Iain Duncan Smith calls for a change in the law to protect veterans who served in Northern Ireland

16th May 2019

Following the Government statement on its plans for dealing with legacy issues and the investigation of veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles, Iain Duncan Smith says that as far as soldiers were concerned there was no difference between being sent on peacekeeping operations in Northern Ireland and elsewhere and if the natural justice collides with the law, we should change the law. 

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and I apologise that I came in when the Minister was already on his feet. I served in Northern Ireland and in what was then Rhodesia. I received a general service medal for one campaign, and a separate campaign medal for the other—as has been said, they were both operations. We were sent to Northern Ireland, and I lost friends, particularly Robert Nairac—I am sorry I was not here when he was mentioned. I do not know how I can honestly, and with a clean heart, say that my Government represent the best interests of ex-servicemen and women who have served their country. I simply state to the Minister this simple principle: when natural justice collides with the law, we change the law.

That has to be correct. That is why we are talking about bringing forward a Bill in this place to change the law in order to put this right. My right hon. Friend is also right to say—I think he is echoing the point made by my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey)—that for serving soldiers who get campaign or operation medals, whatever it may be, it feels the same whether or not the legal underpinning of the operation is different. We therefore have to come up with an Act of Parliament that ensures that protections are the same, even if they are arrived at through a different legal route. Either way, it absolutely and essentially has to be robust in the event of legal challenge, otherwise we will have failed in our duty to look after our veterans, no matter where they have served.

Hansard