Investigation of Veterans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:41 am on 16th May 2019.

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Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office 10:41 am, 16th May 2019

Let me first address the right hon. Gentleman’s point about whether this is a matter for the Ministry of Defence or the Northern Ireland Office. He is of course right that the Ministry of Defence has a major, major stake in getting this right. As he would expect—as everybody would expect—the Secretary of State for Defence wants to make sure that this issue is dealt with as promptly as possible. The Ministry of Defence is not the only Department to have a stake, because clearly there are former police officers in Northern Ireland—members of the PSNI—who could also be vulnerable to such predatory legal attack, or whatever, and we need to make sure that they are properly dealt with too. He is right that the MOD is a vital part, but it is not all of it, and that is why the issue goes broader than just veterans of Her Majesty’s armed forces.

On human rights, as I said earlier, all we have to go on at the moment are the press reports and the outlines of the Secretary of State for Defence’s proposals. I did not see those as having—and I do not think she meant them to have—anything to do with contradicting human rights. It is clear that anything we come up with, if it is to be legally robust, has to be compliant with article 2 in human rights terms, because if we do not have a process that is compliant with article 2, we will have failed to protect our veterans, whether they are former members of the armed forces or former members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If we fail to protect against proper legal challenge because we have designed a process that is not compliant with article 2, we will have failed in our duty and failed to deliver what everybody here, of all parties, wishes to achieve.