HC Deb 04 May 1994 vol 242 c575W
Mr. Maginnis

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to lay before Parliament Mr. David Hewitt's annual report as independent assessor of military complaints procedures.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I have today arranged for David Hewitt's first annual report as independent assessor of military complaints procedures to be laid before each House of Parliament. I welcome this thorough report, which represents a comprehensive examination of the complaints procedures which the Army now have in place in Northern Ireland.

I particularly welcome Mr. Hewitt's comment that I would be fairly certain that no other armed force in the world has quite as detailed complaints procedures as those devised for military personnel in Northern Ireland".

This illustrates the importance which the Army attaches to its relations with the community in Northern Ireland.

There may, of course, be scope for yet further improvement to the procedures and I look forward to hearing the views of the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland on Mr. Hewitt's comments, questions and recommendations.

The Government fully recognise that the emergency legislation provides the armed forces with additional powers, vital in countering the terrorist campaign, although it gives them no privileges. These powers must be exercised with sensitivity and due regard to the rights of individuals, as the Army's authorities have satisfied Mr. Hewitt that they themselves recognise. The independent assessor provides valuable assistance in ensuring that, where the highest standards are not met, appropriate and effective procedures are in place to enable and help the individual in seeking redress.

I am most grateful to Mr. Hewitt for his work throughout the past year. His report will receive careful and detailed consideration.