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Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I do not believe that it was the assumption of any of us that any of these solutions are easy. It is quite wrong to suggest that nothing has happened. As I explained to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, very detailed discussions have been held. As I am sure he is aware, the position of Scottish fishermen is not always the same as that of fishermen in the south west. I am firmly confident that something will happen, which will be an improvement. The important thing is to get the matter right and have a proposal which will have an effect and not take the previous government's approach with their protocol, which had no prospect of success whatsoever.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, can the Minister tell us about some of the provisions that will not be in the agreement as regards the 50 per cent. of the catch which Spanish quota hoppers will still be permitted to land in Spain? I understand that there have been discussions between the UK Government and the Spanish Government about policing landings for under-sized and over-quota fish. Can the Minister say what response the Spanish Government have given regarding UK policing of those landings?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, part of the letter that has been referred to concerned enforcement. We have strengthened that in this country. We have an agreement with the Commission that there will be stronger enforcement on the Continent.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would be much better for British fishing if the European Commission was to get a "Dear John" letter?

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, it is a change to get a non-Scottish view. I have no comment on it.

Mineworkers' Lung Damage: Compensation

3.31 p.m.

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I wish to express at the outset the Government's real sympathy to all those miners who have suffered lung damage in the sad circumstances which led to this legal action, and to their families. The Government are seeking urgent legal and expert advice on the implications of the judgment and how best to take matters forward. In the meantime the Government's claims administrators are due to meet

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the plaintiffs' solicitors co-ordinating group next Monday to begin the process of agreeing proper arrangements for making compensation available where the Government are clearly liable.

The Government understand the vulnerability of retired mineworkers with severe emphysema. We have made it clear to our administrators that this vulnerability should not be exploited by any delaying tactics. Our objective, wherever possible, is to secure a fair and prompt settlement.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for my noble friend's reply. Before pressing him further, I would like to declare an interest. My father-in-law is 86 years of age. He spent 45 years in the pits of South Wales. He is medically assessed to have a disability with a combination of ailments comprising pneumoconiosis, emphysema and bronchitis. He has 80 per cent. disability, thereby having only 20 per cent. of normal breathing capacity. Therefore, given the age of hundreds, if not thousands, of ex-miners in similar circumstances, does my noble friend agree that this matter has to be dealt with with extreme urgency? If so, are there proposals for making interim payments in the usual way? Furthermore, is it not right that there should be a tribunal set up, chaired by a judge, to deal with the question of compensation outside the normal legal system, bearing in mind that many mineworkers entitled to compensation have died in the past eight years while awaiting this judgment?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, let me express my community of interest with my noble friend in what he has said about the travails of so many miners in the past. Miners have died even during the currency of this litigation. The question of interim payments is a difficult one. Not all the issues have been totally clarified by the judgment. It is a very complex judgment. As the solicitor representing some of the claimants said, it is a kind of test case. We are still reviewing the implications of the judgment. However, my noble friend can accept from me--and I hope that it was clear from my Answer--that we are dealing with the matter with the utmost urgency. We shall consider the question of interim payments.

As regards the last point, I do not believe that it would be particularly helpful to set up a tribunal relating to this particular litigation, which may affect many more miners. If my noble friend was asking for a wider tribunal of inquiry, I cannot comment on that today.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many miners will be greatly satisfied with his reply this afternoon that there will be no delay? That is unlike the procedure of the previous administration in 1993 when the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council recommended that bronchitis and emphysema should be prescribed as industrial diseases among mineworkers. There is documentary evidence that government departments, through correspondence, suggested that the matter should be delayed as long as possible as many miners would die before the recommendations were implemented, and that was done

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in order to save money. I am sure that the present Administration would never dream of doing such a thing. Will the Minister consider that there may be an easy way of dealing with these issues rather than dragging men through the courts and legislation? Will he also consider that all the mineworkers who have already been assessed and awarded industrial injuries benefits because their diseases were caused through working in the mines, and who are now receiving those benefits, should be considered for immediate compensation, again, without dragging them through the courts?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, as with all large-scale tragedies of this kind--the "Herald of Free Enterprise" springs to mind and many others--each individual case has to be considered on its own merits. It is regrettable, but it takes time. Each individual may have a claim for special damages besides the general damages being claimed, and that has to be very carefully invigilated. Having said all that, as I have indicated, I am trying, together with my honourable friend Mr. John Battle, to make sure that the oft-adopted tactics of insurance, of taking advantage of the vulnerability of a claimant or plaintiff, will not be pursued here. We give that solemn undertaking. We have given instructions to those advising us that under no circumstances should they have recourse to such dubious tactics.

Events of 30th January 1972

3.37 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the events in Northern Ireland on 30th January 1972, which has become known as Bloody Sunday. The Statement is as follows:

    "The facts that are undisputed are well-known. On 30th January 1972, during a disturbance in Londonderry following a civil rights march, shots were fired by the British Army. Thirteen people were killed, and another 13 were wounded, one of whom subsequently died. The day after the incident the then Prime Minister set up a public inquiry under the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery.

    "He produced a report within 11 weeks of the day. His conclusions included these: that shots had been fired at the soldiers before they started the firing which led to the casualties; that for the most part the soldiers acted as they did because they thought their standing orders required it; and that while there was no proof that any of the deceased had been shot while handling a firearm or bomb, there was a strong suspicion that some had been firing weapons or handling bombs in the course of the afternoon.

    "The timescale within which Lord Widgery produced his report meant that he was not able to consider all the evidence which might have been available; for example, he did not receive any evidence from the wounded who were still in hospital,

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    and he did not consider individually substantial numbers of eye-witness accounts provided to his inquiry in the early part of March 1972.

    "Since his report was published, much new material has come to light about the events of that day. This material includes new eye-witness accounts, new ballistic material, and new medical evidence.

    "In 1992 the then Prime Minister said in a letter to the honourable Member for Foyle, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, that those shot should be regarded as innocent of any allegation that they were shot while handling firearms or explosives. I reaffirm that today.

    "Last year the families of those killed provided the previous government with a new dossier on the events of Bloody Sunday. The Irish Government also sent the Government a detailed assessment which analysed the new material and Lord Widgery's findings in the light of all material available.

    "I want to place on record our strongest admiration for the way in which our security forces have responded over the years to terrorism in Northern Ireland. They set an example to the world of restraint combined with effectiveness given the dangerous circumstances in which they are called upon to operate. Young men and women daily risk their lives protecting the lives of others and upholding the rule of law, carrying out a task which we have laid upon them. Lessons have of course been learned over many years--in some cases painful lessons. But the support of the Government and this House for our Armed Forces has been, and remains, unshakeable.

    "There have been many victims of violence in Northern Ireland before and since Bloody Sunday. More than 3,000 people--civilians as well as soldiers, policemen and prison officers--have lost their lives in the past 26 years. It may be asked why we should pay such attention to one event.

    "We do not forget or ignore all the other attacks, all the innocent deaths, all the victims of bloody terrorism. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, a former Permanent Secretary in Northern Ireland, is currently looking at a suitable way to commemorate the victims of violence. In particular, the sacrifice of those many members of the security forces, including the RUC, who lost their lives doing their duty will never be forgotten by this Government, just as they were not forgotten by the last government. The pain of those left behind is no less than the pain of the relatives of the victims of Bloody Sunday.

    "But Bloody Sunday was different because, where the state's own authorities are concerned, we must be as sure as we can of the truth, precisely because we do pride ourselves on our democracy and our respect for the law, and on the professionalism and dedication of our security forces.

    "This is a very difficult issue. I have reread Lord Widgery's report myself and looked at the new material. I have consulted with my colleagues most

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    closely concerned. We have considered very carefully whether it is appropriate now to have a fresh inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.

    "I should emphasise that such a new inquiry can be justified only if an objective examination of the material now available gives grounds for believing that the events of that day should be looked at afresh, and the conclusions of Lord Widgery re-examined. I have been strongly advised that there are indeed grounds for such a further inquiry. We believe that the weight of material now available is such that these events require re-examination. We believe that the only course which will lead to there being public confidence in the results of any further investigation is for a full-scale judicial inquiry into Bloody Sunday to be set up.

    "We have therefore decided to set up an inquiry under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. The inquiry will have the power to call witnesses and obtain production of papers.

    "As required by the Act a resolution will be required to set up the inquiry. The resolution will be tabled later today in my name, and will be in the following terms:

    That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely the events on Sunday, 30 January 1972 which led to loss of life in connection with the procession in Londonderry on that day, taking account of any new information relevant to events on that day.

    "The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville of Newdigate, a Law Lord, has agreed to chair a tribunal of three. The other two members are likely to be from the Commonwealth.

    "It is not possible to say now exactly how long the inquiry will take but it should be allowed the time necessary to cover all the evidence now available thoroughly and completely. It is for the tribunal to decide how far its proceedings will be open, but the Act requires them to be held in public unless there are special countervailing considerations. The hearings are likely to be partly here and partly in Northern Ireland, but again this is largely for the tribunal. Questions of immunity from prosecution for those giving evidence to the inquiry will be for the tribunal to consider in individual cases, and to refer to the Attorney-General as necessary. It will report its conclusions to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Our intention is that they will be made public.

    "Let me make it clear that the aim of the inquiry is not to accuse individuals or institutions or invite fresh recriminations, but to establish the truth about what happened on that day, so far as that can be achieved at 26 years' distance. This will not be easy, and we are all well aware that there were particularly difficult circumstances in Northern Ireland at that time.

    "Bloody Sunday was a tragic day for all concerned. We must all wish it had never happened. Our concern now is simply to establish the truth, and close this painful chapter once and for all.

    "Members of the families of the victims, like the honourable Member for Foyle, have conducted a long campaign to this end. I have heard some of their

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    remarks over recent years and have been struck by their dignity. Most do not want recrimination. They do not want revenge. But they do want the truth. I believe that it is in the interests of everyone that the truth is established, and told. It is also the way forward to the necessary reconciliation which will be such an important part of building a secure future for the people of Northern Ireland. I ask all sides of the House to support our proposal for this inquiry."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

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