Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(2)

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 (Rule of Law) – in the House of Commons at 10:18 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 10:18 pm, 9th September 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Lisa Forbes. It is never an easy thing to give a maiden speech, particularly in an atmosphere such as the one that we have this evening. I offer her my heartiest congratulations. She skilfully held the attention of the House and whatever the result of the vote later on this evening, I think we probably all wish her well for the future.

I will be very brief as I know that others need to get in. Very quickly, I would like to restate the fact that every single Member of this Chamber supports the Belfast agreement, which was the result of a long peace process. We would love to see the institutions up and running, but we should never forget that that peace process and that Belfast agreement could never have come about without the conditions created by the extraordinary professionalism, skill and courage of the hundreds of thousands who served in the British armed forces, the British security services and the RUC.

I will touch very briefly on the question of the prosecutions of veterans, which was mentioned by the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State. I have been going to Northern Ireland for many years and continue to go there regularly, and I have not yet met a single member of the security forces or armed forces who would like to see an amnesty. They put their lives on the line 24 hours a day to maintain the rule of law in order to ensure that those who believed in pursuing their political aims through peaceful and legal means prevailed, and they do not want an amnesty; they do not want to be on the same level as those terrorists who had an absolutely hideous refusal to respect the rule of law and who pursued their aims by violent criminal acts.

May I therefore ask the Secretary of State and, above all, the shadow Secretary of State: first, not to change any laws, but to ensure that no further prosecutions can come about unless there is categorically new evidence, because it is wrong to pursue these old veterans time and again when there is no new evidence; and secondly—a very key question—to guarantee, by working together, that the framework requires a senior lawyer to guarantee that there will be a fair trial?