals on page three—and I am saying that partly for the purposes of the shorthand writer—you have indicated in the context of the final column, the year 2000, when you thought you would have your total figure for the year 2000 and that will obviously have a virtue that we will be looking at a complete annual figure.
  (Ms Lyner) We will complete an annual report which is not the same as the evaluation, that is something generated by ourselves internally. That will evidence a figure of over 800 by the time we hit the end of December at the rate we are going at this stage. I imagine we will have that report available within six to eight weeks of the end of December.

  242. I am looking at the column. The figure of 589, which is the figure up to the end of October, which is breathing on the back of the neck of 624 in 1999 and 646 in 1998, does not suggest at the moment that we are seeing a fall unless you get back to the net figure as against the gross figure.
  (Ms Lyner) No, but we have had this Loyalist feud which we have been handling in the course of this year.

  243. Yes.
  (Ms Lyner) It is a figure of about 220 cases. The overall figure of 800, that I have cited to you, that is involved in terms of work that we are involved with, value for money.

  244. Although there is this extra dimension of Base 2 you are looking forward to, which seems eminently sensible, at the moment we do not really see any evidence of a fall off, if anything we see the opposite?
  (Ms Lyner) That is right. It is in relation to Base 2 figures.

  Chairman: Yes, in relation to Base 2. One last observation, I am reflecting the exchange you had with Mr McCabe, I think it would be quite helpful if when you do the tidying up we could have a slightly more precise definition of what the categories "left area", "LHA", "left country" and "left city" mean in order to make sure in what way they are mutually exclusive. Let me turn and ask my colleagues if any of them have any further questions they want to ask?

Mr Pound

  245. There is also the category "rub" which does not appear in any of the glossaries, although "rob" does.
  (Ms Lyner) Robbery.

  Mr Pound: Yes, "rub", if you look at reason for threat, page one, you have "ass" and "rub". "ass" we are told stands for assault.

  Chairman: I think that is a typographical error.

  Mr Pound: Oh, I see, it is nothing to do with friction. I was mentally translating it from the Bulgarian.

Chairman

  246. Very good. I have invited Members of the Committee to see if there is anything they want to add at the end in terms of the questions, is there anything that you want to add?
  (Ms Lyner) Just to go back to amplify a question which Mr Thompson raised with us about whether or not we feel people are enabled to move inappropriately. In terms of our relationship with the Housing Executive, which will be a critical agency that we are working with, they are happy to accept our process of clarification over whether or not families of individuals need to move and, accepting that an individual in a house needs to move, they undertake to move the family. The evidence of what we are able to produce for an organisation such as the Housing Executive, and all the upheaval and costs involved in such relocation, their acceptance of the information we bring forward, probably helps in terms of your concerns.

Mr Beggs

  247. Would you have received confirmation from the RUC of the allegations of intimidation and threat which would enable the Housing Executive to seriously address the need to provide a transfer for some people?
  (Ms Lyner) In fact, how it is working at the moment is the Housing Executive are coming to us to ask us to take on that role and we are happy to do that. So, through our channels we are evidencing that. It is not an issue of who we do and do not work with, we are always trying to work with the widest range of statutory and voluntary organisations to ensure the shortest loop for the information to come back to us. In situations where we are dealing with an adult who has children, we are working with social services, or in other situations we are working with the Probation Board or the solicitors or the courts. It is the shortest loop to get the information back to make the most appropriate choice available for the individual.
  (Mr Conway) There would be contacts with the RUC in relation to obtaining statements of intimidation that are required sometimes by the Housing Executive, so we have made approaches on behalf of individuals and families who have sought that service.

  248. Thank you.
  (Ms Lyner) Can I just check one issue in terms of protocol?

Chairman

  249. Of course.
  (Ms Lyner) We are aware that there is interest in this evidence we are giving today in terms of the press and we have prepared a press release. In terms of ethics, we want to understand what issues you may have with that. We are citing our own evidence and the issues that we have raised with you, the fact that we are here. We want your understanding of how we want to take that forward.

  250. Let me say that I was admiring of the clairvoyance under which you were able to compose it in advance of the presentation since it contains the word "following" in its title. Unless my Clerk advises me to the contrary, you are wholly entitled to make whatever observations you want to make after the event. The text contains no reflection on the Committee, to which we might have taken mild exception. If you would like to go ahead and say that then feel totally free to do so.
  (Ms Lyner) Thank you.

  Chairman: On behalf of the Committee we do very much appreciate your coming at short-ish notice. My observations about the statistics that you submitted to us have been echoed and reflected by others in the Committee. We are very grateful to you. Thank you most warmly, not only for what you have given us but what you have also kindly promised us after the event. Thank you very much.





 
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