Pressure on Theresa May as 150 Tory MPs and peers urge her to ditch Troubles army probe

Posted On: 
23rd October 2018

Theresa May is under renewed pressure to shelve an investigation into historic allegations against British troops who served in Northern Ireland.

The MPs and peers habe warned the Ministry of Defence it risks breaking the Armed Forces Covenant.

A joint letter from 150 Conservative MPs and peers warns the Prime Minister that the Historial Investigations Unit set up to probe past cases is "completely at odds" with a commitment to look after members of the armed forces.

Setting up the unit was a key part of the 2014 Stormont House agreement between the British and Irish governments, with the team looking into allegations of misconduct by service personnel as well as unsolved criminal cases.

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Earlier this year, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said there were still more than 1,000 unexplained deaths stemming from the Troubles, and the probe is intended to provide justice for the families of those who died.

But the letter to the Prime Minister - signed by Tory MPs who have served in the armed forces including Johnny Mercer, Richard Benyon and Mark Francois - warns that the investigation leaves British "service and security personnel at an exceptional disadvantage".

The signatories also accuse the Government of breaking the Armed Forces Covenant which vows to give personnel "respect and support, and fair treatment".

Responding to the letter, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told the BBC: "I don't want to see elderly veterans having to face repeated investigations decades after the events in question. The Northern Ireland Office recently closed a consultation on legacy cases like this and will report soon.

"The Ministry of Defence has put in place a comprehensive package of support, including legal representation to any individual accused of an offence arising from their service on operations. A new team has also been created to consider the concerns of veterans and the wider public in order to find appropriate solutions."

Speaking last week, Mr Mercer - the Conservative member for Plymouth Moor View who has frequently criticised the Government over the probe - lashed out at Theresa May over her response to MPs' concerns.

"She did not answer in a way that made me proud to be a member of the governing party," he told the House magazine.