Northern Ireland

NI Executive 'should decide on payments for abuse victims'

Karen Bradley Image copyright ADP/Getty Images
Image caption Karen Bradley said she was willing to listen to requests from the Head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland, David Sterling

It would be "constitutionally inappropriate" for the Government to approve the payment of compensation to victims of historical abuse in NI, the secretary of state has said.

But Karen Bradley indicated she would consider any proposals from the head of NI's Civil Service as a result of the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry.

It was set up by the executive, which should rule on any payments, she added.

It was set up to examine allegations of child abuse between 1922 and 1995.

The head of the civil service, David Sterling, has previously indicated he was preparing legislation to deal with the HIA, which recommended that victims should be compensated.

'Great shame'

In response to a question from the Independent North Down MP, Lady Hermon, at Westminster, the secretary of state said victims should see the justice "they so rightly deserve".

"It is a great shame that we don't have an executive to deal with these things," she added.

Northern Ireland's power-sharing government collapsed 14 months ago and several rounds of talks to restore devolution have proved fruitless.

"It would be constitutionally inappropriate for this house to determine the actions that should be taken in regards to those recommendations, because this house did not set up that inquiry."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was set up to examine allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other institutions

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was chaired by retired High Court judge, Sir Anthony Hart, but the collapse of devolution last year has led to a delay in implementing Sir Anthony's findings.

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Smith, said Mr Sterling had indicated he was was preparing legislation with regard to the inquiry.

"He said explicitly that if there's no executive in place, by the summer was the implication, as that's when the legislation is going to be ready, then he will be asking the Secretary of State to bring forward legislation in Westminster in order to give effect to the recommendations of the Hart inquiry," he added.

In response, Mrs Bradley said: "If David Sterling should write to me making specific requests, I would consider them at that point."

On Tuesday, MPs debated a bill which provided legal cover for civil servants from spending in last year's budget.

It was also confirmed that a further bill, outlining a budget for Northern Ireland next year, would be brought forward at Westminster this summer if devolved government has not been restored at Stormont.

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