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I am most grateful for that, and in particular for the tone in which it was expressed.
This is not just a UK issue, but it is a long-running UK issue. I would like to pay tribute to my hon. Friends who have continued to raise it before the House: my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon, who originally promoted a Bill on the subject, and many others who served in the Province and who have contributed to debates on this issue. Through this Bill we are quite rightly giving large sums of money—hundreds of millions of pounds—to the Northern Ireland Departments, including the judicial Departments, for
“historical investigations and other legacy costs”.
I submit to the Committee that Parliament, even if there were no other concerns, would have every right to debate those sums, but there are other concerns here, which have been well articulated already in this Parliament.
Investigations under way in Northern Ireland are putting servicemen, servicewomen and police officers, whose duty it was to protect the public, almost on a par with terrorists who were content to murder and to maim. There cannot and should not be any moral equivalence between the two. It is now worse than that, however. We are now, through practice in Northern Ireland, discriminating against members of the security forces. Let me put it very simply: can it be morally right that a terrorist suspected of involvement in some of the worst atrocities, such as murdering four troopers in Hyde park and slaughtering their horses, should be given a letter of comfort guaranteeing immunity from prosecution, when those who have served the state to protect our people, in cases that have already been investigated, concluded and dismissed, are now seeing those cases reopened 30, 40 or more years after the event?