Extension of period for forming an Executive

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 6:15 pm, 9th July 2019

I did not necessarily automatically assume that the right hon. Gentleman was looking for retrospective legislation. That is an interesting point. The reality, however, is that for this state to now adopt retrospectively something that is imposed would be in contravention of article 29 of that statute.

I pray in aid Lady Hermon, who made a point about the role of the police. The role of the police and of the armed forces is very similar. George Hamilton, the outgoing chief constable of the PSNI, has made it clear that he does not believe in any form of statute of limitations. He said:

“There cannot be different rules for different citizens.”

That is a fundamental challenge. The Police Federation for Northern Ireland made the point that it would be an insult to police officers who were killed or injured on duty. This is the real point: in the end, we ask our armed forces to sign an oath to uphold the Queen and Her Majesty’s laws—except for the Royal Navy, ironically, as my hon. Friend Stephen Pound, who served in the Royal Navy, knows. We are talking not about the massive and overwhelming majority who serve faithfully in our armed forces, but about the small minority who transgress the law.

The right hon. Member for Sevenoaks drew a distinction between terrorists and those who are lawfully armed, but those who are lawfully armed and misuse those arms do not deserve any protection. I say to the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for New Forest East that I am not minded to support their amendment, but we will continue to debate this.

Nigel Dodds raised an interesting question about the definition of victims, but it is probably too difficult to debate the whole point today. When I have spoken to victims of terrorism—for example, those in organisations such as WAVE—they have made it clear to me that they want to move on. They believe that, after this amount of time, pragmatism says, “Let’s get on and ensure that those who have been denied those pensions now receive them.” I have a lot of sympathy for that view. They have waited a long time for some form of recognition.