Published: 17:22, 10 June 2020
| Updated: 18:30, 10 June 2020
The Prime Minister has insisted a controversy-hit compensation scheme for Troubles victims is a “fair, balanced and proportionate way” of helping those injured during the conflict.
Boris Johnson’s comments came as the Government postponed the publication of guidelines on eligibility for the scheme.
They had been anticipated on Wednesday but did not materialise.
The scheme has become embroiled in a political row over both funding and eligibility.
After a long campaign by victims for the support payments, which range from £2,000 to £10,000-a-year depending on the severity of the injury, MPs passed legislation last year to establish the scheme.
It was supposed to open to applications on May 29 but its future has been thrown into doubt amid a wrangle between Stormont and the Government over who foots the £100 million-plus bill.
The Government has insisted it is a matter for the devolved administration to pay for out of its block grant.
But Stormont’s leaders say the scheme was legislated for at Westminster, and covers victims across the UK, so the Government should pay a significant amount.
There is also a dispute over the eligibility guidelines, with Sinn Fein opposed to the Government’s draft proposals.
While the scheme excludes anyone injured by their own actions, it would potentially cover other people who received terror convictions.
However, a judge-led panel will be set up to examine on a case-by-case basis whether payments would be appropriate for people with convictions for serious offences.
Sinn Fein has claimed the Government’s approach could potentially exclude thousands of injured victims from the nationalist and republican community.
The Stormont Executive must formally nominate a department to administer the scheme.
However, as the row rumbles on, Sinn Fein has not given its required approval to hand the role to the Department of Justice.
The issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
He accused Sinn Fein of “blocking” progress.
“Will the Prime Minister have his Government now commit to do all that they can to move this matter forward so that our most vulnerable of innocent victims can receive this pension?” he asked.
Responding, Mr Johnson said: “I think this scheme provides a fair, balanced and proportionate way of helping all those who suffered most during the Troubles and it’s very important that Sinn Fein, along with all other parties, allow the scheme to go forward as soon as possible.”