Falls Road Belfast Troubles

Team Looking At Protecting Veterans From Historic Prosecutions

The Defence Secretary says he has created the team in the Ministry of Defence.

Falls Road Belfast Troubles

Last week Mr Williamson said he wanted to stop a "vendetta" against those who served in Northern Ireland. (Image: PA).

The Defence Secretary has set up a team to look at proposals to protect armed forces veterans from prosecution for historic allegations.

Gavin Williamson told the House of Commons on Monday that he had created the team in his department.

He told the Commons:

"I understand concerns over whether serving and former personnel are receiving the legal protection and certainty that they deserve.

"I am therefore pleased to announce that I have established a dedicated team within the Ministry of Defence to consider this issue and to advise on the way forward.

"This work will be complementary to the work of the Defence Committee who are looking at the specific question of how to protect our service personnel and veterans against historic allegations as part of their inquiry into this important topic."

Defence Committee Chairman and Conservative MP Julian Lewis said his committee would "warmly welcome the setting up of a dedicated team".

The announcement comes hours before MPs debate the Northern Ireland Budget (No 2) Bill, which former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon is seeking to amend to stop public money being used to fund historical prosecutions of former service personnel in Northern Ireland.

He will urge MPs to back changes to the Bill to prevent funds being spent on reopening cases involving former members of the armed forces who served in the province before the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Michael said: "It's morally wrong that those who served to keep us safe from terrorism should be threatened with possible imprisonment in respect of allegations made 30 or 40 years ago which have already been investigated, while some of the terrorists themselves have been guaranteed immunity from prosecution through comfort letters.

"We need to stop hounding our own brave servicemen and women, and stop it now."

Last week, Mr Williamson said he was "prepared to go to any lengths" to prevent what he described as a "vendetta against former service personnel" who served during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

It was in response to excerpts of a letter he wrote to the Prime Minister in May being published.