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Armed Forces Covenant

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 2nd February 2017.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 4:20 pm, 2nd February 2017

My hon. and gallant Friend speaks absolutely correctly. Of course, he will know this very well, having served himself and also being a reservist.

I want to skip quickly on to a second aspect of the covenant, which I am sorry to say was not mentioned in the report: the law. We have heard mention of the Northern Ireland cases and we have touched on the Iraq historical allegations cases. My hon. and gallant Friend Johnny Mercer has done enormous amounts of very impressive work on this. Sadly, for family reasons, he cannot be here today, but I am afraid that his work has demonstrated that our Government are not doing enough. We need to do more to protect those who have done the most for us, because what the covenant should be about is ensuring that those who have served—who have risked all and given all—can come back safe in the knowledge that they are safe, and that they are not going to be pursued by charlatans and liars like Phil Shiner, who has been struck off today by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for his deceit, dishonesty and absolute treason to this country in the way he has pursued fine, fine people. I am delighted that that has come to pass. If any man would wish to claim the faith that he does, he would do well to read his commandments: the eighth is:

“Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

I urge the Government to look very hard at the changes they are making with regard not only to future derogations from the European convention on human rights for operations, but also a statute of limitations, because it is not enough simply to support those who are vulnerable at home or to make sure their kids have schools to go to—important though these things are—if for the years after their service they are constantly looking over their shoulder, fearful of a knock on the door, because somebody who had tried and failed to kill them in combat previously is now using our own courts against them. That would not only leave them weaker, but leave them exposed. It would also leave the country exposed, and that is unacceptable.