Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Conservative, Hemel Hempstead 3:43 pm, 24th October 2018

I will not give way to the great Lady, simply because I know so many other colleagues wish to speak in the debate.

The Bill worries me. I worry how amendable it is, which could impose things on Northern Ireland that are devolved matters. I accept that the Assembly is the right place. In a perfect world, I would like to see no abortion, but we do not live in a perfect world. We have abortion legislation here, and I was on the Opposition Front Bench during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008—a really difficult Bill—and we had a long debate about abortion. I personally think that a woman’s choice is important and we should allow abortion, but I would like to reduce the length of time in which the foetus can be aborted. However, it would be fundamentally dangerous to impose a decision made here on Northern Ireland when it is a devolved matter. I personally think that it should happen in Northern Ireland, but that is for the politicians who were duly elected there to deal with. If the amendment is passed today, it will cause chaos and division in Northern Ireland, and I shall vote against it if it is selected.

I have to say to those on the Front Bench that I have told my Whips that if that amendment were to be in the Bill, that is one reason why I would not be voting for the Bill later. But there is another reason, which is just as important. A whole group of veterans made Northern Ireland safer than it was when we went in. Many Members of this place have served in Her Majesty’s armed forces and been decorated for it. I find inconceivable the way that a British Conservative Government are dealing with British ex-servicemen. Years and years after we served and after the investigations have taken place, we are being treated like we were terrorists. That is the way we feel.

I first went to Northern Ireland in 1975, and Captain Robert Nairac, who sadly passed away there—we think, although we still do not know the exact facts of what happened to Robert—was my captain. I am surrounded by people saying to me, “Why are you”—this Government, this House—“not protecting me, rather than letting me be dragged back to a court in Northern Ireland for something that was finished years ago and of which I was found not guilty?” That form of double jeopardy is fundamentally wrong and it should be covered in this Bill. The Bill is concise and capable of containing that protection. I raised this matter at business questions last week, and the Leader of the House, in good faith, told me to go and speak to the Ministry of Defence. It has nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence; it is to do with the Northern Ireland Office and the Prime Minister, and that is the most important thing.