Brandon Lewis has been urged to resign for failing to introduce legislation to tackle legacy issues in Northern Ireland.
Conservative former defence minister, Mark Francois, told MPs that the Northern Ireland Secretary should fall on his sword for repeatedly breaking his word in the House of Commons.
The MP for Rayleigh and Wickford said: “After four years, two general election manifestos, a hand-signed pledge by the Prime Minister, where is the legacy Bill?
“The Northern Ireland Secretary promised this House we would have it to help protect Northern Ireland veterans from endless investigations by the summer recess. He broke his word.
“Then he faithfully promised the legislation will be introduced into Parliament by, I quote, the end of the autumn.
“We now have the business up to Christmas and there is still no Bill. If the Secretary of State repeatedly breaks his word to the House of Commons, he has no honourable option but to resign.
“He has let down his party and the people who fought to uphold the law in Northern Ireland.
“When will Brandon Lewis resign his seal of office?”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg apologised for the fact “that I have not been able to announce the legacy Bill during my period as Leader of the House” but noted the Government, on these matters, “speaks with one voice and that we share the responsibility for that Bill not having been brought forward”.
He went on: “It is not specific or personal to the Secretary of State because bills have to be agreed collectively before they can be presented and this Bill is in equal measure important and complicated.
“It is right that we should treat former soldiers who have served this country bravely fairly and we should protect them. It is also right that we should not give carte blanche to terrorists, and getting this balance right in legislation that we bring forward is not simple.”
In July, the Northern Ireland Secretary announced plans for a statute of limitations, which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.
In October, Mr Lewis said the Government intended to legislate on the plans “this autumn” but speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Office earlier this month, he admitted the deadline had been “missed” following a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
Mr Lewis said: “I’m already passed the autumn. I think the latest I’ve heard autumn described once was the autumn statement of December 4 one year. So, I think we’ve already missed that.
“The reality is, I think, it’s important to put the time in to try and find a way forward that can help Northern Ireland move forward.
“If that takes a bit more time, then that’s something we’ve been prepared to do, hence why we didn’t deal with this earlier in the year and we were focused on trying to do something in the autumn, but we will do everything we can to try and find a way forward that works together.”
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