NORTHERN IRELAND – NI (OFFENCES) BILL – 11 January 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: The Secretary of State [for Northern Ireland (Peter Hain)] has rightly acknowledged in the past that without the contribution of members of the Security Services and the Armed Forces, any calling-off of the IRA's so-called war might never have happened. Where does the withdrawal of the Bill leave members of the Armed Forces who carried out their orders, sometimes with explicit ministerial permission, but who might be hauled into court as a result of the so-called historic review process?

[Mr Hain: The Hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, puts a pertinent question. One of the reasons that we felt that the legislation was needed was precisely to address the past. A member of the Security Forces may have acted in the name of the Crown, unlawfully, as they should not have done, and perhaps committed a murder, as they should not have done. Justice should prevail, but we could see them serving a lengthy prison sentence, while paramilitary prisoners who had not served their full sentence were let out on licence under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. The Hon. Gentleman rightly identifies that as one of the anomalies that we sought to address in the Bill.]