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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 10:00 pm on 9th July 2018.

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Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Conservative, Plymouth, Moor View 10:00 pm, 9th July 2018

I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I must say that when I started the process on IHAT, I found it a pretty lonely experience. That has now changed significantly. There are people in the Chamber who have campaigned on the Northern Ireland issue for a long time and it is deeply heartening to see the support this issue has got, certainly among Conservative Members. I thank him and others who have been here for much longer than me who have provided me with that support; vice versa, I have given any support that I have been able to give.

The problems with this process are so well known. It is late and I do not want to send everyone to sleep by going into them, but this process does not work for anybody. It does not work for the soldiers who are being investigated or for the families in finding out what has happened. The idea that it does is, I am afraid, for the birds.

We have heard from other hon. Members who have been to veterans’ dinners and so on, and I find it very difficult at the moment to see some of my old friends. They often asked me after IHAT when I thought that this process would stop. If I am honest, I thought that it would stop when we saw pensioners going to court. I thought that something in the British psyche would say, “This is not an acceptable way to treat our servicemen and women,” but it did not stop there. I still question when it will stop and whether this Prime Minister, or any other members of the Cabinet, understand that if they do not do anything, this will never end. It will never end for our servicemen and women unless somebody shows just an ounce of the courage that we asked our servicemen and women to show in Northern Ireland by gripping this process and bringing it to a close.

What will that take? The Defence Secretary made another announcement today which, of course, I welcome. The fact that I suggested it two years ago when we wound up IHAT is irrelevant, but we cannot keep going round and round in circles and, every time that this comes up, act as though we are surprised that the issue of prosecuting soldiers has arisen. Again, veterans up and down the country are watching these proceedings on television. I congratulate the Secretary of State on today’s announcement, but this has not just started. It has been coming for years, and what I find so deeply frustrating and shameful, sometimes, about being part of this team is that two years ago, when the IHAT process finished, all the abuses were laid out for everybody to see. We aired all our dirty washing, but still nobody gripped the issue until we saw a couple of our pensioners going to court. I am afraid that we cannot govern like this if we are to retain our credibility.

We have heard about a lot of incidents and individual stories tonight but, in closing, I just reiterate that no other country on earth does this to its servicemen and women. Yes, it was 70 years ago, but this country—Britain—stood alone and the military essentially got us the freedoms and privileges that we enjoy. There is no doubt that this project—this country of ours—exists only because young men and women are prepared to join up to fight and defend this country. I do not have the words to express the utter betrayal—by this place and, currently, this Government—of those who have served, and I want to see it end.