Veterans: Protection from Vexatious Claims

Defence – in the House of Commons on 24th May 2021.

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Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

What steps his Department is taking to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Conservative, South Derbyshire

What steps his Department is taking to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

What steps his Department is taking to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims.

Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

What steps his Department is taking to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

On 29 April 2021, we delivered the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021, which is a landmark piece of legislation that will mean that our armed forces in the future can deploy with confidence when they are going around the world to do their duty.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for delivering this important piece of legislation, and to his predecessor, my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, for his important contribution. Will my hon. Friend the Minister outline what work has been done to communicate important changes contained in the Act to servicemen and women and veterans, including those in Hastings and Rye?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I am grateful for the work that my hon. Friend does in Hastings and Rye to represent the interests of veterans. It falls on us all to sing from the rooftops about this landmark Act. We will be communicating it through every channel available to us, and we will look at whether we can include it in pre-deployment training.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Conservative, South Derbyshire

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act, which has provided huge relief to both veterans and serving personnel in my South Derbyshire constituency. Will he reassure me that, on top of improving the treatment of service personnel throughout the criminal and civil claims process, the Ministry of Defence is also improving its own internal investigations process?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

My hon. Friend is right to raise investigations, which are a critically important component of the service justice system. It is in the interests of serving personnel that we have a rigorous and transparent system. That is why the Secretary of State has tasked Justice Richard Henriques to conduct a thorough review of our approach to investigations. We much look forward to him reporting in the autumn.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

I believe that support for our veterans continues to improve under this Government, but, as the Minister knows, there are two pressing issues that require immediate resolution: Northern Ireland legacy; and the statutory guidance for the Armed Forces Bill. Will he please assure me that both are forthcoming?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

First, let me say how grateful I am for the work that my hon. Friend does in supporting veterans, particularly with the all-party parliamentary group on veterans and with other activities; it is appreciated. The statutory guidance will be published shortly. We are cognisant that the Armed Forces Bill needs to have teeth, and that statutory guidance will be part of our approach. When it comes to Northern Ireland, we have a shared interest in ensuring that this is dealt with. The Government will in due course bring forward a package that delivers for veterans, victims and their families.

Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

I welcome the fact that the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act will provide vital protections to those who put their lives on the line to defend our country and will introduce a new high bar for criminal prosecutions, but will my hon. Friend assure me that when members of the armed forces or our veterans do face prosecution, they will receive comprehensive support from the Ministry of Defence? Will he also join me on a visit to the Don War Memorial Museum & Veterans Hub to see the incredible work of Julie Cooper in celebrating and supporting our veterans?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I am pleased to confirm that that support is available, and it is only right that it should be. Who could resist an invitation to Teesside? I would be delighted to visit the Don War Memorial Museum with my hon. Friend, and to learn about the magnificent military heritage of which Teesside can be rightly proud.