Sunday , January 17 2021

General election: parties vie for veterans' votes as Keith Vaz quits – live news – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


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The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has been questioned over what would be on the ballot paper under Labor’s plans to offer a second referendum.

We want to be able to negotiate the sort of deal that we have been talking to the Europeans about for more than three years. It is being in a customs union, in a single market, in a close alignment of rules and regulations. We have talked to them uphill and downdale about what it is we would do and what our deal is. And we think that’s the best way of looking after jobs in the economy.

She was also asked whether she would use a nuclear weapon to defend the UK.

Good Morning Britain(@ GMB)

‘It is impossible for any human to say whether they would be prepared to kill millions.’@ EmilyThornberrysays she is not prepared to say ‘one way or the other’ as to whether she would use nuclear weapons to protect the country.@ piersmorgan|# GMBpic.twitter.com/HNMISZJfOS

November 11, 2019

Moving on to another election pledge, Wallace said serving personnel would be provided with free wraparound care for their four- to 11 – year-old children.

The £ 165 m scheme to help service people “With their pressures” would be introduced alongside a veterans’ railcard and a new help-to-buy scheme under a future Tory government.

“We’re going to invest in the most important equipment of our armed forces if we win this election and that is our servicemen and women,” he said.

Updated

There should be a 10 – year limit on the prosecution of soldiers unless “compelling new evidence” emerges, Wallace said. But he stressed the UK would not be leaving the European court of human rights.

Asked what exactly would change, Wallace said:

Firstly in events that have happened outside the jurisdiction of the [European court of human rights], such as Afghanistan and Iraq, the government believes there should be a statute of limitations of at least 10 years unless compelling new evidence comes forward to make sure that we can’t have lawyers… going out shopping round Iraq and Afghanistan looking for victims.

Asked whether it would apply to everyone who might be involved in these inquests, including paramilitaries, terrorists and soldiers, Wallace said it would apply for all.

If you want to make a claim that an already investigated crime or already inquest event has taken place, and in some of these inquests we’re into the third or fourth inquest of the same event, if one of these has already taken place and you want to go back and effectively in some areas abuse our legal system with new evidence without much specifics, then actually you need to go direct to the European court in the Hague.

Asked how this is not an “amnesty for terrorists”, he said: “It’s not an amnesty. Everyone will still be able to avail themselves of the European court of human rights in the Hague. But what they won’t be able to avail themselves of the right, is continually going back to our courts in the UK. ”

Questioned over his previous remarks in the House of Commons, when he said “I don’t support amnesty for people who went out and killed many of these young men and women who went out to defend us . I don’t think that’s a solution ”, he replied:

I don’t. This is about people who have already had trials, already been prosecuted, already had inquests… People have been tried, under inquest found not to have been at fault, then suddenly along comes a claim of new evidence. Very rarely does it see much test before it falls over and time and time again our service personnel are reinvestigated.

We’re not leaving the European convention on human rights, what we’re doing is changing the route to that and we’re saying that our courts are not there to be abused. There are inquests going on at the moment to things that have gone on in the 1970 s that have already been two or three inquests.

Questioned over the failure of previous defense secretary’s to promise to deliver the proposal, he said: “It’s time to finish this.”

Updated

Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, has said the Conservatives’ election pledge to protect veterans from prosecution is not an “amnesty”.

He said the Tories’ pledge to change the law would protect veterans from “vexatious” legal action and would take up the defense select committee’s recent recommendations on limiting prosecutions of soldiers.

Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that conflicts between different pieces of international law have meant that lawyers defending people representing “terrorists killed in the act of terror” have led to “continued, repeated” inquests.

How do we make sure that soldiers are not above the law but that vexatious claims don ‘ t trigger continued investigations time and time again into the same people? That is unfair to our soldiers and people who’ve gone out to defend us, whether that’s in Iraq, Afghanistan or Northern Ireland.

Asked on whether the law would apply retroactively, Wallace noted the independence of the judiciary and said that the changes would apply only to future prosecutions.

This isn’t an amnesty, because if people haven’t been investigated and they haven ‘t had an inquest, then of course they won’t be able to avail themselves of that. This is about repeated and vexatious claims. This is about people who have already had trials, have already been prosecuted, already had inquests.

TheConservativeswant to end unfair trials of veterans where no new evidence has been produced and the accusations have been questioned exhaustively in court by amending the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to incidents – including deaths during the Troubles – which took place before the law came into force in 2000.

In July, the House of Commons defense select committee said a 10 – year “qualified statute of limitations” should be introduced to protect veterans and serving armed forces personnel from reinvestigation for alleged crimes.

It also called on the government to consider amending the Human Rights Act to provide a presumption against prosecution for historical offences.

The report, Drawing a Line: Protecting Veterans By a Statute of Limitations, criticized the government for breaking a promise to safeguard veterans of Northern Ireland’s Troubles from the “specter” of repeated investigations of events that occurred decades ago.

And it welcomed previous Ministry of Defense (MoD) proposalsto opt outfrom the European convention on human rights during future conflicts. However, it points out that under MoD plans those who served in Northern Ireland and those who served abroad would be subject to different legislative regimes. The MoD and Northern Ireland Officehave been in disputeover such reforms.

However, Sinn Féin has previously raised fears over the amnesty proposal. One of the party’s MPs, Francie Molloy, said that any attempt to create a hierarchy “by protecting perpetrators of murders and other serious crime committed by British state forces are totally unacceptable”.

Updated

News that British Steel may be about to be bought by a Chinese conglomerate for £ 70 m could spark discussion about Britain’s industrial policy on the campaign trail.

The steelworks in Scunthorpe.
The steelworks in Scunthorpe. Photograph: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

A deal with Jingye Group could go through in the next couple of days according to our reporter Rob Davies, who has seen an email sent to employees about the sale.

That is good news for the company’s 4, 000 employees, most of whom work in the marginal constituency of Scunthorpe. The seat is held by Labor’s Nic Dakin with a majority of just over 3, 000. The North Lincolnshire town is traditional (Labor) territory but it also voted heavily for Brexit – 68. 68% in favor of leaving compared with 31. 32% for remain.

Here’s Rob’s full story:

Updated

On the Ulster campaign trail, the SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, says Northern Ireland should become a leader in renewable energy technology. Eastwood, who is standing for the constituency of Foyle, says better education of children to raise awareness of global warming is a moral imperative.

We cannot force our children and their children to pay the price for our casual disregard for the body of science which says we are destroying our climate. We should also take the opportunity to become a world leader in renewable technology and climate rehabilitation.

Updated

Keith Vaz announced last night he was standing down, a move that spares Jeremy Corbyn a tricky issue because the longstanding MP for Leicester East was facing suspension from the Commons for “expressing interest” in buying cocaine for Prostitutes.

Vaz, who won the seat from the Tories in 1987, said in a statement that the people of Leicester “will always be in my heart”.

He continued:

I have decided to retire after completing 32 years as the Member of Parliament for Leicester East. In that time I have won eight general elections. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my constituency since I came to the city in 1985. I want to thank the people of Leicester East for their absolute loyalty and support.

Corbyn paid generous tribute to his now ex-parliamentary colleague, saying:

Keith Vaz was among the pioneering group of black and AsianLaborMPs elected in 1987. I was proud to support his selection and incredibly proud when he won, taking the seat from the Tories. Keith has made a substantial and significant contribution to public life, both as a constituency MP for the people of Leicester and for the Asian community across the country. He has helped to pave the way for more BAME people to become involved in politics.

His work in parliament has been exemplary as Britain’s first Asian-origin minister, chair of the home affairs select committee, a campaigner on diabetes issues and most recently trying to help the peace process in Yemen.

You can read our full story on his decision here:

Updated at 1. 54 am EST

What the papers say

Most of the papers lead with election-related stories, with the Times going on the row over Labour’s spending plans and the Mail and the Telegraph leading on the Tories ’rehashed policy to ban prosecutions of veterans.

Here are some of the front pages:

Neil Henderson(@ hendopolis)

TELEGRAPH: Tories to end ‘unfair’ trials of troubles veterans # TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/FCeizRjQUw

(November) , 2019

The Guardian(@ guardian)

Guardian front page, Monday (November) : Nearly half of rape victims decline to go ahead with prosecutionspic.twitter.com/0lP7Q7yZmB

(November) , 2019

Neil Henderson(@ hendopolis)

THE TIMES: Parties clash over claim Corbyn will spend £ 1trn # TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/HJvx3AAUcn

(November) , 2019

Neil Henderson(@ hendopolis)

MAIL: The end of the veterans witch-hunt# TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/eKBvM11 iQ9

(November) , 2019

Neil Henderson(@ hendopolis)

THE NATIONAL: Trident on the table for deal with Labor# TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/bzNTmiRtRK

(November) , 2019

Neil Henderson(@ hendopolis)

THE SCOTSMAN: Tories accused of ‘fake news’ over Labor spending attack# TomorrowsPapersTodaypic.twitter.com/ (T8JNLLNQ)

(November) , 2019

Financial Times(@ FinancialTimes)

Just published: front page of the Financial Times, UK edition, Monday (November) https://t.co/GYMxsGDGbGpic.twitter.com/BSZeopQUgi

(November) , 2019

What’s happening today

  • Boris Johnson will visit the Black Country today as he pushes his party’s policies to help service personnel and veterans.
  • Jeremy Corbyn will be with other senior members of the Labor leadership team to discuss migration
  • The Lib Dems are talking about education and will promise every adult in England £ 10, 000 to spend on education and training throughout their life.
  • It seems likely that Nigel Farage will have something to say about both immigration and veterans when he launches the Brexit party’s campaign in Hartlepool. Also present will be the party’s chairman, Richard Tice,who is standing as MP for the Teesside town.
  • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will be on the stump in Aberdeen.

Updated

Martin Farrer

Good morning. I’m Martin Farrer and welcome to the election live blog.

The fifth day of the campaign might be Armistice Day but there is no prospect of a ceasefire between the parties. The unusual instance of Remembrance Day falling in an election campaign has left the big playersunable to resist promoting policies for veterans. The Tories are planning to offer more childcare help for families in the military, a railcard for veterans and will also repeat previous pledges to prevent “vexatious” legal claims such as those faced by ex-soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Labor has said it will improve pay and conditions for service personnel by scrapping the public sector pay cap, better housing and improved access to schools for children of force members.

Another major focus will be immigration. Our political editor, Heather Stewart, reports that Labor activists are pushing Jeremy Corbyn to incorporate radical changes to migration policy in the party’s manifesto.Senior leaders are meeting today to thrash out the party’s definitive stancewith many calling for them to adopt the more open border policy backed by members at party conference in September. The Tories are hoping to portray Labor as soft on immigration and believe that a more liberal policy could cost Corbyn votes in northern and Midlands heartland seats.

One Midlands seat that will be a bit different this time is Leicester East, where Keith Vaz’s name will not be on the ballot paper for the first time in 32 years. The former minister, who wasfacing suspension from the Commons for“expressing willingness” to purchase cocaine for sex workers, announced last night that he is standing down. Vaz, who is 62, said it had been “an honor and a privilege to serve my constituency”, while Corbyn said Vaz had led the way for black and Asian Labor MPs.

No campaign day would be complete without a spending row and this one will be no exception withLabor hitting back at Tory claims that its policies would cost £ 1.2tn. Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s election coordinator, described the claims as “absolute work of fiction by the Conservatives”. Oureconomic correspodent, Richard Partington, has interrogated the Tory claimsand concludes that they have added in the cost of Labor policies over a five-year period to inflate the headline number.

Thanks for joining us and enjoy day five.

Updated

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