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Blair has failed us, say families of holiday terror attack victims

Graeme Wilson and Sally Pook / London Telegraph | September 21 2006

Relatives of 13 Britons killed in three separate terrorist attacks abroad criticised Tony Blair yesterday for breaking a promise to provide compensation for the families of the bereaved.

The Prime Minister was accused of "ignoring" the victims and their families as he attended a national service of remembrance at Southwark Cathedral, London, in honour of those killed in the bombings in Egypt, Turkey and Qatar last year.

After the atrocities Mr Blair told the Commons that the Government was considering "introducing a scheme for providing compensation, for example, for UK victims of terrorism, wherever that may happen".

But relatives of the victims said he had failed to close the gap in the system which means Britons who are killed or injured in terrorist attacks in another country are not eligible for compensation.

Instead, the Government has created a £1 million charitable fund that can only make payments of a few thousand pounds to cover costs.

In contrast, families of those killed in the July 7 bombings in London are eligible for compensation payments of up to £500,000 each.

John Corke, whose stepdaughter Annalie Vickers, 31, was killed in the attacks on the Sharm-el-Sheikh resort in Egypt last year, said the families felt badly let down.

He added: ''The Government has given the victims nothing. We are talking about people who have been seriously injured and cannot work or even really live. These people are seriously affected, they can't work or pay mortgages or bills." Trevor Lakin, whose son Jeremy, 28, the boyfriend of Miss Vickers, also died in Sharm-el-Sheik, urged ministers to do more to support those affected by the attacks.

"Tony Blair is a father, he knows how you love your children," he said. "I had a short note from him, but I just want to say to him today that whatever he does before he leaves office, he must get this sorted and get a sustainable fund set up for those killed overseas."

More than 500 people attended the hour-long service yesterday, including family and friends of the dead and about 80 survivors. Mr Blair was accompanied by his wife, Cherie, who sat alongside Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary; John Reid, the Home Secretary; David Cameron, the Conservative leader, and the Duke of York.

In his address to the congregation, the Right Rev Dr John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln, spoke of the victims and their relatives as a random group bonded together by "the loathsome lottery which is international terrorism".

"It is a lottery which has scarred the world with innocent victims who, in going about their daily business or simply enjoying their lawful leisure pursuits, were deemed to be guilty by association with perceived abuses of political power, or global injustice and so were deemed to be legitimate targets for terrorist atrocities."

Dr Saxbee, who was chosen to address the congregation as many of the victims came from the Lincolnshire area, added that the war on terror would be won through the battle for hearts and minds.

"It is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is a battle against bullets and bombs. Moral and spiritual strength may matter more than military might when it comes to winning this war and securing long-term peace and stability."

In an act of remembrance, a member of each bereaved family, including two little boys, was invited to light a candle at the altar. The names of each of the victims were also read out.

Shortly before the end of the service, during the penultimate hymn, a flame from the altar was passed around until each member of the congregation had a lit candle.

Later the Prime Minister's spokesman said it "may take some time" to find a way to compensate the families of those killed in terrorist attacks abroad.

"We are looking at the options for bridging that gap," he added.

 

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