The UK’s military interests are being undermined by the threat of legal action compromising decision-making by forces commanders, an influential MP has claimed.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the unrestrained growth of ‘lawfare’ has made military chiefs more wary of taking decisive and potentially dangerous action.

Speaking at a Policy Exchange event, Tugendhat said: ‘If we are not willing to allow our forces to operate under what most people would consider normal rules of engagement, then effectively we are letting the Americans and French carry that burden for us.’

He said that human rights claims, both from UK personnel and from foreign litigants involved in conflicts with the UK, have led to the ‘judicialisation’ of the armed forces. He wants the new prime minister to prioritise legislation protecting retired and serving personnel from legal action.

Speaking at the same event, barrister and former British Army officer Patrick Hennessey stressed the discussion should not be about ignoring crimes by service personnel, but about the courts not being equipped to handle such issues. 

He said: ‘People I speak to who are still serving are very against the idea they are being seen to request impunity – they are saying “we are capable of enforcing these standards and we don’t want that to be contracted out”.’