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I am very grateful to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. During the course of my remarks, I hope to consider what I can only describe as the conspiracy theories that have been shared in the Chamber this evening: mistruths, suggestions that do not have any bearing in fact, and assumptions that have been raised about the motivations of individuals who represent Northern Ireland, in this Chamber or at home, that are wholly without foundation and, I have to say, incredibly unhelpful when we consider the reports before us this evening.
Before I commence my remarks, may I welcome Stuart C. McDonald to the Scottish National party Front Bench on Northern Ireland issues? I hope that that is a recurring thing. He is an honourable man, and we look forward to his contributions and interest in Northern Ireland.
I listened very carefully to what the Minister had to say on a range of issues, but I want to focus on two of them. The first is on military issues and the reports on legacy, investigations, the presumption against prosecution, and measures he will be aware of about the full implementation of the armed forces covenant in Northern Ireland. I know that the reports we are considering tonight were first published on
I was outraged by the text of the report that builds on the one from a number of weeks ago, which does not in any way address the national commitment that this Parliament has given to veterans in the United Kingdom; a national commitment that transcends our internal borders, one that should apply equally to those who put their lives on the line for this country be they living in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. To suggest that nothing substantive has changed, when, following the Gracious Speech on Monday, the Prime Minister stood in this Chamber and confirmed to two hon. Members that he was going to legislate on these matters, is a shame. It is a shame that that was not reflected in the comments this evening. For those who are interested in ensuring that service and sacrifice for this country from Northern Ireland is as equally valued at home as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom, it is a material change and it should have featured in the contributions this evening.