Lord Coaker (Lab)
My Lords, it has been a real pleasure for me to see my first Bill through your Lordships’ House on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, with my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, who I thank for his support. It has been helped enormously by the generosity of spirit and co-operative attitude of the Minister. I sincerely thank her and her officials for the briefings and advice that we have received throughout the Bill’s passage. I also thank her sincerely for the way in which she has responded to our questions and amendments, and her commitment to reflect on the various points as policies are taken forward by the Ministry of Defence.
In that regard, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, and her colleagues, notably the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for their collegiate approach, which has helped us all scrutinise the Bill more effectively. I also thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. Thanks to him, I now understand terms such as “concurrent jurisdiction”. Throughout the Bill, advice from my noble friends Lord West and Lord Reid was gratefully received, as was the tireless and impressive work of Dan Harris, our adviser. It was also a privilege to have my noble and learned friend Lord Morris and my noble friends Lord Browne and Lord Robertson alongside me. Their expertise and experience is a huge asset to our country, as is the active involvement of many noble and gallant Lords, some present here this afternoon. We hope that the Government will further consider the amendments that we have passed back to the other place, which are intended not to undermine the Bill but merely to improve it, and that they will reflect and think again.
We are all united by admiration for our Armed Forces and the service they give to our country. We know that we depend on them to defend our democracy and values at home and across the world, with our allies. We know that those values are likely to be tested again and again over the coming years and decades. The Bill, soon to be an Act, is part of the contract we make as our duty of care for them and their families, and we as Her Majesty’s Official Opposition have been proud to support it.