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 Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 4:15 pm, 27th April 2021

I also warmly welcome the further concession that the Minister has announced. The Bill will now exclude all the offences for which service personnel could be summoned before the International Criminal Court. That has now fixed the worst of the problems that many have been anxious about during debates on the Bill.

It would be helpful to understand why it has proved so hard for the Government to realise how awful what they were proposing was. No Minister wants to give armed forces carte blanche to commit torture, genocide and war crimes, and yet it has required the most extraordinary struggle to stop the Government doing exactly that. The noble Lord Robertson—I welcome the Minister’s tribute to him—introducing his amendment in the other place, said:

“Maybe after a lifetime in politics I was affected by some uncharacteristic naivety in thinking that the Government, faced by almost universal and expert opposition on this aspect of the Bill, would by now have changed their mind.” [Official Report, House of Lords, 13 April 2021; Vol. 811, c. 1190.]

Yet they ploughed on until yesterday. Perhaps it was indeed the change of Minister that averted disaster, and with others I congratulate him on his achievement in a short time, but if he can, in winding up, shed some further light on what on earth has been going on, the House would be grateful.

I strongly support what my right hon. Friend John Healey said on duty of care and investigations. I hope that we will come back to them soon if the duty of care amendment is lost this afternoon. I warmly welcome the progress on the Bill in the past few days and would be grateful for any light the Minister can shed on what has been going on.