Compensation for abuse victims must be rushed through before election, say peers

Peers are hoping new laws to compensate victims of abuse in Northern Ireland can be rushed through Parliament before a possible election.

Northern Ireland minister Lord Duncan of Springbank (pictured) said the victims of historical abuse had been “left hanging” for too long.

He promised to move forward as swiftly as possible with the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill to avoid any parliamentary “logjam” ahead of a possible general election in December.

The Bill establishes a Redress Board to administer a compensation scheme and creates a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse to promote the interests of victims.

The changes recommended by a Stormont-commissioned inquiry into historic institutional abuse in the region, chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, have been on ice for over two-and-a-half years due to the collapse of the devolved institutions.

Lord Duncan said the impasse had been acutely felt by the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse who had been “left hanging for seven long years” after an inquiry in 2012.

“This wait must now come to an end,” he told the Lords in second reading debate on the Bill.

Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain welcomed the Bill but warned it would be tragic for the abuse victims if the legislation stalled in a “parliamentary log-jam” before an election.

Lord Duncan said that with the support of peers he believed he could move the legislation forward “very swiftly” to ensure Parliament wasn’t caught in “limbo” after the announcement of any election.

“I have no desire to see this carried over. I would much rather this be done as quickly as we possibly can,” he assured the House.

“The victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse have waited too long. Let us get this done.”

For the Opposition, Lord Murphy of Torfaen said Labour backed the Bill and did not want to see it fall.

Lord Murphy offered his support to the Government in trying to ensure swift passage of the legislation.

Democratic Unionist Lord Browne of Belmont, also backing the Bill, said there had been a long wait for justice and Parliament must act quickly to get the redress scheme up and running.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey warned that for the Bill to be lost in the “wash-up” before an election would deal a “cruel card” to the victims.

Peers gave the Bill an unopposed second reading but it still has to undergo further detailed scrutiny in the Lords and the Commons before it can become law.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) House Of Commons.