PM ‘vocally and deliberately’ depriving NI abuse victims a voice in the commons
The Prime Minister should explain to the victims of historical institutional abuse why new laws granting them compensation will not be debated during this parliamentary session, an MP has said.
Independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon called for Boris Johnson (pictured) to visit Northern Ireland to explain why the debate was not heard, despite being listed on the Commons order paper.
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said new laws will be included as part of the next Queen’s Speech “as a matter of urgency”.
The five motions relating to Northern Ireland were debated together, rather than separately, after two emergency debates on Brexit ate into the remaining sitting time of the parliamentary session.
Lady Hermon, the North Down MP, said: “By proroguing Parliament tonight, the Prime Minister has vocally and deliberately, wilfully, and I say deliberately, deprived the victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland of a 90-minute debate.
“He has sent a clear signal that those victims do not even merit a 90-minute debate.
“It’s appalling behaviour. So may I ask the Secretary of State to demand that the Prime Minister comes to Northern Ireland and sits in the meeting and looks the victims of historical institutional abuse in the face and explains to them why he is so disrespectful and discourteous of the hurt and suffering that they had to endure.”
Responding for the Government, Mr Smith said: “To be fair to the business managers tonight there has been a major challenge with the number of unexpected and emergency debates.
“We can ask no more of victims, we can ask no more of the Hart Inquiry.
“The inquiry has been undertaken, officials have prepared the policy, the lawyers have prepared the draft law and I have asked that this be included in the Queen’s Speech as a matter of urgent priority.”
On the issue of abortion laws, Mr Smith announced that from October 22 there will be a “criminal moratorium” in Northern Ireland to ensure that a law passed by MPs in Westminster in July is adhered to.
The law says that if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not reconvened by October 21, then the UK Government must ensure abortions can take place.
Mr Smith said: “It is this Government’s preference that any questions of reform on these important, sensitive and devolved issues are considered in the right place by a restored executive and a functioning assembly.
“However we recognise that a majority of MPs want to make sure that reform happens if we continue to see an absence of devolved government.
“And from October 22 the specific criminal law in Northern Ireland will fall and a criminal moratorium on prosecutions will come into place.”
Mr Smith said it aims for a new legal framework on abortion to be in place by March 31.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley (North Antrim) said there will be “complete and total legal chaos that will exist from October 21 through to March of next year”.
He added: “Where there will be no regulatory framework in place. Where anything goes when it comes to the termination of innocent children’s lives, is that the legacy he wants?”
Mr Smith replied: “If the parties get their act together, this can be a Northern Ireland solution to this issue.”
The Northern Ireland Secretary also said ministers were working to address concerns that ex-servicemen face repeated investigations into their actions while serving in Northern Ireland.
He added: “As the Prime Minister said recently in this House it is common ground across all benches that is simply not right that former soldiers should face unfair and repeated investigations with no new evidence, many years after the events in question.”
Former Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith, who served in Northern Ireland, said: “The point still remains, which is what people have been asking for which is not to just bring somebody in on the basis of a trawl and hope that something new will turn.”
Mr Smith replied: “The Government is looking at all of these issues in its cross-Whitehall review.”
Simon Hoare, the Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said he was “worried and concerned” about the non-moving of the Northern Ireland motions on the order paper because of a lack of time.
He told the Commons: “It is the Treasury bench which has curtailed the timetable by prorogation.
“There is, I think, a growing concern in this House and elsewhere that Number 10, not the ministerial team, seems to care little and understand less about Northern Ireland.”
Tory former minister Maria Miller said: “There is an urgency, particularly to deal with the issues regarding access to abortion.”
She told the Commons that doctors are not able to fulfil their duty of care towards patients in Northern Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
“There are some situations at the moment where we are expecting women to continue pregnancies where they know their babies are going to die, and I think that is not something I would want for any member of my family, it is not something I would want for any of my constituents, and I would not want it for any other resident in the United Kingdom. This has to change.”
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