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Three Labour MPs lose junior roles after backing Corbyn position on controversial bill

Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer - Credit: PA

Three Labour MPs have lost their junior roles after defying the party whip to oppose a controversial bill, backing Jeremy Corbyn rather than Keir Starmer.

The MPs went against instructions to abstain on the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which Tory ministers insist is aimed at protecting armed forces personnel from “vexatious prosecutions”, party sources said.

Nadia Whittome was in the post of Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS), along with Beth Winter and Olivia Blake.

Asked if she was expecting to be asked to resign, Whittome told ITV’s Peston: “I thought that the bill was a matter of conscience.

“I understand why colleagues came to a different conclusion and thought that we can amend this as committee stage.

“But, I felt that given that all the major human rights organisations, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and given that even the British Legion and veterans themselves opposed this Bill – and these are all arguments that our front bench made today, we don’t agree with this Bill.

“And we think it’s anti-veteran, it’s anti-human rights. It would, effectively, decriminalise torture, and that’s why I voted against it.

“We already have laws that prevent vexatious claims, and, in fact, many veterans are against this.”

A Labour source told the PA news agency: “Anyone who wanted to vote against (the) whip was told they would have to resign.”

The government says the proposed legislation will ensure service personnel will be protected from “vexatious claims and endless investigations”.

Ministers said it 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.

To override the presumption, the consent of the attorney general will be required, and 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 the legislation will create a presumption against prosecution of torture and other serious crimes, except rape and sexual violence.

The Tories quickly attacked Labour for failing to support the government and “soldiers and veterans” on the bill.

They claimed it proved “we are still the only party who will deliver on its promises to our troops”.