Although his previous bill to secure compensation for Libya-IRA victims failed due to the snap election, Lord Empey says a range of new factors have now put the campaign in a much stronger position.
The late Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi provided millions of pounds and 120 tonnes of weaponry to the IRA during the Troubles. Some £9.5bn of assets linked to his regime are currently frozen in the UK due to terror links.
UK Libya-IRA victims are pressing for compensation from Libya on a par with what it has already paid out to US, German and French victims of terror attacks it sponsored.
However, the government has persistently opposed any steps to use Libyan assets frozen in the UK to compensate them.
UUP peer Lord Empey had put down a bill which proposed the government change its mind, but this fell when Parliament was dissolved for the recent snap general election.
So he is now putting forward his bill once again, and says a number of key factors now strengthen his hand:
• The Conservatives are now in a weakened position having lost a significant number of MPs;
• A report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) in April urged the government to settle compensation for Libya-IRA victims urgently;
• He expects the DUP are putting added pressure on Theresa May in current talks to implement the NIAC recommendations;
• The Labour Party is once again giving its full support to his bill.
“The government is not a position to throw its weight around,” he said. “It might be harder for it to reject this time around. We still have Labour party support – and that of a significant number of Tory backbenchers as well as MPs from other parties. So I assume our chances are better.”
The new bill has been amended to make supporters of terrorism liable not just for supplying weapons, but also for providing training, weapons and money to terrorists. If passed it would make any terrorist-linked assets frozen in the UK liable for compensation of victims of that group.
“This is not just about Libya,” he said. If the UN freezes any assets in the UK due to Islamist terrorism, these would also be available to victims as compensation.
A ballot takes place today to decide whether Lord Empey’s bill will be progressed in Parliament.
However, he is confident that one way or another the government is going to come under increasing pressure to settle the matter of compensation for the victims.