Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

Published date : 29 June, 2022
I am sure that whatever view each of us here today takes of this Bill, from whichever vantage point, we all feel a great weight of responsibility in dealing with these matters. I am mindful of the time, so I will keep my remarks as brief as I possibly can. The Scottish National party has serious concerns about the Bill and the approach that has been taken to it in terms of its principle. I have been clear throughout, leading on this for my group, that where independent prosecutors consider that there is a sufficiency of evidence and the likelihood of a conviction, and where they judge it to be in the public interest to do so, they should still be able to bring forward these prosecutions. I am sorry to say that this Bill and the general principle behind it utterly squash that prospect. I do not intend to reprise my arguments from the Second Reading debate, except to say that we do not believe that the goal of achieving truth and reconciliation is advanced by closing down the prospect of further investigations that can be conducted to a criminal threshold, or indeed by setting aside the norms of the rule of law and the fundamental rights of individuals to seek recourse through that law.

The SNP has not tabled any amendments. We oppose the fundamental principle behind the Bill, and we do not believe it can be amended into acceptability. I am quite up front in saying that we will continue to oppose the Bill. That said, if the Bill is going to pass, which it certainly will, there are aspects on which we will join others in trying to improve.

In that vein, I place on record our very strong support for amendment 115. I heard all the dialogue with the Minister, and I do not doubt his sincerity on this for one moment. If the wheels are whirring behind the scenes on how a possible compromise might be brokered before we conclude our business tonight, all well and good. If not, I strongly urge him to accept the amendment and, if necessary, improve it elsewhere. We do not want to divide on this, but we cannot go another day without having clarity on how sexual offences will be treated under this Bill.

I listened closely to the arguments advanced for the other amendments, and we will approach the remainder of today’s proceedings on that basis.

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