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Military vets may be made scapegoats: ex-minister

By Dan O'Donoghue

Former defence minister Mark Francois has said he is concerned military veterans will be "scapegoated" for actions which occurred during the Troubles.

The Conservative MP's comments came after the outgoing head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, said he was deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of an historical investigations unit being established to review the conflict.

Mr Francois, speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, said that servicemen and women should be treated as "heroes".

He said: "Within this House there is growing concern at the prospect of brave servicemen being effectively scapegoated by others for political or financial gain.

"We call our servicemen and women heroes - we should treat them accordingly.

"So would the Prime Minister be prepared to at least entertain some investigation into the concept of a statute of limitations in order to protect those who have served on the front line and also those who will follow them in the future?"

His remarks came after Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood broke ranks with the official Government position over the weekend to back calls for a time limit for investigations into historical events.

A current consultation document on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles does not include provision for a statute of limitations, to the anger of many Conservative MPs.

Responding to Mr Francois, Theresa May told MPs: "We don't just call our servicemen and women heroes, they are heroes.

"What we do want to ensure is that we don't see our servicemen and women and, indeed, in relation to legacy issues in Northern Ireland, police officers, being the sole subject of investigations, which is what is happening at the moment.

"I want to ensure that terrorists are investigated for past crimes as well and that is why the Secretary of State has launched the consultation on legacy issues - and it is of course open to people to respond to that consultation."

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