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Legacy Consultation

Volume 651: debated on Wednesday 12 December 2018

4. When she plans to respond to her Department’s consultation on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past. (908074)

It is clear that more needs to be done to address the legacy of the past. The current system in Northern Ireland is not working well for anyone. This needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the troubles and to ensure that our armed forces and police officers are not unfairly treated. We are carefully considering all the views received in almost 18,000 responses and intend to provide an update in due course.

As the Secretary of State will recall, I have been raising with her for over a year the issue of military veterans who are being legally scapegoated for political and financial gain. It is getting worse. We now have the case of David Griffin, a retired Royal Marine, who is being reinvestigated for an alleged offence 46 years ago, of which he was cleared at the time. He is a Chelsea Pensioner. Is the Secretary of State proud of the fact that, on her watch, we have given “get out of jail free” cards to alleged IRA terrorists and we are now pursuing Chelsea Pensioners instead?

My right hon. Friend raised this case with the Prime Minister last week. I, too, am upset to see this situation. This is a result of the current system that we all want to see changed. I say very gently to my right hon. Friend that I have also wanted to work with him on finding a solution to this, and I look forward to continuing to do so, because there is no one simple solution, but we all want to see the system changed.

While the headlines are dominated by Brexit, the sad reality is that the witch hunt against our veterans who served in Northern Ireland continues. Can the Secretary of State outline what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on finding solutions to stop that witch hunt?

I can assure the hon. Lady, with whom I have spoken about this matter on a number of occasions, that I work across Government with all colleagues, because we need to find a way to deal with this issue. There is no one simple solution, but we have to have a way to deal with this that is legal, fair and proportionate.

In supporting the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), may I remind the Secretary of State that veterans were upholding law and order in the Province and it was the terrorists who were trying to kill people? We should bear that in mind when looking at this issue as a whole.

I can absolutely assure my hon. Friend that that is exactly what we are doing. We would not have seen the peace process without the hard work, dedication and dignity of our armed services and our police. They are the reason that we actually were able to have a peace process and we must never forget the sacrifice they made.

May I, too, welcome the Minister of State—[Interruption.] Thank you, ma’am—the Prime Minister is very gracious. May I welcome I believe the ninth Minister to whose substance I have stood as mere shadow? May I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara), a decent man who is wrong on Brexit, but right on many other things?

May I ask the Secretary of State this? She has previously made it clear that she does not support a statute of limitations in Northern Ireland. Does she therefore agree either with her colleague the Secretary of State for Defence, who describes the persecution of veterans as a “ridiculous vendetta”, or with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which says that

“we have the law and…we should all be equal before it”?

It is possible to agree with both. It is a delight to respond to the hon. Gentleman, who has incredible popularity in this House. I hope that he heard the documentary on the BBC yesterday, when the Defence Secretary made it clear on the record that we are looking at every option across Government. We are working across Government on this because we all want to see a solution to this problem.