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Issue of sum out of the Consolidated Fund for the year ending 31 March 2019 and appropriation of that sum

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 9th July 2018.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Conservative, Hemel Hempstead 9:45 pm, 9th July 2018

As my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon said, his amendments are not perfect, and there will be concerns, but when is the right time for us to defend our veterans? When is the right time for those in this House to speak out and say, “Enough is enough”?

I have to declare an interest. It was not 30 or 40 years ago that I got on the troop ship from Liverpool across to Belfast docks. It was 42 years ago that I and the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards went across to Northern Ireland. I was petrified, like most young people were when they went into the armed forces and into combat. I was not going abroad—we were not going to Afghanistan, Iraq, Aden, Borneo or Malaya. I was going to another part of the United Kingdom to protect a community from terrorism. It was a policing role. I have never quite understood why we issued the general service medal for those who went to Northern Ireland, because it was part of the United Kingdom. It was not an operation, as we have heard. We were not on ops; we were assisting the RUC to protect the community. Sometimes that community turned on us, and we lost a lot of good friends and soldiers. Some we have never found. I have spoken in the House before about my captain, Captain Robert Nairac, whose bravery everybody should understand.

We are not here this evening to just accept what the Secretary of State has said and give it carte blanche. The Secretary of State has no idea what I am going to say, and other colleagues are waiting to argue for these amendments as well, but the Secretary of State and the Opposition Front Benchers have already made their mind up, before hearing from gallant colleagues who have served and colleagues who have never served but have constituents who are under threat day in, day out of a knock at the door or a letter. Perhaps that letter will come to me; perhaps I am one of those people. I am probably one of the older ones who served back then. I went in 1976, and the forces that were out there—some were volunteers for the Ulster Defence Regiment, which my hon. and gallant Friend Jim Shannon was serving in—were doing a fantastic job. The RUC was doing a fantastic job. At one stage, we had 10,000 soldiers putting their lives on the line in the Province to keep people safe.