Labour abstained on this Bill because, as it stands it falls woefully short of what is needed to ensure it is fair and defends the interests of our armed forces and their right to justice, but also upholds our international human rights and humanitarian law obligations. Labour are determined to see that the Bill provides a framework fit for the future point when Britain must again commit its forces to armed conflict overseas.
The Labour Party pays tribute to the role, dedication and exceptional work of our armed forces. Legislation in this area is long overdue as many armed forces personnel have been subjugated to years of investigations and legal claims which have caused great disruption and upset for them and their families.
The UK government must not play politics on such a serious issue and work with us to ensure Parliament produces a Bill to help protect our troops and protect Britain’s reputation worldwide. Whilst Labour agrees with the government on the need for new legislation, the government have got important parts of the Bill badly wrong and we are determined to improve the Bill at committee stage to ensure these serious concerns are overcome.
For example, the Bill will have no impact on any past or continuing cases, offering no hope and no help of faster resolution either for the troops or for the alleged victims who are still involved in long-running litigations or investigations. Neither does it address the deep-rooted issues in the system of investigations which lack speed, openness and duty of care. The Bill breaches the armed forces covenant by denying troops the same employer liability rights as are held by the UK civilians they defend.
We hope that the Government will rethink, work with us and will be prepared to rewrite parts of the Bill at committee stage in order to get this very important legislation right.