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No double standard on Libya-backed IRA terror, says minister

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 17/09/2015

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Lady Sylvia Hermon

Claims that the Foreign Office has applied double standards when dealing with victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism have been rejected.

Defending a Government policy not to pursue compensation claims on behalf of the bereaved and injured, Minister Tobias Ellwood said it risked being counter-sued if millions of pounds worth of frozen assets were released.

The inquiry heard more than £900 million of Gaddafi's huge fortune has been frozen by the UK Government and an Act of Parliament could release it to victims.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said there was a moral obligation to help them and urged MPs to act.

"Frankly, waiting for the Libyan authorities to sort themselves out is like waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to sing the national anthem," he said.

The lack of a stable administration since the fall of Gaddafi has also made the issue more difficult, MPs were told.

Mr Ellwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: "There is no administration, even today, for us to have clarity.

"They have no obligation, after a revolution, to honour what a previous administration has committed itself to. That's the reality check that we face in this situation."

Mr Ellwood had been called to give evidence to a select committee examining the role of the UK Government in seeking compensation for the victims of IRA attacks made possible by Semtex explosive from the former Gaddafi regime.

Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon questioned the Government's handling of previous claims from victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which resulted in more than £1bn being paid out by the Libyans, and the family of police constable Yvonne Fletcher who was killed outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984.

She said: "If that is Government policy, explain to us that the British Government did seek compensation, quite rightly, for the murder of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher which was paid by the Libyan authorities, and did also seek compensation for the Lockerbie victims?

"Why is it that IRA Libyan-sponsored terrorism has not been espoused? Why is it that the British Government appear to pick and choose which victims it is going to seek to espouse their claims?"

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