Clause 18 - Posthumous pardons in relation to certain abolished service offences

Armed Forces Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

Clause 18 reflects the Government’s commitment to the fair and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender armed forces personnel. The clause amends section 164 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to extend posthumous pardons for very old, abolished service offences.

Presently, section 164, in so far as it relates to the armed forces, refers only to historical service offences from before 1881 of men who served in the Navy, but not of those who served in the Army or the Royal Marines, the latter being when ashore. The amendment will ensure that those who served in the Army or Royal Marines before 1881 and were convicted at court martial for now abolished service offences can be pardoned for those offences. The RAF is not affected by the amendment because it was not constituted until 1917 and is already covered in the existing provisions of section 164. I am pleased that through this clause, we continue to address historic injustice and demonstrate that the military is a positive place to work for all who choose to serve.

LGBT personnel have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the armed forces. I hope that the Committee has seen the work that we have done over the past 12 months to try to right the horrendous wrongs that were done to that community during their time in service.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

How will the Minister determine who is in that group? Many people in the LGBT community left the armed forces, but not because they were convicted of being LGBT. They left under other circumstances—in some ways, to make it easier for the military to get rid of them. Can he give a bit more detail on how he will identify those affected? That has to be done.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The hon. Lady makes a really good point, and there is a lot to work through in that space. There is also the question of those who would have received the medal for long service and good conduct but were asked to leave because they were part of the LGBT community. I have been clear that the apology and medal restoration is a first step. We are working through the legal ramifications of addressing some of those historical wrongs. That is ongoing, but I am unable to comment on the progress at the moment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.