Picture: Troops on duty beside barbed wire barriers in the Falls Road area of Belfast, 1969. Courtesy of PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Picture: Troops on duty beside barbed wire barriers in the Falls Road area of Belfast, 1969. Courtesy of PA/PA Archive/PA Images

MPs are renewing their call to protect members of the armed forces facing investigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Members of the Defence committee have written a letter to the prime minister repeating their view the best solution was to apply a statute of limitations.

They are also beginning an inquiry into protecting British veterans from prosecution following all conflicts.

Committee chair Julian Lewis said: "Our concerns are such that we intend to return to the subject of statute of limitations and, once again, to explore how former service personnel can be protected from the spectre of investigation and re-investigation for events that happened many years, and often decades, earlier."

His committee's report last year called for the enactment of the legal statute covering all incidents during the Northern Ireland conflict up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement which involved former members of the Armed Forces.

Committee members said they were disappointed and surprised the Northern Ireland Office's consultation on addressing the legacy of decades of violence did not reflect their recommendations.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This Government has launched a new consultation to explore how we can replace the current flawed and disproportionate system for dealing with Northern Ireland’s legacy cases.

"This includes new proposals that have the potential to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors and end the unfair treatment towards our armed forces and police officers. This consultation provides the opportunity for everyone to have their say.”

Backbench MPs have led a vociferous campaign for a statute of limitations to end what they claim is a "witch hunt" against members of the Armed Forces.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the treatment of Northern Ireland veterans was unfair while Northern Ireland's former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Barra McGrory said soldiers were not treated unfairly.

Paramilitaries were responsible for most of the killings in Northern Ireland.

Official statistics for prosecutions show a minority involved the Army.

Mr Lewis added: "The Government has a moral duty to defend those who served in the defence of our country, whether that was in Northern Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Even veterans of the Falklands campaign in 1982 have told me that they, too, could be targeted.

"It simply cannot be right that veterans, who were the subject of investigations at the time of the events in question and subsequently cleared, are now living in fear of re-investigations and the threat of prosecutions."

Topics: