KEIGHLEY MP Kris Hopkins has paid tribute to police officers and soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Speaking during a Commons debate, the Northern Ireland Office minister – who himself was a soldier in the province – said he witnessed first hand "the remarkable dedication, professionalism and courage" of the armed forces and members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

"More than 1,000 members of the security forces lost their lives over the period of Operation Banner – the longest continuous military deployment in our country's history," he added.

"Around 7,000 awards for bravery were made.

"Without the self-sacrifice of the security forces, their dedication and their gallant work to keep the people of Northern Ireland safe, the circumstances that enabled the peace process to take root would never have come about."

Mr Hopkins assured fellow MPs that the Government "wholly rejects any suggestion of equivalence between the security forces and those who carried out terrorist atrocities".

But he acknowledged that dealing with Northern Ireland's violent past continued to be both complex and difficult.

And he added: "The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recently announced his intention to move to a public phase on the legacy bodies and why he and I have engaged intensively with political parties and victims' groups to find a way forward on the outstanding issues.

"The approach we are taking will ensure that our veterans are not unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated and it will reflect the fact that 90 per cent of the deaths during the Troubles were caused by terrorists, resulting in so much pain and suffering."