Amendment 7

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 13 April 2021.

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Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative 5:15, 13 April 2021

My Lords, I had intended to involve myself deeply in the passage of this important Bill through your Lordships’ House, although I hesitate to speak on matters about which I am much less qualified to pronounce than the learned and gallant noble Lords who have made such a great contribution to our debates on the Bill. I have found it difficult to keep up with and to remain fully involved in this Bill as well as in the Financial Services Bill. For most of my working life, I have been a full-time banker; on the other hand, my military experience is limited. I was a TA soldier for 10 years and, more recently, have been honoured to act as an honorary air commodore in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

I very much welcome the Government’s decision to introduce the Bill and to deliver on our manifesto commitment to end vexatious legal claims. I also understand and agree with the Government’s intention in Part 2 to ensure that claims are brought sooner. This should mean that service personnel and veterans will not be subjected to criminal investigations that may be triggered by civil claims. I therefore cannot support Amendments 7 and 8 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, which have the effect of wrecking this part of the Bill in its entirety.

However, I am impressed by arguments by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that the courts should continue to be allowed to hear personal injury claims against the Crown even after the six-year time limit has expired. I know enough about the culture within the Armed Forces—a major reason for the high regard in which they are held—to agree that it may also create situations where someone may be told that he cannot make a claim, when actually he can, but he will still believe and accept that he cannot. I am therefore sympathetic to the purpose of Amendment 13 but look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister’s response to the powerful arguments put forward in its support.