Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Thursday, 22 November 2012

Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Bill part two

A bill to set up an inquiry to examine allegations of abuse at children's homes, care institutions and borstals between 1922 and 1995 passed its consideration stage, on 20 November 2012.

The inquiry will be headed by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart.

Assembly members debated 79 amendments which were grouped into four sections.

The second grouping of amendments to the bill were largely technical in nature.

During this stage, members agreed that the inquiry would now investigate abuse claims from as far back as 1922.

Initially it was due to only examine cases between 1945 and 1995.

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood presented his party's amendments in the third grouping.

He said it was "essential the inquiry meets the needs of victims" and he proposed the inquiry panel could publish an interim report to provide an analysis on how the project was proceeding before it was finalised.

Mr Eastwood also suggested a change that would mean the inquiry could not be terminated unless the assembly gave its support.

The DUP's Brenda Hale said she feared these SDLP amendments would mean the inquiry "would drag on" and cause "unnecessary hurt".

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said he too opposed the SDLP amendments. He said he did not believe an interim report was necessary.

However, Chris Lyttle of the Alliance Party said he saw merit in supporting an interim report.

The TUV's Jim Allister brought forward an amendment to remove the ability for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to bring the inquiry to an end.

He questioned why this power was needed and suggested it would undermine the independence of inquiry. "It is utterly unnecessary," he said.

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell said it was vital that this safeguard remained in the bill.

Responding to the SDLP's call for the panel to publish an interim report, Mr Bell said it would be impossible to offer recommendations without hearing all the evidence.

These two amendments proposed by the SDLP and that proposed by Mr Allister were voted down.

In the fourth grouping, all amendments brought forward by the OFMDFM passed. Members such as Mr Eastwood and Mr Lyttle referred to them as "sensible".

The first part of the debate can be viewed here.


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