HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 cc116-8
Dr. Howells

I beg to move amendment No. 65, in page 9, line 35, leave out paragraph (h).

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 91.

Dr. Howells

The Government have tabled amendment to the Bill exempting premises that, at the time the activity is carried out, are permanently or temporarily occupied for the purposes of the armed forces. That will have the effect of exempting serves messes and certain other armed forces facilities from the provisions of the Bill. We recognise the special status of messes and other service facilities. Messes are effectively the homes of many of the men and women serving in the forces. The exemption also takes into account the unique operational circumstances of the forces, especially the impracticalities associated with the highly mobile nature of service life. Activities in messes and the other armed forces facilities concerned are already subject to Queen's regulations and locally issued service instructions. The Government consequently take the view that they should be treated exceptionally.

Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham)

Adjacent to my constituency is a naval base, where there is a theatre that is occasionally used by community groups as a venue for fundraising. Will the Minister explain whether use by community groups for fundraising purposes is also exempt under the amendments?

Dr. Howells

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I shall certainly look into the matter for him to see whether the theatre is technically part of the mess. Perhaps he would be kind enough to furnish me with some details, and I shall certainly ensure that the situation is checked out.

Although the Bill would have provided for certain premises to be exempt from licensing control on the authority of a Cabinet Minister on grounds of national security, in the current climate that would have placed a considerable burden on the armed forces in identifying and exempting a very large number of individual premises.

I commend the amendment to the House.

Mr. Moss

The Opposition concur with much of what the Minister has said, and acknowledge that the armed forces should have exceptional provisions. The Government amendments seem to achieve that. However, I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Amendment No. 91 speaks of temporary arrangements or premises. Does that cover the armed forces on manoeuvre and in encampment? Does it cover the Territorial Army, which does not occupy its premises frequently and for prolonged intervals? Will the Minister elaborate and confirm that the amendments cover all those eventualities?

Dr. Howells

I am certainly happy to confirm that the amendments would cover those situations and eventualities.

Mr. Andrew Turner

Will the Minister reflect on whether it is entirely appropriate that such premises should be exempt? Of course I accept that, if they are being used by the armed forces for purposes connected with the defence of the realm, it is understandable that they should be exempt. I am not sure how far down the line that should apply, however, such as in relation to the territorial forces or an Army cadet hut. I am glad to see the Minister shake his head on the latter point Territorial Army premises, including camps, sites for camps, shooting ranges and the like appear to be covered by the exemption. Will he confirm that that is the case?

Dr. Howells

I would appreciate some detailed information on the sort of sites that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I can confirm that we shall not be making exemptions for cadet huts, or, I would think, for some of the sites where there are recruiting centres for young people and so on. None the less, if he has got somewhere in mind, I shall certainly try to check out the situation, as I will the issue raised by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) concerning a theatre.

Amendment agreed to.

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