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British Victims of Terrorism (Asset-Freezing and Compensation)

Volume 616: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2016

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the freezing and seizing of assets belonging to states or organisations who sponsor or perpetrate acts of terrorism for the purposes of enabling compensation to be paid to the British victims of such terrorism; to provide a definition of British victims for the purpose of eligibility for such compensation; and for connected purposes.

Today, I lay before the House a Bill that will give hope to all British citizens who have suffered at the hands of terrorism—hope that one day soon their own United Kingdom Government might be obliged to act decisively against the perpetrators and backers of these horrific crimes, and deliver justice to all those whose lives have been so cruelly cut short, or have suffered injury or loss. My Bill would give Her Majesty’s Government direct power to freeze or seize assets of any state or organisation that sponsors or perpetrates such acts. IRA terrorism, supported by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, is the most significant example in recent times of when British citizens have been failed by their own Government in seeking justice for crimes committed against them, but in today’s world there are new threats and new generations of terrorists who seek to harm British people. My Bill will mandate Governments to seek compensation for all British victims of terrorism, providing them with the powers they need to do so.

As chairman of the parliamentary support group for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism, I am proud to have championed, along with my colleagues, the cause to obtain compensation for the victims of these dreadful crimes, and to follow on the good work of the former Member for Thurrock, Andrew Mackinlay, to whom I pay heartfelt tribute for his steadfast support for the campaign for justice for the victims of terrorism perpetrated by the IRA.

Many of us have friends, family or constituents who have suffered at the hands of politically motivated terrorism. Last year marked a quarter of a century since the assassination of my friend and former Member for Eastbourne, Ian Gow, whose murder at the hands of the IRA in July 1990 had a profound effect on me and on so many others who knew Ian as a soldier, lawyer, parliamentarian, friend, and staunch defender of Queen and country. In this Chamber, we commemorate with personal shields our own fallen colleagues who were victims of terrorism: Ian Gow, Airey Neave, Robert Bradford and Sir Anthony Berry, who was killed in the Grand hotel, Brighton in 1984. All were victims of IRA-INLA terrorism.

Terrorism in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s had a profound effect on so many of my generation, who remember growing up with the threat of bombs in London, Belfast and towns and cities across the United Kingdom. Indeed, 9 February 1996 will always be etched on my mind. I visited the Britannia hotel in Docklands to discuss plans for an international dinner I had organised, to be held on 1 October that year, in honour of Lady Thatcher. I travelled back via South Quay station and arrived home in Romford only to watch the “ITN News” with horror, as I learned about the devastating bomb explosion that had occurred soon after I had boarded the docklands light railway. That bombing, as well as so many other acts of terrorism by the IRA, was carried out using explosives supplied by the Libyan regime, yet so many years later victims have not received the compensation they rightly deserve. Some of the victims and their families who suffered that trauma are now elderly or have passed away.

Zaoui Berezag was a victim of the Canary Wharf bombing, and was left severely mentally and physically impaired; he was cared for by his devoted wife Gemma until she sadly died last year. They never received one penny in compensation. Victims of the Harrods bombing of 17 December 1983, such as the family of WPC Jane Arbuthnot and Police Inspector Stephen Dodd, did not receive compensation, while the family of an American who was killed precisely in the same place at the same time did receive compensation. That is because, unlike the UK Government, the United States Government, under President George W Bush, fought and won the argument with the Gaddafi regime for American victims.

How can it be justified that some victims should receive compensation while others do not? Surely it should be settled when the victims or their families are still alive. It is truly terrible that British victims have been treated so differently from Americans. Their Government stood by their victims; our Government did not.

Each time the issue of compensation for these deserving victims is raised, we have until now received the same empty response from Governments of all persuasions. Each time, we hear weak excuses for not pursuing a way of bringing this matter to a satisfactory conclusion for the British victims of terrorism. Each time, the long-hurting victims of the IRA-Gaddafi’s regime listen in, only to be let down and left to wait indefinitely.

These wicked acts took place a long time ago and many of the victims fear that, unless action is taken soon, they will not be around to see this matter concluded and will never receive the justice and compensation they deserve. Time is running out, so today I bring this Bill to the Floor of the House with the aim of giving Her Majesty’s Government the power to act and resolve this issue by making provision for the freezing and seizing of assets belonging to any state or organisation that sponsors or perpetrates acts of terrorism against a British citizen. I include in that category citizens of Ireland, as well as any citizens of our Crown dependencies or overseas territories that might have been affected.

When sanctions against Libya are eventually lifted, it is vital that we do not miss the opportunity finally to bring this matter to a close and come to an agreement with any future Government in Tripoli. The British victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism must never be forgotten, and we must not discard the one bargaining tool we have—frozen assets—to ensure that justice is served.

Over many decades, Governments have both missed and avoided opportunities to bring justice to the victims. This cannot be allowed to happen one moment longer. It would be intolerable if, when the assets are unfrozen, the UK is unable to ensure that talks are opened and had no power to act. Just as the Libyan people were victims of Gaddafi, the British victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism are too, and it is the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to fight to bring justice.

This Bill proposes a thorough basis for legislation to allow Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that eventually, however many years it takes, the UK victims of the IRA-Gaddafi regime will eventually receive compensation and justice. I say to the House that we need a law that ensures that any future victims of terrorism will not have to suffer the same trauma. That is why my Bill is important, not just for the victims of IRA terrorism, but for those British citizens who may, God forbid, become victims of terrorism in years hence. So it is for the defence, the well-being and the protection of all of Her Majesty’s subjects that I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Andrew Rosindell, James Cartlidge, Mr Nigel Dodds, Kate Hoey, Sir Gerald Howarth, Daniel Kawczynski, Danny Kinahan, Mr Khalid Mahmood, Dr Paul Monaghan, Ian Paisley, Gavin Robinson and Henry Smith present the Bill.

Andrew Rosindell accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 February 2017, and to be printed (Bill 88).