Amendment 19

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 9 March 2021.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Attorney General 9:45, 9 March 2021

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, my noble friend Lord West of Spithead, the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig of Radley, Lord Stirrup and Lord Boyce, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, all of whom supported this amendment. I am also struck by the fact that I am supported much more by the military than I am by the lawyers on this amendment, which suggests that it must be right.

I also thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, for his detailed reply. In relation to carving out the military claims against the Ministry of Defence, as proposed in Amendment 29, I understood his answer to be that it is discriminatory. I find that hard to believe because the effect of the Bill is to treat soldiers on overseas operations as different from other soldiers. Therefore, it is simply a question of judgment as to which sub-category is acceptable and which is not. He then said that the other reason for resisting it was because it would not affect very many people. That is not much of an answer—do the right thing; do not deprive people of a claim that they would otherwise have.

Ultimately—and this is no criticism of the Minister—his answers were unconvincing because the purpose of this part of the Bill is not to stop military personnel bringing claims; it is to stop claims, of the sort identified by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, brought by non-military personnel. Whether one thinks that that is right or wrong, it is clear that the Government did not intend this effect on military personnel. They should be consistent in the way they deal with it and reassure military personnel by getting rid of this distinction.

Amendment 19 and the ones associated with it would provide that if the same thing were to happen on Salisbury Plain, soldiers should have a claim, whether it was brought in relation to overseas operations or not. There is absolutely no reason that that should not be given effect to. The alleged suggestion that it might be difficult to work out, with no examples given, was—with respect—rather unconvincing. Of course I will withdraw my amendment, but I think I will return to this on Report.

Amendment 19 withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed.

Clauses 9 and 10 agreed.