The Overseas Operations Bill just isn’t fit for purpose. My Labour colleagues and I care deeply about our Armed Forces – that’s precisely why we couldn’t support it.
No one is denying there’s a problem with some of our soldiers and veterans being investigated repeatedly. Lives have been ruined, but this Bill will not prevent it from happening again.
Part 1 of the Bill seeks only to address prosecutions, of which there have been a total of 27 this century. But nowhere in the Bill does it mention the need to tackle the root cause of the issue, namely, flawed investigations.
When giving evidence to the House of Commons, the former Judge Advocate General said the Bill, “will not stop people being investigated and it will not stop people being re-investigated and investigated again" - which is a view shared by the cross-party Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights.
In what felt like a panic-stricken move, the MoD announced a judge-led review into investigations of service personnel on overseas operations while the Bill was half-way through the parliamentary process.
Rather than addressing the problem, the government is increasing the likelihood of British troops facing war-crime charges in the International Criminal Court; again, a point made by the former Judge Advocate General.
The effect will be to damage the reputation of our troops and Britain’s standing in the world, as I set out here, a view shared by the former Head of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Charles Guthrie.
Along with David Davis MP, I asked the government to exclude torture from the Bill, but they voted against our amendment.
Part 2 of the Bill seeks to prevent civil claims being brought against service personnel but in reality, does more to protect the MoD than our veterans.
The head of the Royal British Legion argues this would be in breach of the Armed Forces Covenant.
Labour asked the government to rethink. Instead, they voted against the Shadow Defence Team’s amendment which would have protected the rights of our service personnel.
I care deeply about our Armed Forces and the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in the service of our country. I would be the first to support any measure to keep them safe. Put simply, this Bill does not do that, as sadly, time will tell.