British Soldiers Royal Dragoon Guards Afghanistan Anon

Tory former minister Sir Henry Bellingham has urged the Government not to betray its veterans as he called for an amnesty from prosecution for historic cases.

The former Foreign Office minister backed a so-called statute of limitations for five or 10 years for all UK veterans, as MPs criticised investigations into the likes of Dennis Hutchings and Major Robert Campbell.

He called the case of 77-year-old veteran Mr Hutchings who faces prosecution over a Northern Ireland Troubles shooting "a travesty of British justice".

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall, Sir Henry said: "The people who fought in Northern Ireland, who went to various theatres like Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan. They had a choice.

"They could have, like Dennis Hutchings, gone into the Army and risked their lives, or they could have had the easy way out. They could have had an easy life in civvy street, and they could have had a very different life.

"But they didn't. They risked their lives. And they're not asking for a great deal. They're not asking for an increase in their pension or for any monetary handouts or further recognition.

"All they're asking for is not to be betrayed by the Government whose own lives they put at risk for."

Tory former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said it is "morally wrong" to reopen cases.

He told the debate: "We should not be reopening cases that have not only been investigated previously but those involved, the suspects, have been told that the case has been concluded - that the investigation is over.

"It is morally wrong that people should have these cases reopened all over again."

And Sir Michael said a number of the potential suspects are now elderly and "fearful".

"They need and deserve the full support not just of the ministry but also of the chain of command."