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Three Labour MPs QUIT Keir Starmer's team after voting against bill attacked by Jeremy Corbyn

Three Labour MPs have quit Sir Keir Starmer’s team after voting against a government bill designed to shield soldiers from prosecution.

Beth Winter, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake voted against the Overseas Operations bill’s second reading despite being ordered to abstain.

The MPs, who had all previously criticised it, were reportedly told if they voted against they would be forced to resign their positions.

Ms Winter was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Ms Whittome was the same for the Shadow Health Secretary and Ms Blake was for Shadow Scotland and at Shadow Digital Culture Media and Sport.

They were among 19 Labour MPs to break ranks with the party and vote against the bill alongside Mr Corbyn, who had criticised it.

Beth Winter (pictured), Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake voted against the Overseas Operations bill's second reading despite being ordered to abstain

Nadia Whittome

Olivia Blake

Beth Winter (left), Nadia Whittome (centre) and Olivia Blake (right) voted against the Overseas Operations bill’s second reading despite being ordered to abstain

They were among 19 Labour MPs to break ranks with the party and vote against the bill alongside Mr Corbyn (pictured), who had criticised it

They were among 19 Labour MPs to break ranks with the party and vote against the bill alongside Mr Corbyn (pictured), who had criticised it

The MPs, who had all previously criticised it, were reportedly told if they voted against they would be forced to resign their positions. Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer

The MPs, who had all previously criticised it, were reportedly told if they voted against they would be forced to resign their positions. Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer

The former Labour leader, who oversaw one of its worst ever election defeats, made his views clear in a tweet before the vote.

He posted: ‘I have grave concerns that, as it stands, the #OverseasOperationBill the House of Commons is discussing today defies and undermines international law.’

Other dissenters included his allies Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey, who was booted from Sir Keir’s front bench for tweeting praise for an ‘antisemitic’ article.

Mr Corbyn tabled an amendment saying the bill ‘violates essential rule of law principles such as judicial and prosecutorial independence and the absolute and effective prohibition of torture’.

But a Defence source told the Mirror: ‘Labour can’t make their mind up as a party – either they can’t stretch to support it or they are so against supporting our troops they break the whip. It’s lose-lose.’

It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace triggered a row last night by suggesting British troops had taken part in ‘illegal wars’.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace triggered a row last night after he appeared to question the legality of the Iraq invasion while standing at the Commons despatch box

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace triggered a row last night after he appeared to question the legality of the Iraq invasion while standing at the Commons despatch box

Mr Wallace appeared to question the legality of the Iraq invasion while standing at the Commons despatch box.

In a heated exchange with his Labour counterpart, Mr Wallace said: ‘What we should recognise is much of the mess we are having to come and clean up today is because of your [Labour’s] illegal wars, your events in the past.’

Labour defence spokesman John Healey replied: ‘That is not worthy of the office of the Secretary of State for Defence.

‘This is too important for party politics. It should be beneath the Secretary of State to reduce this to party politics.’

The row came as MPs debated legislation the Government has said will mean service personnel will be protected from ‘vexatious claims and endless investigations’.

Mr Wallace said that the Overseas Operations Bill would provide ‘certainty’ for troops.

The Bill seeks to limit false and historical allegations arising from overseas operations by introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution, making it exceptional for personnel to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident.

Mr Wallace (pictured with Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick) suggested British troops had taken part in 'illegal wars'

Mr Wallace (pictured with Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick) suggested British troops had taken part in ‘illegal wars’

To override the presumption, the consent of the attorney general will be required.

The prosecutor must weigh up the ‘adverse impact of overseas operations on service personnel’ and, where there has been no compelling new evidence, the public interest in cases coming to a ‘timely conclusion’.

But campaigners and some senior military figures have warned that the legislation will create a presumption against prosecution of torture and other serious crimes, except rape and sexual violence.

General Sir Nick Parker, former commander of land forces, last week said he was worried the focus on prosecutions ‘risks us being seen as setting double standards’.

Mr Wallace, a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland, rejected claims the Bill could decriminalise torture and murder.

He said: ‘We’ve been told that this Bill is controversial. Some have gone as far to have said it decriminalises torture or prevents veterans from receiving compensation. Both allegations are untrue.

‘It is our intention should new or compelling evidence be brought forward to prosecute for those offences. It is not decriminalising torture, it is not decriminalising murder.’

Mr Wallace added: ‘We want the ability if necessary to allow soldiers to focus on the danger and job in hand in operations, not on whether they will have a lawsuit slapped on them when they get home.’

Afghanistan and Iraq were the major military campaigns in which Tony Blair sent British troops into combat. The latter proved particularly controversial.

In 2010, Nick Clegg was forced to clarify the government’s position on the Iraq war after he denounced the invasion as ‘illegal’.

The then deputy prime minister made the remarks while standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Clegg later stressed his opinion was a ‘long-held’ personal one and Downing Street said he was not speaking for the government.

The Tories backed the then Labour government’s decision to commit troops to Iraq in 2003, with current key figures including Boris Johnson all supporting the war.

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