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Armed Forces Covenant

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:59 pm on 2nd February 2017.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester 2:59 pm, 2nd February 2017

I am most grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, whom I consider a friend. His service in the Cheshire Regiment we should never fail to recognise, and the experience he brings to the House should never be underestimated. The House may wish to know that he is still held in extremely high regard in my constituency.

I do not think the closure of the barracks will assist the Army in its effectiveness and I ask the Government to think again.

I wish to touch briefly on two other issues. The first was mentioned by Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson and concerns Northern Ireland. The criminal investigations into every death there involving the British Army during the troubles are wrong. If evidence of a crime can be presented, it should be investigated, but a blanket inquiry cannot be justified. Sir Gerald Howarth talked about a statute of limitations; I do not know about that.

As I have mentioned, many former members of the Cheshire Regiment, which served with distinction in Northern Ireland, are either originally from, or have since settled in, my constituency. Their service should be their honour, and I will defend them. Some of them may be implicated now in the new inquiry. In the specific terms of today’s debate on the armed forces covenant, if the Government have not already done so— if they have, I apologise—will they consider guaranteeing full legal support to any ex-serviceman or woman who is dragged into this unfair mess?

My final point is also about veterans and ex-servicemen. I wish to mention my constituent Ray Tindall, along with John Armstrong, Nick Dunn, Nicholas Simpson, Paul Towers and Billy Irving. They remain incarcerated in a prison in Chennai in India wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit.