Northern Ireland

Hilary Benn: Labour government would repeal Troubles legacy immunity law

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn has said a Labour government would repeal the Troubles Legacy Bill (Aaron Chown/PA)
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn has said a Labour government would repeal the Troubles Legacy Bill (Aaron Chown/PA)

A future Labour government would repeal controversial legislation seeking to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, MPs have heard.

Newly appointed shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn made the commitment as the Commons considered Lords amendments to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

His remarks came after Kevin Winters, a lawyer who represents the families of a number of Troubles victims, called on the Labour Party to publicly state it would repeal the legislation if it comes to power.

The Bill includes a form of limited immunity for some perpetrators of crimes committed during the conflict and would also prevent future civil cases and inquests into Troubles offences.

Read more: What is the legacy bill and why is it contentious?

Ian Knox cartoon 6/9/23
Ian Knox cartoon 6/9/23

All of the main political parties in Northern Ireland and victims’ groups are opposed to the Bill.

Mr Benn said there was an “astonishing” level of opposition to the proposals.

Read More:

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He said of the British government: “Instead of reflecting on this, its approach has been to put its head down and plough on regardless and that is why for all the government’s good intentions they have failed to win public confidence even though the government said in 2018, ‘In order to build consensus on workable proposals that have widespread support, we must listen to the concerns of victims, survivors and other interested parties.’

“Doing the wrong thing is not a justification for this Bill. And if there is one lesson we must now have learned about how to make progress in Northern Ireland it is that it can only be achieved patiently, slowly, carefully so as to build a consensus.

“I’m sorry to say that this Bill does not do that and I think it will not achieve the purpose which ministers claim for it, and that is why we are committed as the Opposition – if we get the opportunity – to repeal it.”

Mr Benn’s commitment received shouts of “hear hear” from some of the Northern Ireland MPs in the House of Commons.

The long-delayed Bill is on the verge of becoming law after a period of disagreement between the Commons and Lords over its final wording.