Many of my constituents have contacted me with concerns about the Overseas Operations Bill in recent months. Myself and my Labour colleagues approached this bill with a willingness to work constructively with the government to protect personnel from vexatious claims, but ensure justice can still be served and international laws respected.
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 service men and women.
I believe 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. I shared concerns that the Bill, without the Lord’s amendments, failed to do this, and risked undermining Britain’s leadership role in the world.
I am relieved that the Bill will no longer 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 risked service personnel being dragged to the international criminal court in the Hague instead of being dealt with in our own British justice system.
I was very pleased with the outcome of this bill and hope the government see the advantages of working constructively in the future.