British soldiers and the security services who served during the Troubles should face investigations if they did not act correctly, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary has said.
Labour’s Dave Anderson went against pleas from Conservative and DUP MPs, who said the police and soldiers who served in Northern Ireland should not face fresh probes into their conduct.
There has been concern over British veterans being investigated over their conduct in Northern Ireland, over incidents that happened up to 40 years ago.
Mr Anderson’s comments came as Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire set out to MPs legislation that will allow fresh attempts to be made to restore devolved government at Stormont.
Tory James Heappey (Wells) asked Mr Anderson: “I wonder if he might join me in confirming his belief that the British Army should not be subject to further investigations for the actions that they took during the Troubles?
“Would he confirm that his party under its current leadership, that they have their loyalty firmly with the British Army, not the IRA?”
Mr Anderson replied: “I think it’s quite clear from my point of view that if people in uniform, if they did not act correctly, then I’m sorry, I can’t agree that they shouldn’t be brought to book.
“Because what signal are we sending out, that it’s alright to act out of order?
“We expect the highest standards from our great people in uniform.
“In terms of his comments about the leadership, it’s very, very clear that my party is committed to our armed forces and not to any terrorist organisation.”
Mr Anderson’s comments faced criticism from the DUP’s Sammy Wilson (East Antrim), who said incidents where the police or Army were involved should not be treated as murder.
He added: “That’s the inequality and what causes the anger that we have seen in so many families, that every killing by terrorists was no doubt a murder, it was illegal.
“But in many occasions, those incidents in which soldiers and policemen were involved were in protection of life and property, and therefore should not be treated by the authorities as if there was something illegal involved in the incident.”
Mr Anderson said: “I’m very, very clear that the vast majority of the things that were done by our forces were not murder.
“But there’s a process that has fallen apart, a process of investigation that we need to put back together again, that we need to get to the bottom of.
“If there are some cases that could be construed – and this is quite clearly in the agreements that people have signed up to in the past to try and make this work – then we’ve got to get to the root of them and we’ve got to get them aired out in public.”