Overseas Operations Bill passes second reading

The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons.

Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester says the Bill has a way to go before it reaches its final stages.

“There is a lot of support across all parties for a Bill supporting our armed forces and eliminating vexatious claims, but this Bill has a way to go before its final stages,” said Hilary.

“The Bill does provide service personnel and veterans with greater certainty that the pressures placed upon them during overseas operations will be taken into account when prosecution decisions for alleged historical offences are made. The triple lock provides our troops with greater protection and Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer deserves credit for tackling this issue head on.

“However, it does not address the systemic failings within the MoD that allowed prolonged and numerous investigations.”

Continued Hilary: “The proposed six-year longstop on civil claims in this legislation will significantly disadvantage those who have served abroad – particularly service personnel and veterans who go on to suffer PTSD, which is often not diagnosed until several years after the event. The MoD’s insistence that the changes will not prevent service personnel and veterans from bringing valid claims was exposed as false in today’s Commons debate.

“It is totally unacceptable for the Government to legislate to deny those who put their lives on the line for our country overseas the same employer liability rights as the UK civilians they defend.

“The ‘no disadvantage’ direction in the Military Covenant is also being overlooked. While I welcome legislation to protect our veterans from the relentless cycle of criminal reinvestigations – and Johnny Mercer has made giant strides with this – the Government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

“The solution is simple – leave civil time scales as they are. Soldiers should not be penalised because they have served overseas.”

Hilary Meredith is calling for the following:

• The creation of an independent, military advocate champion, funded by the State to represent individual members of the armed forces facing criminal investigations arising as a result of service.

• A review of the Al-Skeini case and the extraterritorial extension this gave to the Human Rights Act.

• A review of section 2 of the Overseas Operations Bill and opinion on whether this section reducing the civil rights of the armed forces is required.