Government's Troubles legacy bill to be debated in Westminster amidst widespread criticism

The proposals would offer immunity to those who are deemed to have co-operated with an information retrieval body.

The UK government's controversial Troubles legacy bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons later today.

It has been criticised by Amnesty International for giving "murderers and those responsible for torture a free pass.

All of Northern Ireland's political parties have objected to the government's legacy legislation arguing that it offers an effective amnesty to army veterans and paramilitaries. The Labour party is to table an amendment to prevent what the party describes as an "amnesty for rapists" from being implemented. The controversial Bill would offer immunity from prosecution for Troubles-era offences for anyone who co-operates with a new "information-recovery" body. Labour claim that the current wording of the Bill "does not prevent anyone who has committed or covered up acts of sexual violence as part of the conflict from seeking immunity." The party say that any immunity schemes usually have a list of offences excluded from the offer, including rape and torture.

Speaking about the bill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he had not yet met a victim who supports it: "

"Particularly on the Tory benches there has been a fairly cavalier attitude to the impact that this Bill will have on ordinary people's lives," the Foyle MP said.

"It's important they have the opportunity to see for themselves the impact that the past has had on people."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said: "The Government has spoken to a wide range of victims and survivors, many of whom have made clear that access to information and accountability through effective investigations is vital, and while the prospects of successful criminal justice outcomes are very low, the possibility should not be removed entirely.

"This legislation seeks to strike the right balance between a clear focus on information recovery, while ensuring that those who committed crimes during the Troubles are not able to obtain 'something for nothing'.

"Those who do not co-operate with the independent body will not be granted immunity and will remain liable to prosecution should sufficient evidence exist or come to light.

"This legislation will provide answers and accountability for many families, deliver on our commitments to those who served in Northern Ireland, many of whom are also victims, and help society in Northern Ireland to look forward."

Martin McGavigan's sister Annette was shot dead by British soldiers during a riot in the Bogside area of Derry in 1971 - she was just 14 years old and still wearing her school uniform.

Martin McGavigan, 62 and his daughter Maria McGavigan, 37, in Russell Square, London Credit: PA

Yesterday, he took part in a special event in Parliament amongst other families to bring their experiences and voices to Wesminster.

"Hopefully this doesn't go through because we need answers, we need truth, we need justice for our loved ones. You just don't brush it under the carpet and say move on," Mr McGavigan said.

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