HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc19-20
17. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

If he will make a statement on his plans for call-up of reservists. [76710]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)

As I said earlier today in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen), a call-out order was made on 14 October 2002 in support of operations in Afghanistan and related operations against international terrorism. That was purely for the continuation of existing operations. In line with our policy since the strategic defence review, any substantial new operation would require support from reservists. That would be the subject of a separate call-out order at the appropriate time.

Mr. Dalyell

Given that this has been not exactly the most glorious week in the history of the royal prerogative, and given that for a precedent relating to my right hon. Friend's previous answer we have to go back to the Korean war, if there is to be a call-up of reservists would it not at least be wise to come to the House of Commons—regardless of the royal prerogative—to seek a substantive motion of agreement by the House to the call-up of reservists?

Mr. Hoon

As I said earlier when asked the same question, there is a well-established procedure in the House applying to the call-out of reserves, governed by an Act of Parliament. That requires the House to he informed in the usual way. My hon. Friend has long experience of the procedures of the House, so if he wants to debate the matter when the order is laid, he will, no doubt, find an opportunity to do so.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

I wonder whether the Secretary of State will think again about his response. There is considerable doubt and concern about the possible purpose of recalling the reservists. The House needs to be properly informed and to have every opportunity to discuss any issue that might involve reserve personnel. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to think again and to ensure that all of us have a proper chance to discuss that issue, which is not as open and closed as many in the past have been.

Mr. Hoon

To the best of my knowledge, the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Cabinet when the relevant Act of Parliament passed through the House—off the top of my head, I believe it was in 1996. Existing procedures are therefore the responsibility not only of the current Government, but of that previous Government. That legislation, which builds on previous practice both of Governments and of the House, is something with which the right hon. Gentleman is entirely familiar. The procedure is well-established and does not require to be changed at this stage.

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