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 hope that one of the commissioner’s focuses will to be look at the services to support those who come forward. That will require money and organisation, but it will be a key part of the role for whoever takes on the position of commissioner.

I have just been asked about this, so let me say that one of the key concerns of parliamentarians and victims’ groups alike is the swift payment for victims and survivors after the passing of this legislation. Victims have already waited too long for redress, and as we have heard, many have died doing so. Our thoughts are with their families. Clause 14 contains provisions that allow the redress board to pay an initial acknowledgement payment of £10,000 to eligible victims before the full determination of the total compensation is payable. Clause 7 allows the redress board to take a flexible case-management approach to claims to ensure that those who are elderly or in severe ill health are considered as a priority. Those in greatest need of redress will get their payment more quickly. Clause 6 allows claims to be made on behalf of a deceased person by their spouse or children.

Other key aspects of the Bill that are important to victims and survivors include provisions that allow the redress board to convene oral hearings, but in a way that should not create an unnecessary delay for those cases in which oral evidence is not required; the ability of the redress board to determine the rate of compensation based on a number of factors, including the duration of stay in an institution; and the ability of the commissioner for survivors of institutional child abuse for Northern Ireland to make representations to any person, including to the redress board. I also wish to confirm to the House that my Department is working closely with the Northern Ireland civil service and David Sterling to ensure that there is adequate resource and capacity for this redress scheme, so that it can get going as urgently as possible.