Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Caplin: For the record, I was not laughing and I take this matter very seriously. I draw the House's attention to the Government's response to the Defence Committee. It might be helpful if some hon. Members who have contributed to the debate were to refer to the report of the Committee that we have been considering, which is the one that was published in December, and our response, which was published in January. Paragraphs 69 and 70 of that report deal with the compensation proposals and detail why the Government have put them forward.

We have a technical problem with the new clause. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) graciously confirmed that he intended it to affect the compensation scheme, but I am advised that as drafted it would affect the pension scheme. In saying that, I am trying to be helpful and I recognise that he has raised an issue for debate in connection with the compensation scheme.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: We are always delighted when the Minister seeks to be helpful and we appreciate it. The technical issue may need to be addressed, but the Minister is a most capable man and it is not beyond his wit to provide the changes necessary to give expression to the will of the House.

Mr. Caplin: I do not know about that, but I shall do my best.

I recognise the role that the British Legion plays in many cases. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Rachel Squire) is the president of the Dunfermline branch—

Rachel Squire: Vice-president.

Mr. Caplin: I suppose that we all know someone else who could be the president of the Dunfermline branch of the Royal British Legion. I met the British Legion this morning, together with the parliamentary Gulf veterans group. We had an interesting 45 minutes of discussion and I certainly value the work that the organisation does. We are in further discussions.

In Committee, I said that we doubted the validity of the issue that the British Legion had raised about 60 per cent. of cases. We have now joined with the British Legion to consider the methodology that it used and we suspect that it will come to accept that its conclusions were not quite accurate. We shall also discuss the compensation scheme.

The balance of probabilities is the key and we consider it right to adopt that standard of proof, as outlined in the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made that clear on Second Reading, in answer to an intervention by the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson). When we decided to adopt that standard of proof, we asked an independent firm of consultants to consider that aspect of the compensation scheme. The consultants confirmed that

6 May 2004 : Column 1539

I accept that the onus has moved from the MOD to the individual, and I shall outline my reasons for believing that to be a reasonable change.

The Department has clear responsibilities. I understand and accept that. We have to ensure that service records and medical records are up to date. I do not know how many more times I can say this, but I have made it clear—starting at the Select Committee on 5 November—that if there is a failure, especially in medical record keeping, in relation to compensation cases, the Department will accept responsibility. I said that in the Standing Committee, I said it in the Select Committee and I have just said it again on the Floor of the House. The point is also reflected in our response to the Select Committee.

At the Ministry of Defence, we understand, I hope, our responsibility for record keeping. If there is a failure, especially in medical record keeping, we shall accept responsibility. We are not trying to get out of paying compensation; far from it. We want to ensure that we pay compensation to the right people at the right time.

One of the things that the new scheme will allow us to do, which we are not allowed to do under the current one, is to pay compensation to those who are still employed in our armed forces. The existing scheme requires people to leave the armed forces.

I believe that the "balance of probabilities" standard of proof that we have adopted for the compensation scheme is in line with practice in most occupational pension schemes and in the civil courts. The "beyond reasonable doubt" standard of proof is not appropriate to a no-fault occupational scheme and would be out of line with current good practice, where evidence-based decisions are the norm, taking account of modern medical understanding and record keeping. As I said, we are clear about the responsibilities for record keeping that lie with the Ministry.

3.30 pm

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Caplin: I was just about to end my remarks, but I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the debate.

Sir Robert Smith: Can the Minister clarify how wide-ranging his commitment is? Would the assumption that the claim was valid apply in all cases where records were missing, especially those of Gulf war veterans?

Mr. Caplin: No, that is not what I said. I said there would still be a need to lodge a proper compensation claim, but that there are clearly responsibilities on the Ministry of Defence to ensure that proper records apply. For the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, we are discussing a new compensation scheme, which will be effective from 6 April 2005 and will apply to all members of the armed forces. Obviously, any events that occur up to 6 April 2005 will come under the current compensation arrangements; we are discussing only the new compensation arrangements this afternoon.
6 May 2004 : Column 1540

In the light of my comments, I hope that the hon. Member for Aldershot will understand why I have to resist the new clause.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: Once again, I extend my gratitude to the hon. Members for Dunfermline, West (Rachel Squire), for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) and for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) for their support for the new clause. I know that, like us, the Minister regards the issue as important and does not take it lightly.

I welcome some of the undertakings that the Minister has given, especially on medical records. All Members know that that issue has been very badly handled by the Ministry of Defence for a long time and that, from time to time, our constituents suffer accordingly. I am also pleased that the Minister is making up to the Royal British Legion and talking about methodology. That is welcome.

I hear what the Minister says about modern medical understanding, which is to be applied to the claims under consideration, although I have to say that there is no reason that modern medical understanding should not be applied to the existing standard of proof. There is no reason why it would not be equally helpful to the MOD in resisting a claim from someone "modern medical understanding" felt was not injured as a result of service to the Crown.

The argument has been well rehearsed and the issue is clear. The question is simple: are we to give the balance of advantage to those of our fellow citizens who put their lives on the line? This is not just another occupational pension scheme and nor is it just another occupational compensation scheme; it is a scheme for some very special people in our land—Her Majesty's armed forces. The Opposition and other Members feel that we owe it to our armed forces to give them the benefit of the doubt, and that means the Ministry of Defence having to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their injuries were not sustained by service to the Crown. Given the Minister's statement, I intend to press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 254.

Division No. 161
[3.34 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cotter, Brian
Curry, rh David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hancock, Mike
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jack, rh Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Squire, Rachel
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Hugo Swire and
Mr. John Randall


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, rh Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, rh John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Charlotte Atkins and
Ms Bridget Prentice

Question accordingly negatived.

6 May 2004 : Column 1543

New Clause 4

Next Section IndexHome Page