Jack Lopresti debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 18th August 2021
3 interactions (460 words)
Tue 16th March 2021
3 interactions (58 words)
Wed 24th February 2021
3 interactions (94 words)
Wed 23rd September 2020
7 interactions (65 words)
Wed 15th July 2020
3 interactions (113 words)
Wed 29th January 2020
3 interactions (66 words)

Afghanistan

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 18th August 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. As many hon. and right hon. Members have observed this afternoon, the Taliban need to be judged on their actions, not on their words.

Against this new reality, it is beyond credibility that the Foreign Secretary has publicly claimed that the UK will hold the Taliban to account. What does that mean? By what means and to what end would this be done? It would suit the Foreign Secretary better to fully restore the foreign aid budget, rather than issuing abstract and random threats to a regime that has just shown the UK the door. Five thousand refugees this year is not commensurate with the scenes in Kabul of people literally running for their lives and clinging to aircraft, and a hazy figure of 20,000, over what period we are not certain, is insubstantial to say the least, given the circumstances.

In closing, I urge the Government and the Prime Minister to review and expedite this element of the UK’s response, including through a cogent plan to extricate brave Afghans who are not already in Kabul. The UK was front and centre at the genesis of this political catastrophe. It should be similarly positioned for the clear-up.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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I would like to start by thanking the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) in particular and all other colleagues for the generous remarks they have made today about those of us who had the honour of serving on operations in Afghanistan. I served on Op Herrick 9 in the autumn and winter of 2008-09. My time with 3 Commando Brigade was one of the great privileges of my life. As we discuss the awful situation in Afghanistan and its possible future today, we are also rightly honouring the sacrifice of the 457 of our servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and the more than 600 who continue to live with life-changing injuries.

To those who say that it was not worth it or has not been a success—thankfully it is a tiny number in the House today—may I gently remind people that the original objective, which was to destroy al-Qaeda on the ground, deprive it of a base from which to mount terrorist attacks throughout the rest of the world, defeat the Taliban and try to keep our own streets safe, was achieved. Our people, the Americans, our allies, and the Afghan army and police force achieved those objectives with honour and courage.

I commend the work done by Defence Equipment and Support at MOD Abbey Wood in my constituency, which provided the logistical support, the equipment, the air bridge and the welfare throughout the entire Afghan operation and continues to do that job on a daily basis for our troops deployed throughout the world, and for the MOD in particular.

Like most of the House, I feel ashamed, angry and devastated by what I have seen happening in Afghanistan in recent days and weeks. I cannot help but keep remembering the ordinary people of Afghanistan and the locally employed civilians who not only risked their lives but, by helping NATO forces, risked the lives of their families, friends and villages to Taliban reprisals. I was delighted and relieved beyond measure when the Prime Minister announced today the resettlement and evacuation programme for refugees, which is a fantastic thing.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who said that we have been let down by our American friends. There was no binary choice between ramping up the operation back to a war-fighting pitch, with the numbers and expense, and abandoning the country. There were other options, and I am amazed by President Biden, who was vice-president when the Americans rushed out of Iraq the first time and saw the consequences when we had to redeploy—we still have British troops in Kurdistan mentoring and training Kurdish forces. There may well be a time when we have to redeploy again.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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I pay tribute to all those who lost their lives serving their country, and to those who have served, especially colleagues on both sides of the House.

I was struck by the words of my first cousin Mark, who served in Afghanistan 18 years ago. Like many of us, he found the scenes unfolding in Afghanistan difficult. His post on social media resonates with many veterans:

“Those poor souls, so fearful of what lay ahead for them that they would rather cling to a jet and fall to their deaths than face the future in their homeland. It’s hard to even comprehend their desperation and fear. 18 years ago I was there: believing in what we were part of; believing that we would make a difference; believing that their futures would be brighter and lives more secure for their loved ones; believing that if I had to make the ultimate sacrifice it would have been worth it; believing it would be alright in the end; believing that Afghan nationals would not succumb to corruption and would realise that they needed to come together and stand strong for what they believed in.”

My cousin has never felt as totally confused as he does now, which concerns me. Some of his colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice, and more so their surviving families back home. His Afghan medals mean nothing to him any more. He does not feel proud; he feels totally repulsed. He cannot think of a worse Government than the present one. He feels they have failed miserably, not just on the covid-19 pandemic but on how they have let the situation get to where it is. His words:

“My medal is now a memento of a failed mission.”

I would like to say that I am very proud of my cousin for his service, and so are his sisters, his wife, his daughters and his cousins like me.

The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) paid tribute to the veterans who served by saying that it is the politicians and the foreign policy that have let them down. I have to agree. For my cousin Mark, and for all those who served, we now need to know how the Government and the Prime Minister will address the despair and hopelessness felt by so many veterans. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the leader of the Labour party, said today, recent events in Afghanistan shame the west.

Integrated Review

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Tuesday 16th March 2021

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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The first point to make about the armed forces is that there will be no redundancies under this plan. There will be massive investment in our land forces and particularly in cyber-forces. We are taking the tough decisions needed to modernise and improve our armed forces. Yes, it is expensive—it requires £24 billion to do it—but it means taking historic and difficult decisions now, and that is what we are doing.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con) [V]
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As someone who is proud to represent a constituency with tens of thousands of defence and aerospace jobs, I am delighted that at the heart of the review is investment in domestic industries. Does the Prime Minister think that increasing our sovereign defence manufacturing capability will assist us strategically in projecting power and sustaining operations across the globe?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Yes, and one of the things that our defence investments can do is help to entrench our Union and build jobs and growth across the whole of the United Kingdom. There is now a steady stream of shipbuilding contracts and many other defence contracts that will drive high-quality jobs for a generation to come.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 24th February 2021

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I certainly am proud of what universal credit is doing. It is odd to be attacked by a Labour Member over universal credit when it is his party’s policy to abolish that benefit, but the best thing we can do for families in Billingham is to ensure that there are very good jobs there.

It was wonderful to see what is happening in Teesside under the leadership of Mayor Ben Houchen—the investment that is going in by Fujifilm and others, which will create long-term jobs. It is the belief of those on the Government side of the House that that is the route out of poverty—fantastic education and top-quality jobs—and that is what this Government aim to deliver.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con) [V]
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My right hon. Friend will recall from his visit in 2019 that the port of Bristol would make an excellent location for a great western freeport. The West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, has submitted a bid that could create 50,000 jobs in the region. Will the Prime Minister back our bid, and does he agree that, with house prices in the west of England sitting at nine times average earnings, we need a home building revolution to provide much more affordable housing for our young people as we build back better? (912366)

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he says about home building and the need for housing across the country. We sometimes hear that this is a problem mainly in London and the south-east. It is not at all; it is everywhere in the country, as he rightly says. I thank Tim Bowles, the Mayor of the West of England, for everything that he has done as he stands down. We intend to help build on his legacy with a massive home building programme and home ownership programme across the country.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I was being polite in replying to the hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Miss Dines).

The families took the case against the MOD on the basis that they did not know about the Snatch Land Rovers until the Chilcot inquiry reported. That was way past any time limit.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that the proposed six-year time limit applies from the point of knowledge or the point of diagnosis, so it is not clear what point he is trying to get across.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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He who waits it all comes to. I was going to answer that point in a minute.

The MOD argued two things in that case. First, it argued that the case was out of time, and the families won the limitation hearing to take the case forward. The hon. Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) has just said it would be within the six-year limit. No, it would not. Let us suppose they had taken the case not in 2016 but six years later. They would not be able to take a limitation hearing at all. The Minister does not quite understand that problem.

The case I raised in Committee was of an aircraft engineer who developed a very serious nerve condition from paint. The only reason he was able to take forward his case was because the technology had changed and research had shown that the paint actually damages people’s nervous system.

The Minister said in Committee that, somehow, he is on record in The Sun as guaranteeing that no one will lose out, but he cannot because that will not happen: as I said to him in Committee, using the Robin Day analogy, we are all here-today, gone-tomorrow politicians. Frankly, what will happen is that MOD lawyers will use this to stop people making claims.

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Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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3 Nov 2020, 12:02 a.m.

My hon. Friend raises an incredibly valuable point. That is a real risk and an unintended consequence of the Bill. I hope that the Minister gives pressing thought to that during the remainder of its passage through the House.

My hon. Friend will have seen the excellent report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which raised significant concerns that the Bill breaches the UK’s international legal obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law. The Committee recommended that at a minimum, the Government should exclude torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the Bill’s presumption against prosecution. That is precisely what the Government should be doing.

When I spoke to the Minister before Second Reading, he said that he was amenable to looking at such changes. I am sure he believes, as I and many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House believe, that torture is incompatible with the values and standards of our armed forces.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti
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There is nothing in the Bill that prohibits any investigation within or after the five years for any such acts. There is nothing that favours them; there is no amnesty, no pardon, and no statute of limitations. By the way, I enjoyed the hon. Gentleman’s book, which I read a couple of weeks ago, but I have to say that on this occasion, he is mistaken.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for the comments towards the end of his remarks. There is a weight of expert opinion. I am reassured about the strength of the case that I and other hon. Members are seeking to make today by the contacts I have had with my former colleagues who are still serving in our armed forces. There is a genuine debate still to be had about this. I am sure that the Minister will want to engage with the substance of the debate. Let us keep talking about it.

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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We will have to introduce a five-minute limit now, because of the pressure of speakers.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti
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3 Nov 2020, 4:07 p.m.

I will address briefly some of the points raised in this excellent debate. First, I would like to congratulate the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), for his efforts to bring the Bill before the House. He has been a tireless champion of the veterans community ever since he was elected and it has been a privilege to serve on the Public Bill Committee with him. And I am so pleased he has had his haircut, finally.

This is a Conservative Government who are delivering on our manifesto commitment to begin to ensure that the men and women this House sends on operations, often into harm’s way, are safe from the sort of vexatious, repeat investigations and harassment that some have had to endure after operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this country, we are rightly proud of the men and women of our armed forces. In this season of remembrance, it is right for the House to be considering legal safeguards for them on future operations overseas. The Bill begins to address what many have talked about over many years and which we are finally getting to grips with: it provides some reassurance and protection for those deployed in the service of our nation on operations abroad in the future.

With the greatest respect to Members across the House, there has been a great deal of nonsense spoken about this proposed legislation during the passage of the Bill so far. The statutory presumption against prosecution after five years of any incident does not constitute a pardon, an amnesty or a statute of limitations. Prosecutors will still have discretion over whether to act, bearing in mind the public interest and if there is adequate or new evidence, and, critically, after careful consideration from the Attorney General, who will act in the public interest.

Our service personnel are trained to the highest possible standard and are taught about the laws of armed conflict, as well as the Geneva convention, as some Members mentioned. The Armed Forces Act 2006 clearly states that any criminal act will be considered as an offence under UK law. This proposed legislation does not overturn that principle or statute. This Bill does not make it virtually impossible to bring prosecutions for charges of torture—this is not correct—and I welcome the fact that the threshold for a new prosecution will have to be of an exceptional nature after five years. This legislation will dramatically change the existing culture, where our armed forces personnel are seen as fair game by some lawyers. It is right that any investigation must consider the unique pressures of conflict and decisions made under great stress. This provision will, I am sure, be welcomed by serving personnel and veterans.

This Bill does not prevent personnel from bringing civil claims against the MOD. The six-year time limit proposed applies from the point of knowledge or the point of diagnosis. The MOD estimates that 93.8% of claims by service personnel or their families arising from service in Afghanistan or Iraq would be eligible under the provisions of this Bill. I also welcome the establishment by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence of the judge-led review of the wider service justice system. This will I hope ensure that from the beginning when allegations are made or incidents occur, they will be dealt with more swiftly.

The message from this House must be clear to our allies around the world: this Bill does not exclude British personnel on operations from their obligations under international law or the Geneva convention. The wider interpretation of the European convention on human rights has produced additional confusion. In an area where we have unattributed forces acting in grey zone operations, or not wearing uniforms or insignia, the opportunity to provoke incidents and then claim the use of excessive force will be a more attractive option from these states or others who wish us ill. Crucially, other NATO allies, such as France, obtain a derogation from the ECHR when their forces are deployed overseas on operations. This Bill will put in statute the proviso for Ministers to consider that they would derogate from the ECHR.

In welcoming this Bill, I look forward to supporting the Government’s measures to extend similar protections to our Northern Ireland veterans, which is long overdue. This Government are proud to stand up for our armed forces while they protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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3 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I will speak to the amendments and new clauses tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, those in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and those that I have signed tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) and others.

I do not want to stray too far from the amendments to hand, but I would like to say that I have sat in on many Bills in this place and I have yet to see one leave Committee completely unamended. Most Ministers accept that Bills as introduced are never perfect. They engage and listen to evidence sessions and Members in Committee, and try to make changes accordingly. It is astonishing that the Bill before us today is identical to the Bill we were presented with on Second Reading—astonishing because not a single witness in oral evidence or in written evidence has expressed full support for the presumption against prosecution in part 1 of the Bill or the civil litigation longstop in part 2 of the Bill.

In fact, there have been strong calls to scrap part 2 of the Bill in its entirety. If the civil litigation longstop part of the Bill remains unamended, there is a high risk that the Ministry of Defence will not be held accountable for violations of soldiers’ and civilians’ rights. The largest proportion of claims made against the MOD are claims of negligence and of breaches of the MOD’s duty of care towards its soldiers. Between 2014 and 2019, the available data shows that such claims amounted to more than 75% of all claims. This legislation will benefit only the Ministry of Defence, yet the Ministry of Defence is the defendant in all those claims. There is a clear conflict. The Minister and the Department have created legislation that protects them from legitimate legal claims. I am unaware of any other instance of our legislation being drafted in such a way to give such inbuilt protection to the defendant over the claimant, especially when there is already legislation in place under the Limitation Act to strike out any baseless claims.

This Bill allows the MOD to strike out not just baseless claims, but any claims, including rightful ones. Those suffering from hearing loss or post-traumatic stress disorder will not always be able to bring claims within the six-year timeframe, for the reasons many in our Committee’s evidence session gave.

There remains a lack of clarity about the number of people who would be disadvantaged by the longstop, but the Government’s impact assessment shows that at a minimum, 19 injured or bereaved members of the forces community who made claims from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been blocked had the legislation we are debating today been in place. One member of our brave forces being blocked from a claim is completely out of order, never mind 19. Crucially, we do not know what will happen in the future, but it is likely that there will be drastic unintended consequences and our forces will have less protection than civilians and, in some cases—as has been said—prisoners. There is simply no justification for introducing a time limit where one currently does not exist.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (Tenth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 10th sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(1 year ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Cabinet Office
Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The person who was recruited in this case was clearly unsuitable for the forces. He did not take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that there are in the forces. He clearly had some sort of problem, and he needed to live in that regime where he was told what to do day in, day out. Once that left his life, his life went completely off the track. He said that he missed not just being told what to do but the camaraderie of his unit. Once that was gone, he felt friendless and alone.

However, the problem we have is that there is a dearth of academic research, and that is why we need a report. We do not know the unique factors that have an impact when it comes to military investigations, including the psychological wellbeing and the mental health of service personnel. I know that the Minister is a champion of this in the Government, and I am glad of that fact—I know that he will work on this issue for as long as he is a Minister—but that is the problem we have, and it is why we need a report. There are large numbers of factors that help personnel deal with the complexity of disciplinary and criminal proceedings and the potential of those two processes, but we do not know their effects.

Returning to the example from many years ago that I mentioned, there is also the point about camaraderie. When someone is under investigation, whether disciplinary or criminal, that has an effect on the morale of their unit, which in turn has a wider effect on their mental health. At the end of the day, many people who find themselves under investigation will say one thing: “I was simply following orders. Why am I the one being investigated?” Also, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham alludes to, there are far more laws, regulations and rules in a military investigation. Some military laws have different objectives from criminal and civil laws: in contrast to the criminal law, military discipline has educational objectives, positive as well as negative.

I am not an expert on military law, but I would say that it is confusing. Take the example of a military guard guarding a checkpoint in Helmand 15 years ago, protecting the security of a region’s population. An approaching vehicle opens fire on them—imagine it is you, Mr Stringer. In this role, you as the guard are the victim: you have been fired on. However, you return fire, and you kill the alleged insurgents in the vehicle. That could mean you are investigated simply for following orders and returning fire. That is the crux of the problem: on one hand, somebody is the victim of a crime; on the other hand, they are the perpetrator of a crime, simply because they have followed orders. That is the type of thing I hope we can clear up in future.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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It is always a pleasure to hear the hon. Gentleman speak, and I am enjoying his contribution, but I think he is perhaps being overly simplistic. At the stage he describes, we are not sure that a crime has been committed. There are clear rules of engagement, so there is not a perpetrator and a guilty party at that stage. The military needs to investigate quickly, and as long as the rules of engagement have been followed and that guard can demonstrate that, in their own mind, they were acting to protect life—their own or that of people around them—a crime has not been determined to have been committed at that stage.

Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention: he is always thoughtful, and his intervention was helpful. I should apologise, because I should have put “allegedly” in front of that example. I hope Members will accept that apology. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and that was a very helpful intervention—I would not expect anything different from him.

However, what I would also highlight about these investigations—again, this is because of the lack of academic research—is the vulnerability of so many of these people, and I want to say something about learning disabilities.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (Seventh sitting)

(Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(1 year ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Cabinet Office
Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans
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The decision not to present the rationale, what advice was taken and how the Government arrived at their decision have eroded trust in politics and have been a problem for as long as I have been in the House. We have an opportunity with the Bill to start to rebuild trust in the decisions that the Government make. I hope that that Government will take that on board.

The Attorney General should be required to publish a report on the findings to reassure Parliament and the public that a decision has not been a political one. Many of the issues we have had in the past few years—the north-south divide and Brexit and remain—would have been avoided if the advice had been published and made transparent and fair. When we are making decisions, especially about our service personnel—some of the bravest people in this country—we must ensure that the public interest is at the heart of decision making. Dominic Grieve believes that the fact that the courts can review a decision by the Attorney General may create more litigation rather than reduce it and simplify the process. There is already a backlog of court cases, and we do not want to add to it.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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Would the hon. Gentleman advocate the next Labour Government making the Attorney General’s position independent? Would he be convinced that any report produced by the Attorney General in Parliament and scrutinised by Parliament would not be looked at in a party political way by the Opposition?

Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman has a lot of experience in this area. If I was Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, he would just have talked himself into a debate on the Floor of the House. If he will forgive me, I shall stick to the amendment, because as I said earlier, we should have at least a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall on that point.

The concerns expressed by Dominic Grieve have been echoed by His Honour Judge Jeffrey Blackett, who stated that

“the decision of the Attorney General to prosecute or not prosecute certain cases is likely to lead to judicial reviews and, as Mr Grieve stated, more litigation.”

In the Bill’s evidence sessions we heard from the most recent Advocate General of the Armed Forces. He expressed deep concern that this decision should be taken away from the Director of Public Prosecutions:

“My concern about the Attorney General’s consent is that it undermines the Director Service Prosecutions. If I were he, I would be most upset that I could not make a decision in these circumstances.” ––[Official Report, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Public Bill Committee, 8 October 2020; c. 125, Q267.]

It is quite clear that by taking this responsibility away from the Director Service Prosecutions the Government intend to assert a certain level of political control over these decisions. I hope that when the Minister responds he will give us a full explanation.

This is a risky decision from the Government. If they do not comply with the Geneva convention in making such decisions, that could add to the reputation, which they appear to be determined to establish around the world, that the UK no longer respects international law.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (Eighth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(1 year ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Cabinet Office
Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
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In such situations, we know that the person who will benefit is not the veteran. That is the problem with part 2 of the Bill and the six-year limit. There must be protections in place to ensure that veterans who have served and suffered personal injury can seek justice for those injuries.

There are other examples, such as the nuclear test veterans. It was good to hear about the work done by the right hon. Member for North Durham on that. I have had interactions with those veterans, including a constituent of my own who, sadly, died. Many have waited decades and decades for compensation and have had nothing—not even any medals to recognise the service they undertook. There are still ongoing issues, and again the MOD has denied that the cancers that those veterans have suffered are related to their service, despite a number of them having similar cancers and there being no links other than the Christmas Island testing.

I could also mention Lariam, an anti-malarial drug that can cause real issues for individuals’ mental health, but not always instantly—it can happen on a much later date. My own husband was given Lariam and suffered as a result. Thankfully, he has not had any long-term issues, but many individuals’ mental health is affected many, many years beyond that.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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I really enjoyed the hon. Member’s speech this morning— I did not agree with most of it, but it was well presented, with a good argument made. Is she saying that there should be no time limit at all for actions being brought?

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
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I thank the hon. Member for his kind comments. There is already a limit, but that limit can be looked at and overridden in certain circumstances. That should remain in place; there is no reason to take that away. We are not saying, “We encourage all veterans to wait 30 or 40 years”, but there must be some protections. There cannot be a hard stop that prevents them from taking any action.

We all understand the Bill’s purpose and why it has been brought forward, even though we might not agree with all of it and we might have issues with some of it, but part 2 of the Bill makes no sense whatever. The Bill has been sold to veterans as protecting them and looking after them, with the Government having their back. Actually, part 2 does the opposite. Why do the Government want to prevent between 19 and 50 veterans from seeking justice? I would like to know that from the Minister, because we have not yet had a decent answer on that point.

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Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

20 Oct 2020, midnight

I will come back to the right hon. Gentleman in a minute. He talks about taking rights away from our service personnel. They have a right to be protected on the battlefield in all these areas. One area where they have a right to be protected is the use of lawfare to progress, and change the outcome of, a conflict through other means.

There were lots of wild sentiments thrown around—“lawyers don’t make things up,” and all the rest of it. Again, that does not collide with reality. Phil Shiner has been struck off. The reality—the world as we find it—is what this Bill is designed to deal with.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti
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20 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

On a point of clarification, would a deployment in Cyprus or Estonia be covered by the Bill?

Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

20 Oct 2020, 12:02 a.m.

We are talking about overseas operations, wherever they take place outside the UK. UK operations and operations outside the UK are defined in the Bill.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 14th October 2020

(1 year ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Cabinet Office
Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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14 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for introducing this amendment, which I assume is a probing one in order to have the debate. But, Mr Stringer, it was remiss of me not to say what a pleasure it is serve under your chairmanship, especially now we are both serial rebels on our Benches, after votes that took place this week on covid.

I do not like the word “drone”. It gives the sinister idea that somehow these things are indiscriminate weapons and there is no human in the chain. Unmanned aerial vehicle is a more appropriate term. I accept that, in the future, we may get to a system where unmanned aerial vehicles or subsea systems are completely autonomous, but at the moment, we are talking about the human in the chain.

It is a common myth, mainly argued by those who are against the use of UAVs, that somehow there are no rules that govern how they are used. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was a Minister in the Ministry of Defence, I met the individuals who pilot—that is the word we use—these unmanned systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They are in the same decision-making process and legal framework as if someone was dropping a ordnance from a Typhoon or any type of manned aircraft.

There is a chain of command, including a legal framework around their decisions. Before each individual airstrike takes place, there is a legal justification. That might come as a surprise to some people who want to portray the view that people are sat in Nevada or Waddington or Florida pressing buttons, attacking targets. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a legal framework for each operation and that is supported by the legal service. It surprises some people that each strike has a legal sign-off, with lawyers who agree what can and cannot be done, including, as I know from my time in office, a chain that sometimes includes Ministers who have to agree to those sign-offs. There are many examples where Ministers have had sign-off.

Is what we are talking about pretty? No, it is not—but anyone who knows the battle space or any type of combat knows that it is not a pretty thing. Killing people is not something that anyone wants to do, but unmanned aerial vehicles have given a capability to us and our allies which has been of tremendous help, not only in saving UK and allies’ servicemen and women’s lives, but in saving civilian lives.

The chain of command is a legal framework. Do things go wrong? Yes, clearly they do, and not just in this theatre. Sometimes in a very complex battle scenario, no matter how well you plan for it, you cannot foresee every eventuality. What irritates me is that people sometimes look back at those situations with some sort of crystal ball and say, “Well, if I was there, I would have done X, Y and Z.”

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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On a point of information, and paying tribute to the right hon. Gentleman’s experience in the field, if a Minister signs off an operation and it goes wrong, does that mean that the Minister is legally culpable for the decision, or is it the operator operating the UAV or is it the people on the ground calling in the mission?

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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14 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I will come to that in a minute; it is an important point on the legal protection that is there for the people involved.

Things do go wrong. It is fine for people to look back and say, “Look, if that happened, I would have done this differently,” but that is just not how warfare takes place. Sometimes, there are critical decisions that have to be taken at short notice to protect civilians or protect our armed forces’ lives. At the end of the day, they are down to individual judgments, not only by the commanders who authorise things, but by the people we are asking to protect us as members of our armed forces.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho (East Surrey) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to encourage girls and young women to take up STEM subjects. [906535]

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to encourage girls and young women to take up STEM subjects. [906543]

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Equalities (Kemi Badenoch)
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We continue to fund numerous programmes to increase girls’ and young women’s take-up of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. The number of girls’ STEM A-level entries has increased year on year, despite an overall reduction in cohort size. Since 2010, there has been a 31% increase in girls’ entries to STEM A-levels in England and a 34% increase in women accepted on to full-time STEM undergraduate courses in the UK.

--- Later in debate ---
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Our advanced maths support programme, worth £8 million per year, aims to increase the number of girls studying level 3 maths, which includes core maths. Out of more than 17,000 students participating in the programme’s events last year, 55% of attendees were female. We will be using research such as our behavioural insight studies to inform future work on how to get more girls studying maths after GCSE.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti
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23 Sep 2020, midnight

My constituency is a world-renowned centre of aerospace and defence expertise, so how can the Government help to encourage more women to take up these subjects and apprenticeships in particular so that we can equip the country and them with the skills we need for the future?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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23 Sep 2020, midnight

Along with the significant measures that I have mentioned on increasing the take-up of STEM subjects among girls and women, we are also raising awareness of STEM careers through programmes such as STEM ambassadors, 45% of whom are women. The Department for Education is also taking steps to engage with the sector through apprenticeships. On aerospace specifically, we are supporting industry’s efforts to increase diversity in the sector through the women in aviation and aerospace charter, recognising that a more diverse sector is good for business, customers and workplace culture.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 15th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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In addition to the £160 billion of support that the Government have given to people and firms across the country, we have supported areas and cities in lockdown with considerable grants. There was £20 million to Leicester, business rates relief of £44 million and £68 million in spending on business grants. The best thing possible is for areas all to work hard, as Blackburn with Darwen have done, for instance, to get the virus down and to make sure they are able to open up again.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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In my constituency of Filton and Bradley Stoke, well over 20,000 people are directly employed in the aerospace and defence sectors, and 17,500 people are employed in the supply chain throughout the south-west region. Those jobs not only are vital to the individuals and families supported by them, but are crucial to the economy of our region and our country at large, our future export prospects, connectivity and our sovereign defence manufacturing capability with programmes such as Tempest, the next generation of fighter aircraft. When will the Prime Minister announce a wide-ranging support package for the aerospace industry, which must include a scrappage scheme for old and highly polluting aircraft? When— [904947]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Prime Minister. We have got to move on.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jack Lopresti Excerpts
Wednesday 29th January 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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I set out earlier what we are doing in this particular area. There is a legitimate export market for plastic waste and secondary raw material, but we take firm action against those engaged in the illegal export of contaminated, low-quality and unrecyclable plastic waste.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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T4. I understand that, given the recent significant influx of Syrian refugees into the Kurdistan region of Iraq, there are issues with the allocation of British funding to the Kurdistan region. So will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the region, which has accommodated more than 1 million refugees and displaced people since 2014, and will he sort out the funding? [900481]

Andrew Murrison Portrait The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (Dr Andrew Murrison)
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29 Jan 2020, 11:59 a.m.

I most certainly do join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the Kurdistan Regional Government and other Governments in the area, including those of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, who are helping. I am not aware of any delays to the allocation to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am happy to look into the matter.