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Portsmouth MP votes to protect Armed Forces personnel

Stephen Morgan MP today voted to protect Armed Forces personnel by voting against the controversial Overseas Operations Bill, a proposed new law which has been widely criticised by military personnel, legal experts and respected charities.

The Bill has also been challenged by the Royal British Legion (RBL) in that government plans risk breaching the Armed Forces Covenant.

MPs debated the Bill in the House of Commons today (Tuesday 3 November) during report and third reading with Labour putting forward a series of amendments to protect Armed Forces personnel, after repeatedly requesting the government work across the House and the Shadow Defence team to get the bill right.

The Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces led the Official Opposition’s team through bill committee, raising concerns the Bill will harm military personnel and veterans’ rights, as well undermine the Armed Forces’ and Britain’s international reputation.

The Bill has faced criticisms from Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, as well as the Director-General of the Royal British Legion and the former Judge Advocate General, the most senior military judge in the country.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The opposition has tried at every stage to work with the government to get this Bill right and protect our service personnel and veterans.

“Unfortunately, this Bill does not do what it says on the tin: it does not effectively deal with the issue of vexatious claims and will afford more protections for the MoD, not our veterans and service personnel.

“In its current form, this Bill would give our Armed Forces fewer rights than prisoners. This is no way to treat our service personnel and Labour have argued this must be changed.”

The Royal British Legion Director General, Charles Byrne, was clear in his evidence that the Bill risks breaching the Armed Forces Covenant by preventing British Armed Forces personnel from holding the MoD to account when it fails to properly equip personnel, or when it makes serious errors that lead to death or injury of British forces overseas.

The RBL also agreed with Labour’s argument that this Bill does more to protect the MoD than it does the forces.

Critics have also pointed out that forces personnel and their families who have been put through the trauma of long-running investigations are offered little to no legal or welfare support from the MoD. There is no effective duty of care recognised by the MoD to British service personnel who are subject to legal action. But this Bill does not to address duty of care standards, or provide legal, pastoral and mental health support.

Responding to these concerns raised and as the Bill now heads to the House of Lords for further scrutiny, the city MP added:

“No party should ever play party politics with the Armed Forces. Labour want to ensure they receive the appropriate support, protection and access to justice. However, this is a dishonest Bill that is not fixing the problem.

“The Bill does more to protect the MoD and the government’s approach is inflexible and wrong. I will continue to hold the government to account on this Bill and stand up for the many service personnel and veterans in both Portsmouth and the wider country.”

 The Portsmouth South MP has consistently spoken up for the Armed Forces community and veterans of Portsmouth and the nation as a whole.

He recently called for greater support and pastoral care for service personnel who are subject to investigations or litigation after overseas operations.