Dr Julian Lewis: I certainly endorse everything that the Minister has said about his own commitment and the commitment of the Government to this issue. May I just make an appeal that, when he does bring forward the legislation for Northern Ireland veterans, it focuses not only on the question of prosecutions, but on the question of investigations, the vast majority of which never lead to prosecutions but are still terribly oppressive? That is what is missing from the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill; it is good on prosecutions, but has not yet done enough about repeated reinvestigation.
[The Minister for Defence People and Veterans (Johnny Mercer): My right hon. Friend is very knowledgeable and learned in this space. The issue is a lot more complicated than it is made out to be by a lot of people who contribute to this debate. There is no evidence, essentially, of vexatious prosecutions per se. It is the investigations that are the trouble. There are elements of this Bill that address how we investigate. There are elements not in this Bill that are being brought into the Department, such as a serious crime unit, to ensure that these things can never happen again.
Let me be clear that if we were to invent a system that essentially said, “We will not investigate”, that would be the equivalent of an amnesty, and this Government are not committed to going down that route either. This is a difficult area and it is a delicate balance, but the strategic objective has been set by the Prime Minister; it is one that I and many Members in the House have campaigned on for years, and we will deliver on it. It is a tough ask and a tough battle, but we will win it. I urge patience while we get to the end of this battle.]
[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]