Clause 15 - Commencement and application

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

Again, I want clarification about clause 15, because there is hype around the Bill somehow righting all past wrongs, and giving rights. Northern Ireland, which we spoke about this morning, is not covered by the Bill, but there is also the question of cases that are currently going on, or those that have been. I just want the Minister to give a response to the fact that the Bill will not apply to past cases relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, and there will not be any fast resolution. I want to get clear parameters from the Minister for which cases will fall within the Bill’s scope, because I think—there has been press comment on this—things have been a bit confused, perhaps intentionally and perhaps unintentionally.

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

I am more than happy to answer that. If the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will apply immediately. It will not apply to any cases where an external, independent decision from the prosecutor on whether to prosecute is awaited, but it will apply from Royal Assent, and there is therefore an element of retrospection to it in that if further things come from Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever it may be, the Bill will apply and provide that certainty. We have been clear all along on the Northern Ireland issue. I have been clear that we will not leave Northern Ireland veterans behind. It was an important concession to achieve—that veterans who served in Northern Ireland will receive equal treatment to those who are covered by the Bill.

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

The right hon. Gentleman can say no, but that is the reality of the position. The Northern Ireland Secretary has spoken before about how he intends to bring forward legislation before Christmas to do that, but it is an issue for the Northern Ireland Office, and I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I do, and having dealt with the Northern Ireland Secretary, I wish him luck, because he is going to come up against huge problems with that. Is the Minister saying that whatever happens in Northern Ireland will be a mirror image of the Bill?

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

That is not what I am saying; I am saying that they will have equal treatment as those who are covered by the Bill.

I appreciate that such matters are hard. When I started all this, I was told that we would never introduce this legislation, but we are. The balance is shifting, and we have a duty to those who serve. The Bill, and the measures from the Northern Ireland Office, will see that through.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

We now come to new clause 2, which we debated as part of an earlier group of amendments. Mr Morgan, do you want a vote on the new clause?