Former Military Personnel: Northern Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd February 2017.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee 12:00 am, 22nd February 2017

If she will take steps to introduce legislative proposals to provide legal protection to former military personnel who served in Northern Ireland at least equivalent to that offered to former republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have made clear, I think it is absolutely appalling when people try to make a business out of dragging our brave troops through the courts. In the case of Northern Ireland, 90% of deaths were caused by terrorists, and it is essential that the justice system reflects that. It would be entirely wrong to treat terrorists more favourably than soldiers or police officers. That is why, as part of our work to bring forward the Stormont House agreement Bill, we will ensure that investigative bodies are under a legal duty to be fair, balanced and proportionate so that our veterans are not unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

While I welcome that reply, it does not go quite as far as I and many other people would like. There is no prospect of new credible evidence coming forward against our veterans of the troubles up to 40 years after the event, yet people are starting to use the same techniques in Northern Ireland against them as were used against veterans of Iraq. Surely the answer has to be a statute of limitations preventing the prosecution of veterans to do with matters that occurred prior to the date of the Belfast agreement.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As my right hon. Friend knows, we are looking at this issue as part of the Stormont House agreement. What we are doing is ensuring that the investigative bodies responsible for looking at deaths during the troubles will operate in a fair, balanced and proportionate manner. We want cases to be considered in chronological order, and we want these protections enshrined in legislation. We are going to consult fully on these proposals, because we want to make sure that we get this right.