In the House of Lords yesterday, peers voted to amend that part of the controversial Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which aims to impose a strict six-year time limit for bringing civil negligence claims against the MOD by injured servicemen and women and their families.
This part of the Bill is nothing more than the MOD introducing a law which will restrict valid negligence claims from being brought against, the MOD. See my recent blog Fair Treatment for our Armed Forces
If that part of the Bill were to stay, it would be in direct conflict with the Armed Forces Bill and its earnest intention to enshrine in law the ‘Armed Forces Covenant
’. The amendment, put forward by a cross-party group led by Lord Falconer, was that there should be no time limits. It was agreed by 300 to 225 and the Government defeated.
Those who voted for this vitally important amendment included the former Chief of the General Staff (head of the Army) Lord Dannatt, his counterpart in the Royal Navy, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Lord Boyce and Lord Stirrup, Marshall of the Royal Air Force and himself also a former Chief of the Defence Staff.
Peers also voted to halt plans in the Bill to bring in a five-year limit on prosecutions for war crimes and torture against British forces serving abroad. Those in support of that amendment were plentiful both in the House and outside, including campaign groups Amnesty UK, Liberty and Reprieve. Lord Robinson, former secretary general of NATO told peers that the Bill “undermines some of the most basic legal standards for which this nation is renowned”
. This also over on Twitter last night from Liberty:
‘The House of Lords has taken a stand against the Government’s attempts to decriminalise torture! Accountability should never have a time limit, and justice shouldn’t be reserved for some but taken away from others. Now will the House of Commons listen?’
Whilst there might still be an appetite for the Overseas Operations Bill among its Conservative backers, I personally believe it to be destined for Room 101 in Whitehall. The Government needs to think again.
14th April 2021