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I believe some form of consensus is emerging that a statute of limitations might be the correct way forward, especially if it could be applied in a wider context than just the Northern Ireland scenario. I know that the Conservative manifesto at the last election talked about protecting troops from malicious charges such as had been posed most irresponsibly and on an industrial scale in relation to Iraq by invoking the law of armed conflict for future conflicts and ensuring that the criteria of the civil law could not be applied to them. That is where a problem might creep in in connection with Northern Ireland, because there is no way in which the law of armed conflict could be said to apply to that situation, which was internal to the United Kingdom.
We heard from the Secretary of State that, earlier today, the Defence Secretary made the very welcome announcement that a dedicated unit is being set up inside the Ministry of Defence to try to grip this problem, and I think that it will try to grip it at every level—not just for Northern Ireland, but for these wider conflicts. However, for this evening, I will obviously concentrate on the Northern Ireland situation. I wish to start by making brief reference to the report previously produced by the Defence Committee, which was referred to by Gavin Robinson in his very strong contribution to this debate a little while ago.
Our report entitled “Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel”, HC 1064, was published on