Extension of period for forming an Executive

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Conservative, Plymouth, Moor View 6:30 pm, 9th July 2019

I ask Tony Lloyd—my hon. Friend—to think very carefully about the message that will come from this place tonight if he, in his rightful place as Opposition spokesman, concludes that he cannot support, and indeed, must vote against, some of the amendments tabled in my name and that of my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon.

These issues are incredibly complex, and no one has suggested that they are not, but I ask my hon. Friend to think about the human element of what is going on. I ask him to think about the reality, rather than the legal methods that could theoretically be applied to people who have abused the system: the reality for hundreds of people in this country. Many are in their 70s and 80s, and some are in their 90s. Some will have dementia, and will have no idea what is going on around them. These are people whose families are trying to support them through this process and who, having simply signed up and served their country, have been caught up in a legal system that has totally failed them. We in this place can come up with plenty of calculations to justify not doing something about this, but it will only ever change—at some point—if we show a bit of courage, the sort of courage that they showed on operations on our behalf, and make clear whose side we are on.

No one has seriously suggested any equivalence, although it has been bandied about, between someone who woke up in Northern Ireland in the 1970s or 1980s and whose objective on that day was to take life, to take innocent life, and those young men and women—and they were young men and women, aged 17, 18, 19 or 20—who were asked to serve in a country that they did not want to go to and had never been to before, and to take part in an operation that they did not really believe in, and who ended up being involved in an incident over which they had very little control. There is no equivalence between those two scenarios, but the fact is that the first group have peace of mind and are leading their elderly lives in peace, while the second group are currently receiving letters asking them to contribute to the costs of very aggressive lawyers and the very aggressive inquests that are currently taking place in Northern Ireland.