Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has welcomed the completion of the House of Lords stages of his Bill to secure compensation for the victims of Gadaffi inspired terrorism. The Bill now goes to the House of Commons.
Lord Empey said:
“For over a decade, I have been fighting a battle to get compensation for victims who suffered as a result of the supply of Semtex and weapons to the IRA by former Libyan Leader, Colonel Gadaffi. We formed an All Party Parliamentary Support Group in Westminster and decided in 2015 that a Bill would be the best way of highlighting the plight of victims. Following a parliamentary ballot it fell to me to bring the Bill to the House of Lords, initially passing through the House in 2016, but then running out of time due to the calling of the General Election. With a new Parliament, came a new opportunity and, today, the Bill has passed its final reading in the House of Lords and it now passes to the House of Commons where Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell will sponsor it.
“This is a significant milestone on a long hard road for victims of IRA terrorism. To put this in context the US, German and French Governments have all succeeded in getting compensation from Libya for their victims whilst successive UK governments have failed to get any for their citizens. The Bill I brought through the House of Lords is designed to rectify that, but it needs to pass through the House of Commons to have effect.
“There is £9.5 billion of frozen Libyan assets in London, an enormous sum. The Bill empowers the Treasury to get access to those funds to utilise for the benefit of victims, with the approval of the United Nations and the EU who imposed the freeze. So far the UK has not even bothered to ask for help from either to do so. That in itself says it all.
“Therefore I appeal to the Government to do everything it can to make sure this Bill passes through the House. No more delays, no more clever use of Parliamentary procedures and no more patronising of victims and their representatives. The indications so far have not been good. When I previously brought this Bill through the House of Lords and it was passed to the House of Commons at the end of 2016, it was blocked consistently by a Member ‘objecting’, resulting in the Bill having to be rescheduled. This is a well-used tactic when governments don’t want to deal with the Bill. It eventually ran out of time when the General Election was called last Spring.
“I know that both the Treasury and the Foreign Office are opposed to it. They owe an explanation to UK victims of Libyan sponsored IRA terrorism for their reasons for doing so. However, the Support Group are not prepared to let these victims down. Their treatment has been awful, and successive governments have behaved inexplicably when one sees that the US, German and French Governments all succeeded in getting compensation from Libya for their victims. Was a deal done by Tony Blair that led to British inactivity on this matter? If this Conservative Government does not want to be placed in the same category as the Blair Government, then the victims need to see actions. The Government has a moral obligation and a duty of care to its citizens. They have been repeatedly failed and let down by previous UK Governments. If this Government fails to act, then the same words of failure will be written on its epitaph.
“We have met Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and while he has promised to be more proactive, his written response was inadequate. We are meeting him again. If he is serious about addressing this, then he needs to change his approach. The Foreign Secretary portrays himself as a man of the people - here`s his chance to prove it.
“Republicans are consistent in pursuing campaigns on behalf of people they claim have suffered an injustice; a sick irony as the IRA created more victims than all others put together. However, unionists have not been so consistent or persistent. The victory this week of those who were seeking legal aid in the Hyde Park bombing case should give us all encouragement to continue these justified campaigns on behalf of victims of IRA abuse and give ‘boltcutter’ Kelly and his colleagues something to ponder as they come to realise that the ‘On the Run’ letters and Royal Pardons cannot protect them from the determination of those who were the targets of their perverted version of Irish republicanism.”