Immunity for Soldiers — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:03 pm on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 7:03 pm, 20th May 2019

If there is one thing that has echoed round this Chamber today, it is that there is no equivalence between troops and terrorists—between people who wear uniform and people who wear balaclavas. I am sorry, but I resent the right hon. Gentleman’s point; I think that the attempt to make it demeans the quality of the debate. He was a very distinguished Defence Minister, and he speaks with good sense on many occasions, but that point was slightly unworthy of him.

Gavin Robinson rightly spoke about the rule of law. He mentioned something that I still find almost too agonising to think about: the on-the-run letters. I can do no better than quote Mark Durkan, formerly of this parish, who said that he felt those letters blighted the peace process

“with their penchant for side deals, pseudo-deals…shabby deals and secret deals”.

That is recognised on this side of the House, and I hope on all sides. They are not defensible, and we would not seek to defend them today.

Dr Lewis raised an extremely interesting point, to which a few others have referred: the almost unbearable tension in the mind of a 17, 18 or 19-year-old person who knows that at any minute something they do could have lethal consequences—against them, or from them. That is the point: it is just as terrifying for them to think of the damage they could do to someone as to think of the damage that that person could do to them. The point that the right hon. Gentleman made about that fear is something that only people who have been in the situation can understand, and I am grateful to have heard what he said. The hon. Member for Strangford talked about the environment of tension, and that is something we need to talk about.

Johnny Mercer widened the horizons of the debate, and talked about IHAT and lawfare. I have no case to make for lawfare or those ambulance-chasing scoundrels of lawyers who somehow manage to infest the lower reaches of the legal system like foul leeches, trying to take blood from our people. I have no time for those people who came up with trumped-up cases to embarrass, and in many cases threaten and terrify, people who had served with distinction and honour. I have no time for those leeches, those bloodsuckers, those ambulance-chasing scumbags.