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 Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 5:15, 13 April 2021

My Lords, I support these amendments, with a very strong preference for Amendments 7 and 8, although I understand that they will not be pressed; half a loaf is better than no bread. It is clear to me that a combination of rules and discretion is what the law is. This is the protection against arbitrary action, and I have heard no compelling argument whatever at any point in the proceedings relating to this legislation for limiting the discretion of the courts completely, particularly in the light of the sorts of cases described by my noble friend Lord Hendy.

However, I was interested in the newly expressed concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, about discrimination; his view of equal treatment under the law is novel to me. He seems to be concerned about discrimination in relation to a Bill, which he supports, that is inherently discriminatory. He is concerned about giving extra protection to a particular class of claimant—namely, veterans and personnel, who are supposed to be protected by this legislation. But he is not concerned, it would seem, about giving special protection to a class of defendants—the MoD, the Executive—which is the initiator of the legislation as well as the civil defendant. He is not concerned about giving special protection and limitations to criminal defendants in the military, but he is concerned to give the protection offered by Amendment 13 when it is not being offered to overseas civilians, yet he does not support Amendments 7 and 8. This is not levelling up; it is levelling down.

As I say, I would very much prefer Amendments 7 and 8 to be pressed, but in their absence I will support Amendment 13. The Government brought forward this legislation with a promise to give protection to service personnel and veterans but, instead, if they do not go along with at least Amendment 13, it will protect the Exchequer—the Ministry of Defence—from the very people that it claims to protect.