“I am sad to be stepped down” – Nadia Whittome’s statement

Nadia Whittome
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

Below is the full text of Nadia Whittome’s statement, which was issued after she broke the Labour whip by voting against the overseas operations bill at second reading on Wednesday evening. She was a member of Labour’s frontbench but has been stood down.

This morning the leader of the opposition’s office called me to confirm that I have been stood down from my role as parliamentary private secretary to the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth following my vote against the overseas operations bill. I opposed the bill because it effectively decriminalises torture and makes it harder for veterans to take legal action against the government or for war crimes to be investigated.

The decision to break the Labour whip is a difficult one and I understand many of my colleagues came to a different conclusion and decided to abstain on this bill in the sincere hope that the bill can be amended at later stages. I hold out no such hope given the how flawed and damaging this bill is.

It is important that MPs are able to vote in line with their conscience in consideration of all the facts and in good faith – all of which I am confident that I have done.

This bill flatly contradicts the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) – a treaty which the UK has ratified – which states that all victims of torture or ill-treatment, regardless of when the violation occurred, must be able to access their rights to remedy and to obtain redress.

It often takes years, or even decades, to properly process and come to terms with abusive and traumatic experiences and to then find the courage and resource to come forward. I cannot, in good conscience, vote in a way that would make this process even harder for someone in such a terrible situation.

It strikes me that if a piece of legislation has had concerns raised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the British Legion, Amnesty International and other organisations on the front line of supporting veterans and defending human rights, we need to stop and ask ourselves why.

This Bill flatly contradicts the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) – a treaty which the UK has ratified – which states that all victims of torture or ill-treatment, regardless of when the violation occurred, must be able to access their rights to remedy and to obtain redress.

I am sad to be stepped down as Jon Ashworth’s PPS. Jon has held the government to account with rigour and courage on its myriad failures in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic – from being slow to lockdown, slow to provide PPE to health and social care workers, and failing to give us the functioning test and trace system we need to beat the virus. It has been a privilege to serve as Jon’s PPS and both he and Keir will continue to have my loyalty and support.

We must unite to bring about the genuine alternative so desperately needed to this reckless and dangerously incompetent Conservative government. It is my heartfelt belief that a Labour government rooted in integrity, defence of human rights and the rule of law is the best way to achieve this for my constituents and the country.

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