Bob Stewart: Does the Minister agree that a crucial criterion when considering dismissing or abandoning reserve centres is to ensure that our reserve centres are as close as possible to the reserve soldiers who will man them, so that they do not have to travel far?
Bob Stewart: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bob Stewart: May I just say, Madam Deputy Speaker, how that Chair becomes you? I welcome you to it and I welcome the Minister to her new position. I hope that will get me called more often. I was the Army incident commander at Ballykelly when, as many people know, the Ballykelly bomb was detonated just after 11 pm on 6 December 1982. The bomb was placed by the Irish National Liberation Army and took the...
Bob Stewart: He would have been, wouldn’t he?
Bob Stewart: May I speak from personal experience? In some court cases there is huge intimidation of witnesses from the public gallery, which it is very difficult to control. I have to say, I was frightened.
Bob Stewart: I do not think that the First Secretary of State mentioned defence in his statement, but will he confirm what I think I have read elsewhere: the Democratic Unionist party and the Conservative party have agreed that we will spend a minimum of 2% on defence?
Bob Stewart: I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, but has he seen the slightest indication from Sinn Féin, in the detailed and long negotiations that he has no doubt had so far that, they might consider being part of an Executive?
Bob Stewart: Cheshire—which is not in the south.
Bob Stewart: I know that the Minister totally understands, but there is a real worry, as my hon. Friends on the other side of the House—they are really my friends—have said, about the proportionality of the investigations. Many people who carried out crimes seem to have had those crimes wiped clean or blown away, yet soldiers, policemen and others who carried out their duties using the yellow...
Bob Stewart: I speak for those of us who were in Northern Ireland in the Regular Army, including the Minister. Those of us who served in the Regular Army had incredible respect and affection for, and salute the gallantry of, every single member of the UDR, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and anyone who served the Crown in Northern Ireland. They were targets of terrorism. We salute them particularly because...
Bob Stewart: I intervene very briefly just to remind people that nowadays some police widows lose pensions when they remarry. I think that the House should take action to deal with that, because it is totally unfair. It does not apply throughout the country—it does not apply in Northern Ireland—but we must get this right: police widows deserve justice.
Bob Stewart: And her children.
Bob Stewart: I have heard the hon. Lady on this subject several times before. It deeply upsets me that doctors do not recognise the pain that women undergo and apparently continue to say, “There will be mild discomfort” when women are in agony. For goodness’ sake, this has to be sorted!
Bob Stewart: I want to raise again the ongoing and tragic situation in Syria. Of course we want to help Syria, but equally we do not want to be dragged into another Iraq or Afghanistan situation. To date, our strategy has been carefully sculpted so as not to get committed on the ground, yet to provide help from the air and with intelligence. The stark truth is that President Bashar al-Assad, the 19th...
Bob Stewart: Isn’t that cheating?
Bob Stewart: According to my information, about one third of people do not see the mother when picking up a puppy.
Bob Stewart: Because of its bloody recent history, Northern Ireland has earned the absolute right to have a decent future. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a solution to the current impasse is crucial to the economic and social, as well as the political, welfare of the children of Northern Ireland, most, if not all, of whom never knew the dark days of the last third of the 20th century?
Bob Stewart: One thing that severely worries me is that I get many letters from constituents who say that the matter of children coming into this country is of deep concern to them. I write back and say, “I have not had one constituent who has said to me, ‘I will take a child into my house’.” That really worries me, when we compare it with what happened in 1938-39 with the...
Bob Stewart: Local authorities, not families.
Bob Stewart: Huge advances have been made by Jim Davidson’s charity Care after Combat, which works with military veterans and is supported by the Government. To start with, more than 50 of its mentors have gone into prisons, been friendly with prisoners and put them on the road to really decent rehabilitation. It is a great charity, and I am very grateful for all the work it has done for the military.