Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1:49 pm, 5th November 2019

I could not agree more.

I thank my colleague Lord Duncan of Springbank, Lord Hain and other noble lords and baronesses for their work in the other place last week. Many Members in the Chamber today have played a role in making today’s debate happen, particularly DUP Members, Lady Hermon, the Chairman and members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and many, many more.

The desire and push from Northern Ireland has been significant. On Sunday night, a number of members of the Government received a letter from a Catholic priest who represents the diocese of Down and Connor, which was the location of two of the children’s homes at the centre of the inquiry. He said that it is

“a matter of deep personal shame for me and for the Diocese that both homes were found by the Inquiry to have fundamentally failed the children in their care, enabling regimes of horrific and systemic emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, as well as neglect.

In the period before the Inquiry, I came to know some of the former residents of these homes and publicly supported them in their calls for justice and an Inquiry. Over the years of the Inquiry and since, I have watched as those who led this campaign and the hundreds of former children in care who took part in the Inquiry relived the horrors of their time in these institutions and the abuse they suffered there. As children, they arrived at these homes frightened, disorientated and with the simple hope of every child that the adults in their lives would respond to them with affection, understanding, tenderness and care. Instead, they were met so often with hard-hearted coldness, harsh regimes of sterile adult routine and lovelessness, as well as indescribable sexual and physical abuse. It is difficult to overstate the suffering that the former residents of these homes have endured and continue to endure as a result of their experience.”

On the final day of one of the most divided Parliaments in British political history, we can say, hand on heart, that we have all come together, worked together and pulled together to deliver this Bill.