"Dozens" of paramilitary fugitives could be allowed home under 'on-the-run' proposals, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has said.
Peter Hain said legislation on 'on-the-runs' will come in soon
Mr Hain was responding to questions at the NI Affairs Committee from the DUP's Gregory Campbell.
He said he would be taking advice from the police as to who would be included in the scheme.
He said that the legislation is likely to be brought before parliament early next month.
"They (police) have a number of suspects for crimes - I readily concede crimes that in some cases were horrific crimes, but it goes into dozens at any rate," Mr Hain said.
He said further suspects, who may still be in the province, could be "unearthed" by new police inquiries into "historic crimes".
Mr Campbell said there was outrage and anger in Northern Ireland that murderers had never served a day in jail for their offences.
Mr Hain said sometimes undesirable things had to be done in the interests of conflict resolution.
He said he understood the real concerns of the people of Northern Ireland on this issue.
The legislation will deal with people suspected of terrorism who have not been brought to court and those who have fled prison.
Sinn Fein has repeatedly pressed for them to be able to return to Northern Ireland.
Asked when the legislation would be brought forward by the chair of the committee Sir Patrick Cormack, Mr Hain said he was not certain of the date but it would be before Christmas and probably early next month.