If the British Government can introduce emergency legislation to make changes to the RHI scheme it can do so in order to support victims of historical institutional abuse in Derry, the Acting Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Kate Hoey has argued.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for the North, Karen Bradley, the acting NIAC chair claimed there was nothing to stop London acting on the recommendations of Judge Anthony Hart’s ‘Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse’ two years ago, which proposed, among other redress measures, compensation pay-outs to victims of abuse at Termonbacca and other State, voluntary and church run homes between 1922 and 1995.
"It is not the case that legislation cannot be taken through Westminster," wrote the Labour MP for Vauxhall on behalf of the NIAC.
"Only a few weeks ago, parliament passed legislation to make changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme payments under emergency procedures.
"This followed a consultation process and a recommended way forward.
"We understand that legislation is ready, and we hope you will bring it forward as soon as possible," she added.
Following a consultation on the findings of the Hart report the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service wrote to Mrs. Bradley to request that the UK Government bring forward legislation in the ongoing absence of a NI Executive.
The Hart report, which followed four years of inquiry into the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children at some 22 care homes in Northern Ireland including Kincora care home and the Sisters of Nazareth care homes in Belfast and Derry throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, found a string of abuse and consistent failures to support victims.
Commenting on her letter Ms. Hoey said: "The Government seems to have no reservations about fast-tracking Northern Ireland legislation through Westminster on other pressing issues, and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee considers legislation to support victims of institutional abuse a matter of the utmost priority for the Government.
"It is unacceptable for the Government to kick this issue into the long grass while Northern Ireland waits in limbo without Stormont in action, and worse still that the Government might be using this as a bargaining chip in the devolution talks. As acting Chair, I strongly advise the Government to keep to its promises and introduce the legislation needed to bring emotional and financial closure to victims."
The Labour MP took on the role of Acting Chair after former NIAC Chair Dr. Andrew Murrison MP left to to take up a new role as Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.
Following Dr. Murrison's departure an election for the position of Chair will take place with the final date for nominations falling on Monday, June 10.
The British Government has advised that the role of Westminster's oversight committee for the North must be filled by a Conservative Party backbencher.