Lord Hain criticises Jacob Rees-Mogg over abuse victims bill

Stormont protest by historical institutional abuse victims in April 2017
Image caption Campaigners have been calling for compensation to be implemented since early 2017

Former NI Secretary Lord Hain has criticised Jacob Rees-Mogg’s handling of a bill to compensate institutional abuse victims.

The government has said it cannot be sure the bill will pass before Parliament is dissolved next week.

Lord Hain said there is “no excuse” and that it could be passed through in under an hour.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is the leader of the House of Commons, was pressed on the issue by MPs on Wednesday night.

He said it would not happen on Thursday and there could be an issue getting Royal Assent for the bill on Monday.

But Lord Hain said: “Listening to Jacob Rees-Mogg, it’s just not good enough.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Hain said that the HIA bill could be passed in under an hour

“When I moved my manuscript amendment yesterday that triggered the legislation which the government were not intending to do in the Lords this afternoon, it could have gone into the Commons this evening.

“For Jacob Rees-Mogg to say it wasn’t in the draft of his statement, well what is the leader of the Commons for?”

HIA Bill

Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday for the general election.

Westminster sources have told the BBC the bill is unlikely to be given accelerated passage.

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister Robin Walker told MPs the government is doing “all it can” to progress it.

Victims who were abused as children in Northern Ireland residential homes have lobbied for compensation since the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) ended in 2017.

Campaign group Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “beg that you ensure” the legislation is passed before Parliament is dissolved.

The letter said Mr Johnson had made a commitment to introduce the legislation during the recent Queen’s Speech and urged him to “please do the right thing”.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Campaigners have been calling for compensation to be implemented since early 2017

Marty Adams from the group Survivors Together told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme that “victims cannot take any more”.

“I don’t think the prime minister really understands what he’s doing to victims,” he said.

During prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson stopped short of making a commitment to pass the legislation before Parliament is dissolved, instead telling MPs that the “most powerful way” to address the issue would be to get Stormont up and running again.

When the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday, peers called for the bill to be given accelerated passage.

On Wednesday they backed an amendment to try to force the government to push the bill through before Parliament is dissolved.

The interim advocate for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse, Brendan McAllister, told BBC News NI that while it “isn’t a perfect bill” victims “would rather have a bill than no bill”.

Inquiry timeline

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Sir Anthony Hart died before his recommendations were acted upon

The HIA inquiry, chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, investigated historical allegations of child abuse in residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations.

It examined 22 institutions and its remit covered a 73-year period ranging from 1995 back to the foundation of Northern Ireland.

The inquiry’s final report in January 2017 recommended that all survivors of institutional abuse receive tax-free, lump sum payments ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

However, it was published just a few days after the collapse of Northern Ireland’s devolved government, and no ministers were in post to set up the redress scheme.

Since then victims’ groups have lobbied the Northern Ireland Office to pass the necessary legislation through Westminster and brought a judicial review challenging the lack of government action.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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