Our Armed Forces are world-leading and I will always stand up for them and for their role as a force for good at home and overseas. They set themselves the highest operational standards and expect the best from their servicemen and women.
We should protect service personnel and veterans from vexatious legal claims and repeat investigations while preserving the principles of justice which they have sacrificed so much to defend. The Bill as currently drafted fails to do this, and risks undermining Britain’s leadership role in the world.
The Bill would undermine Britain’s long-standing and unequivocal adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and other international treaties, by bringing in a presumption against prosecution after five years to cover torture and other war crimes. It risks service personnel being dragged to the international criminal court in the Hague instead of being dealt with in our own British justice system.
The Bill could prevent British Armed Forces personnel from holding the Ministry of Defence to account when it fails to properly equip troops, or when it makes serious errors that lead to death or injury of British forces overseas. I share the view the Royal British Legion put forward at the Committee Stage of the Bill that it may breach the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Government needs to think again and make changes to the Bill to overhaul investigations, set up safeguards against vexatious claims that are consistent with our international obligations, hold all war crimes to the same judicial standards, and guarantee troops retain their right to compensation claims when MoD failures lead to injury or death of our forces overseas.
If the Bill draft fails to meet the necessary standards of military investigations and legal protections both for our Armed Forces and international law I will vote against it at Third Reading stage.