Belfast Telegraph

Lord Empey urges Government to ensure Historical Institutional Abuse bill passes

Veteran unionist Lord Empey
Veteran unionist Lord Empey

The Government has been urged to ensure a bill compensating victims of Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland is passed before Parliament is dissolved.

While the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill passed the House of Lords on October 30, there is growing concern there may not be enough time for it to complete its remaining stages before Parliament is dissolved on Wednesday.

The Bill will allow for the establishment of a redress board to administer a compensation scheme and the installation of a commissioner for survivors of institutional abuse to promote the interests of victims.

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey said the next two days will be "crucial" for victims.

"Last week saw parties in both Houses of Parliament coming together to pressure the Government to include the necessary legislation among the list of Bills that need to be agreed before dissolution on Wednesday," he said.

“I said last week that it would be cruel if, having come this far, the victims saw this legislation, which provides for compensation payments, snatched away from them at the last moment. This would mean months of further delay."

Tuesday will be the last opportunity for the Bill to be passed into law by the Commons and given Royal Assent.

"The indications are that, at long last, the Government has got the message, so I am more hopeful than I was last week," Lord Empey added.

“At least, in its dying moments, this Parliament could go out showing a degree of humanitarian concern for a long term victimised community.”

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, campaigner Anna Mercer said she and others will be making "strong representations" to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday urging him to ensure the Bill completes its passage.

"This goes to the very top of government now and we'll be going over to Westminster tomorrow and Tuesday to meet with, hopefully, chief whips, Jacob Rees-Mogg and also the Prime Minister," she said.

"We're at the end of the line with this, it has to go through, we will be making very, very strong representations of this tomorrow in the hope that Tuesday will see it complete the Commons and get Royal Assent."

On Wednesday night, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, warned there could be an issue getting the Bill through all its stages before the dissolution of Parliament.

The provisions in the Bill were recommended following a Stormont-commissioned inquiry into historic institutional abuse chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, which published its final report in January 2017.

They include a tax-free compensation payments for victims ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Government is "fully committed" to ensuring victims "get the redress they deserve".

"That is why it was one of the first Bills introduced following the Queen’s Speech," the spokesperson added.

“Given the importance and sensitivity of this Bill we sincerely hope that Parliament will find the time to give this Bill the scrutiny it deserves and to pass this Bill before Parliament is dissolved.”

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