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Armed Forces Veterans: Legacy Investigations

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2018

7. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on legacy investigations into the conduct of armed forces veterans in Northern Ireland. (905868)

This House knows that, were it not for the bravery of the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Cross, there would never have been a Good Friday agreement. Yet the Secretary of State's proposals include legacy investigations into veterans—in some cases going back 50 years. Will she agree to give evidence to the Defence Committee inquiry into this matter so that we can ask her how her proposals are compatible with the principles of the armed forces covenant?

I agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. Friend. As I said at the recent Police Federation conference in Northern Ireland, we owe all those who served an enormous debt of gratitude. Without the contribution of our armed forces and police, there would quite simply have been no peace process in Northern Ireland. I want to reassure my right hon. Friend that we are consulting on how to address the legacy of the past. This is a consultation.

Chester is a garrison city, and numerous constituents who have retired from the services are affected by uncertainty. I have no problem with crimes being investigated where there is evidence, but what comfort can the Secretary of State give those servicemen and ex-servicemen in my constituency who have served honourably and are living under a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty?

Those people are living under that cloud of uncertainty under the current system, and I want to see an end to the disproportionate focus on our veterans that is happening under that current mechanism. There is widespread agreement that the current system is not working. I urge the hon. Gentleman and all his constituents to respond to the consultation—we are consulting.

An end to disproportionate focus is not the answer we need. What we need is for a line to be drawn, and the way to draw that line is to have a statute of limitations and a truth recovery process. Why has the Secretary of State excluded that from the consultation when it was supposed to be included?

I know that my right hon. Friend feels strongly about this issue. I urge him to respond to the consultation—I repeat, it is a consultation. There are differing views on this matter and differences of opinion, and we do need to hear from everybody.

Our armed forces and security forces served bravely and valiantly during the troubles. What action has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that no one who served is unnecessarily dragged into the criminal justice system for actions that have already been investigated?

Again, I urge the hon. Lady to respond to the consultation. We want to get this right. We want to make sure that we have a proportionate, fair and just response, but let us remember that 90% of all murders in the troubles were committed by terrorists.