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Government 'running down clock on help for victims of Libya-sponsored IRA bombs'

By Allan Preston

An Ulster Unionist peer has hit out at the Government for stalling a bill for compensation for victims of Libya-sponsored IRA bombings.

The Gaddafi regime began supplying the IRA in the 1980s, handing over Semtex for a series of atrocities.

The worst attacks included the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing, which killed 11, and the 1996 London Docklands attack, which killed two and hurt more than 100.

Before his death in 2011, Gaddafi moved £9.5bn of assets to London.

Victims have long campaigned for this money to be used for compensation.

The cash is currently frozen by a United Nations resolution, but a group of MPs is attempting to pass legislation to unlock the money.

On Friday, during a debate in Westminster, there was uproar when Lord Empey's Private Member's Bill - the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill - was halted by a Conservative party whip.

The Ulster Unionist peer, who successfully brought the proposal through the House of Lords, said the Government was trying to kill his planned legislation.

"What they're really trying to do is run is out of parliamentary time because they don't want to deal with it," Lord Empey claimed.

He added that the Government had made no effort to get the UN to consider releasing the money.

"Basically they haven't asked the UN," he said. "The UK is a permanent member of the Security Council. To say that we can't even ask for help from the UN is just ridiculous. They don't want to do it in my opinion because they don't want to send the message out that if you bring your money to London it can be snaffled in some way.

"Some of us would be a bit sceptical and say they're covering up for hot money, but I don't know.

"All I'm saying is they've made no effort. We'd only be talking about a fraction of the money.

"The Americans got about £1.2bn (following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing). We would be looking for rather less than that."

Lord Empey first raised his concerns about securing compensation for victims when he wrote a letter to former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004.

"This all goes back to whatever deal he did with Gaddafi and I rather suspect that's part of the problem," he said.

A Government spokesman said: "We will continue to support victims in their attempts to seek redress from the Libyan authorities once stability returns."

The bill will appear before the House of Commons again on March 24.

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