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Legacy of the Troubles

Volume 702: debated on Wednesday 27 October 2021

4. What plans he has to bring forward legislative proposals to address Northern Ireland legacy issues. [R] (903817)

The Government will bring forward legislation to address the Northern Ireland legacy issues very soon, focusing on information recovery and reconciliation.

East Devon is home to many veterans who proudly served their country, risking everything while following orders. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that in his forthcoming legislation, we will stand by our promise to end vexatious claims against those who served in Northern Ireland?

The Government are absolutely committed to fulfilling their manifesto commitments to provide certainty to the many veterans who served courageously to defend the rule of law during the long years of the troubles. I can give my hon. Friend and his constituents the reassurance that we will deliver on our manifesto pledge, but we are also clear that this is about ensuring that we are addressing the needs of victims and veterans at the same time.

I offer my sympathies to the families of Dennis Hutchings and John Pat Cunningham during what must be an incredibly difficult period for them. The last time I raised the forthcoming Bill, I was told that veterans were being consulted. The Secretary of State will therefore be aware that a range of views are held, including in Northern Ireland where many oppose a blanket amnesty. Will he commit to continued close engagement with veterans to fully understand the views of those who served?

I join the hon. Gentleman in offering my condolences and thoughts to those families. As in the rest of our engagement, we have heard a range of views from across the community, particularly on that side of the discussion from the veterans community. We are considering that carefully.

We have always been clear that dealing with the past in Northern Ireland must equally address the needs of victims and veterans. I am happy to restate the answer that I gave the hon. Gentleman previously and say that we will continue to engage closely with veterans groups across Great Britain and Northern Ireland as we seek to bring in legislation to address those important, complex and sensitive issues.

After more than four years, two general election manifestos and a hand-signed promise in The Sun newspaper from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State has delivered nothing. My question is very straightforward: “Where is your Bill, Brandon?”

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has campaigned on the issue for a long time and he has been forthright in his determination to deliver for the veterans community. We set out our Command Paper in July just before the summer recess. As we said we would, we have been engaging with interested parties in the past couple of months, including not just the veterans community but victims, civic society and, more widely, the political parties in Northern Ireland. As we said in the Command Paper, we are still focused on delivering legislation to the House this autumn.

Can the Secretary of State tell the House clearly which of the groups representing the families of victims that he has met have agreed with his proposals?

As I said when I launched the Command Paper, we appreciate that it is a very sensitive and complex issue that will affect a huge range of people. We have had wide engagement across victims groups and with victims who are not represented by groups. We are taking on that feedback at the moment and we will come forward with proposals very soon.

My constituent Edward Vaughan-Jones’ brother Robert, 2 Para, died at Warrenpoint in 1979. Some 42 years later, the family’s wounds have not healed due to repeated investigations and a lack of conclusion. Can my right hon. Friend outline when Mr Vaughan-Jones will receive a conclusive report on his brother’s death so that he can finally have some sense of closure?

My deepest sympathies are with Mr Vaughan-Jones and the many other families who have waited far too long to get answers about the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths. We are determined that part of the process of information recovery will mean that families get the answers that they have not had. They have waited far too long and we need to resolve that issue soon.