Government statement a ‘bitter blow’ for Gaddafi-Semtex victims
24 March 2021
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Chairman Simon Hoare has criticised the Government’s announcement of how it will deal compensating victims of IRA attacks which had been backed by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. He said, “in my opinion this important issue has never been treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves”.
The latest development follows publication today (23 March) of a Written Ministerial Statement confirming that the Report by William Shawcross on compensation for victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism will not be published and that a specific compensation fund for those victims will not be set up.
Responding to the news, Mr Hoare added that the “announcement will be a bitter blow to those who have waited so long for recognition and justice and who were urged to put all of their hopes and dreams into Mr Shawcross’ appointment.”
The Committee has repeatedly called for the publication of the Shawcross Report, as the report is known, and has summoned him to a public evidence session on Wednesday 24 March. Mr Shawcross, whose appointment was heralded as a catalyst to solve a longstanding issue, submitted his report to Government in May 2020.
The Government statement said that in the absence of a special fund for these victims, compensation was available through existing and planned schemes, including the Troubles Permanent Disablement Fund.
Implementation of that fund, also known as the Troubles Pension, was due to begin in May 2020, but has successively been held up due to problems within the Northern Ireland Executive in selecting a department to administer it and how it will be funded. Last year, the issue of nominating a department was settled when the Department of Justice took up responsibility for the scheme, but questions of how much it will cost, and how it will be funded, remain.
Simon Hoare MP, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said,
“This announcement will be a bitter blow to those who have waited so long for recognition and justice and who were urged to put all of their hopes and dreams into Mr Shawcross’ appointment.
I can see nothing referenced in the Statement to justify the Government’s decision today as being ‘new’ or that should come in any way as a surprise. The fact that it has taken the Government a whole year to deliberate before coming to a decision to do nothing adds insult to injury.
In my opinion this important issue has never been treated with the seriousness and urgency it required. The only ‘upside’ is that at least, and at last, we now know, and victims now know, what the Government’s final decision is. Futile hope can be extinguished and my heart goes out to all of those who will be feeling so let down.
We note that the Government has established that the frozen assets of Libya held in the UK under UN Resolution cannot be used by the UK to make compensation payments. But the Government’s Statement is silent as to whether the tax due on those assets could be used. The Committee will be pursuing this point with Ministers, the Treasury and HMRC.
The ‘Troubles Pension’ may provide victims with a route to compensation, but as Westminster and Stormont continue to disagree over how much it’s going to cost, and who’s going to fund it, we reserve judgment on how effective it might prove to be.
We would urge the Government to reconsider its decision not to publish the Shawcross Report. We don’t know what it says. If it proves the Government’s case, what has the Government got to lose from publishing it?
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee refused to let this issue disappear; we will continue our vigilance on behalf of those people who now need it more than ever.”
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