Video: British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks warmly of service with RUC Special Branch while promising end to 'vexatious industry' within weeks

The British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has spoken warmly of serving alongside RUC Special Branch in the North while promising the London government will bring forward measures to deal with 'vexatious' claims against British Army veterans by the end of next month.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 10:08 am

The former British soldier who served with the Scots Guards in Ireland in the 1990s was quizzed by several MPs about prosecutions of former military personnel in the House of Commons.

Conservative MP Sheryl Murray asked: "What action is being taken to halt the prosecutions currently under way in Northern Ireland of those who served in our armed forces and in the police during the troubles while a review is being undertaken?"

Mr. Wallace replied: "My hon. Friend will know that it is obviously not for the Executive or the Government to interfere once a prosecution is under way. Prosecutions are a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions, either here or in Northern Ireland.

The British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the House of Commons yesterday.

"However, no one must be above the law where there is genuine evidence of wrongdoing, but when the process is abused for vexatious purposes, it is right that the Government step forward with measures to stop that happening."

The defence minister promised the government would introduce legislation to end what is describes as 'vexatious' prosecutions within weeks.

"The Government made a commitment in our manifesto and in other statements to bring forward measures within 100 days to deal with vexatious claims against our veterans. That 100-day period ends towards the end of March, which is when the timetable will be in place," he said.

DUP MP, who was the only Irish MP in the House of Commons when the matter was discussed, said: "I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment regarding our armed services personnel and look forward to that working out in the fullness of time.

"Will he ensure that other Cabinet colleagues are aware of the implications of vexatious claims for police officers who served in Northern Ireland?

The Minister responded: "The hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. I served alongside RUC Special Branch in my time, and I have the highest regard for the RUC officers, many of whom lost their lives in fighting during the troubles.

"Obviously, we will look at what we can do around other Crown servants to make sure that they are protected from that same vexatious industry that is going on at the moment in Northern Ireland."