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Vexatious Claims

Defence – in the House of Commons on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

What steps his Department plans to take to tackle vexatious claims against armed forces personnel.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

What steps his Department plans to take to tackle vexatious claims against armed forces personnel.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

We are unstinting in our gratitude to the armed forces, who perform exceptional feats to protect this country. We rightly hold our service personnel to the highest standards of behaviour, but we also owe them justice and fairness. The Government will shortly introduce a legislative package to tackle vexatious claims and end the cycle of reinvestigations against our armed forces personnel and veterans.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer and welcome the introduction of the Bill to this place next week. The tabling of that legislation within 100 days of this new Parliament really does show the Government’s resolve to crack on and do the right thing. Will my right hon. Friend join me in asking the Opposition to put party politics to one side, support our troops and back this Bill?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the importance of protecting our troops from vexatious investigations that go round and round in a circle. To put this in context, there were more than 300,000 veterans who served in Northern Ireland, 147,000 in Iraq and 148,000 in Afghanistan. Of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 0.03% were convicted of any offence while serving. That shows that our armed forces around the world observe the highest standards when doing their job and upholding the rule of law.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

Bury, being the home town of the Lancashire Fusiliers, welcomes my right hon. Friend’s commitment to tackle vexatious prosecution of veterans. What guidance has been or will be given to the police and Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that our armed forces personnel are protected?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

As a fellow Lancashire MP, I know the pride that Lancashire takes in its armed forces, and also the first-class men and women that the county contributes to our armed forces. Guidance to the police and Crown Prosecution Service is not a matter for the Ministry of Defence. However, I can reassure my hon. Friend that the Government are doing everything they can to provide our service personnel and veterans with the protections they deserve, and we will set out further details on Wednesday.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

I look forward to the announcement on Wednesday, but will the Secretary of State confirm that his announcement will cover operations and issues that arise both internationally and domestically?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

On Wednesday, we will introduce the Bill that deals with overseas operations. We will, however, accompany it with a statement from the Northern Ireland Office setting out what we will do to deal with the Northern Ireland veterans. They will be equal and similar to the protections we are going to look at for overseas.