‘Little chance’ of Libya payment

Lord Reg Empey
Lord Reg Empey

A foreign office minister admitted today there was currently “very little chance” of securing compensation from Libya for UK victims of arms supplied by them to the IRA.

Baroness Warsi told peers at question time that Libya was going through an “incredibly difficult” period.

“We need to be realistic about what is actually possible on the Libyan side,” she said.

“There is very little chance at the moment of securing a Libyan payment for compensation.”

Lady Warsi said the Libyan government saw themselves as “victims of the Gaddafi era”.

It was important to build “political space” to allow Libya to engage on this and other issues.

She was responding to Labour former foreign office minister Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean who said the Libyan authorities were “essentially transient authorities”.

Lady Symons said the problem in getting compensation was the frequent changes in those authorities and those holding government office.

“Hasn’t that been further complicated by the law of political isolation that has been introduced in Libya whereby one group of ministers do not speak or have anything to do with the group of ministers they have just seen out of office,” she added.

The exchanges came as Ulster Unionist former leader Lord Empey stepped up pressure on ministers to secure compensation payments.

Lord Empey said the Prime Minister had promised to make the compensation issue an important priority while Lady Warsi had said in January that the Government wasn’t involved in any negotiations with the Libyan government to secure payments.

He said there was a contradiction in those positions and demanded ministers should vigorously pursue the issue with Libya “to seek redress for the many hundreds and thousands of victims of this terrorism throughout the UK”.

Lady Warsi said the coalition would continue to encourage the Libyan government to “engage” with UK victims seeking redress and repeatedly raised the issue with it.

She said ministers were currently assessing these matters and would write to Lord Empey “in due course with much more clarity”.

The Government wanted to develop a “sustainable and effective” partnership with Libya to resolve all these issues.