Amendment 19

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 9 March 2021.

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Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Crossbench 9:15, 9 March 2021

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 29 and I support this important safeguard for service personnel. As has been mentioned, not all disabilities are immediately self-evident. Medical advances and associating clinical problems with mental or slowly developing illnesses are helping to explain and track the trigger to events not just in the recent past, but over periods measured in years, not months. Should a claim be considered, it should not be dismissed on some arbitrary timeline. Justice for service personnel, both serving and veterans, demands that their interests should be protected.

The changes made in the past decade, replacing the tried and tested Pensions Appeal Tribunal, which had its origins in 1919, with new arrangements, have been the cause of much anxiety at times. Indeed, I put down an annulment Motion to a major tribunal revamp in 2008 that sought to disband the Pensions Appeal Tribunal of England and Wales and move all its military pension and disability work into a civilian social entitlement chamber. This was widely condemned by those with experience of this type of work, by the Royal British Legion and other charities which help with the preparation and submission of such claims. My Motion was debated and, happily, the Government then agreed that the Pensions Appeal Tribunal work should be given its own separate chamber in the restructured tribunals.

So it is not only that claims by service personnel and veterans should not be arbitrarily time-limited: as important is that the tribunal arrangement in place to deal with claims is respected and trusted, as was the former Pensions Appeal Tribunal, with its long experience and proven track record in this field. I hope the Government will acknowledge the importance of that, as well as Amendment 29.