Belfast Telegraph

Lidington won't rule out statute of limitations for Army veterans

Mr Lidington said ministers would have to think very carefully about the amnesty issue
Mr Lidington said ministers would have to think very carefully about the amnesty issue

By David Young

Cabinet Officer Minister David Lidington has declined to rule out a statute of limitations for veterans who served here during the Troubles.

Mr Lidington said ministers would have to think "very carefully" about the amnesty issue, following the widespread rejection of the idea in the summary of responses to a Government consultation published yesterday.

He was speaking during a visit to Encirc, a glass manufacturing plant in Co Fermanagh.

Asked if the outcome would now rule out a statute of limitations, Mr Lidington said: "I think it would be wrong for me to speculate when we have just seen today the publication of the actual responses.

"Clearly ministers are going to have to think very carefully about this sensitive issue, but I think everybody is agreed that we need a system for the future that is better than the one we have had up to now, at giving both a sense of closure to victims and survivors and also is seen by everybody as fair and just."

Mr Lidington, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister, indicated the scale of the response to the legacy consultation came as a surprise to the Government.

Mr Lidington also used his visit to warn that a no-deal Brexit could lead to the break-up of the Union, claiming the UK was now under greater strain than at any other point in his lifetime.

He said the threat to border businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit cannot be understated.

Mr Lidington was also questioned on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying Westminster will "at some stage" legislate for it here if devolution is not restored.

Earlier this week a group of MPs indicated they intend to table an amendment to Secretary of State Karen Bradley's Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 that would compel the Government to legislate for same-sex marriage on this side of the Irish Sea.

He also warned that even if the proposed amendment does not go through for Westminster to legislate for same-sex marriage here, "at some stage" a further attempt will.

"On the amendments, we will have to see first of all whether the Speaker considers them to be in order, they may or may not be debated depending on his decision," he said.

"By far the best thing would be for Stormont to decide these things.

"But I think it's also true that if we don't see Stormont restored soon, then there will be further attempts at Westminster to bring these issues for decision there, and at some stage a way will be found to bring forward an amendment that is in order and where Westminster will end up taking the decision.

"It really ought to be a decision for elected politicians here accountable to the people here."

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