Amendment 7

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 13 April 2021.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat Shadow Attorney General 6:00, 13 April 2021

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for their support for my Amendments 7 and 8. I am also grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, for pointing to the difficulties for MoD civilians who are deployed on overseas matters.

The argument put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, is that Amendment 13 would not apply to them. It would discriminate against them because they are not included—so what do you do? You do not add in the MoD civilian employees; you reduce the rights of the combatants—it seems completely topsy-turvy. Another argument is: everything is okay because, when the guillotine comes down, there will only be a few people left on the other side. I do not think that that is a proper basis for a policy.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, for answering the questions that I posed, and I shall study his answers with care. When he said that these proposals encourage civil claims to be brought more promptly, I reflected that, not an hour or two ago, the Government resisted the code that I proposed, in Amendment 6, to do precisely that in criminal matters. I argued there for matters to be brought more promptly, and the Government resisted those proposals—but I am pleased to see that the amendment passed.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, said that there are factors unique to overseas operations that prevent, rather than allow, the extension of time. Overseas operations are extremely difficult, as was discussed in earlier debates; it is extremely difficult to pursue a claim, to get the evidence right and to get the advice, witnesses and so on. You would have thought that overseas operations would allow for more time to bring an action, not less.

The balance, apparently, is to be struck such that the problems of investigating witnesses’ memories are to come before the death or mutilation of a victim. The Welshpool figure of justice, with the scales of justice permanently tilted in one direction, comes to mind.

I have indicated that I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 7 and shall not move Amendment 8, but we shall certainly support Amendment 13 when it is put.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.

Clause 9: Restrictions on time limits to bring actions: Scotland

Amendment 8 not moved.

Clause 10: Restrictions on time limits to bring actions: Northern Ireland

Amendment 9 not moved.

Clause 11: Court’s discretion to extend time in certain Human Rights Act proceedings

Amendment 10 not moved.