Debates between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe during the 2019 Parliament

Ukraine: Weapons

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Thursday 16th June 2022

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I say to the noble and gallant Lord that, as previously indicated, the department is fully engaged with industry, because we want to ensure that all equipment granted in kind to the Ukrainian armed forces is replaced as expeditiously as possible, but also that, by continually managing and reviewing our own UK stock of weapons and munitions, we ensure that while we meet that commitment to Ukraine, our UK Armed Forces’ stocks are sufficiently maintained.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I have but modest experience, having worked in the logistics department of the Armed Forces, but I get closer to my noble friend Lord West’s experience that stockpiles were always brought down to the minimum credible level rather than having any serious surpluses. Those stockpiles are being used up, but surely they need to be brought to the pre-war levels. Let us be realistic: the world will be a less safe place at the end of this war. We will almost certainly have an expanded NATO with a Russian border, so, if anything, surely the stockpiles should be expanded. The Government should have made these decisions by now, so will the stockpiles be brought to pre-war levels, and will they indeed be expanded in light of the new threat?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I am unable to provide anything more specific to the noble Lord in addition to what I have previously said. I cannot offer a detailed inventory of what is currently in storage in terms of stockpiles for the UK, or a complete inventory of what is being released to Ukraine. What I can reassure the House about is that the department is constantly engaged in reviewing these stock levels, having regard to both our commitment to support Ukraine and our obligation to make sure we can defend the United Kingdom. As the noble and gallant Lord asked earlier, we are fully engaged with industry.

National Shipbuilding Strategy

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Tuesday 15th March 2022

(5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for their observations. Although their questions, quite rightly, are penetrating, I think there is an understanding that this is an exciting document. It is not empty, vacuous flim-flam, but a very serious, holistic approach to how within the United Kingdom we sustain and grow a prosperous indigenous shipbuilding industry. I remember that one of the first tasks I had as a Defence Minister, back in 2019, was to present to your Lordships the review by Sir John Parker of the 2017 shipbuilding strategy. I remember thinking at the time that the review document was exciting and visionary.

Coming from Glasgow—or coming from Renfrewshire, near Glasgow—and having personally visited Upper Clyde shipbuilding yards when they were on the brink, I do wish to pay tribute to the trade union movement operational at the time for its assiduous work in making sure that politicians understood what the threats and challenges were. They were well informed and persuasive and I thought they did a splendid job in persuading the political process that, back then in the early 2000s, we had to make a better job of how we approached shipbuilding. I know noble Lords will remember Kvaerner on the Clyde, which was completing one order when there was no certainty about where the rest of the work was coming from. As I say, I pay tribute to the trade union movement for its determined and resolute work to try to get greater sense to prevail.

That is why, stepping forward to what Sir John Parker did in 2019, I drew a deep breath of fresh air and thought that this was really going somewhere. I have to say to your Lordships that I think this shipbuilding strategy really does pick up the baton and run with it. What I see in here are the components for a serious, well-funded, well-researched, well-supported, buoyant, competitive shipbuilding industry within the UK, and we should all be heartened and encouraged by that.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked about the size of the Navy. As they are both aware, there are good things happening. For the first time in 30 years, unbelievably, we have two different types of frigate being built simultaneously. We are satisfied that the number of Royal Navy frigates will be sufficient, and we do not anticipate that number dropping below 10 this decade. That is because, in addition to the Type 23s currently serving, we will have the first Type 26s coming in, and we will start to see the Type 31s being delivered, which will all be delivered by 2028. I would observe to your Lordships that the level of shipbuilding investment by the MoD is hugely significant and puts flesh on the bones of this strategy. MoD shipbuilding will double over the life of this Parliament and rise to over £1.7 billion a year. That will certainly allow us to increase the number of frigates and destroyers beyond the 19 we currently have by the end of the decade.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked specifically about the Type 32. That is an exciting project. It is at the moment still at the concept stage, but it will be the first of a new generation of warships, with a focus on hosting and operating autonomous offboard systems. So that is a really innovatory, visionary concept. The early preconcept phase has commenced; the focus is now on developing the operational concept, and the procurement programme strategy will be decided following the concept phase, which has not yet been launched. I can confirm these ships will be UK-built, with the exact shipyard, obviously, still to be determined—that will be subject to commercial competition.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, also asked about the Fleet Solid Support. It is an interesting concept. It will be either a sole British build or a consortium, but the predominant interest will be British. The noble Lord asked how that fitted in with levelling up and the union. I would say to the noble Lord that I was very interested to see the graphic depiction of the map in the document itself, because it gave one of the most visual confirmations of just how critical, right across the United Kingdom, shipbuilding is. It is not just the yards building the ships; it is the huge number of small and medium-sized enterprises that are in the supply chain for that activity. All that plays its role in levelling up and in adding value to communities, which can all expect benefit from the fruits of this strategy rolling out.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about the role that the private sector will play. As he will be aware from the strategy, there has been close consultation with the industry, as is absolutely right. We will establish a shipbuilding enterprise for growth, which will be an industry-based organisation, and we will learn from similar approaches taken in sectors such as the automotive, aerospace and space industries how to take that forward. The private sector has an important role to play in this but, as I say, it has been engaged throughout the refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and is absolutely engaged on the vision contained in it.

It is also interesting to look at the definition of “shipbuilding enterprise” because it gives a good encapsulation of what we are talking about. For the purposes of the refresh:

“The term includes the design; build; integration; test and evaluation; repair; refit; conversion; and support of warships; commercial vessels; workboats; leisure vessels; systems and sub-systems.”


That is a huge range of activity, which, as I said earlier, reaches out right across the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about exports, which are an important component. As he is aware, in relation to the Type 26, we have had an export of design to Canada and Australia. It is important to acknowledge that this is an important departure from the old concept, where you designed a ship and built it so it was solely British and everything remained in the control of the British shipbuilder. The shipbuilding industry has recognised—Sir John Parker identified this back in 2019—that to have resilience and appeal to all sorts of markets, whether they are indigenous markets here or export markets abroad, we need to be able to create things that other people have an interest in acquiring. That is a really exciting development.

The Type 31 has already seen export success, with the announcement in September last year that Indonesia has selected the Arrowhead 140 design for its programme. The UK Government are working closely with Babcock on a number of other export opportunities for the Arrowhead 140; of course, the results of the Miecznik frigate programme in Poland were recently announced, so there is activity there. It is an exciting reflection of what shipbuilding is currently achieving and what the strategy recognises and can build on.

I referred to the defence funding settlement. Both the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, were interested in what lies ahead for defence. We have had the integrated review, the defence Command Paper and what most people regard as a very significant financial settlement for defence. We take nothing for granted. We live in the business of identifying and addressing threat. We have a very engaged Secretary of State who will, I am sure, be alert to how we do that and ensure that the funding is appropriate to whatever we need to deploy to address threat in future.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked whether the strategy is ambitious. Again, I was struck by a section in the document on our ambitions for the shipbuilding sector. I will not read it all out but, when I read through it, I felt as though I had had a good glass of gin—I felt uplifted. Look at the headings: “green technology”; “productivity”; “skills”; “autonomy” —developing a domestic regulatory framework for maritime autonomy so that we can lead the way on international maritime organisation—and “exports”. There are a lot of ambitions in here. Perhaps the more pertinent question is: how do we know that we are achieving them? Again, I will not bore your Lordships with the detail but there is a series of metrics which would be a useful device in measuring how we are getting on.

The noble Baroness asked particularly about Type 45s. The power improvement project has been applied to HMS “Dauntless”. She has moved into the test and commissioning phase of her programme. All three new diesel generators have been run. Initial load trials have been completed successfully, and that is a precursor to the rigorous trials programme in harbour before returning to sea later this year for sea trials.

HMS “Daring” has moved to Cammell Laird. It arrived there in September in readiness for commencement of her PIP conversion, which will be carried out during this year. This is a process whereby, as each ship is done, we learn. The other Type 45s will come in depending on operational activities and commitments. They are hugely capable, much-admired ships and are regarded as significant members of the Royal Navy fleet. I think that is a positive picture, and I am satisfied that there will be a good story to tell.

I hope that I have answered all the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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Will the Minister use the usual convention of writing for anything that she has missed out?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes, of course I shall.

Armed Forces Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I am delighted to speak to the government amendments that will implement specific recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in respect of the Armed Forces covenant. Among this group are some minor and technical corrections to the Bill.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee—whose painstaking work is often unsung and to whom I pay tribute and offer thanks—made two recommendations in respect of the Armed Forces covenant. These relate to the power under new Section 343AE to issue guidance to which public authorities must have regard when exercising relevant statutory functions, and to those who are classed as “service people” and are therefore beneficiaries of the covenant duty. Having considered the committee’s recommendations and recognising the impact these matters may have on the duties imposed on public bodies, we have brought these amendments to provide for greater parliamentary scrutiny in these key elements of the duty.

I will first address government Amendments 8, 9, 11, 12, and 19, which relate to the statutory guidance that we are preparing in support of the duty. These amendments will require the guidance to be laid before Parliament in draft before it can be issued and provide for the guidance to be brought into force by regulations using the affirmative resolution procedure. Given the status of the guidance and its importance in supporting the public bodies that will be subject to the duty, these amendments will provide Parliament with a greater opportunity to scrutinise this document before it is issued.

Amendments 16, 18 and 20 relate to the definition of “relevant family members” for the purpose of the covenant duty. The covenant principles relate to disadvantages arising for “service people”, with special provision being made for such people. The term “service people” is defined in Section 343B of the Armed Forces Act 2006 to include “relevant family members” of service and former service personnel, but this does not include a description of precisely who is a relevant family member for the purposes of the covenant duties. As this group of people will need to be considered by those public bodies in scope of the new duty, we have accepted the committee’s recommendation to specify in regulations who is to be regarded as a relevant family member and that the affirmative resolution procedure is appropriate.

These amendments will therefore amend Section 343B of the Armed Forces Act 2006 to provide for “relevant family members” to be defined in regulations that will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The definition set out in the regulations will apply to both the new “due regard” duty and the Armed Forces covenant report. However, for the purposes of the report, the definition will also include such persons connected with service members and ex-service members as the Secretary of State may decide, as is currently the case under Section 343B.

In addition to the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the amendments will also require the Secretary of State to consult with the devolved Administrations and other stakeholders he considers appropriate before making the regulations.

There are further minor and technical amendments to Clause 8. Amendments 10 and 13 amend new Sections 343AE(4)(c) and 343AF(7)(c) to correct drafting omissions to ensure that the duty on the Secretary of State to consult a Northern Ireland department on regulations or guidance applies only where the Northern Ireland devolved context is affected. This mirrors the position for Wales and Scotland.

Amendment 14 to new Section 343AF, which is inserted by Amendment 19, removes a superfluous part of the definition of Northern Ireland devolved competence, also bringing it into line with the approach for Wales and Scotland. I hope your Lordships will support these amendments, which will provide Parliament a greater opportunity to scrutinise these key elements supporting the covenant duty before they become law.

Amendments 21 and 22 are minor and technical in nature and are being brought forward to improve the drafting of the Bill and ensure consistency with existing legislation. Amendment 21 will allow the regulations that replicate the effect of Section 10(5) of the Police Reform Act 2002 to also replicate the effect of Section 54(2D) of the Police Act 1996. The service police complaints commissioner and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary have complementary statutory functions and are charged with the oversight of the service police forces. This amendment will require them to enter into arrangements with each other for the purposes of securing co-operation and providing assistance in the carrying out of their respective functions. Amendment 22 would provide for the records of the service police complaints commissioner to be “public records” for the purpose of the Public Records Act 1958. I beg to move.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, we welcome the increased parliamentary scrutiny for the statutory guidance on the application of the duty for due regard. This was a recommendation of the Delegated Powers Committee, which we thank for its work on this. Could the Minister give us some indication of how the consultation with the devolved Administrations on drafting the guidance is going? We also welcome the Government’s acceptance of the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendation to ensure that regulations defining “relevant family members” are subject to the affirmative procedure.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, from these Benches, I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. The amendments that have been brought forward all seem sensible and, as the Minister said, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for looking in such detail at this legislation, as in so many cases, and particularly for being glad, as always, to have any changes made with affirmative assent rather than negative approval. There is little to add at this stage. We look forward to the Minister moving these amendments and then moving to other groups that might be a little more contentious.

Armed Forces Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Monday 8th November 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for tabling Amendment 51, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for so eloquently speaking to it. As has been explained, this amendment seeks to create through primary legislation a representative body for the Armed Forces that is similar in many respects to the Police Federation. It proposes that details of how the federation would operate are set out in regulations. I recognise the commitment of both noble Lords to the welfare of our Armed Forces, as other contributors have rightly acknowledged.

This has been an interesting debate. It has thrown up in broad terms the particular environment and context in which we ask our Armed Forces to operate, and it has disclosed some specific issues. Let me try to address some of the points raised. Clearly, the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Boyce and Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, have reservations. I think they were well articulated and suggest that they should be heeded.

To go to the context, the environment in which we ask our Armed Forces to operate, the Armed Forces have a unique role and can be called upon to carry out tasks that are clearly beyond anything that most other people would be asked to do in the course of their duties. What works for a civilian workforce such as the police will not necessarily work for service personnel. That is why the interests of Armed Forces personnel are already represented through a range of mechanisms, not least the chain of command. I will spend a short time outlining some of those provisions. We are currently, in fact, considering what more we can do in this space without compromising operational effectiveness.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised the issue of pay in general terms and made a particularly interesting point about whether the Armed Forces understand the structures. The Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body and the Senior Salaries Review Body provide independent annual recommendations on pay for the Armed Forces to the Prime Minister. The X factor addition to basic military pay, which is currently at 14.5%, recognises the special conditions of military life, including the limits on the ability of service personnel to negotiate on this issue. Processes are in place for personnel to make complaints about their pay or allowances. I would hope that, with the new ambience that now pervades the Armed Forces, people would be encouraged to articulate those concerns and ask questions of the very type the noble Baroness mentioned.

With regard to complaints more widely, the Service Complaints Ombudsman provides independent and impartial scrutiny of the handling of service complaints made by members of the UK Armed Forces regarding most aspects of their service life, and service personnel are able independently to approach the ombudsman or ombudswoman about a complaint which they do not want to raise directly with their chain of command. Support is provided to those who are making complaints or allegations and to those who are the subjects of such actions. In addition to this practical support, there is a range of internal and external welfare support for personnel to draw on if they need it as they go through these processes.

Improvements to the service complaints process are being progressed as a matter of policy, as the vast majority of these do not require primary legislation. For many other issues, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association—SSAFA—the Royal Naval Association, the Royal Air Force Association, the Veterans Support Association and a host of other regimental associations and groups around the country have regular access both to the chain of command and to Ministers to represent their members’ interests.

Service personnel have their own voice on matters which concern them through the Armed Forces annual continuous attitude survey, which asks our people about all aspects of their service life. The results, which are published, are used to inform the development of policy and to measure the impact of decisions affecting personnel, including major programmes and the Armed Forces covenant.

Service personnel can also play an active role in the development of the policies which affect them. There are currently more than 50 diversity networks operating within defence at various levels. Most of these are run by volunteer members, with senior officer advocates and champions, and they can be consulted on matters which are likely to impact our people.

Noble Lords will understand that the well-being of our personnel directly contributes to the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces. It is therefore important to the chain of command and to defence to both sustain and support the well-being of service personnel and their families and, where necessary, provide welfare support to resolve issues that might otherwise undermine well-being and impact on operational effectiveness.

That is why, during basic training, all service personnel receive details on how to identify welfare issues and how to get help, with refresher training provided during subsequent initial trade training. All regular and reserve officers also receive training during their respective commissioning course which teaches how their service provides welfare support and sets out their welfare roles and responsibilities as line managers. Once again, refresher training is provided throughout and welfare specialists are also on hand to provide advice to the chain of command and provide support to their personnel.

We recognise that some personnel and families may feel uncomfortable exposing welfare issues to the chain of command and, in some cases, issues may even arise as a direct result of conflict with the chain of command. My noble friend Lord Lancaster spoke in broad terms about that and the alternative channels available to complainants.

I therefore submit that, in these circumstances, service personnel have alternative mechanisms for raising and addressing welfare issues, giving them a voice independent of the chain of command. These include unit welfare staff, padres and confidential helplines, in addition to the service families federations and service complaints process that I referred to earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, referred to Australia, but Australia disbanded its armed forces federation in 2006.

The noble Lord also raised an issue about the recent Budget, in response to which I would say that as the department prioritises providing a wider range of supportive bodies and invests in training for service personnel throughout their service career, it would be misleading to quantify this in terms of budget lines as such. The department feels strongly that the interests of service personnel need to be protected and we take a varied approach by providing many strands to offer that protection. We cannot put a price on giving people a voice.

I hope that this explains clearly the rationale for the Government’s approach to ensuring that the interests of service personnel are protected and the provisions that exist. I trust that, following these assurances, the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, one of the essential skills for survival in politics is being able to count. I recognise a 5-0 defeat when I hear one; it can also be pretty uncomfortable when the closest you get to support comes from the Government. But I ask noble Lords to pause and consider that the speech that the Minister just made was probably unthinkable 30 years ago. She at least took the generality that representation, through one mechanism or another, is necessary. We also have to take the generality that, much as we all are proud of the Armed Forces, we know that in some areas things are not as perfect as we would want.

The concept of representation will have its day. Clearly, that is not today. But on the ideas behind it, I am pleased that the Government, I think, conceptually see that it is necessary to make sure that there are appropriate mechanisms for representation. Over time—this will come up every five years—we will test the ground, because we as a party believe in representation.

There is an interesting concept about civilians in uniform. They are not civilians in uniform; clearly, they are different from civilians in that they have to put their lives on the line, and I accept that. However, I think that they are citizens in uniform and there need to be processes and a mechanism for their views to be made known. We talk about supporting individuals going to the ombudsman. That is a good thing. I think that there is a recognition that that might have to be more formalised and more powerful. We will see. I accept that we are apart on this issue. Nevertheless, we are not as apart as one might think. The idea of agency by individuals is one that will not go away, but it is certainly not an idea that should be forced on an unwilling institution.

I opened by saying that I wanted to hear what the Government had to say. I am pleased with the direction of their answer. I also said that we were interested in what noble and gallant Lords might say. I note what they said. Therefore, taking account of all those issues, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment and will not be bringing it back on Report.

Armed Forces Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, as we begin Committee on this important legislation, I stress to all sides that we must use this opportunity to improve the lives of, and protections and support for, personnel and their families through legislative change.

Her Majesty’s Opposition stand firmly behind our brave service personnel and their families, and we strongly believe that the law should be on their side. That is why we support the principles behind the Bill and welcome the steps to create a legal duty to implement the principles of the covenant and the key elements of the Lyons review. But we all know that there are many, both in and outside the House, who believe that the Government could and should go further. Therefore, I repeat that our main priority will be to work with other parties to improve the legislation.

Our forces communities are themselves determined that the Bill should not be a missed opportunity, so the amendments tabled by Her Majesty’s Opposition and those we are supporting, we believe, are designed in good faith to reflect the cause of personnel, their families and the organisations which represent them.

The first group of amendments, which focuses on Clause 2 and Schedule 1, concerns the constitution of the court martial and implements recommendations from the Lyons review. These include fixing the size of court martial boards at three or six, and a move to qualified majority verdicts instead of the simple majority systems currently used.

The Bill’s Select Committee stated that the

“use of the simple majority verdict had been criticised by some, including … Jeff Blackett, and Liberty, who proposed that unanimous verdicts be sought in the first instance.”

The Government have subsequently tabled Amendments 1, 2 and 4, which they say enable the court martial to remain validly constituted if a three-member board loses a lay member—for instance, due to illness or the need to isolate. The Minister has said that she is making a small adjustment to future-proof the system of three-member boards to allow for the appointment of a four-member board for longer cases.

Why are these amendments suddenly needed? How often does the Minister think that a four-member board will be appointed? What consultation process has there been for this change? Is there a large enough pool of board members to support this change? When she says that four-person boards are for longer cases, what type of cases does she mean? Will it be just about time, or some other characteristics of the case?

It was also helpful to hear the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, behind Amendment 3; I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply to these points. With that, and with a careful reading of Hansard, we will be considering our position on this amendment.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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First, I thank your Lordships for your contributions. I will start by responding to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who I think was principally concerned with the government amendments to which I spoke. Regarding the decision to introduce a flexibility to allow a three-member board to become a four-member board in order to keep operating, I cannot give him a list of statistics, but I can tell him that Covid brought into very sharp relief the potential fragility of the system if people sadly become infected with Covid or are required to isolate. That made it clear that we need to introduce some change to accommodate these extraordinary circumstances, which we may continue to encounter. None of us is clear when life as we once remember it may return, so I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that we regard this as a sensible introduction of a flexible measure to ensure, importantly, that justice continues to be done for victims and that they are not in the unenviable position of a case having to be dropped because the court martial is not properly constituted.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, inquires about what type of cases it is about and how often we expect a full-member board to sit. I suggest that the type of case is probably a matter for the court martial rules to determine. One would imagine that, in looking at the composition and constitution of a court martial, regard would be had to the type of offence being tried, the number of witnesses available and that an appropriate judgment would be made on that basis, but the court martial rules would be more specific about that aspect.

I turn to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd—I hope he finds my pronunciation semi-acceptable; I was tutored by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on how to deal with it. I think the points made are important. I detected a fundamental difference of opinion between me as a government Minister within the MoD and the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, about the philosophical or essential character of what we are dealing with in the service justice system. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, eloquently touched on that.

We have to remember that life for a service community and all those within it is very different from life for those of us in a civilian community. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, gave us an interesting analogy of the forthcoming rugby match between the All Blacks and Wales. The comparison that he attempted to draw was that the referee may consult the touch judges as to what has actually happened but the referee will ultimately make the decision. In response, I would say that the referee and the touch judges are not living in a close and mutually supportive community such as the Armed Forces community, where not only are they all living in close proximity to one another but in service they are mutually dependent on each other. The rugby players, the referee and the other officials are not dependent on each other for either disciplinary or operational effectiveness. There is a temptation to make that comparison but I do not find it completely analogous to what we are discussing within the Armed Forces.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said that sentencing is complex, and I do not think anyone would dispute that. Training is needed, and in court martial appeals you have the expertise of the judges. I would respond by saying that we do have expertise; the judge advocate has expertise, and sentencing guidance is available to all on the panel. As I indicated in my preliminary remarks when addressing Amendment 3, there is a great body of expertise and information available. Where we differ is on a fundamental point, a point that noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, made well when he said that there has to be an understanding within the service community about how a punishment or a penalty is to be appropriate to what has happened. That is in the wider context of what the offence, transgression or omission actually meant to the broader community. As I pointed out in my speech, there is a world of difference between a supermarket worker turning up late and a marine engineer being late for a nuclear submarine that is just about to leave port.

The concern was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that in a civilian court you can adjourn for sentencing. The Judge Advocate General can also adjourn the court martial to consider sentencing if the panel needs time to get further information on the defendant, and pre-sentencing reports are used in the court martial system.

I have endeavoured to address the points raised. I have a note here saying that apparently the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked who we had consulted in the court martial. We consulted the Judge Advocate General, the Service Prosecuting Authority and the single services.

I submit that the government amendments proceed from a sensible and widely understood base and that Amendment 3, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, is well-intended but inappropriate for incorporation within the service justice system.

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, group six comprises Amendments 16 to 37 inclusive. In total, these relate to a minor, technical amendment to Clause 9, which introduces important changes to Section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable our reserve personnel to do more and for defence to offer them more. The changes we are making to Section 24 will in future enable reservists to undertake periods of full-time and part-time service, or a combination of both under one continuous commitment.

On reflection, we feel it more appropriate to refer to our new continuous service commitment using neutral terms, such as “a Section 24 commitment”. This will avoid any suggestion that reservists are in continuous service only in certain circumstances. Reservists are serving members of the Armed Forces during their entire term of service, not just when they are on duty or in training. It is a purely technical amendment and I can confirm that, importantly, it will have no impact on how the new measures we are introducing under Clause 9 will operate. It will allow our Reserve personnel to do more and enable the Ministry of Defence to make better use of their knowledge, skills and experience, but avoid any possible confusion as to nomenclature and meaning. I beg to move.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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I accept the Minister’s assurance that this is a wholly technical amendment. If my assistants find that not to be true, I shall return to it ferociously on Report. But assuming that is the case, I am content with the amendment. I make the point that the next group goes into a fundamental area, and I would greatly object to any attempt to move into that group tonight.

Afghanistan: British Equipment and Training

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Thursday 16th September 2021

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I share my noble friend’s concern about the ideology, as I think everyone else will in this Chamber. Along with our allies and friends, significantly, the United States, we act to try to uphold values, protect freedoms and assist those who find themselves oppressed and isolated. We act to try to minimise threats to this country and our partners. That was one of the reasons we engaged in the NATO alliance in Afghanistan.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government have overseen a series of chaotic failures and miscalculations in Afghanistan which have damaged our international reputation and weakened our security—including the confirmation that military equipment has been left behind. Does the Minister believe that the UK and US military equipment left in Afghanistan poses a direct threat to the UK? If the answer is yes, why was there not a better plan to ensure that did not happen?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I do not share the noble Lord’s analysis, and I do not share his conclusion based on his analysis. As I said earlier, a very small amount of equipment was left behind. Some of that was gifted to partner nations and therefore is under their control. Anything else that was left—and it was a very small amount—was of no military use whatsoever.

Sheffield Forgemasters

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As I think is universally understood, this was really a stand-alone case and a matter for essential intervention to preserve critical national infrastructure. The financial undertakings to which the MoD has committed itself include the share capital purchase, as the noble Baroness has indicated. It also includes taking on and refinancing the current indebtedness, which is approximately £19 million, and the capital investment that we have just been discussing. I say to the noble Baroness, as I observed earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that this is a company with an exciting commercial future. This is an ongoing enterprise and defence’s role is to ensure, as my noble friend inquired about in the previous question, that this company has a secure future—a sufficiently secure future that we can return it to the private sector.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, this week, the Secretary of State said that SFIL is

“the only available manufacturer with the skills and capability to produce certain large-scale high-integrity castings and forgings from specialist steels in an integrated facility to the highest standards required for specific defence programmes.”—[Official Report, Commons, 6/9/21; col. 2WS.]

Does that mean that SFIL will have a monopoly of supply for such components, allowing it to invest, with confidence, in the future?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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It means that the company has an ascertained level of demand from the MoD but, as I said earlier, it also has a very healthy suite of non-MoD, commercial customers. Part of the challenge that the MoD is embracing with the current management of the company is to ensure that that side is grown as well, but the money that the MoD is providing will be directly and singularly applied to the needs of the company to address the MoD customer requirement.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, again, after another overwhelming majority in this House, the Government have rejected a duty of care standard for personnel and veterans who face investigations and litigations. This legislation is still very far from doing what it says on the tin: protecting British forces personnel serving overseas from vexatious litigation and shoddy investigations. It still fails to incorporate a duty of care for forces personnel who are faced with allegations, investigations, and litigation.

The gap was identified by veterans faced with investigation or litigation consistently saying that they are cut adrift by their chain of command and abandoned entirely by the MoD, with no legal, pastoral, or mental health support. Major Bob Campbell made that point so powerfully, from his own dreadful experience, in evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the other place. As the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, has said,

“when this new Bill passes into law it will singularly fail to provide the protection that serving and veteran members of the Armed Forces believe it should provide.”—[Official Report, 26/4/21; col. 2109.]

The Government’s arguments have been weak against this amendment. They argued that they already provide this support, yet a gap has been clearly highlighted time and again. They also argued that it could lead to more troops being caught up in litigation—when all the Government need to do to avoid this is to fulfil their responsibilities—and that the duty of care amendment has drafting issues, when the Government have failed to produce their own version, as with the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Robertson.

With prorogation fast approaching, I accept that we should not divide on this amendment tonight. I will be entirely happy if the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, withdraws his amendment for now, but I urge the Minister to think hard about this, as we will return to this issue in the Armed Forces Bill.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments, and for his warm personal comments to me as an individual, which I appreciate. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for their contributions.

The noble Lord referred to this as a matter of principle. He may be surprised to hear me say that a duty of care is a very important matter of principle. On the principle, there is proximity between him and the Government, but the divergence of view is on the mechanism. Does doing this by statute makes things better for our Armed Forces personnel, or does such a statutory creation, through unintended consequences, inadvertently make things worse by creating scope for more litigation and possibly inhibiting operational command?

These are significant matters, and I sense that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, recognises the need for caution—not in terms of what we all want, because I think there is a lot of agreement on that, but on the question of how we safely get there.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for not pushing this to a Division this evening and recognising that there is merit in getting this Bill passed, but I warmly suggest to him that we continue our engagement and continue to explore whether we can find a route forward. I am a great believer in dialogue and discourse; when there is such obvious conjunction of opinion over what we want to try to achieve for our Armed Forces personnel and why, I like to think it might be possible to explore a safe road towards arriving at that destination—one which does not involve the hazards I have outlined.

I look forward to that continued engagement with the noble Lord and again express my appreciation to him for not moving this issue to a Division this evening.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, following the overwhelming defeat in this House a couple of weeks ago, the Government’s decision to accept parts of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, to exclude torture, genocide and crimes against humanity from the presumption against prosecution was a welcome step forward. This was testament to the efforts of the noble Lord and the vast coalition of supporters inside and outside this House. I pay tribute to them all today.

We should not forget that these serious offences are illegal and immoral. Under all circumstances, they must be investigated, and if there are grounds for the allegations, there must be prosecutions and punishment. Not including them in Schedule 1 from the beginning was a mistake, and one that could have led to British personnel and veterans being dragged before the ICC, as the ICC’s chief prosecutor herself said. Now, she has written another letter about the current government concessions, saying:

“I remain concerned that many war crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction would still be subject to the envisaged statutory presumption … any gap between the scope of coverage in the excludable offences under the proposed legislation and conduct which might otherwise constitute a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court would risk the persistence of … rendering relevant cases concerning such conduct admissible before the ICC.”

Therefore, it was clear that there remained a serious problem and that the Government were still picking and choosing some crimes that are covered by the Geneva conventions.

We still believe that war crimes must be excluded and strongly support Motion A1 to exclude everything covered by Article 8.2 of the Rome treaty. We are therefore delighted with the Minister’s speech. Essentially, I believe the Government accept the essence of Motion A1, and we will see that in the new amendment from the Commons. I thank the Minister for her efforts and her willingness to talk to many interested parties. We have got to the right place.

It might be useful to lay out what I expect to happen now. As I understand it, Motion A1 will be pressed by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and the Government will accept it on the voices. It will then go back to the Commons, and an amendment in lieu will be moved by the Government. It will have substantially the same effect as Motion A1, and it will be approved in the Commons. The new amendment will then be returned to us, where we will unreservedly welcome and approve it. That will be a happy outcome to this complex debate.

I join other Members in celebrating that there have been a variety of speeches looking at this subject in this session, in previous sessions and outside the House. I accept that getting the balance right is a matter of some subtlety, but I believe we have got to the right place, and I look forward to the amendment in lieu coming back to us.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. Again, I thank and pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, for his assiduous attention and perseverance in respect of this issue. I endeavoured to engage widely, and I thank noble Lords for the recognition of that engagement. I was anxious to do my level best to understand where the concerns really lay.

I thank noble Lords for the welcome they have extended to the Government’s change of position on this. As indicated by the last speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I welcome the recognition that there was a balance to be struck. I now detect, quite clearly, I think, that your Lordships are seeing the Bill reach a shape whereby it is a positive advance, providing clarity and greater certainty to our Armed Forces personnel. As I said in my opening speech, the Government will not oppose the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and they will table an amendment in lieu to ensure drafting accuracy.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we continue to accept and recognise the problem of baseless allegations and legal claims arising from Iraq and Afghanistan under both Labour and Conservative Governments. But the Bill, unamended, just does not do what was promised—that is, to protect British personnel serving overseas from vexatious legal claims and shoddy investigations. This is the gaping hole in this Bill, and it could be neatly fixed in the way that was proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas.

I remind the Minister that the conditions set on investigations in the amendment are not arbitrary, nor are they time limited. The proposal ensures timely, not time-limited, investigations. This is not unrealistic, because it has been tried and tested in civilian law, and that is one of the reasons why the former Judge Advocate-General is so keen on such a proposal. We have worked hard with the Government and across the House to try to build a consensus on this. While we believe this has been achieved with colleagues from all sides, the Government remain extremely resistant to proposals, so we are forced to recognise the restraints and realities of ping-pong. Therefore, we support the calls by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for the amendment to be referred to Sir Richard Henriques, and reported on in time for it to be considered in the Armed Forces Bill, to ensure that we return to the issue.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for his Motion B1. He referred to my remarks at Second Reading relating to trying to address protracted and repeated investigations, and I stand by these remarks which, within the context of the Bill, seek to provide greater clarity and certainty to our Armed Forces personnel, but not by imposing artificial time limits on investigatory processes. That is implicit within the noble Lord’s amendment.

I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is well intentioned. He suggests that his amendment should be referred to Sir Richard Henriques, and the Government certainly have no objection to that. Indeed, Sir Richard Henriques may already have been closely following debates in this Chamber on the Bill. The noble Lord’s amendment may be a fruitful subject on which Sir Richard may wish to reflect. I cannot commit, of course, to saying that the report from Sir Richard will be concurrent with the Armed Forces Bill. Its Second Reading may reach this Chamber in June, and I understand that Sir Richard hopes to produce his report in the early summer. Again, while we will all be very interested in learning what Sir Richard has to say, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, will understand that I cannot commit the Government to whatever he may produce in his ultimate report. I certainly believe in having a wide field of material available for consideration of complex issues. If that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, I hope he will be minded not to move Motion B1 to a division.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we are very disappointed that the Government have rejected our amendment to Part 2 of the Bill. We still believe that it is simply wrong for those who put their life on the line serving Britain overseas to have less access to compensation and justice than the UK civilians whom they defend, or indeed than their colleagues whose service is largely UK based. The amendment was designed to ensure that claims by troops or former service personnel were not blocked in all circumstances after six years, as they would otherwise be under the Bill.

This provision also directly breaches the Armed Forces covenant, as the director-general of the Royal British Legion confirmed. He argued: “I think it”—by implication, the Bill—

“is protecting the MOD, rather than the service personnel”.—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 8/10/20; col. 86.]

While our concerns have not gone away, we recognise that the Government have shown absolutely no desire to change this, so we will not ask the other place to think again with another vote. However, we strongly urge the Government to think further on this matter, and we will return to it as soon as possible.

For now, I want to thank colleagues for their unwavering support for our amendment, especially the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Stirrup and Lord Boyce. Having created such a widely based coalition against this part of the Bill, the Government should think long and hard and use the opportunity of the Armed Forces Bill to correct this deeply unwise feature of this one.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for their contributions. I think that what emerges is a simple divergence of opinion. I say to both noble Lords that the problem with Amendment 4 is discrimination between different personnel engaged in the same activity on which the Bill is predicated, an overseas operation. These differences of opinion are unlikely to be reconciled, but I thank the noble Lords for their contributions.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we remain four-square behind the important amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, to provide a duty of care standard for personnel and veterans who face investigations and litigations. It remains unclear why the Government will not accept this limited proposal. If it is simply because they fear being sued for not fulfilling their responsibilities, I simply say to the Minister that all the Government need to do is to make sure their duty is fulfilled in the first place.

It has been suggested that it is unreasonable to single out the Armed Forces for this protection but, as the noble Baroness just pointed out, the covenant shows that the law recognises that being a soldier or serviceman in a combat situation is special and different. In no other job can you require somebody to go into a potentially lethal situation and, in the final analysis, die for their country. This amendment recognises that there needs to be something special when people have worked under conditions that those of us who have never been in that level of tension, responsibility and fear probably cannot understand. We can at least partly understand how difficult it must be. Surely, there should be a reciprocal movement by government, the command and the MoD to support those in such danger when they come under the aegis of the law and have the difficult job of defending themselves. This amendment merely makes sure that they are properly looked after and that anybody making decisions about how they are looked after recognises that, at the end of the day, there is hard legislation.

Since we last debated this amendment in this House, we have had a change of Minister for Defence People and Veterans—the ministerial lead for this legislation. While there are certainly mixed opinions about him, no one can fault Johnny Mercer’s passion or sense of mission. His resignation letter to the Prime Minister lays bare the failings of the Government on veterans’ concerns by saying that

“we continue to say all the right things”

yet

“fail to match that with what we deliver”.

Clearly, there is an issue and we believe that having this duty of care on the face of the Bill will allow the Government to deliver while being reminded how Ministers come and go but statutory protection remains in place. We have heard how troops and their families who have been through the trauma of these long-running investigations have felt cut adrift from the Ministry of Defence. When Major Campbell was asked what support the MoD gave him, he replied simply: “There was none”.

We believe that the Government should think long and hard about this amendment. It is an unlikely coalition of three former Chiefs of Staff of their respective parts of the Armed Forces, politicians from around this Chamber, and many outside, who recognise the value of looking after our troops when they are in difficult times. This has to change and we believe that legislative change is the right way. We therefore support the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, in asking the Government to think again. If the noble Lord feels that he has had an unsatisfactory response and wishes to divide the House, we will support him.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for their contributions. I realise that this is an important debate. It is an issue which, as I have recognised in previous contributions, elicits very strong and sincerely held views and feelings.

The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, referred to my former ministerial colleague, Johnny Mercer. I pay tribute to him and recognise his commitment to veterans, as I pay tribute to his successor, my honourable friend Leo Docherty, himself a former soldier, who has a deep and abiding interest in veterans.

I listened carefully to the contributions across the Chamber. What I have not heard in response to my attempt to describe the wide range of support which is offered to our Armed Forces personnel and veterans—through a range of directly provided services, likely to be the case, for example, with serving personnel; or in conjunction and co-operation with veterans’ charities; or through consultation with the devolved Administrations, many of whom are responsible for delivering the essential services and support which our veterans require; or through the Armed Forces Covenant and how we propose to develop that further in the Armed Forces Bill—is a detailed indication of where the MoD is falling short. I certainly feel it would be helpful to have greater clarity about what noble Lords think are the deficiencies of the MoD in this context.

I have also not heard a response to the Government’s legitimate concerns about the unintended consequences and the potential legal implications of creating a statutory duty of care. As I pointed out, this has to exist alongside the common-law doctrine of combat immunity and the very real concerns that this well-intended amendment could stray into and inhibit activity in the operational theatre. None of the contributions addressed these legal concerns or provided any alternative legal view. If one is available, it would be helpful to the discussion to hear what it is.

Afghanistan

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Wednesday 21st April 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I join Ministers in paying tribute to the British Armed Forces who have served in Afghanistan, and especially to the 454 personnel who have lost their lives. We honour their service and their sacrifice. With the full withdrawal of NATO troops, it is hard to see a future without bloodier conflict, wider Taliban control and greater jeopardy for former interpreters and women. The Chief of the Defence Staff said that this was

“not a decision we had hoped for”.

Did the UK try to stop the US taking this decision? What steps will NATO allies now take to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a breeding ground for terrorism, and what ongoing support will the Government provide to personnel and veterans who have been injured in Afghanistan?

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his tribute to our Armed Forces and particularly for his acknowledgement of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I entirely endorse his welcome and kind remarks. In response to his question, the United Kingdom has regular conversations with US counterparts on a range of issues, and we consult closely. As the noble Lord is aware, this is a NATO mission in Afghanistan and we were always clear that we would proceed in concert with our NATO allies and partners, which we have done. Regarding the noble Lord’s apprehensions, our support of the NATO mission has brought Afghanistan to a much better place than it was in 2001.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass, and it is with pleasure that I make that Motion and propose to make a brief speech.

The Government stood on a manifesto commitment to

“introduce new legislation to tackle the vexatious legal claims that undermine our Armed Forces”,

and they have delivered on that promise. I have said consistently throughout the passage of the Bill that the principles are sound, the objectives are good and the Bill is necessary. The Government believe that the combination of measures in the Bill provides a better and clearer legal framework for dealing with allegations or claims arising from overseas military operations.

The Bill addresses the issue of unacceptable delays in bringing prosecutions and provides greater certainty to veterans for events which happened in the unique context of overseas operations many years ago. The provisions also require that civil claims arising from overseas operations are brought promptly so that the courts are able to assess them when memories are fresh and evidence is more readily available.

The measures recognise both the challenging and extraordinary—I use that word in its literal sense—circumstances of overseas operations and the adverse effects that they can have on our service personnel. These include being exposed to unexpected or continuous threats or being deployed alongside friends and colleagues who are killed or severely wounded in action.

The Bill delivers on a manifesto commitment to our Armed Forces and veterans. It is based on strong support for the proposals by clear majorities in the other place, and it is for these reasons that this House should support the Bill’s Third Reading.

I also thank those of your Lordships across the House who have participated in the various debates. I recognise particularly the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Dannatt, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. While I may not have been able to acquiesce to all their requests, our meetings have been cordial and their contributions constructive.

The Government have listened very carefully to the views put forward throughout the Bill’s progress. However, they do not agree with amendments that undermine rather than strengthen the Bill, are simply not aligned with its aims or would render it incompatible with the United Kingdom’s international obligations.

None the less, I have noted and trenchantly relayed the very real concerns so eloquently and robustly expressed by your Lordships, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, that by not excluding other serious offences, the Bill risks damaging not only the UK’s reputation for upholding international humanitarian and human rights law—including the United Nations convention against torture—but the reputation of our Armed Forces. I am sure that the other place has also heard those deep concerns loudly and clearly.

I also believe that we already offer the highest standards of care and support to our service personnel. I again reaffirm and reassure that the MoD has a long-standing policy that where a serviceperson or veteran faces allegations in relation to incidents arising from his or her duty, they receive full public funding for legal support, as well as welfare and pastoral support, for as long as necessary.

There have been a number of debates on investigations. In addition to requiring prosecutors to give consideration to the public interest in finality, where there has been a relevant previous investigation and no compelling new evidence has become available, we believe that the longstop measures in Part 2 of the Bill will help to reduce the likelihood of investigations being opened many years after operations have ended. Indeed, in the future, the longstops will act as a catalyst for encouraging any civil claims to be brought sooner, and any associated criminal allegations are also therefore likely to be investigated sooner. This reduces the risk of criminal investigations arising many decades later as a result of allegations made in civil claims.

I also remind the House that the review by Sir Richard Henriques into the reporting of allegations and the conduct of investigations on overseas operations is currently in progress. As I have said previously, this work will complement the measures in the Bill, and we should await his recommendations as to whether and what measures may be needed to improve our investigative processes and procedures.

The Bill will shortly move back to the other place for consideration of the amendments proposed by this House. Many of the debates we have had in Committee and on Report have, at times, been emotive. I am sure, however, that all have been born out of our conjoined desire to do the very best we can to support our brave current and former Armed Forces personnel both during and after their operational duties overseas.

In conclusion, I acknowledge and thank profoundly the Bill team led by Damian Parmenter and Jennifer Chamberlain and supported by the Bill manager, Richard Hartell. Their experience, expertise, resilience and patience with an at times crotchety Minister have been invaluable and exemplary. In these comments I embrace—metaphorically, that is—my colleagues: the Advocate-General, my noble and learned friend Lord Stewart, and the Government Whip, my noble friend Lord Younger. I thank them for their steadfast support. I commend the Bill to the House.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Bill goes back to the other place with important changes. Throughout the Bill’s passage, we have wanted to work with the Government and colleagues across the House to improve it. I thank everybody who has engaged with us, including the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie—and the Bill team. This positive arrangement resulted in the removal of the derogation clause, which is welcome.

We do not want to wreck the Bill; we do not want to kill the Bill. The Government have identified a real problem: personnel can be plagued by vexatious claims and shoddy investigations. But the Government are approaching the problem from the wrong direction by failing to tackle the issue head-on, damaging our international reputation and threatening the Armed Forces covenant.

The amendments which have been successful in this House put personnel first by recognising the MoD’s responsibility to support troops facing investigation and litigation by placing adequate restrictions on reinvestigations and by ensuring that the Armed Forces covenant is not breached by the longstop. They put forces personnel first because they have been led by noble and gallant leaders in this House. I especially thank the noble Lords, Lord Dannatt and Lord West, and the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Stirrup and Lord Boyce, for their leadership and guidance on these important issues. I also thank former Defence Secretaries and Ministers for their contributions.

The other key amendment extended exclusions from the presumption to cover genocide, torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity. I want to thank my noble friend Lord Robertson for leading this broad coalition.

I also want to thank the Public Bill Office for all its advice and help, the House staff, my two leaders—my noble friends Lord Touhig and Lord Falconer—and my adviser and researcher, Dan Harris, without whom I could not have survived.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, important issues have been raised on this group and I thank colleagues for tabling these amendments. The Good Friday agreement is central to the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland; we all have a vital role to play in safeguarding that agreement and building on its promise, and we must ensure that this Bill, or any other, protects it.

The Bill raises important concerns over access to justice and it should be improved for the entire United Kingdom. The Government have also promised legislation to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. Ministers need to get this delicate legislation right: it must be in the spirit of the Stormont House agreement; we need victims to be at the heart of legacy proposals; and the Bill must maintain a broad-based consensus on proposals, as outlined in New Decade, New Approach, which restarted power-sharing. I look forward to hearing from the Minister actual details about this, rather than the usual “when parliamentary time allows” line.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, once again I thank your Lordships for contributions to an important issue which is, for obvious reasons, very much to the forefront of our minds at the moment.

Amendment 18 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, seeks to create a new condition that must be satisfied before the provisions in the Bill can be commenced. That condition is for the Government to publish a report on the progress made in relation to legislation addressing the legacy of the Troubles. I thank the noble Baroness for her eloquent address, to which I know we all listened with both respect and interest, but I think she will understand that the Government cannot accept an amendment, no matter how well intentioned, that puts conditions on the timing of the implementation of provisions that seek to provide certainty and reassurance to our service personnel and veterans who have served on overseas operations, which is a different issue from the position of Northern Ireland.

I understand the concerns that sit behind this amendment, so I reassure noble Lords that the Government remain committed to making progress on legacy issues and we will not allow our brave service personnel who served in Northern Ireland to be forgotten. In order to make further progress, the Northern Ireland Office must continue to engage with the Irish Government, the Northern Ireland parties, and civic society, including victims’ groups. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the UK Government recognise the importance of working with all parts of the community as part of this process.

I hope noble Lords will recognise that, sadly, the pandemic has had an impact in causing a loss of momentum, but I reassure your Lordships—in particular with regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said just a few minutes ago—that this Government will bring forward legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations. The Government—in particular, the Northern Ireland Office —are committed to making progress on this important issue as quickly as possible. In these circumstances, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, will be minded to not move her amendment.

The other amendments in this group, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, seek either to remove references to Northern Ireland in parts of the Bill or to stop certain provisions extending to Northern Ireland. The Bill extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for a reason. Defence is a United Kingdom competence and our Armed Forces personnel are drawn from all parts of the United Kingdom, in whose name they serve. That is why the effects of the provisions in the Bill are substantively the same throughout the entire United Kingdom. It is right and desirable that the objectives of the Bill should apply throughout the United Kingdom; my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern made that point well.

However, as different pieces of legislation in the different nations of the UK are impacted by the Bill, to ensure technical compliance and drafting accuracy the necessary amendments have been effected in respect of the relevant law in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. I say gently to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that the Bill is not a de facto immunity, and I think many people are coming to accept that as being an extravagant interpretation of the Bill.

Clause 10 and Schedule 4, which this group of amendments seeks to remove in their entirety, amend only the Limitation (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. These provisions introduce new factors that the Northern Ireland courts must consider when deciding whether to allow certain claims relating to overseas military operations to be brought after the primary time limit expires and set the maximum time limit for such claims at six years. It is necessary to extend similar provisions across the whole of the UK to ensure consistency. Your Lordships would acknowledge, I think, that it would be deeply unsatisfactory if the changes that the Government are introducing in relation to claims brought in England and Wales and Scotland could be circumvented by a claimant bringing their claim in Northern Ireland instead.

I am absolutely sure that the intent of these amendments is not to create legal loopholes. No one could listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, without understanding her commitment and sincerity about the concerns that she has articulated. The stated reason for these amendments is a concern that the Bill will undermine a specific provision in the Belfast agreement stipulating that the United Kingdom Government would complete the incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights, with direct access to the courts and remedies for breach of the convention rights. The noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, sought reassurance on this point.

As I said when this issue was debated in Committee, the commitment to incorporate the ECHR into Northern Ireland law has already been met by enacting the Human Rights Act 1998, which provides for direct access to the domestic courts to vindicate convention rights, and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which provides that the Northern Ireland Assembly may legislate only in a way compatible with the convention rights, and that Northern Ireland Ministers must also act compatibly with these rights. As currently drafted, the Government consider the Bill compatible with the convention rights. Your Lordships will acknowledge that review of the Human Rights Act is not the responsibility of the MoD.

Statutory limitation periods, which seem to be what these amendments are mainly concerned with, are generally considered legitimate restrictions on the right of access to a court. That right of access is not absolute, and the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the compatibility of limitation periods, even if these periods are in themselves absolute, including the absolute six-year limitation period for claims resulting from intentional torts in England and Wales. That was the finding in Stubbings and Others v the United Kingdom. Limitation periods do not impair the essence of the right of access to a court. Such periods ensure legal certainty and finality, avoid stale claims and prevent injustice where adjudicating on events in the distant past involves unreliable and incomplete evidence because of the passage of time. As such, nothing in the Bill would diminish the essence of the protections that the Human Rights Act currently offers the people of Northern Ireland. I reassure noble Lords that the measures in the Bill do not undermine the United Kingdom’s commitment to human rights and to the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the reassurance of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, I repeat that this Government remain fully committed to the Belfast agreement, the constitutional principles it upholds, the institutions it established and the rights it protects. This agreement has been the foundation for the welcome political progress, peace and stability in Northern Ireland over the last 22 years and will be protected going forward.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie and Lady Suttie, have asked whether I am agreeable to meeting them. I am very happy to agree to meet them if I can help them, but it may be—and I would ask them to reflect on this—that they would find engaging with the review of the Human Rights Act, and perhaps meeting with the Northern Ireland Office, more relevant to their specific concerns. If they still wish to meet me, however, I would, of course, be happy to do that. With the explanation offered by these remarks, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, there is almost universal support in this House for ensuring that torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are excluded from the presumption. It is clear what the ICC thinks: if we do not do so, as has been quoted many times, the UK would

“forfeit what it has described as its leading role, by conditioning its duty to investigate and prosecute serious violations of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

That is why there is such strong support for Amendment 3 and, importantly, for its approach to protect these offences so that they cannot be removed by statutory instrument at a later date. I hope that the Minister has listened closely to the powerful debate and the broad coalition that spans military figures and human rights experts, and will promise that government amendments will come forward at Third Reading. Otherwise, we support my noble friend Lord Robertson in his important amendment and urge him to divide the House.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and all other noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions. We heard some exceedingly powerful speeches on these issues in Committee, and they were echoed today. I recognise the understandable concern and emotion that accompany the arguments that have been adduced. This is an extremely important matter, perhaps the most passionately debated part of the whole Bill, and I do not underestimate the scale of my task to address the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and his supporters, but it is my job to try. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, made a telling point about perception, and it is my job to try to address that issue as well.

I reassure the House that the Government have given considerable and careful consideration to the offences that are excluded from the measures in Part 1. The intent of the Bill, as drafted, ensures that the Part 1 measures will apply to as wide a range of offences as possible, in order to provide that necessary reassurance to our service personnel that the operational context will be taken into account, in so far as it reduces a person’s culpability, in the circumstances of allegations of criminal offences on historical overseas operations. The broad objective of the Bill is to support our Armed Forces personnel, and I accept that that has been recognised across the Chamber. The divergence of opinion is on how we can deliver that reassurance.

In considering the provisions of the Bill, the Government gave careful thought to the physical environment of an overseas operation. As noble Lords who have served on such operations will know, the range of activity is diverse and the threat of danger ever present. It is a lethal environment in which our Armed Forces are called upon to deal with unimaginably challenging situations, and it is predictable that, arising from such activity, allegations of wrongdoing may be made. The one type of activity which can never have any place in such an operation is the commission of a sexual offence, so I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that is why sexual offences are excluded from the Bill. She referred to that as a presumption: it is not a presumption—it is an explicit exclusion.

Some have argued that such an exclusion means that the Government are relegating other crimes to a lower classification of gravity. We are not. We are acknowledging that in an overseas conflict, because of the inherent nature of such activity, there is a predictability about allegations being made that crimes have been committed. The Government are neither defining nor categorising what these crimes may be, we are merely creating a clearer framework and structure as to how such allegations are to be handled. It goes without saying that of course we shall take other offences, such as war crimes and torture, extremely seriously. I repeat that the Government’s decision to exclude sexual offences only, as I set out in detail in Committee, does not mean that we will not continue to view with the utmost gravity other offences such as war crimes and torture.

Nor will the Bill somehow provide an excuse for poor behaviour or enable impunity for very serious crimes allegedly committed by our Armed Forces personnel. I am very grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, for his comments in that respect and I am pleased that many noble Lords recognise that the presumption against prosecution does not amount to either an amnesty or a statute of limitations, nor the creation of a de facto immunity. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that a bar on prosecution in gremio of the Bill would be an amnesty—it would be a statute of limitations and a de facto immunity— but there is no such provision in the Bill. I remind noble Lords that the severity of an alleged offence will continue to be an extremely important factor for a prosecutor in determining whether to prosecute. We should remember that the presumption is, of course, rebuttable.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Kennedy, referred to the five-year period. I just observe that the period was informed by the response to the consultation carried out on the Bill. Interestingly, the period of five years was visited at an earlier stage, in Committee, and has not been revisited.

I have listened to the very real concerns expressed by many in this House, including references to many third parties holding similar views, that the Bill undermines the United Kingdom’s continuing commitment to, and damages our reputation for, upholding international humanitarian and human rights law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that I seek to assuage these concerns and to reassure once more on this point: the United Kingdom does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose, and we remain committed to maintaining our leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Our Armed Forces will continue to operate under international law, including, of course, the Geneva conventions, and we will continue to expect that others will do the same.

I would like to explain further why the Government’s view is that Amendment 3 should be resisted. First and foremost, we are concerned that it would undermine the reassurance that we are seeking to give to our service personnel and veterans by excluding a considerable list of offences from the application of the measures in Part 1. The Bill does not prevent such offences being investigated nor prosecuted. Indeed, in relation to prosecution, the gravity of the crime will be a cogent factor. It is perhaps also worth adding that, in the interests of clarity and to preserve the structure of the Bill as currently drafted, we believe that all the excluded offences should be listed in the same place in the Bill, and that the appropriate place is Schedule 1, instead of being spread across the Bill, as the noble Lord’s amendment would provide.

I have endeavoured to present the Government’s position and, in these circumstances, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, to consider withdrawing his amendment.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I have nothing to add but to congratulate to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on his tenacious pursuit of this point and to thank the Minister for this moment of warmth and light.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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To all noble Lords who have contributed, I am pleased that this gesture has been received positively. I have listened carefully to the other observations, and these will be relayed to my colleagues in the MoD.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we fully support Amendment 14.

By my count, the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Boyce and Lord Stirrup, have about 120 years of service in the Armed Forces between them. They have all argued passionately for a duty of care standard to be in the Bill. As a former acting pilot officer, I have to say that I am very proud of the stance they have taken. It shows that the former leadership of the Armed Forces is capable of being both compassionate and wise. When colleagues of such experience speak, we should listen. I am unsure why the Government remain so resistant to this. We stand foursquare behind our troops and a duty of care would ensure that our Government did so too. We will support the amendment if it is pushed to a vote.

As Amendment 14 refers to legal support, I want to seek some clarity on legal aid. I thank the Minister for writing to me on this issue, but the position stated in the letter is a little different from the position of the Minister in the Commons. The letter says:

“We cannot categorically say that Service personnel will receive legal aid”


but Johnny Mercer said:

“There is … full legal support, paid for by the MOD, for everybody swept up in these investigations.”—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 22/10/20; col. 351.]


Can the Minister confirm that? The letter also says that cuts which were applied to the national legal aid system were also applied to the Armed Forces legal aid scheme as they mirror each other, but the Armed Forces Minister said that the Armed Forces system is “bespoke”. Can the Minister confirm how much money for legal aid has been cut in the last decade from the Armed Forces legal aid scheme? This confusion between Ministers demonstrates exactly why we need protection in the Bill.

Ministers say they have made progress, but ultimately Ministers move on. Let us put a duty of care in the Bill so that personnel have full confidence that Ministers are serious about helping them through difficult times. I look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, seeking the decision of the House. We will undoubtedly fully support the amendment.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and I am very grateful for all the contributions that have been made. Amendment 14 proposes that the Ministry of Defence should establish a statutory duty of care standard for current and former service personnel and, where appropriate, their families, and that the Secretary of State should be required to provide an annual update in the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report.

This is obviously a matter of great importance which commands the interest of us all, and I am very grateful to the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Stirrup and Lord Boyce, and the noble Lords, Lord Dannatt and Lord Tunnicliffe, for their commitment to ensuring appropriate protection for our service personnel and veterans and for the conversations we had following the debate in Committee. In terms of the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and the broad objectives which he and the noble and gallant Lords seek to achieve, I doubt if there is a cigarette paper between us—where we diverge is on the mechanism for delivery—so I can see why many are attracted to this amendment and feel the Bill could be enhanced by it.

I start by saying that we take our responsibilities to our service personnel and veterans extremely seriously. I have listened to the concerns raised in Committee and I have met further with the noble and gallant Lords. I thank them for their willingness to have these meetings, which have been constructive. I understood from the meetings that further reassurance was needed about the breadth and depth of support now available to those who are subject to investigations and prosecutions. As has already been referred to, a Written Ministerial Statement was published which set out as a matter of record the diversity and depth of the support that is and will continue to be available.

Although in Committee I provided an overview of the support that we give to our personnel and veterans, I am happy to summarise the key points from the Written Ministerial Statement for the benefit of the House. First—and importantly—as a matter of MoD policy, service personnel are entitled to legal support at public expense where they face criminal allegations and civil claims that relate to actions taken during their service and where they were performing their duties. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who asked whether there was a discrepancy between the descriptions given of the availability of legal aid, that I am not sure what the nature of the difference is between what I had said and what my honourable friend the Minister for Defence People and Veterans said in the other place, but it may have been the simple distinction that there has to be a need to be performing duties. Obviously, a member of the Armed Forces could commit a crime while not engaged in their duties, and one would imagine that that would then become the responsibility of civil authorities if it took place in this country. If it took place overseas, other interventions might be necessary.

Legal advice and support are also available wherever people are required to give evidence at inquests and inquiries and in litigation, and this is co-ordinated by the MoD. This principle is at the heart of the MoD’s approach to supporting our people and is enshrined in the relevant defence instruction notices. I know that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, was slightly caustic about that, but these are the notices which make clear to our Armed Forces personnel what they can expect, in terms of support, from the MoD and their chain of command and what facilities are available to them. It is a responsibility that the MoD takes very seriously, and we keep our policies under review to ensure that they are appropriate and tailored to need.

At an earlier stage this afternoon, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, raised a couple of issues about legal aid, and I will try to clarify what some of this provision is. Any individual who is investigated by the service police is entitled to legal representation as well as the support of an assisting officer, who can then offer advice on the process and procedure and signpost welfare support. Individuals who are interviewed as suspects under caution will be entitled to free and independent legal advice for this stage of investigation. Subsequently, legal funding for service personnel and veterans facing criminal allegations can be provided through the Armed Forces Legal Aid Scheme or through the chain of command for as long as is necessary.

As regards legal aid funding, the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority will provide legal aid in circumstances where service personnel are not entitled to regular legal aid because of where they are employed or resident as part of their military duties. Where service personnel’s employment or residence has not disadvantaged them, they can apply for regular legal aid as well, as would a civilian, and are therefore not placed at a disadvantage. Personnel are entitled to apply for legal aid regardless of whether they are considered to have acted outside the scope of their duties, but the MoD can still decide to pay for legal representation in respect of an allegation arising from an act committed in the course of the service personnel’s duties. There is extensive provision. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, was interested in this issue, and I can undertake to provide both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, with more detailed information if that would be helpful to them.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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I am willing to accept the assurance from the Minister that these are technical amendments, and I have no further comments.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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It would seem trite to say that I thank your Lordships for this long and interesting debate but, none the less, with great sincerity, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for their contributions.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Thursday 11th March 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, again I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for raising this issue. I have looked at his proposed new clause in Amendment 30, which would indeed require the Government to commission and publish an independent evaluation of legal aid for service personnel and veterans in relation to the criminal legal proceedings covered by the Bill. I repeat the assertion to which the noble Lord himself referred: the MoD has a long-standing policy that, where a serviceperson or veteran faces criminal allegations in relation to incidents arising from his or her duty on operations, the MoD may fund their legal support and provide pastoral support for as long as necessary. We offer this because it is right that we look after our Armed Forces, both in the battlefield, where they face the traditional risk of death or injury, as well as in the courts, particularly if they face the risk of a conviction and a possible prison sentence. Because of the risks our service personnel and veterans face, our legal support offer is very thorough. I will set out some of its provisions.

The legal aid provided by the Armed Forces legal aid scheme provides publicly funded financial assistance for some or all of the costs of legal representation for defendants and appellants who, first, appeal against findings and/or punishment following summary hearings at unit level, including applications for extensions of the appeal period by the Summary Appeal Court, for leave to appeal out of time. Secondly, it covers those who have a case referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions for a decision on whether the charges will result in a prosecution. This includes offences under Schedule 2 to the Armed Forces Act 2006 referred directly to the Director of Service Prosecutions by the service police, as well as matters referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions by the commanding officer. Thirdly, it covers those who are to be tried in the court martial of the Service Civilian Court; fourthly, those who wish to appeal in the court martial against the finding and/or sentence after trial in the Service Civilian Court; and, fifthly, those to be tried in a criminal court outside the UK.

If I have not responded to all the questions asked by the noble Lord, I apologise, and I shall look at Hansard and attempt to respond further. I will explain that the legal aid scheme applies equally to all members of the Armed Forces, including the Reserve Forces when they are subject to service law, as well as to civilians who are or were subject to service discipline at the time of an alleged incident. Importantly, this system is based upon the same basic principles as the civilian criminal legal aid scheme in England and Wales. The Armed Forces scheme is designed to mirror the civilian scheme while making necessary adjustments to take into account the specific circumstances and needs of defendants and appellants in the service justice system.

As a result of that system, I am confident we already ensure service personnel and veterans are properly supported when they are affected by criminal legal proceedings. A review of legal aid, as proposed by the amendment, is unnecessary, given how comprehensive our legal support package is. In these circumstances, I urge the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for their support in this area. Turning to the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, which I shall read with care, it seems we are not grasping the circumstances of this Bill. The situation is about overseas operations and the problems of defending oneself against criminal action in some overseas theatre—vastly more difficult than in the parallel civilian situation in the UK. I note she said the support “may” be provided. The Minister may mean “always”, but for servicemen that word sounds like “perhaps,” like some or all of the necessary support only “may” be provided.

We should think back to who we are talking about. Service personnel are different from ordinary citizens. I was involved, when Labour was in power, with drawing up the first statutes to cover slavery. When we had got over the shock that we had to try and define slavery, we suddenly realised that we had to have some exceptions. One of them was the Armed Forces, because we expect absolute loyalty from our Armed Forces, including to the point of dying. That is a very special loyalty. Surely, when they are caught up in difficult situations, there should be almost absolute support in defence of them to make sure, in all the subsequent legal action and the necessary support—which will be coming in the next group—that they lack for nothing, ensuring both that they are pastorally supported and that there is sufficient legal support for there to be a genuine equality of arms.

I will look at the noble Baroness’s response with care and listen to her response to the next group. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we stand four-square behind our troops and, therefore, four-square behind Amendment 31. We want to work with government and colleagues from across the House to get this legislation right. Our country owes a huge debt to our service personnel, yet many have not got the pastoral, mental and well-being support that they require when it is most needed.

Troops and their families who have been through the trauma of these long-running investigations have too often felt cut adrift from their chain of command and the Ministry of Defence. As the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, said, this gap was clearly identified by multiple people in Committee in the other place, but it has not been identified in the Bill.

When asked if the MoD had offered any support when he was facing eight criminal charges, Major Campbell said: “No, there was none”. General Sir Nick Parker said that

“one of the key things that we have to do is to produce mechanisms that establish a really effective duty of care for those who are placed under the spotlight by malicious claims.”—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 8/10/20; col. 96.]

He stated that, as drafted, the Bill does not do this.

When asked if the MoD does enough to provide a duty of care to those service personnel who go through investigations and litigations, BAFF executive council member Douglas Young said:

“In our opinion, the answer is no ... we are simply appalled by the experiences of some people who have absolutely been through the wringer for many years.”—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 6/10/20; col. 5.]


Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker said that there was certainly a need for

“a broad duty of care with some resourcing for the impact on families and the individuals themselves … It is something that the MoD would have to bring in.”—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 8/10/20; col. 108.]

The MoD has let down too many personnel with a lack of pastoral, mental health and legal support when they face investigations and pursue rightful compensation. For every member of the Armed Forces who does not receive the proper support and advice during an investigation or litigation, it is not only sad but a failure of the MoD’s responsibility to its employees. We cannot deny that the MoD has lost trust among our brave service personnel, and a statutory duty of care, with regular reporting to Parliament, is a key step in rebuilding that trust. Only then will personnel have the confidence that the MoD will be on their side and support them through the difficulties and stress of an investigation or litigation.

We owe it to our excellent Armed Forces to do better. The MoD owes it to them to provide a statutory duty of care standard for legal, pastoral and mental health support, and that is why we strongly support this amendment.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an important debate, and I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for his careful presentation of his amendment, which covers a very important issue. I also thank him for his supportive commentary on the Bill.

Amendment 31 proposes that the Ministry of Defence should establish a “duty of care standard” for current and former service personnel and, where appropriate, their families, and that the Secretary of State should be required to report on this annually. I have looked at the specific components of the amendment, and I hope that I may be able to provide some reassurance to the noble Lord and those other noble Lords who raised genuine concerns.

I start by saying that we take extremely seriously our duty of care; the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, rightly identified that important component of how the MoD deals with its personnel. We do take it extremely seriously; we have a duty of care to our personnel, and pastoral and practical support will always be available to them. In particular, veterans of events that happened a long time ago may have particular support requirements and concerns, in which case we can put in place special arrangements for them.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, spoke eloquently about the effect on personnel of repeated investigations and accusations, as did the noble Lord, Lord Dodds of Duncairn, my noble friend Lord Faulks and, just recently, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. We have a responsibility to take reasonable care to ensure the safety and well-being of our personnel.

I covered the comprehensive legal support that we already provide to service personnel and veterans in relation to legal proceedings during our previous debate, so I will not repeat them here. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, was rightly concerned about such provision, but I trust that, if he looks at the remarks that I made in the earlier debate, he may feel reassured.

In terms of mental health, welfare and pastoral care, a range of organisations are involved in fulfilling the needs of personnel, which will vary according to individual need and circumstance. The potential impact of operations on a serviceperson’s mental health is well recognised; the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, spoke powerfully about that. There are policies and procedures in place to help manage and mitigate these impacts as far as possible.

Despite the clear processes for categorising personnel as medically suitable for deployment, it is recognised that an operational deployment can result in the development of a medical or psychiatric condition. Therefore, specific policy and mandated processes exist for the management of mental health and well-being before, during and after deployment. These provide overarching direction on the provision of deployment-related mental health and well-being, with briefings designed to provide enough information about deployment-related mental ill-health to allow individuals, peers and family members to take steps to avoid such an outcome, to recognise the early signs of mental ill-health and to facilitate help-seeking from the right source at the right time.

We also regularly seek opinions from Armed Forces personnel and their families about the level of support. It is important to refer to that, because the MoD is not operating in some kind of vacuum; we actually have very good communication strands with our Armed Forces personnel, and I will cover a number of them. The Armed Forces continuous attitude survey—AFCAS—is an annual survey of a random sample of service personnel. The 2021 survey was conducted from September 2020 to February of this year, and the results are due to be published in May. There are no specific questions relating to legal proceedings, but questions related to welfare support are asked.

Within the welfare section of the survey, questions are asked on satisfaction with the welfare support provided by the service for both the serviceperson and their family, as well as the support that the serviceperson’s spouse or partner receives while the serviceperson is absent. Questions are also asked about operational deployment welfare package for service personnel.

Questions on satisfaction levels with the variety of welfare support systems in place are also asked, with the list unique to each service—for example, families federations, welfare teams, officers, community support teams, et cetera. Further questions within the deployment section ask for satisfaction levels with welfare support received by both service personnel and their families when the serviceperson returns from their last operational deployment. We also have the annual families continuous attitudes survey—FAMCAS—for the spouses and civil partners of service personnel. It is in field from January to April and the 2021 report is scheduled for release in July. Again, there are no specific questions on legal support.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Browne, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton, for bringing forward this important amendment and debate. I understand my noble friend Lord Browne’s concerns about the mismatch between the future-focused integrated review, which has had long delays but will be hopefully published next week, and the legislation we have in front of us.

Technology is not only changing the kinds of threats we face but changing warfare and overseas operations in general. In Committee in the other place, Clive Baldwin of Human Rights Watch neatly summed this up by suggesting that

“we are seeing a breakdown in what is the beginning and the end of an armed conflict, what is the battlefield and what decisions are made in which country … The artificial distinction of an overseas operation with a clear beginning, a clear theatre and a clear end is one that is very much breaking down.”—[Official Report, Commons, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Committee, 6/10/20; col. 67.]

How is this reflected in the Bill?

When the Prime Minister gave his speech on the integrated review last year, he rightly said that “technologies …will revolutionise warfare” and announced a new centre dedicated to AI and an RAF fighter system that will harness AI and drone technology. This sounds impressive but, as my noble friend Lord Browne said, as military equipment gets upgraded, we do not know how the Government plan to upgrade legal frameworks for warfare and what this means in terms of legal protection for our troops.

We must absolutely tackle vexatious claims and stop the cycle of reinvestigations, but how will claims against drone operators or personnel operating new technology be handled? Do those service personnel who operate UAVs not deserve to be protected? And how will legal jeopardy for our troops be avoided?

As new technology develops, so too must our domestic and international frameworks. The final report of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence stated that the US commitment to international humanitarian law

“is longstanding, and AI-enabled and autonomous weapon systems will not change this commitment.”

Do the Government believe the same?

I would also like to highlight the serious impact on troops who might not be overseas, but who are operating drones abroad. A former drone pilot told the Daily Mirror:

“The days are long and hard and can be mentally exhausting. And although UAV pilots are detached from the real battle, it can still be traumatic, especially if you are conducting after-action surveillance.”


The RUSI research fellow Justin Bronk also said that, as drone operators switched daily between potentially lethal operations and family life, this could be extremely draining and psychologically taxing. What mental health and pastoral support is given to these troops currently? Drone operators may not be physically overseas, but they are very much taking part in overseas operations. With unmanned warfare more common in future conflicts, I would argue that failing to include those operations in the Bill may cause service personnel issues down the line.

I would like to hear from the Minister how this legislation will keep up to date with how overseas operations operate, and whether she is supportive of a review along the lines of Amendment 32—and, if not, why not?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, for tabling this amendment, which is fascinating and raises substantial issues. One only had to listen to the informed but very different contributions from the noble Lord himself, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, then to a different perspective from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, and, finally, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to get a flavour of both the depth and the technical complexity of these issues.

There is no doubt that the increasing adoption of new and innovative technologies on the battlefield is changing how military operations are conducted. Gone are the three domains; we are now in the five domains. Military effects can now be delivered in cyberspace, and precision weapons systems can now be operated remotely from the UK and from third countries. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, is motivated by a genuine interest in these new technologies, how they influence military operations and the implications for our Armed Forces personnel involved in overseas operations—and that is an important question to ask.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I do not know whether it was a sense of exhaustion but, until the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, set out what their amendments meant, I did not fully understand them. I understand them a little better now, and we will give them consideration. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, said that they may find a better home in the 2021 Armed Forces Act. The Minister may give an indication of whether that is sensible.

As this is the last group, I will use it to ask this of the Minister. She has committed to writing a positive library of letters; it would help if she could copy them electronically to all noble Lords who have taken part in Committee so that we can all share her wisdom. With that, I thank her and her colleagues, and all noble Lords, for making this a civilised and thoughtful debate over the last two days.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank your Lordships for your kind comments and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his helpful and kind observation. Yes, I will undertake to distribute electronically any letters that have been copied to the Library. I am sorry if that was overlooked and it would have helped him and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, to be aware of the correspondence that I have entered into.

The amendment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, seeks to consolidate the provisions found in Part 1 of the Bill into the Armed Forces Act 2006. I quite accept that, while consolidation can have real and practical benefits for those who work with the law by making the statute book more accessible, there are many significant factors to consider before drawing together different legislation into a single Act.

One of the principle considerations has to be whether the law concerned is suitable for consolidation into a particular Act. The Armed Forces Act 2006 established a single system of service law that applies to the personnel of all three services, wherever in the world they are operating. It covers matters such as offences, the powers of the service police and the jurisdiction and powers of commanding officers and the service courts, particularly the courts martial.

In contrast to the Armed Forces Act 2006, Part 1 of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill covers matters relating to the wider civilian criminal justice system and is about decisions made by territorial prosecutors. As we are all now aware, the intent of the Bill is to bring in measures to help reduce the uncertainty faced by our service personnel and veterans in relation to historic allegations and claims arising from overseas operations. For that reason, it is more appropriate to have it as a standalone Act; I feel that that makes clearer the issues to which it is directed and that it seeks to address.

I also observe that, as we are aware, the procedure for the Armed Forces Act is one of regular renewal: a quinquennial renewal by Parliament and, in the interim years, a renewal by a statutory instrument. A consolidation of Bills could make that renewal much more complex, and we have to be cognisant of the implications of that because the last thing that any of us wants is to obstruct or make more obtuse, in any sense, legislation that we believe in—I know that there is universal support for the Armed Forces Act, and I have always enjoyed the renewal debates. We want to make sure that we are keeping our issues clearly distinct and encompassed within appropriate statutes, so that there is a clear identification of what it is that these individual Acts are trying to do.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, has been committed to this objective, and he has been very determined in bringing the matter before your Lordships’ House. I hope that, by my explaining the genuine difficulties and challenges that I anticipate would accompany such consolidation, he will understand that there is more to this than meets the eye. In these circumstances, I trust that he would be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

I will move on to Amendment 35, in the name of my noble friend Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton. It seeks to extend the territorial extent of the Bill to the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and overseas territories, thereby mirroring the territorial extent of the Armed Forces Act 2006. I know that this is a matter of some importance to my noble friend, and, as he indicated, I have written to him to respond to his concerns about the territorial extent of the Bill. However, I am grateful that he has tabled this amendment because it gives me the opportunity to address this issue with your Lordships.

I say to my noble friend and, in turn, reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Smith—whom I thank for their very kind comments; at this stage in the day, the Minister gets weary and such encouragement is very much appreciated—and all noble Lords that careful consideration has been given to the ways in which the Bill will impact on the British Overseas Territory forces. Some legal background might assist with this.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we stand foursquare behind our troops and we want to work with the Government to build the broadest consensus possible on the Bill—tailored to supporting our Armed Forces members and safeguarding human rights. The amendments in this group aim to probe an understanding of what particular weight a prosecutor must give when considering a prosecutorial decision related to alleged conduct during overseas operations. As we have heard, Amendment 4 would remove the requirement on a prosecutor to consider the adverse effect on the person of the conditions they were exposed to. Amendment 7 would remove the requirement on the prosecutor to consider any exceptional demands and stresses, while Amendment 8 would remove the definition of any adverse effects, including making sound judgments or considering mental health.

The amendments are based on concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights which stated:

“We do not consider that there is any solid basis for including additional requirements that could risk granting de facto impunity.”


If mental health is already considered by prosecutors, as indicated by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, why do the Government believe it necessary to include it in this Bill? As the Minister will see, these requirements have not been considered by prosecutors before. Also, as my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer asked in the previous group, why have the Government not included a requirement for prosecutors to give weight to the quality and duration of relevant investigations? The Armed Forces Judge Advocate, General Jeff Blackett, has said:

“Clause 3 is engaged after five years. It seems bizarre to me that in deciding whether to prosecute, you have a post-five-year test, but not a pre-five-year test.”


Why have the Government drafted Clause 3 in this way? What independent legal advice was given in relation to the drafting of the clause? Vexatious claims are a serious problem, but we fear that the focus on a presumption against prosecution misses the point: it is the current cycle of investigations. We can see that from how the Government have failed to give particular weight to the quality and duration of the investigations in this clause.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and all other contributors to the debate for a fertile discussion. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I shall probably repeat some of the themes to which I have already referred.

In relation to these amendments, I would comment that we ask a huge amount of our service personnel. We send them to undertake high-threat, high-risk operations in defence of our country and its people. They do their duty in the clear knowledge that they may be injured, maimed or even killed. That is the unique nature of their job and is what sets them apart from the rest of us. The Government believe therefore that it is absolutely right and reasonable to require that in return we ensure that a prosecutor, when coming to a decision to prosecute, must give particular weight to the unique circumstances of overseas operations and the adverse impact that these may have on a service person’s capacity to make sound judgments and on their mental health at the time of an alleged offence. This will be in addition to considering the existing evidential sufficiency and public interest test.

Let me make it clear that this is intended not to excuse bad behaviour by service personnel but to ensure that prosecutors give full recognition to the significant difference in the circumstances surrounding an alleged offence committed on operations overseas as compared, for example, with situations where the alleged criminal conduct occurs in a domestic, civilian setting.

Although differing views to the attitude of the Government have perhaps been expressed in the debate, as far as I could ascertain, contributors acknowledged that the conditions referred to in the Bill could indeed be personal impairments that might attach to Armed Forces personnel in the course of their operations overseas. That is why the prosecutor must consider the presumption against prosecution in Clause 2 and determine whether the case meets the exceptional threshold. The prosecutor must also, as required by Clause 3, give particular weight to matters that may effectively tip the balance in favour of not prosecuting.

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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Good Friday agreement is central to the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland. We all have a vital role to play in safeguarding the Good Friday agreement and building on its promise, and we must ensure that this Bill, or any other Bill, protects it. However, the Government have demonstrated a reckless approach to the Good Friday agreement. We need only to consider their actions with the internal market Act, which threatened the agreement and resulted in resounding international criticism, including from the new President of the United States.

The Good Friday agreement is one of Labour’s proudest achievements in office. The courage of the people and communities in Northern Ireland made peace happen and has allowed an entire generation to grow up free from conflict. We must build on it, not weaken its foundations. The amendments in this group aim to ensure that the Bill cannot be interpreted in a way that undermines the Good Friday agreement’s requirements for the Government to complete incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law.

Rights and Security International has said that the Bill risks undermining the agreement as the presumption against prosecution

“extends to criminal offences which are also considered violations of the ECHR, such as torture … Under the ECHR, there is a procedural obligation to … prosecute and punish”

these acts, and the Good Friday agreement

“requires that this procedural obligation be incorporated in the law of Northern Ireland.”

Does the Bill make it harder for breaches of the ECHR to be prosecuted? Rights and Security International has also said that the six-year longstop impacts on

“the Good Friday Agreement’s requirement that the UK ensure direct access to the courts”.

Have the Government received independent legal advice on the impact of the Bill on the Good Friday agreement or carried out their own impact assessment of the Bill on the agreement?

When considering Northern Ireland, we must also remember that the Bill does not cover operations in Northern Ireland as originally promised. Last month, the Leader of the House in the other place said that

“the Government will introduce separate legislation to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland in the coming months in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the troubles in Northern Ireland”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/2/21; col. 496.]

However, it is now exactly a year since the Northern Ireland Secretary made a statement promising the same. What is causing the delay? When will it be published? The Good Friday agreement must endure, must be strengthened and must continue to guarantee peace. Whether it is in this Bill or any other, the aims must be supported, not undermined.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, Lady Suttie and Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for their contributions. These amendments seek to ensure that the Bill cannot be interpreted in a way that undermines the Belfast agreement. As they all indicated, the Belfast agreement was, of course, an incredible achievement, and the Government remain fully committed to the agreement and the constitutional principles it upholds, including the institutions it established and the rights it protects. The agreement has been the foundation for political progress, peace and stability in Northern Ireland over the last 22 years, and it will be protected going forward.

I listened with interest and care to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and I reassure him that nothing in the Bill could be interpreted as undermining the commitments contained in the Belfast agreement, and nothing that would diminish the essence of the protections that the Human Rights Act currently offers to the people of Northern Ireland. My noble and learned friend may be aware that the UK has already fulfilled the commitment under the agreement to incorporation by enacting the Human Rights Act 1998, which provides for direct access to the domestic courts to vindicate convention rights, and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which provides that the Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate only in a way that is compatible with convention rights and that Northern Ireland Ministers must act compatibly with the convention rights. I would say that the measures in this Bill are considered to be compatible with the convention rights.

Cadet Forces

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Monday 1st March 2021

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I say to my noble friend that we are always anxious to learn. He is quite correct that one of the welcome developments of the expansion programme has been to extend and increase cadets’ presence in the state school sector. I think he will also acknowledge that there are commonalities of interest. Regardless of which sector of education the cadets are in, there is a desire to share experiences and mutual learning.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, last year, the Government published a review of the Reserve Forces and cadets’ associations, which recommended that the council of the RFCAs and the 13 RFCA bodies should be merged into a single executive non-departmental public body. Can the Minister provide an update on this?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord is aware that the MoD committed to implement the recommendations of the report. It has established a programme team to take forward the review’s recommendations, which we are doing in conjunction with the RFCAs. The report has many positive suggestions, which points to a very healthy future for the reserves and cadets.

Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2020

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Monday 16th March 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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Can I address that point? These are not my conclusions. A High Court judge and a chief constable, working for the Government, have produced a report basically saying that it is not appropriate for these crimes to be tried by court martial because they are so serious. Surely if one is accused of murder, going in front of a civil court where the “beyond reasonable doubt” concept is reinforced by either a unanimous or significant majority jury decision is different from a military court where at the moment a guilty verdict in such a case could come about through a simple majority where one number is one greater than the other.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I was coming to the point that is of concern to the noble Lord on the issue of which system of prosecution is used. As we say in our response to the review, we will adopt the alternative approach identified in the review of assessing the prosecutors protocol and relevant supporting documents to ensure that they support the principle that the service justice system should deal only with those cases where there are good reasons for doing so. In other words, cases will ordinarily be tried in the civilian system unless there are good reasons why they should be tried in the service justice system. The main principle in deciding who has primacy is whether the offence has any civilian context, especially a civilian victim.

The other aspect of the review which the noble Lord raised was recommendation 4. He had a number of questions about that, such as the five-to-one qualified majority. He asked why the MoD has had this report for over a year and yet still has not come to a decision on these recommendations. Again, I reassure him that we have been working with our stakeholders on all aspects of the review. Some of the changes will require primary legislation, so we must wait for an appropriate opportunity to deal with them. We are considering these matters for the next Armed Forces Bill, which must be passed by Parliament before the end of next year. I hope that has gone some way towards reassuring the noble Lord that matters are under consideration.

The noble Lord also raised the issue of recruitment. My understanding is that the recent Army recruitment figures contain some rather encouraging information which suggests that there has been a marked increase in uptake on investigating the Army as a career. However, the noble Lord is right that getting the application figures up is only part of it; retention is another major issue which the Government are well aware of. Everything is being done to ensure that if applicants are successful and subsequently recruited, they will be given a career prospect which is conducive to their wanting to remain in the Army.

The noble Lord is absolutely correct about the very important matter of accommodation, which is connected to this. An attractive and affordable accommodation offer helps to deliver military capability and contributes to attracting and retaining service personnel. He may be aware that the MoD has developed the future accommodation model to improve choice about where, with whom and how service personnel choose to live, reflecting modern family life with entitlement based on need, not rank. We very much hope that this model, which is being piloted at HM Naval Base Clyde, Aldershot Garrison and RAF Wittering—the latter from 31 May—will provide productive examples of what works and what does not. I can reassure him that efforts are being made to look at providing accommodation suitable to modern living; he is quite right that we should give reasons to people who join the Armed Forces why they should stay.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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Before the Minister continues, perhaps I may record my concern about her answers. The MoD commissioned a report using the best people available. As far as I can see, the recommendations of that report will not come before Parliament unless a particular recommendation suits the Government and they bring it forward for primary legislation. The failure to act on the recommendations, as far as I can see, will not come into the public domain unless I find some way of raising it in Parliament in the future.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I am sorry if I have failed to reassure the noble Lord. I have tried to cover the points he raised. I will certainly look at Hansard to see whether there is any more detailed information which I can provide for him. Any government review is always the subject of scrutiny by such vigilant observers as the noble Lord. It is always available to parliamentarians to look at what a review says and, where subsequent legislative proposals may not seem to reflect that, it is the right of parliamentarians to raise that with Government. I have tried to reassure him that the Armed Forces Bill will cover certain aspects of the matters he has raised, but I will look at Hansard and, if there are any areas where I can provide further information, I shall undertake to do so.

I am very grateful for the debate we have had. I have already moved the order and hope the Committee will agree that it should be passed.

Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Integrated Review

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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The noble Baroness asks a serious question. In an endeavour to reassure her, let me say that the review is a serious, substantive proposition. As I have indicated, it examines areas of policy, defence strategy, alliances, international partnerships and so forth. The review is deliberately wide-ranging, as it has to be, but it will be underpinned by our existing commitments to contributing 2% of our GDP to NATO and 0.7% of GNI to development and, of course, to maintaining our nuclear deterrent, which will be a core part of the review.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, there is a general consensus that the 1997-98 strategic defence review was serious and thorough. It involved 14 months of consultation and included a panel of 18 external experts, submissions from 450 MoD civilian and service personnel, seminars with defence and foreign affairs specialists, written public submissions, and base visits so that 7,500 staff could express their views. If this is the biggest review of our foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War, as the Government keep repeating, can the Minister unambiguously confirm that the consultation will be at least equal to the 1997-98 process?

Nuclear Weapons

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord Tunnicliffe
Tuesday 14th January 2020

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the (1) management of, and (2) overspend on, the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons programme.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, as the National Audit Office has acknowledged, nuclear infrastructure projects are often large and complex, with bespoke designs. We are carefully examining the report’s conclusions and shall respond formally in due course. We are committed to strengthening the management of nuclear programmes, including investing significantly in infrastructure and working closely with regulators and industry partners.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, the recent National Audit Office report on nuclear deterrents found that the UK’s nuclear weapons programme is overrunning by £1.3 billion, partly due to poorly written MoD contracts which resulted in the Government paying for mismanagement and delays, rather than the companies responsible. Will the Minister explain where the money will be found for these extra costs? I hope it will not be from the dreadfully overstretched MoD equipment budget. Will she confirm that the integrated security, defence and foreign policy review will examine how the MoD negotiates? Will she set out what has been done to build up departmental skills in nuclear capacity?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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In relation to the noble Lord’s second-last question, the review will be broad-ranging and its remit will become clear. The MoD expects to have a relevant role to play in responding to that review. The National Audit Office report is not an easy one for the MoD; we are quite clear about that. At the same time, as the report itself recognises, these projects are at the top end of technical, contractual and structural complexity; they do not come much tougher than these. It is important to get this into some kind of timescale perspective. It is good to see that the report recognises, under the heading of acknowledging MoD improvements, that the department has made improvements since the establishment of the DNO in 2016. These are important improvements, because they include material changes to the organisational structure, to improving relationships and to contract renegotiations.