Iain Duncan Smith calls on the Prime Minister to ensure fairness and justice for veterans who served in Northern Ireland as elderly veterans are now finding that, having been cleared decades ago, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is proceeding against them with no new evidence.
Forty three years ago I, like many others, was ordered to serve in Northern Ireland to keep the peace while terrorists were attacking and killing civilians in Northern Ireland. Many of my colleagues and others did not come back, including one, Robert Nairac, a friend, who was tortured and murdered, and his body has never been found nor his murderers ever brought to justice. In answer to an earlier question from my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) my right hon. Friend talked about an amnesty. I must tell her that none of those who served has called for an amnesty; what they have called for is fairness and justice. Many old veterans are now finding, having been cleared decades ago, that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is proceeding against them with no new evidence. Will my right hon. Friend please answer me: how can I say to my old colleagues that this Government have not abandoned them?
May I say to my right hon. Friend that we absolutely value the service that he and others gave in Northern Ireland? This was a very difficult time for a part of the United Kingdom and the work that the police and the armed forces did in Northern Ireland during that time was absolutely crucial. We are pleased that we have seen the peace that has come since the Belfast/Good Friday agreement but there was obviously much injury and loss of life during the troubles. As I indicated earlier, around 3,500 people were killed during the troubles; the vast majority of them were murdered by terrorists. My right hon. Friend talked about a fair and just system. We want to ensure that there is a fair and just system that is working across the board to deal with these legacy issues, but at the moment there is a disproportionate emphasis on cases that involve the police and the armed forces. There are cases involving terrorists that are being looked into, but I think people would recognise that there is a disproportionate emphasis on the police and armed forces. It is therefore important that we bring in a system that has full support and will enable people to see that fairness and justice are being applied. That is what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is working on. She has been working on that with the various political parties in Northern Ireland, and it is what we will put forward in due course. We recognise the sacrifice, the bravery and the determination of our armed forces and the work they did in Northern Ireland, and we, too, want to see fairness and justice.