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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, from the Labour Front Bench perhaps I may warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Dormand on his good fortune in being able to persuade the business managers in a very tight schedule to find the five minutes (the time that he was allocated) for this Motion. As he says, it is a quirk of the draftsman. In practice an improvement has proved necessary.

My noble friend is right to draw attention to the fact that this measure has the support not only of all parties but of the Government too. My honourable friend in another place, Estelle Morris, is grateful for the manner in which the Bill's progress has been facilitated. Even though the Summer Recess will intervene, there is every prospect that the Bill will reach the statute book before the end of the parliamentary Session. We congratulate my noble friend on having the good fortune to move the Bill this evening. It has our full support. I look forward to hearing an endorsement of it by the Minister.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, on the way he introduced the measure. I also congratulate his honourable friend in another place, Estelle Morris.

The Government support the amendment to the Public Order Act 1986. The noble Lord described the measure very well. The proposal would overcome an apparent anomaly in the existing public order legislation whereby a police officer has the power of arrest only if he personally has warned a person about engaging in offensive conduct but that person continues to do it.

There is no change to the police warning which has to be given; that is right and proper. But the proposal would mean that any police officer could arrest the person if they chose to ignore the police warning about their conduct. The Government support the measure.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Manchester Bombing: Restoration of City Centre

10.40 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made so far towards the architectural and economic restoration of Manchester city centre following the recent bombing,

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and whether they will pay compensation for acts of terrorism in Great Britain on the same basis as in Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, while the recent outrage in the city of Manchester features in the Question, it is not only about Manchester. For people who are bombed out of their businesses and houses in Manchester I wish to obtain recompense based on the format used in Northern Ireland. The latter is far more generous.

If it had not been for the success of the security forces a few weeks ago in managing to raid a bomb manufacturing cell in the London suburbs, where I understand about 18 bombs were primed ready to be planted, we might have been talking of a multiplicity of bombs like the one in Manchester.

Before I go further, I must apologise as the noble Lords, Lord Barnett and Lord Fitt, will not be speaking in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is busy and has had a hard day and the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is not well. However, he indicated to me that he fully supports the concept of my Question and what my noble friends Lady Dean and Lord Monkswell are trying to do.

I must make it clear that I speak as an individual, looking at the situation as I evaluate it. I have been to the site of the explosion and was shown round by Mr. Challenger from the department of the City Architect, Mr. King. I am grateful to Mr. Challenger who showed me in detail the tremendous amount of damage. In my youth I was on fire-watching duty in Deansgate, Manchester, but I never saw surface damage like that inflicted by the bomb. Bombs from aircraft penetrate, explode and leave a crater, but this was almost total surface damage, scything everything in front of it. The prompt action of the police and fire brigade was magnificent, shifting 80,000 people in a short time out of an area 800 metres or half a mile in diameter. My daughter was working 50 yards the other side of the wall from the site of the bomb.

I also wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Alistair Burt, the Minister, who today sent me a brief on what is happening in Manchester. We are not so much concerned at present with the long term and the rebuilding of Manchester, which is of great interest; we are more concerned about the 600 small traders who Mr. Burt says are at risk. He states:


    "The immediate priority has been to ensure that these small traders have easy access to the support they need".

I do not believe that is the case. It is probably on record--and the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will deal with this matter--that Manchester City Council is saying that it wants immediate funds to deal with the situation.

I know of at least two individual cases. The first relates to a small jeweller who employs five people. He is not allowed back into his business. A safety element may enter into it; but he does not even know what has happened to his stock. That case can be multiplied in relation to certain properties that are affected: the Arndale Centre, the Corn Exchange and the Royal Exchange. The second two were badly hit. I hope the Minister will listen carefully to the points that we

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make, and that he will not read from a pre-prepared brief which sets out what is perceived to be the situation in Manchester at present. We might have a slightly different perception, even though our goal is the same.

Why have I decided to take this course in relation to Manchester and--God forbid--other cities that may suffer these bombings? On 17th July I tabled a Written Question in the following terms. I asked Her Majesty's Government,


    "How much financial compensation has so far been paid in respect of terrorist activities in Northern Ireland and Great Britain respectively".--[Official Report, 17/7/96; col. WA 62.]

I received the following information:


    "Responsibility for compensation in Northern Ireland has been delegated to the Compensation Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Dennis Stanley. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given ... There is no comparable scheme for Great Britain".

I eventually received an answer from the Compensation Agency. It stated that during the years 1978-79 to 1995-96, £500 million was paid in Northern Ireland by the Government in compensation for bomb damage. I was told that no figures were available for the years 1971-78, which were much more violent than the years quoted. I therefore believe it is safe to say that we are talking about £1 billion or thereabouts.

It is not good enough to tell Mancunians that they have to put their hands in their pockets when Northern Ireland receives that sort of compensation. I make no attempt to diminish what is happening in Northern Ireland, but as I believe we are part of the same country, it is a bit thick to treat Manchester and possibly--as I said, God forbid--other cities in this country in that way while more generous amounts are being paid in Northern Ireland.

I received some other information which is widely known, but which ought to be more widely known; namely, that, in addition, other sums of money are being paid in Northern Ireland in connection with terrorist damage. That means that payments to Northern Ireland represent a debt of £3 billion a year to the rest of the UK. That might sound all right--and perhaps no one would want to interfere with it--but it is not widely known in this country. People will start to wake up and ask why we should pay when we cannot get money to put right an act of violence perpetrated in this country that was spawned in Northern Ireland.

The leader of my party came to Manchester a week last Thursday and gave certain undertakings that would bear on Manchester. He said that the case would be looked at sympathetically. But, first, we have to win the election in order to implement that; secondly, as I understand it, we are talking in terms of £500 or £600 million to repair the physical damage caused. I do not know where that is going to be conjured up from because the local authorities in Manchester have been told that there is no extra money for anything. That is unfair on a city like Manchester which throughout its history has been a generous and stable city and has accepted immigrants from all over the world of any creed and any colour. They have been welcomed in Manchester and have settled into the community, and have, in fact, played an important part in developing that city into the fine city that it is.

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As regards the Government taking the view that Manchester City Council should provide a lot of money, I remind the House that Manchester is now a city of only 400,000 people. It had well over half a million when I was the leader. It also has an ageing population. So how the hell can Manchester suddenly conjure up huge sums of money to rebuild the city centre that has been destroyed, quite deliberately, through no fault of its own?

I have said most of what I want to say, and I do not want to go into other statistics tonight because they are pretty long on time. One of the main reasons I decided to table this Question tonight is that it will be the last chance to speak on this matter before Parliament rises for three months. I am grateful to my colleagues on these Benches, and to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who have decided to stay at this hour to give some support to what I believe is indisputably a genuine case. I have some information, regarding the compensation office of the Northern Ireland Office. The information makes quite clear that in Northern Ireland compensation is payable by the state--not by insurance, but by the state--under the Criminal Damage (Compensation)(Northern Ireland) Order 1977, in respect of loss arising from any one of four categories of damage to property. That means bombing, personal injury and so on.

I do not see why our submission on behalf of Manchester--following the outrage it has suffered--should not be considered. Only a few weeks before the outrage Irish games were held in Manchester with enormous success. However, this is how the terrorists repay that. I believe Manchester's case is indisputable. I hope the Minister will convey our views to the Secretary of State or, if necessary, to the Prime Minister, and that Manchester will receive justice and be dealt with in a fair way.


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