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House of Commons Hansard
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Litigation Against the Armed Forces
12 September 2016
Volume 614
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5. What steps he is taking to prevent abusive litigation against the armed forces. [906243]

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6. What progress his Department has made on protecting the armed forces from persistent legal claims. [906244]

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We are determined to meet our manifesto commitment to ensure that our armed forces overseas are not subject to persistent legal claims that undermine their ability to do their job. I am continuing to explore the work that my predecessor did, working across Government to bring forward proposals in the very near future.

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I welcome the Minister’s statement and urge him and the Government to press ahead with reforms in this area, in particular with regard to the extraterritorial jurisdiction of human rights laws and civil law limitation periods, so that we have accountability for rare acts of wrongdoing, but do not subject those risking life and limb for their country to vexatious litigation by ambulance-chasing lawyers.

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My hon. Friend was in the same Department as me before I had the honour of taking on this role. It is very important that those who have done wrong are dealt with, but it is really wrong that tax-paid lawyers are chasing around the country trying to prosecute other people.

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Our armed forces are the best in the world and we must do everything to protect them, both on and off the battlefield. Many soldiers are based in barracks at Sennybridge and Brecon in my constituency; will my right hon. Friend assure them and me that the Iraq historic allegations tribunal will look very carefully at the claims made against British forces personnel and whether to reject those allegations, particularly following the demise of Public Interest Lawyers?

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I think we all welcome the demise of Public Interest Lawyers. It is for the regulatory authorities to look closely at what it did and how it earned its income. I trained at Sennybridge many years ago. I assure everyone in the armed forces that these Ministers and this Government are behind them and will make sure that we protect them as much as possible.

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I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place, and especially welcome his stance on this matter. He may have to spread his net even wider than he thinks. Is he aware that Phil Shiner, who has made so much money out of this situation, is trying to conceal his ill-gotten gains by threatening those editors who are threatening to expose him with recourse to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on the basis of so-called mental health problems?

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First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work—not just as Minister for the Reserves but ever since he came to the House—for the reserves, in which he has served honourably, as well. Let us let the regulatory bodies do their work first and see what comes out of the other side, and then see whether any other processes, including perhaps even legal action, are needed.