Libya compensation debate a ‘small step forward’, says Empey

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Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has said the passing of a resolution on compensation for victims of Libyan sponsored IRA terrorism is a “small step forward.”

The former UUP leader was speaking after a debate on the use of seized Libyan assets to compensate the victims of Muammar Gaddafi-backed terrorism.

Labour former minister Kate Hoey told ministers they should take advantage of the “£9.5 billion” in Libyan seized assets to pay victims who are “literally dying”.

Conservative MP Bob Stewart (Beckenham) said it was “indisputable” that the Gaddafi regime supplied weapons and explosives used by the Provisional IRA, and suggested that money earned in interest on the frozen accounts be used to compensate British victims.

Speaking following the debate in Parliament today, Lord Empey said: “I was delighted that the debate took place today on the floor of the House of Commons and a resolution was passed, with all party support, seeking compensation for the victims of Gadaffi sponsored terrorism in the United Kingdom.

“There were some powerful and moving speeches, illustrating the different approaches to the issue of Libyan sponsored terrorism; pointing out that US citizens, French and Germans had received compensation, but not UK victims of the same Libyan regime.

“Today was one small step forward, and I congratulated Conservative MP Laurence Robertson for securing the debate and finally getting the issue onto the floor of the House of Commons.”

Lord Empey continued: “The government response showed one small chink of light; Foreign Office Minister Alistair Birt did say that he was prepared to explore avenues by which we could move forward.

“We cannot read too much into this, but on a day when Libyan nationals were promised compensation by the UK government for breeches of their human rights (up to £500,000), and we consider the hapless position of our victims who have lived for decades with their human rights trampled into the ground, the contrast could not have been greater.”

He added: “The Minister did concede that other long term campaigns, run by the Hillsborough families and those seeking compensation for receiving contaminated blood, had been resolved but not this campaign and that it had being going on far too long.

“The campaign continues. My Private Member’s Bill, the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill, which passed through the House of Lords earlier this year, is due to come up in the Commons next month. The Bill has been adopted in the Commons by our Campaign Group chairman, Andrew Rosindell MP. This is another pressure point letting government know that the campaign group in Parliament will not give up and is determined to ensure justice for these victims.”