Schedule 1 - Excluded offences for the purposes of section 6

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 27th April 2021.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 4:15 pm, 27th April 2021

I shall try to be brief. Last week, I spoke about what I see as British values, which have been mentioned in the debate. I therefore welcome the concession on war crimes, because any erosion of how we and the rest of the world perceive our British values would be deeply damaging to this country’s reputation.

As others have said, I believe there is still work to be done on the duty of care, and I flag up its connection with mental health. When I talk to constituents who have served Queen and country bravely, there is a fear that they will be abandoned if they find themselves in the position of being accused. I hear what other Members have said about the legal help that they would be afforded, but there is still a fear out there.

It would be churlish of me not to say thank you to the new Minister. Last week I said I did not know him very well, but what I have seen during one week gives me much more confidence in him. His predecessor was referred to as a roadblock, but I think the thoughtful and conciliatory attitude shown by the new Minister, whose fingerprints I rather suspect are on the war crimes concession, is very useful indeed.

I want to talk about the process. The Bill we see today is a lot better than the one we looked at last November. The cross-party work in the other place is deeply significant. Many Tory peers have been instrumental in bringing forward amendments. In yet another place, known as the Scottish Parliament, I knew Baroness Goldie in another incarnation. I came to respect that good lady’s thoughtful and judicious approach to matters, so I am not surprised to see her playing the role she does in the other place. We belong to different parties, but I recognise quality where I see it.

We have a Bill that is better than it was. In my opinion and that of my party, the jury is out on the duty of care in mental health, but the way we have improved the Bill is instructive to all of us. There is possibly a message to Her Majesty’s Government here. The reputation of the UK Parliament depends on the quality of the legislation that is enacted. Where there is co-operation across the House and between both Houses to make the best legislation, that is ideal. I very much hope that the Government will look at the process by which we came to be where we are today, learn from it and apply that technique to other legislation as it comes before us. I reiterate my thanks to the new Minister.