An MP whose commanding officer was murdered by the IRA has called for Parliament to mark his death amid a row over draft proposals on the prosecution of Armed Forces veterans.
Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) paid tribute to Captain Robert Nairac in the House of Commons as a number of MPs spoke about reports saying plans to block prosecutions against ex-military personnel would not apply to Northern Ireland.
Rising to make a point of order, he said: “42 years ago in the early hours of that morning, a brave British soldier who was from 3 Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was abducted by the IRA.
“Captain Robert Nairac was my captain, a gentleman that in the boxing ring broke my nose, the first person to have done so.
“We still do not know what happened to him. This country owes a great debt to our soldiers in Northern Ireland, and particularly those who have given the utmost for their country.
“Mr Speaker do you think there is any way that I can mark 42 years of Captain Robert Nairac giving his life for this country and for the peace of Northern Ireland?”
His tribute was echoed by Tory MP and former army officer Bob Stewart (Beckenham), who said Captain Nairac had received a George Cross posthumously, after being “tortured heinously” by the IRA.
He said he had “died in an incredibly gallant way and I agree we should recognise the great gallantry of this man”.
In reply, Commons Speaker John Bercow said he was “very open to the idea of recognition in the way that he suggests”, and called for Sir Mike to visit him to discuss it further.
But it led to further points of order, with the DUP’s Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) saying that he sought assurances from the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox earlier this year that any proposal to protect veterans from prosecution would “apply equally across the UK”, and that he was told it would be “plainly wrong if it didn’t”.
So he said he was “perturbed” to read that plans will not apply to Northern Ireland, saying: “It shows scant disregard for people the length and breadth of this United kingdom who stood to protect our interests, our values and our democracy.”
Tory James Grey (North Wiltshire) asked whether any bill which excluded Northern Ireland could be amended to out it back in, with Mr Bercow agreeing in principle, saying “with very few exceptions bills are amendable”.
And fellow Conservative Richard Drax (South Dorset), another ex-military officer, called on the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to make a statement to the Commons on the matter.
He added: “This pursuit of our armed forces, our veterans, 200 of them for things allegedly done many, many years ago is totally unacceptable and it must end forthwith.”