Amendment 7

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 13 April 2021.

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Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Minister (Transport) 5:30, 13 April 2021

My Lords, in essence, Amendment 13 in the names of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Stirrup and Lord Boyce, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, would reintroduce the normal approach to limitation: if a claim is not brought within 12 months —or three years if it is a personal injuries claim—under the Human Rights Act, the court can extend indefinitely if it is just and equitable to do so. This will allow personnel to bring claims after the Government’s proposed six-year longstop.

While the Minister argues that the longstop will apply only to a small number of personnel, I was struck by the comment from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup—repeated again today—that

“to argue that only a small number of service personnel would suffer injustice does not seem a respectable position for a Government to take at any time”.—[Official Report, 9/3/21; col. 1594.]

We wholeheartedly agree with him. We have to correct this unfairness and avoid a breach of the Armed Forces covenant, as suggested by the Royal British Legion. While a soldier injured through negligence by a piece of equipment on Salisbury Plain can bring a claim under normal rules, it is wrong that different rules apply for the same act of negligence if it occurs in an overseas operation.

I also want to highlight a concerning Answer I have received to a Parliamentary Question. When asked about government investigations against civil claims, the Minister revealed that the MoD is launching three times more investigations against personnel who pursue civil claims than it did five years ago. These examine

“the true extent of a claimant’s alleged injuries” and

“the veracity of a claim”.

This Answer, along with the six-year limit in this Bill, indicates that government is increasingly more suspicious of civil claims from troops against the MoD. We should not provide additional limitational hurdles in respect of military personnel bringing claims against the MoD. Therefore, the Bill clearly needs to be amended. When Amendment 13 is called, I intend to seek the opinion of the House.