Thank you for your email regarding the second reading of the Overseas Operations Bill.
Siobhan is currently on maternity leave and while she is still working on as many local matters possible herself, as her office, we are also continuing to raise and represent the views of her constituents.
During her maternity leave she has however asked us to provide you with Government information so you are not waiting for a response. We received the following letter from Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, dated 16 September 2020:
“I am currently in the middle of an extensive programme of engagement to ensure all colleagues – from all parties – are content with the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill that has its Second Reading in Parliament next week. I am aware that you may have received a letter from Freedom from Torture (FfT) with regard to the Overseas Operations Bill, and I wanted to correct the inaccuracies in it, before we get to debate this important issue next Wednesday.
The Bill is in no-way a barrier to justice, it is not an amnesty nor a statute of limitations, and it does not prevent allegations of wrongdoing more than 5 years ago - including war crimes and torture - from being investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. A decision on whether to prosecute for such crimes will continue to be for the independent prosecutor to make - the Bill does not change this position.
The UK’s well-known leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights, and unreservedly condemnation the use of torture are of course – completely unchanged. We remain committed to our obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including the UN Convention Against Torture. Nothing in the Bill changes this position.
We hold our people to the highest standards. This bill is the first part of a series of measures to improve this Nation’s ability to withstand lawfare – a medium through which modern conflicts are becoming increasingly fought. This includes a review of how we conduct investigations - and crucially the time it takes to do so to ensure the highest levels of confidence in our operations. Similarly, there is a significant programme of information and education running alongside the progress of the bill, to ensure that our Service people are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities if they – rightly – sue the MoD when things go wrong.
But the days of exposing our Service personnel to a totally unregulated environment that has spawned a multi-million pound fraudulent industry of claims, and repeated criminal investigations with no new evidence, all the while ruining the lives of the people who defend this Nation, are coming to an end under this Government and should be supported by all colleagues.
I hope this helps to set the record straight about what the Overseas Operations Bill does and doesn't do, but I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further you in advance of next week's Second Reading. “
We hope the above alleviates your concerns. We have had several emails in a similar vein and have contacted Johnny Mercer directly to raise your concerns. If there is any other specific action you would like our office to take on this matter, please let us know.
Also, if you would like to see Siobhan at a surgery appointment later in the year, or have a surgery appointment in the meantime with her office, we would be very happy to arrange this for you.
We hope you are well. We are assisting constituents during this difficult time and if there is anything we can do to help you during this pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Keep well and safe.