Robin has been on the front benches this afternoon to support the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to establish the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board and to confer an entitlement to compensation in connection with children who were resident in certain institutions in Northern Ireland; and to establish the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.
Last Thursday, the House of Lords finished its work on a bill enabling compensation payments to be made to abuse victims. Institutional abuse was found to be an epidemic in social care and children’s service facilities run by both the state and the church between 1922 and 1995; appeal court judges found this abuse to amount to torture.
In 2014 the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was launched and upon its conclusion, the final report (2017) recommended several key actions in an attempt to mitigate the abuse and harm done, of course Robin and the Government fully recognise that redress is not closure and can never undo the harmful effects of abuse on the victims and their families. Of those recommendations, financial compensation administered through a redress board proved highly difficult to implement due to the breakdown of political relations at Stormont.
The bill has cross-party support and was fast-tracked to receive Royal Assent before Parliament dissolves.
Speaking after the debate, Robin said:
“Though my colleagues and I are of course fully aware that financial compensation cannot undo or erase the ramifications of childhood sexual and psychological abuse, this legislation has total cross community party support and I was incredibly proud to support the Secretary of State in this bill delivery as the last of this Parliament.”
“Taking action to deliver on the recommendations of the Hart inquiry is fundamentally the right thing to do and I am delighted to have been a part of the team who have delivered it.
There have been too many occasions in recent years where public faith in politics and politicians has been undermined, but on this occasion this House of Commons has risen to its highest standard and done the right thing.”
“It was a particular honour and privilege to have been personally thanked as I left the Chamber by some of the victims present in the public gallery for this afternoon’s proceedings. I am not ashamed to say that being on the front benches hearing members across the House debating today was only the second time in my Parliamentary career that a tear was brought to my eye.”
“Everybody has worked to achieve this and as the final legislation passed by this Parliament, it has brought all parties together united in their cause and conviction to do the right thing. Parliament has the power to implement some truly fantastic changes across the United Kingdom and I am proud to have been involved in this one today.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith said in the Chamber:
“I started off by thanking the number of colleagues who have helped to get this Bill delivered today, those who have worked on the Hart report and those who have worked to support this legislation, but this is not our Bill; it is the Bill of the victims and survivors, and of their representatives, some of whom are present today. For anyone involved at whatever stage, it has been a humbling experience to work with Northern Ireland victims and survivors who suffered child abuse while in care. The resilience and humanity of the victims should drive us all in our daily responsibility to every child, whether through our families, our work, our responsibilities or our communities.”