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 Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 4:15 pm, 27th April 2021

James Sunderland said that this was a good Bill—no, it is not. It is a bad Bill, and it is an unnecessary Bill. All of this could have been done within the Armed Forces Bill that is going through Parliament, but the Government chose, for their own reasons, to put forward this Bill. It does not get to the central point of the issue, which is around investigations. They are completely absent from this Bill and currently absent from the Armed Forces Bill. They were resisted by Johnny Mercer in this Bill and in the Armed Forces Bill. It galls me that yesterday he was standing outside a court in Northern Ireland, trumpeting the fact that he was on the side of trying to stop people being investigated, when he had been in a position to do something about it. I think of him as being a bit like an actor in a play who has been sat in the audience watching, rather than taking part.

Without investigation, the Bill is flawed. I have written to the Minister: he needs to ensure that investigations are put in the Armed Forces Bill, because without that, despite the protections that have been claimed today, servicemen and women will be watching our proceedings, thinking that they have more protection than they have. They will still be investigated if allegations are made. There is an opportunity now, with the Armed Forces Bill, to remedy that.

Part 2 of this Bill should simply have been scrapped. I am sorry, but the idea that we should all have Limitation Act rights and yet members of our armed forces should not—that we should take those away from them—is just not good enough. A Bill that is supposed to give things to our armed forces has been taking things away from them. Part 2 will be challenged in court; only the lawyers will benefit from it.

I welcome the change on war crimes because, like many across the House, I was concerned about our international reputation. I fully support Lord Dannatt’s amendment; I believe we should support anything that helps servicemen and women who are going through such a process.

The Bill claimed to do a lot but does very little. It is disappointing. It could have been vastly improved, or just ignored altogether and incorporated into the Armed Forces Bill. There is an opportunity to put right what is not in this Bill when the Armed Forces Bill passes through the House. I know that the Minister is open to discussions about that, but I urge him to ensure that that happens, because without that, people will still be investigated; they will still go through the agony that this Bill was intended to stop. We all sympathised with that intention. It clearly will not be achieved in the Bill’s present form.