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Better Combat Compensation

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 1 December 2016

Today I am publishing a consultation on proposals to provide better compensation for deaths or injuries sustained by servicemen or women in combat. Copies of the consultation are available in the Library of the House and on the website.

The Government are proud of the armed forces compensation scheme which provides compensation to service personnel who suffer illness or injury attributable to their services or, in the case of those who have died, provides it to their families, whether or not anyone was legally at fault. Separately, the courts may award damages where the Ministry of Defence has been found to be at fault; however, that often leads to lengthy legal cases alleging battlefield negligence.

The Government have been considering options to provide relief for service personnel and their families who may otherwise have to pursue lengthy and stressful claims in the courts. In line with our commitment to the armed forces covenant, we plan to provide better compensation by introducing an enhanced scheme so that members and veterans of the armed forces and their families receive compensation for injuries or death in combat equal to that which a court would be likely to award if it found negligence.

As part of this reform, we intend to clarify in primary legislation the long-standing common law principle that the Government are not liable for damages as a result of injuries or deaths sustained in combat. This will address the “judicialisation of war”, whereby judges second-guess military decisions using criteria that are appropriate for civilian life, but not for the battlefield.

The Iraq Inquiry report by Sir John Chilcot underscored the often challenging circumstances which can contribute to deaths or injuries sustained on the battlefield. The Government are committed to learning the lessons and are reviewing ways in which we can better plan, equip and operate, so that deaths and injuries can be avoided, where possible, in future.

This package will provide relief for individuals and families who in the future will be awarded better compensation without having to pursue lengthy legal action. It will also ensure that the armed forces are able to take the rapid and high-risk decisions essential to operational effectiveness without being inhibited by the risk of future legal claims.