HL Deb 25 January 1996 vol 568 cc43-98GC

(On Recruitment, first day)

Thursday, 25th January 1996.

The Committee met in the Moses Room

at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Amptill) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

The Question is that the Title be postponed.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Before the Question is put, perhaps I may comment on the procedure to be adopted. As the Lord Chairman quite rightly said at our previous meeting, there will be no Divisions. That was agreed. I would only say that all our amendments and, as far as I know, all other noble Lords' amendments are probing amendments in the spirit of the rules which were outlined. I hope very much, however, that we will avoid the procedure of negativing. In other words, if an amendment is withdrawn or leave is asked for amendment to be withdrawn, I hope that no noble Lord will stop the amendment being withdrawn; otherwise the Question will have to be put and the decision taken.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)

I hope that I can deal with that point speedily. I readily agree to the noble Lord's proposal. I do not believe that it would be in the spirit of the proceedings in this part of your Lordships' House that the procedure of negativing should apply. I am quite happy to accede to that.

On Question, Title postponed.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Membership of the reserve forces]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 17, after ("officers") insert ("who may be of either sex").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, which stands in my name and that of my noble friends Lady Turner and Lord Judd, it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 2.

The Bill as drafted makes a number of references to "men". It also does not, if I may say so, recognise the existence of women. I recognise that this may be a fact of legal drafting. Nevertheless, since we have found out in the course of discussions about the Bill that there have been certain matters which are the result of what I would regard as out-dated legislation which have been simply reproduced in the current Bill, I believe that it would be appropriate for the Committee to recognise that women are a serious and effective part of the reserve forces. I would hope very much that in some way—and I cannot say more than "in some way"—the existence of women can be introduced into the Bill so that we can go forward with the principle that in the reserve forces—this of course will carry through into the Armed Forces Bill when we come to deal with that—the existence of women and indeed the enhanced role of women in the past few years is recognised.

After all, women are no longer just people who serve in munitions factories or as nurses or whatever. Women are now pilots of aircraft, they are in the front line, and almost every other country that I can think of, including the United States, which is our NATO ally, recognises the important part that women play in equality with men. There are certain areas where that is not true. Nevertheless, I believe that we in this country ought to bring our attitudes up to date, and the bringing of our attitudes up to date should, in my view, be reflected in the legislation. How this is to be done, and in the context of the Bill that we have before us in this Committee, is not really for me to say. I put down this amendment simply in order to make the point that I very much hope that, when we come to future debates about the armed forces and reserve forces, and indeed when we discuss possibly even at this early stage in this Bill the contribution of women to our reserve forces, and indeed to the armed forces generally, that could be recognised in the legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

In the earlier stage of this Bill my noble friend will remember that I picked up this very point on a particular amendment and he referred me to a part of the Bill which says that wherever it refers to men it means women too. I strongly agree with the principles which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has advanced and I suspect that it is a matter which has been dealt with in the past. In modern times when women are very much treated as being as equal as possible under all circumstances in the armed forces it would be sensible to introduce an amendment to ensure that this matter is not just dealt with by a subsection of a clause which states, "for 'men' read 'women' as well". That is really rather diminishing. I think the principle of what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is saying would be well worth my noble friend taking up. It may mean quite substantial amendments but the Ministry is very experienced in the matter of producing substantial amendments at a late stage. Perhaps it can do so again.

Lord Redesdale

At this point I have to say that I did not speak on Second Reading and I should like to declare an interest. I have been a serving member of the Territorial Army for eight years and at the moment I am a serving officer with 103 Battalion Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.

I should just like to say that although I support the idea behind this amendment I do not support the amendment as it stands because I feel that it would do precisely the opposite of what was intended. I believe that the Territorial Army has a good record as regards the number of women who have taken roles within it. If one puts forward the idea of distinguishing between men and women that creates a bar where at present one does not exist. Although it is unfortunate that men and women are classed as men, equal opportunities should exist in the Territorial Army. I believe that they do at present.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

Whilst supporting my noble friend Lord Williams on his amendment in principle, I really feel that we are going down the wrong road as regards the reserve forces. There are excellent organisations within the Territorial Army, Navy and the Air Force which regulate for this kind of thing. I would draw the Committee's attention to the fact that if one is sitting in an armoured vehicle with a woman between one's legs, that is rather inhibiting. This matter should be left to the discretion of the powers that run these forces and should not be on the face of the Bill.

Earl Howe

I fully understand the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to ensure that our legislation is not in any way sexist in content. However, I have difficulty with the line that he proposes in the first amendment. The point that I should like to make here is that the word "officer", both in ordinary language and in service terminology, already applies to both sexes. It is a gender-free term. So, not only is the proposed definition unnecessary, it might create doubt that references to officers in current legislation do not include women. That would be unfortunate.

The use of the word "man" in this Bill is more difficult. We thought long and hard to find another term without gender implications to cover male and female members of the reserve naval, marine, land and air forces. We have not succeeded in finding a better term. I should say that the word "man" is well known and understood within the services as applying to both males and females. Although my noble friend Lord Mottistone has already referred to it, the definition in subsection (4) of Clause 2 makes it clear that "man" means a person of either sex who is a member of a reserve force of or below the rank of warrant officer.

It may be appropriate for me to mention here that the Bill rectifies discriminatory provisions in the current legislation. The Reserve Forces Act 1980 provides that, in so far as it deals with the Royal Fleet Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve, and with former soldiers under the age of 45 liable to recall, it does not apply to women. This Bill makes no such distinction. As I have explained, every reference in it applies equally to males and to females.

I would also say this. In the services generally, very few roles now remain closed to women. The armed forces policy is that in future they will only be excluded from those posts where their presence would impair combat effectiveness. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will appreciate that. We have made great strides in recent years, and it is after all the practice that is important.

I hope that in the light of what I have said, and particularly in the light of what I would call the definitional difficulty that we faced, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply, and indeed to those noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. I am particularly grateful, if I may say so, to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who raised this point at an earlier stage. I do believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that it is time, however it is done, that we recognised that "man" as defined, as the noble Lord said, is rather derogatory to woman.

I shall not press this amendment but I would hope very much that in future legislation, or indeed in the Government's thinking, we might move away from what I regard as this antiquarian expression, however tight it is in legal terms.

Having said that, I understand entirely the noble Earl's argument. Of course I will not press the amendment today and I will not press it at a future stage. I simply want to put down a marker that, in spite of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, we think that equality of the sexes in the armed forces and reserve forces should be enshrined in some way and that we should get out of the tunnel thinking we have had for a long time that fighting people are men and men only. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Control of numbers in the reserve forces]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 15, at end insert— ("( ) Authorization by Parliament shall be by resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3 it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 16.

In the Bill as drafted we have what I regard as a rather curious expression—"Parliament". As I mentioned yesterday, I have dealt with many Bills on the Floor of the House involving parliamentary approval—approval by one House or another House—depending on international considerations or non-financial considerations. I understand that "Parliament" as such is something which appears normally in Bills to do with the armed forces. In that context, it seems to me—no doubt the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong—that it would be appropriate for the Committee to consider the possibility of how Parliament, in terms of the Bill—I am almost quoting from Clause 3—authorises. What is the mechanism? What is the instrument? Is it to be, as I suggest in my amendment, by resolution of both Houses of Parliament? Is it to be the affirmative procedure? Is it to be the negative procedure? Is it in some way built into the Defence Estimates which are passed by both Houses? What is the method by which Parliament authorises the numbers of the reserve forces? I have done some research. I find—subject to correction from the noble Earl—no expression of "Parliament" other than in the armed forces Act or the various Acts which derive from armed forces legislation. This dates, I understand, from the Civil War when Parliament arrogated to itself the right to decide what armed forces and therefore, by extension, what reserve forces there might be. As with the naval reserve, which we debated briefly the other day, I am inclined to believe we should move beyond the years of the Civil War and the 17th century and adopt a more modern procedure. It would seem to me right that if Parliament is to decide the numbers of the different reserve forces we should spell that out on the face of the Bill. There may be good legal arguments for not doing so. I shall be glad to hear them. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

If we are going back to the Civil War, does that mean that the Queen has nothing to do with her armed forces and regiments of which she and her family are in many cases colonel in chief. It seems to me very unsuitable to carry on the traditions of Oliver Cromwell—if that is the origin—at this late date. I have never met another Bill which talks about Parliament and the authority of both Houses in quite such terms. I believe there is a case for amendment, although perhaps not in the short run.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, because that is precisely the point I am making. I believe that the expression "Parliament" does derive from some Bill or other put forward by the Lord Protector for whom I have a high regard in history but whose legacy we perhaps need now, in the 20th century—indeed, coming up to the 21st—to look at again. If there is something called Parliament, personally I would like to see an expression of how Parliament authorises these things and have the position brought into line with other legislation so that we get away from the legacy of the Lord Protector, however much I admire him.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams for airing the issue. It has been an extremely interesting debate. I do, however, have a major difficulty with the amendments, which I will explain. Control of the maximum numbers of the reserve forces is inextricably bound up with the voting of sums of money for the maintenance of the armed forces. The statutory authority for the numbers of the reserve forces and expenditure on them is the Appropriation Act, a supply measure which, by convention, is not debated in your Lordships' House.

Lord Williams of Elvel

If I may interrupt the noble Earl, if that is the case I am perfectly happy with authorisation by the House of Commons. If it is a supply matter, a matter of money, then I am perfectly happy that the House of Lords, this House, understands that it is the House of Commons that deals with supply. Nevertheless, the Bill here, as drafted, refers to "Parliament" and, as I understand it, that means the Parliament of the two Houses.

Earl Howe

The term "Parliament" is defined in this context by "the laying of documents before Parliament (Interpretation) Act 1948" as meaning both Houses. The amendment, and Amendment No. 33 which alludes to this question as well, would lead to confusion over the meaning of the term when used elsewhere in the Bill and indeed in other legislation. The central point is that the Appropriation Act is a supply measure which, by convention, is not debated in your Lordships' House. This amendment, if it were accepted, would effect a major constitutional change and I suggest that this Bill would not be an appropriate vehicle for that.

If I may just clarify a point that was raised by my noble friend, the armed forces are governed by a mixture of the Royal prerogative and statute, and that is the exercise of the authority of both Crown and Parliament. It is not a question of living in the age of the Lord Protector. We have brought the law up to date and I believe that it is fairly reflected in the procedures that are now adopted.

Lord Shaughnessy

Will the Minister explain why in Clause 3(1) Parliament is the operative word, and then in Clause 4(1) it is Her Majesty's name that appears? Is there some distinction between these two clauses?

Earl Howe

The noble Lord's question refers directly to the point that I have just made. It directly reflects the mixture of authorities that apply to the armed forces, namely, the Royal prerogative and statute. That is the reason for the difference.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I still have not had an explanation from the noble Earl about how Parliament fixes these numbers. The noble Earl says that it is a matter of supply and therefore it is a matter for the House of Commons, but Parliament is more than just the House of Commons—it is the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Indeed, every year we have a debate on the Defence Estimates and there is a Motion to approve the Defence Estimates. Presumably that is not a supply Motion which is being approved or disapproved as the case may be. The White Paper is produced by the Ministry of Defence, by the Secretary of State, and I cannot see why the numbers of the reserved forces should not be incorporated into such a Motion.

It is not a question of supply, in my view, but if it is a question of supply then I do not see why we should not have a slightly different procedure in either House of Parliament. All I am doing is raising the question, which I hope the noble Earl will take seriously, that I do not believe that Clause 3 of this important Bill, which begins "Parliament", without any definition of how Parliament arrives at the definition, is a very satisfactory position for us to be in.

Earl Howe

I accept that the Appropriation Act is enacted with the consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. The actual mechanics of setting the numbers of the armed forces is this: there is a Motion under Standing Order 52 in another place with the Spring Supplementary Estimates—that is how it is done.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am grateful to the noble Earl for his explanation. I believe that it is something that we will have to take up at a different stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Orders and regulations concerning the reserve forces]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, leave out line 20.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4, standing in my name and that of my noble friends. I have also put down a Motion to oppose Clause 4 stand part, but I think it is appropriate that it should be grouped with the amendment that I am now putting forward, because essentially, the point is: does Clause 4, as drafted, override any of the provisions of Clause 3? The noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, quite rightly pointed out in the previous discussion that Parliament does something and then Her Majesty in Clause 4 does something else, obviously under the hand of the Secretary of State. Furthermore, Her Majesty may, under the hand of the Secretary of State, make orders with respect to, (b) all other matters and things relating to that force".

In other words, as I read the Bill, whatever Parliament may decide about the numbers and this, that and the other, there may be an order by Her Majesty, signified under the hand of the Secretary of State, changing all that—which gets back to the Royal prorogative about which the noble Earl spoke so eloquently earlier.

I just ask myself, and I ask the Committee: is this really a sensible way to proceed? I recognise that I am trespassing perhaps on territory that is more properly dealt with in the Armed Forces Bill than in the Reserve Forces Bill which is before this Committee. Nevertheless, there seems to me a conflict here between the Royal prerogative and Parliament. I should be grateful if the noble Earl could explain to me exactly how that conflict should be resolved. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

The short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is that the Bill has to be read as a whole. The effect of this amendment would be to narrow the scope of the power set out in Clause 4. That power, as expressed in the Bill, is necessarily wide. It is not possible to anticipate and specifically provide for all the circumstances in which the power will be needed. Were one to go down the route that he has suggested through the amendment, the clause would be left as far too narrow to permit orders and regulations to be made under some of the other provisions in the Bill which rely on Clause 4.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Will the noble Earl explain why it should not be made more narrow? Why should it be so broad?

Earl Howe

I am trying to do that and, with great respect to the noble Lord, I hope that he will allow me to do so. An example of this is the form of declaration of employment status in Clauses 29 and 30. But it is worth noting that the power in Clause 4 is not totally unfettered. It is limited by its context as indicated by paragraph (a) of subsection (1). The most important rights of reserves, such as the right to early discharge under Clause 16, are set out on the face of the Bill and they could not be altered by regulations. For what it is worth—and I anticipate the noble Lord's response—the powers in Clause 4 are well precedented and we should bear in mind that the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee accepted in its report of 13th December that the delegation of powers in Clause 4 is not inappropriate. That in itself should be sufficient assurance for the noble Lord to be content with the Bill as drafted, but I am sorry if he is not. I come back to the point that I made at the beginning: the Bill has to be read as a whole. It is not a question of one part competing against another. One has to see the broad context in which each part is written.

4 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am grateful to the noble Earl as far as he goes. I find the whole construction of the Bill to be somewhat flawed in terms of the modern day society and in terms of the constitutional monarchy and relations with Parliament that we have today. The noble Earl anticipated my response. The fact that this is precedented in previous legislation and hallowed in history does not seem to me to be a good reason why the Committee should not scrutinise it with the accuracy which your Lordships normally do.

To be honest, I find that explanation somewhat odd. Nevertheless, I accept that the noble Earl has looked very carefully at the matter because these were points which we discussed some time ago. I do not want to use the nautical expression "rock the boat" too much. I am prepared to accept that the Government may have a point, but nevertheless I hope that into the thinking of the Government machine may be fed the thought that perhaps we ought to bring this kind of legislation up to date with modern circumstances, rather than just simply rely on precedent.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Of course I sympathise completely with the sentiment that he has just expressed. I believe that legislation should be brought up to date to reflect modern circumstances wherever possible. The position as reflected in the Bill could be expressed in this way, that the Sovereign acts within a statutory framework because the armed forces are statutory forces. They are the armed forces of the Crown. It would be quite wrong to sever that link. A good example of that is that His Majesty King George V needed the authority of the Air Force Constitution Act 1917 to create the Royal Air Force in 1918.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am again grateful to the noble Earl. This debate has been very useful to clarify the situation and to put on record the points of view of various noble Lords, including ourselves. I have no inclination at all to derogate from the position that the armed forces have had. My only concern is that the structure of the Bill tends, in my view, to override some of the structures elsewhere. I am satisfied with the noble Earl's explanation and I will not pursue the matter at a later stage because I do not want to stir the pot on this. But I believe that sooner or later we will have to have a more coherent view of who does what, where and with whom in the reserve forces and possibly the armed forces as well. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 36, leave out ("after being") and insert ("as soon as").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I also speak to Amendment No. 47. There is an oddity here. The expression in the Bill at the end of Clause 4(5) is "after being made". In other words, an order or regulation under Clause 4: shall be laid before Parliament after being made". "After being made" has no time limit. "After being made" can be one year, two years, six years, 10 years, 20 years, whatever it might be. Again I do not want to raise the argument that I adduced as regards the last amendment that I moved, but it seems to me appropriate that an order under this clause, which will become a section of the Act, should be laid before Parliament as soon as it is made. It does not seem to me to be an unreasonable request looking at it from the point of view of parliamentarians. The same applies to Amendment No. 47, which, in a slightly different context, has the same effect. I therefore very much hope that the Government will agree to this because it seems to me an important principle that orders made under Clause 4 of the Bill, which will become an Act, should be laid before Parliament as soon as they are made. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

I always like to be helpful to the noble Lord whenever I can, but I am afraid I find it difficult to see any scope for change here. The proposed parliamentary procedure for orders and regulations maintains the previous practice. I cannot recall any difficulties having arisen in the past. In practice, there is very little delay between making and laying orders. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that the Territorial Army Regulations 1978, which the minutes of proceedings record as having been laid before the House on Tuesday 23rd January, were made only on 18th January. That is a very topical instance of timely tabling and we would certainly aim to continue the practice of laying such orders promptly.

I might also add that no objection to the proposed procedure was raised by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in its report of 13th December last. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will not feel obliged to push me further. The amendment as expressed would impose an unnecessarily onerous obligation and, given that the practice works well already—I am not aware of any default in that regard—I hope that the problem he has identified is more apparent than real.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I find it very difficult to see how it can impose an onerous burden on the Government to lay an order as soon as it is made. The order is drafted, printed and so on. All that has to be done in laying an order is for some person or persons unknown to march it to the Ministry of Defence down Whitehall and lay the order in Parliament. It does not seem to me to be an onerous burden at all. I accept that this has happened in practice. However, as I have said on previous occasions, just because it has worked well In practice in the past does not mean that we should not necessarily try to improve matters.

If the Minister is saying to the Committee that in his judgment and in the view of the Government any order under what will become Section 4 of the Act will be laid at the earliest convenient moment, if he is saying that as a ministerial statement, then of course I shall accept it. If not, then I think we have to review the matter.

Earl Howe

I am delighted to give the noble Lord that assurance. All such orders are laid at the earliest convenient moment. I was seeking to make the point that the phrase in the amendment "as soon as made" means in legal terms instantaneously. That is to say, the moment that the order is made—in other words, signed by the members of the Defence Council or by Her Majesty the Queen—it has to be laid. That is why I said that it was an onerous requirement. I hope the noble Lord will see that in fact what we have at the moment is a reasonable system that works very well and that the intention is to maintain timely laying of all orders as soon as is convenient.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am again grateful to the noble Earl. However, I do not understand why this is an onerous requirement and how, if the order is signed by Her Majesty the Queen, it cannot be produced immediately in this House. But if the ministerial statement that the noble Earl has made to the Committee is accepted by the Committee, then I am happy with that. I would prefer to have on the face of the Bill "as soon as conveniently possible". But under the circumstances I am perfectly happy with the assurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 6: Page 2, line 36, at end insert ("and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we once again come to the question of what parliamentary control there might be regarding any order relating to the reserve forces. I am bound to say that I am a little concerned—and I would invite the Minister's comments on this—that, as I understand it, Parliament has no power under the Bill as drafted—I may be wrong and I am open to correction—even to pray against such an order, bearing in mind that there are very wide powers under Clause 4. While not wishing in any way—and I emphasised this on Second Reading and I have emphasised it throughout—to affect the efficiency of our reserve forces, I believe that there is a principle about parliamentary control which should be observed. If the noble Earl can give me the same kind of assurance as he gave me as regards the last amendment, I would be perfectly happy.

Earl Howe

I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has just said. I believe, nevertheless, that it would be inappropriate to subject the making of orders and regulations governing the day-to-day running of the reserve forces to parliamentary proceedings.

Just as an example of that, the regulations of the Territorial Army are in an A5 volume that is 30mm thick. The provisions need to be flexible, they need to be capable of being changed through simple, quick procedures and that is not just the Government's view, because I refer again to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee report of last December. It stated that making these orders or regulations subject to parliamentary proceedings would: burden Parliament with a mass of detailed provisions which it would be difficult to scrutinise effectively". I believe that speaks for itself. It is a view that we should not lightly cast aside.

I can say, however, that orders of Her Majesty and regulations by the Defence Council are very carefully considered before they are made. I do not believe I need to say that, but noble Lords will understand why I stress it. I hope, on the basis of what I have said, that the noble Lord will not think it right to pursue this amendment on simple grounds of practicality.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Again, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response, which is rather what I expected in the light of the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of this House. It is of course open— and I hope will be open—to any member of this House, or indeed another place, to put down any form of Motion relative to any of these orders. I do not believe that would be a procedure which would be ruled out of order by the Table in either House. On the understanding that that is the case—and I will take advice on the matter before we come to another stage—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5, 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Pensions]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 7: Page 3, line 32, at end insert ("provided that the pensions of those in civilian life are fully safeguarded").

The noble Baroness said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 7 standing in the names of my noble friends, Lord Williams of Elvel, Lord Judd and myself. This is a very simple amendment intended to protect the position of those who become members of the reserve forces but will return after service to civilian life. It is surely necessary that such individuals, who voluntarily give their services in defence of their country, should not be disadvantaged in later years. Many such people will be members in civilian life of occupational pension schemes. The ultimate entitlement will depend upon the contributions made by the employer and the employee during the latter's working life.

For a number of reasons, public attention has been very much concentrated on pension provision. Lately, there have, as we know, been some scandals resulting in apparent loss of entitlement. Those who volunteer for service within the terms of the Bill should be able to rely on their occupational pension cover, if they have it, not to be worsened as a result of that service. It may well be that the Minister will say this is already taken care of in this particular clause but I do not think it does so effectively.

This amendment seeks to ensure that an individual's rights are fully safeguarded, and that would mean ensuring that during his or her absence on service the contributions due to the occupational scheme arc fully paid. Unless this is done the continuity is breached and the individual will receive far less pension than he or she would have done had there been no service. I hope therefore that the Minister will agree to accept this amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

I wish to give my support to this amendment because I believe that the success of this Bill rests on how it is perceived by those who were going to sign up. If they believe they will be financially worse off, or there is a doubt about their pensions, they obviously will not sign up and that would make the Bill unworkable.

Earl Attlee

I also would like briefly to support this amendment. I have an interest to declare because I am also a serving officer in the Territorial Army and I serve in the same battalion as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. It will be of great concern to people who are called up that their pension contributions are continued, particularly if they do not survive and a widow is left unsupported. She could end up with less provision than she would have received under her occupational pension. I should be interested to hear what the noble Earl has to say on the matter.

Earl Howe

I entirely understand the concerns that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, and indeed by both the noble Lords who have spoken. Let me say that there is an express power in Clause 82 of the Bill to make regulations providing for payments to be made in relation to any description of financial loss, and towards the provision of pensions, allowances or gratuities. Those regulations are subject to the negative resolution procedure and there must he consultation of representatives of interested parties before the regulations are made. We have not begun to settle the scheme details. Indeed, we have not begun to consult on them. It is early days yet to be discussing this question because there is a limited amount I can say beyond pointing to the part of the Bill which specifically provides for such payments. It might be more appropriate to discuss the question further, on safeguarding civilian pensions of reservists, once we come to consider Part VIII of the Bill, and in particular Clause 82. I would obviously be happy to do so, but for the time being I hope I have said enough to persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel

The noble Earl will, I am sure, recognise that the matters in this Bill have been under consideration for a very long time. It comes rather hard to those of us who have received this Bill in whatever form it now is to find the noble Earl yet again saying that it is early days and these things have not been considered. Could the noble Earl give us an assurance that at least by the time this Bill goes to another place the questions raised by my noble friend Lady Turner will be answered by the Government?

Earl Howe

The point to be made is that we can hardly begin to draw up regulations when the Bill itself has not even been considered by Parliament. It would he inappropriate and wrong to do so. That is the point.

Lord Williams of Elvel

But at least the Government must have some idea of what they are playing at.

Earl Howe

That is why we have included Clause 82 in the Bill as a general provision for the type of payment that the noble Baroness is concerned about, and I readily acknowledge her concerns. I shall gladly revert to this matter, as I have indicated, at a later stage but I come back to the fact that it would be quite wrong for us to consult publicly on a matter which Parliament has not ratified.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Again, I come back to the noble Earl. This happens the whole time. The Government consult on matters which Parliament has riot ratified almost every day. I have done so many Bills in this House where we have had chairmen of nationalised industries appointed before your Lordships have had a chance to read a Bill. What I say to the noble Earl is that unless there is some response to the principle I can assure him that even if there is no response in your Lordships' House, in another place there will be a lot of bother about this.

Earl Bathurst

Do I understand that the noble Earl is not accepting the amendment of the noble Baroness? Supposing the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was called up, possibly to go to Bosnia or anywhere in the world, and was injured and incapacitated to such an extent that he was unable to carry on a civilian job, for which he had made pension contributions. Does that mean he would not qualify for the pension to which he had been paying considerable contributions? If so, this must be unfair.

Lord Mottistone

My noble friend, the Minister, has said that this subject is taken care of by Clause 82 of the Bill and that he is only too happy to discuss the matter when the Motion that Clause 82 stands part comes before the Committee. There is an amendment to Clause 82 and therefore it seems to me that that would he the point at which this matter should be discussed and that there is no need to tackle it in this part of the Bill. I do not see why we should not follow what my noble friend was suggesting—after all, he is the Minister in charge of the Bill and it will get us through this business more quickly if we follow what the Minister is saying rather than trying to press the point now which would be better discussed elsewhere in the Bill.

It could well be that we will find at the Report stage that the noble Lords opposite, if they have not been satisfied today, w ill come forward with another amendment casting their eyes at Clause 82 rather than at this part of the Bill. That would seem to be sensible, and we could then get on with the Bill more quickly.

Baroness Turner of Camden

From what has been said on all sides of the Committee in regard to this amendment, it seems to me that there is a general acceptance that something should be done. Even the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, clearly thinks that. Looking at Clause 82, that seems to me simply to be what one might call the regulation making power, setting out that the regulations shall say this, that and the other.

My point in tabling the amendment as regards this particular clause of the Bill was to try to state up-front on the face of the Bill what the principle would he. The principle would essentially be that people would not be worse off from a pension point of view because they had served in the reserve forces. That is why I tabled it at that point in the Bill—I wanted to make the principle quite clear. It may very well be that, later on, when we come to the regulations under Clause 82, we may want to strengthen that or do something else. But inserting it at this point says quite clearly on the face of the Bill that this is the intention and this is the principle.

I shall not press the matter this afternoon, but clearly we shall have to think about it and come back at Report stage if we feel that we really do need to have the principle stated early in the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Enlistment of men in the reserve forces]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, leave out lines 10 and 11.

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 8 standing in the names of my noble friend, Lord Williams of Elvel, my noble friend, Lady Turner, and myself.

In our view, to enlist is a serious matter. A man or woman is making a commitment to serve Queen and country, to put his or her life at risk in the cause of the nation. It seems to us that the point of enlistment is a very serious moment in the individual's life and in service life. From that standpoint we are a little perturbed by the provision in this clause; namely, that it is envisaged that, any other person authorised for the purpose of enlisting recruits by or in accordance with orders or regulations under section 4 should be able to undertake this onerous responsibility. It seems to us to demean the occasion and the significance of it. We should therefore like to suggest that the dignity of the service, and the respect for the individuals who make up the service, would be better preserved if this paragraph were deleted. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Perhaps I could say a few words about enlisting. Generally speaking the chap who enlists a soldier is the attesting officer. Only certain officers in the unit are authorised to attest the new recruit. As for re-enlisting, generally speaking any officer would be involved in the re-enlisting procedure. I support the noble Lord and I suggest that only a commissioned officer should be involved in enlisting a soldier.

Earl Howe

The intention of this clause was to bring the practice for the enlistment of reservists broadly into line with the procedure provided in Section I of the Army and Air Force Acts 1955, but in a simplified form.

Those Acts allow for recruits to be enlisted by three groups of people. The first is any officer authorised under regulations of the Defence Council. The second applies only in a colony and comprises any person authorised by the Governor of the colony. The third group applies only outside the United Kingdom and colonies and comprises any British consul. These latter provisions were presumably included to cater for overseas enlistment in a possible crisis. It is almost invariably the current practice that recruits to the reserve forces are enlisted by regular or reserve officers.

We should not wish to rule out the possibility of enlisting recruits to the reserve overseas in a time of crisis. However, Clause 9(2)(c) has perhaps emerged in a form which is broader than it need be to meet that requirement. In the light of the cogent points which both noble Lords have made, I shall undertake to re-consider the wording of this paragraph further before the next stage of the Bill. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment this afternoon.

Lord Judd

I should like to thank the noble Earl for that positive and encouraging response. In the light of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 9: After Clause 10, insert the following new clause—


(". A commanding officer shall ensure that each man in his command is given an annual confidential report on his performance.").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to Amendment No. 9 it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I also speak to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. In fact this matter should be properly covered by TA regulations; it concerns confidential reports. My objective is that there should be an annual appraisal of every soldier. This process is perfectly normal in industry. The reason this is necessary is that those in junior ranks in the TA are young and inexperienced. They are unsure of their progress and they do not see a promotion ladder leading to the position of the senior NCOs. They do not realise that the senior NCOs were themselves privates once. Sometimes a private or a lance corporal cannot understand why he is not being promoted to the next step. Good officers already produce confidential reports annually but that is not a requirement. There may be other higher priorities such as recruitment and organising exercises and it is easy to leave out confidential reports.

I am proposing a very simple report: just one sheet a day with a simple matrix to lay out the soldier's personal qualities and then a pen picture and something to say what his personal characteristics are. I would suggest that a confidential report would encourage and motivate the soldier and enable him to improve his performance where the confidential report says that there is room for improvement. I feel that it would improve retention of soldiers. Retention is a big problem in the Territorial Army—we are looking at a 30 per cent. loss rate in many units—so any improvement to retention by keeping soldiers, by telling them what they need to do, will help.

It will also be a very objective tool for promotion. It will avoid the risk of over-promoting and also of overlooking soldiers who ought to be promoted. It will also address the problem of poor attenders because the confidential report would suggest that the soldier should attend more. Finally, it should not be a surprise for a soldier if the unit decides that his services are no longer required because a confidential report would say words to the effect that "You're not doing enough".

I turn now to Amendment No. 10. Again this should be properly covered by the TA regulations and not on the face of the Bill. The problem concerns that of unsatisfactory soldiers. You can improve a unit by instigating better training, more interesting exercises, better personnel management, and that can result in high attendance and high retention. The problem is that if you do that you can quickly end up in a situation where you have no vacancies for further good soldiers who want to get into your unit. The solution to the problem is to remove some of the dead wood—soldiers who are not really attending enough or soldiers who are bounty hunters. All they do is turn up for the minimum amount of time in order to get their bounty. You may also have soldiers who were good performers at one point but their performance has tailed off somewhat.

We should be able to review our soldiers as to whether we really want them any more and, if we do not because they do not meet our requirements, we should be able easily to let them go. Therefore I am proposing that if at the time of re-enlistment we do not want them we should be able to say "Thank you very much for your service but we no longer require your services".

The Regular Army does not have this problem because soldiers are frequently moved around units. They are discharged if they are too old for the rank and they are promoted out of the unit if their performance is good.

The Minister may tell me that this amendment is not required. If it is not required, why do we need to keep re-enlisting soldiers? It involves us in a great deal of administration. Sometimes soldiers run out on their engagement without our realising and then the soldiers cannot be paid. If this is not an appropriate mechanism and not necessary, why do we bother with re-enlisting? Why do we not simply have a notice engagement that once you have done your first two years you just carry on until you no longer wish to serve in the TA? I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Lord Mottistone

What the noble Earl has just said makes a lot of good sense but I do not think that what he proposes is suitable for primary legislation. As he himself said, it is the sort of thing which is much better catered for in Territorial Army Regulations. That is where it should be. I hope that the Ministry of Defence will read what the noble Earl has said and act on it. I do not think it is suitable for this sort of legislation.

Lord Vivian

I very much support what Lord Mottistone has just said.

Lord Craig of Radley

I should also like to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has said. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has raised a number of very cogent and interesting points but I do not see them as necessarily suitable for the face of the Bill. After all, there may be differences in treatment of reports—whether or not they are confidential, annual and available to the individual—as between the three services. It would be over-complicated to try to do this on the Bill.

Earl Attlee

I fully accept that it should not be on the face of the Bill. That was the first point I made in moving my amendment.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Earl and I listened with great interest to the points that he made. I am sure he will know from his experience that there is a requirement in the regulations of the volunteer reserve forces for annual confidential reports on all officers. That is in line with the practice in regular forces. There is no requirement in the regulations for such formal reports on warrant officers and below in the reserve forces.

However, it is the practice for warrant officers and below in the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the RAF Volunteer Reserve to be the subject of annual reports. In the Royal Marines Reserve they go one better, and report every six months. There are also annual reports on warrant officers and below in certain corps within the Territorial Army.

The noble Earl has raised an interesting suggestion. However, if it were desired to introduce a formal requirement for such reports, I believe it would be appropriate to do so through the regulations rather than have such a requirement on the face of the Bill. In that light, I will therefore undertake to draw the noble Earl's views to the attention of the Service authorities. I hope he will feel more comfortable in withdrawing the amendment on that basis.

Turning to the noble Earl's second amendment, Amendment No. 10, he is quite correct to say that only those men whose services are required should be re-engaged. However, I do not believe his amendment is necessary. What Clause 11 does is create the possibility of re-engagement. It does not create an absolute right for the individual to be re-engaged. In fact, the regulations for the reserve forces impose the condition that the noble Earl mentions, and it will also indeed add other important ones. For example, paragraph 5.142 of the Territorial Army Regulations says that applications for re-engagement are to be subject to the individual's efficiency, his medical standard, his age and a recommendation by his commanding officer. Again, it would not be appropriate to put all those detailed requirements in the Bill, as the noble Earl readily acknowledges. We would not wish to promote one requirement above the others by putting it in primary legislation. That is the other danger.

Perhaps I may advert to a concern expressed by the noble Earl on the question of re-engagement. Clause 19 creates the possibility of notice engagements, so that probably meets his point. I am not sure whether the noble Earl spoke to his final amendment. I may have missed the detailed remarks on that but I would he delighted to respond if he wished to speak to it.

Earl Attlee

I am most grateful for that reply. As for Clause 11, I do not believe I covered it properly but I am sure we can move on. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 [Re-engagement for service]:

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Judd

On behalf of my noble friends and myself, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I just suggest that we ought to look a little at the significance of this clause before we endorse it.

It seems to us that there are two interesting principles at stake here. On the one hand, of course, in the whole concept and ethos of the volunteer services, one is wanting to capitalise on the sense of commitment, keenness and the identification of the individual with the part of the forces in which he or she is serving. That is obviously a very rich asset. But on the other, we are recognising—I believe we are all realistic about this and I am sure the reserve forces take great heart from it—that the reserve forces are becoming increasingly more significant in the total defence effort.

Therefore we wonder just how realistic this clause is. It would be extremely helpful at this stage to hear a little from the noble Earl about the thinking and rationale behind it. Let me just underline the point that I am trying to make.

The clause refers to the right of a man in the Territorial Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve to be enlisted for the service "as he may select". That is good in the sense of the whole issue of morale and identification and a sense of trust, but at a time of acute need, with tremendous pressures on the nation and on the reserve forces, how practical will this always be in terms of the priorities that may be emerging in a particular situation? We would appreciate some enlightenment from the noble Earl on this point. The clause also goes on to say, and in the context of what I have just been saying it is perhaps a little more significant, that a man of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve, may not (after his enlistment in or transfer to that force) be appointed, posted, transferred or attached to any military body or air-force body without his consent. Again, on the one hand, of course it is ideal to have an individual doing something he really wants to do and believes in doing, but in the context and reality of a hot situation, a complicated, demanding situation, will this always be possible? Therefore, while we raise this question, we are looking at the balance between the two principles. We are also anxious that people contemplating service in these contexts, should not in any way be misled. I am sure, therefore, that the noble Earl will realise that we raise the matter not in any sense of hostility to what this Bill is intending to do at all. As the noble Earl will know, we are very much behind the general thrust of the Bill. If I may put it very candidly, we have a sense of anxiety about the implications of the clause and it would be very helpful if the noble Earl could put us more fully in the picture at this stage.

Lord Redesdale

I would like to speak against the proposal that the clause do not stand part because I believe that many members of the Territorial Army are very keen to join one particular arm of the Territorial Army. Indeed, one of the points that must be raised is that we have an increasingly sophisticated army and it takes rather a long time to train members of the Territorial Army to fulfil adequately the function for which they are training. I believe this clause is quite necessary.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for setting out his concerns and it may be helpful to the Committee if I explain the purpose of this clause. It allows men of the Territorial Army and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force the right on enlistment to choose the corps, unit or body in which they wish to serve.

A similar right also extends to men of the Army Reserve or Air Force Reserve who may choose which military or air force body they wish to join when they enlist in those forces.

There is no equivalent provision for the reserve naval and marine forces because they are not divided in the same way as the reserve land and air forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned service ethos.

There is one point that I would stress in this context which is that the choice of corps or unit is an essential part of the volunteer ethos. Allowing an individual a choice of unit or corps with which he can identify is an important aid to maintaining morale.

As the noble Lords will be aware, many units have a strong local identity and recruiting base. This helps to develop and strengthen their links with the local community. They also have in many cases long, honourable and illustrious histories. This really is a powerful factor in encouraging people to join the volunteer reserves. Allowing an individual to choose to join the local unit of his or her choice is an essential part of that.

I believe it is an important reassurance to volunteers that, having chosen their unit, they may not be posted or transferred away from it without their consent. Subsections (3), (4) and (5) provide for this. The prospect of enforced posting is likely in our view to damage recruitment or damage retention or both.

To complete the picture, and in response to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd made, I should perhaps mention that subsection (6) provides that the right that I have referred to is suspended while individuals are in permanent service. That deals with the point about hot demand. Clause 20 explains this in more detail and provides that at the end of a period of permanent service a man is entitled to return to his original unit.

I hope that that is of some assistance and, having heard what I have said, the noble Lord will feel content to let the clause stand part.

Lord Judd

I would like to thank the noble Earl for what he said and I certainly do not want in any way to make a fundamental stand on this clause. But I would like to make the observation that, while I completely take the point he has made about hot situations and subsection (6), which I think is a very valid response by the noble Earl, I am still concerned—as I think it is fair to say are my noble friends—about the importance of not inadvertently selling a false prospectus. One can envisage situations developing in which—however much one would wish it and sees the strength of the principle—it would not be rational or reasonable to put, above all else, the first wish of the individual concerned. In the end, the armed services in any form must be about the defence of the realm and it must be what is necessary for the defence of the realm that takes priority.

In that context, I quite accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made about not wanting to discourage recruits. But I think it is important that anyone contemplating service should always bear in mind, as an individual, that it is not just about doing something nice with friends in a good social setting. It is a serious commitment for the defence of the realm and, therefore, there must be a readiness to do whatever is demanded at any particular time.

Having made those observations, I suspect that I am underlining that we are not totally assured. However, I do not want to delay the proceedings and, therefore, we are quite content to see the clause go forward.

Earl Howe

Before indicating our assent or otherwise to this clause, perhaps I could come back on one point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has made. There may be some factors which inevitably limit the choice available to a potential reservist and that may be the case, for example, where there is some specialism, experience or age range that is a prerequisite for entry into particular units, bodies or corps. Orders or regulations under Clause 4 will have the power to impose such entry restrictions. But, those restrictions are made known to potential recruits through the appropriate advertising literature, so that there is no difficulty about that. They are made known at the time when they inquire about enlistment. I do not believe that there is any question of selling the reserve forces, as it were, on a false prospectus.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Clause 15: [Discharge by commanding officer]:

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16: [Entitlement to discharge]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 12: Page 6, leave out line 24.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 12 stands in my name and those of my noble friends. Clause 16 deals 'with entitlement to discharge. The Committee will be aware that we have had a number of clause stand part debates which is always rather irritating in a sense for the Committee—which we try to avoid—but nevertheless as we are in a position where all these are probing amendments or probing debates I hope the noble Earl will be patient with us. Indeed these are two amendments—if I may speak to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 together——which are essentially probing and essentially clause stand part-type amendments, if I may use that expression.

I should be grateful if the noble Earl could say a few words, on Amendment No. 12, as regards what other circumstances would enable somebody to be entitled to be discharged. It is a broad provision in the Bill. I am perfectly happy that it should be quite broad, but I should be grateful if the noble Earl could give us some indication of what the Government have in mind in including this provision other than a blanket clause just allowing somebody, or the Defence Council, or commanding officer, to specify whatever he thinks is appropriate. Will there, for instance, be some sort of continuity of relationship between the different services and the different voluntary organisations? Will there be any mechanism for ensuring that entitlement to discharge in one service is similar to entitlement to discharge in another? Will there be precedents? Will those precedents rate at all? There are all sorts of questions that arise out of this particular expression in such other circumstances as may be prescribed".

If I may speak for a minute to Amendment No. 13, again I do not wish to leave out subsection (4); this is purely a probing amendment. But the question of whether the man—or presumably woman—concerned should deliver up, in good order, fair wear and tear excepted, all arms, clothing and other public property issued to him is something which strikes a rather odd chord here. If somebody—and it may be a member of the volunteer services—for some reason or other gets into difficulty, illness or whatever it might be, the idea that he should hand in all his kit and all the rest of it as a sort of pre-condition to entitlement to discharge seems to us slightly odd. It depends entirely, as I read the clause, on the whim of the commanding officer as to whether these matters should apply. I should be grateful if the noble Earl could clarify these matters a bit, in the light of the fact that we do not care what government statements are made about the amendments that we move. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord for setting out the background to these amendments, and I am glad of course to clarify what is meant by the section of the text to which he has directed the Committee's attention. The last paragraph of Clause 16 gives valuable flexibility for regulations to create additional rights to early discharge, which we would not wish to lose. An example of the application of the power is that the regulations for the Royal Naval Reserve provide a right of discharge to a man who is to join the Merchant Navy. Subsection (4) forms part of the right to be discharged before the end of the term of service, which is created by subsection 2(a). That right is an important part of maintaining the volunteer spirit. Indeed, without it, many potential recruits might well not join at all. They are reassured to know that, if their personal circumstances or their employment circumstances change, or simply if they find that the reserve life does not suit them, they can leave without difficulty.

However, we think that that right should he subject to conditions. The notice period of not more than three months serves to prevent individuals resigning, perhaps under pressure from their families or something like that, when call-out seems likely. The requirement to return clothing and equipment safeguards the public purse, which is quite right and proper. Subsection (4) permits those conditions to be waived by the commanding officer if he thinks that the reasons for discharge are of sufficient urgency or weight. That, again, is a useful flexibility. In normal circumstances the requirement for notice is quite often waived, because there is little point in keeping someone on the books who is unwilling. If someone is ill, the normal practice would be for the unit to collect the man's kit.

The noble Lord asked whether there would he identical regulations within each of the services. The answer is that there will be a general similarity but perhaps differences of detail between each service. But the principles will be exactly the same.

I hope that that background is of assistance and that the noble Lord will feel comfortable in withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Can the noble Earl tell the Committee whether these arrangements are already in force under existing legislation and, if so, how in practice they have worked out? Have they worked out well?

Earl Howe

They are in force at the moment and in general they do work very well, so the Bill does no more than lay out current practice.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Orders and regulations as to enlistment etc.]:

Lord Williams of Elvel

Clause 19 brings us back to the question of what I would call over-ride—that is, whether regulations made under Clause 4 are so wide in scope that they over-ride almost everything else, or many things, in the Bill. In particular, we are talking about enlistment, re-engagement and the discharge of men from the reserve forces.

As I read Clause 19—I hope that the noble Earl will be able to help me on this—regulations under Clause 4 over-ride all the matters that we have previously discussed in Committee with respect to the matters which I have read out. I have no doubt that, under certain circumstances, that may be desirable, but it does seem to be a slightly odd feature of the Bill as I read it. No doubt the noble Earl will be able to help me if I have got it wrong. Under Clause 19, anything that has come before can be amended by regulations as specified in Clause 19(1). That is the basic problem I have with Clause 19, the only exceptions being subsection (3) and (4) which have some limitation under these powers. Other than that, the question is really very wide indeed. I wonder whether the Government can explain exactly why these powers in their wide ambit are required.

5 p.m.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord. This clause enables orders or regulations to be made to deal with the details of service and the details of enlistment and re-engagement, sometimes referred to as terms of service regulations. It is modelled on Section 2 of the Armed Forces Act 1966, which provides an equivalent power to make the terms of service regulations for the regular forces.

One reason for the change is to allow for the same flexibility over engagements in the reserves as the Armed Forces Act 1966 allows in the case of the regular forces. The Reserve Forces Act 1980 stipulates fixed engagements of between one and five years for various forces in different circumstances. That can be inflexible. It may be worth reminding the Committee of the point I made to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, a little earlier that the flexibility created by this clause is valuable. In particular, if it were ever thought appropriate, the approach adopted in the clause would allow for a change to engagements for a longer period with provision for a formal period of notice to end the engagement. That would of course be additional to the general right to give notice in writing to leave before the end of the engagement under Clause 16(2). Such a system would offer the advantage of avoiding the need for individuals to re-engage periodically, sometimes as often as every year. That causes an administrative burden and occasionally results in reservists deciding not to re-engage at this point, even though they might otherwise stay on. Therefore I believe that a change of this kind could assist retention.

Clause 19(2) also makes engagements for home or local service possible, thus allowing for greater flexibility in the future. That would offer the chance to serve in the reserve forces to those who have a contribution to make in the reserves but feel that they could not easily assume the fuller burdens of the normal liability to serve anywhere in the world.

The remaining subsections (3) and (4) safeguard the rights of an individual. They ensure that no greater obligation can be imposed on him without his consent than he is under during his current period of service. His rights would be unaffected by any subsequent change to the provisions of the orders or regulations.

In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, the regulations obviously have to operate within the statutory framework. It would be quite inappropriate, indeed ultra vires, if they ever sought to override the statute. I felt that I should make that point.

Lord Williams of Elvel

When the noble Earl says that they deal with the details, there is nothing in Clause 19 that I see which refers to details. I do not have to read out to the Committee Clause 19(1) which says in effect that orders or regulations under Clause 4 may make provision for anything in Part II, which deals with enlistment and conditions of service. I do not see anything in there, subject to the restrictions placed in subsections (3) and (4) of the clause, which stops an order under Clause 4 of the Bill changing anything in Clauses 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. Am I wrong in that?

Earl Howe

The short answer to that is "Yes".

Lord Williams of Elvel

In what manner?

Earl Howe

The noble Lord may have misheard me. I said that the clause enables orders or regulations to be made to deal with the details of service. The clause itself does not purport to deal with the details. What it does is to enable orders to be made to deal with those details.

Lord Williams of Elvel

There is no mention of details in the clause. This may be a drafting point, and I may be following something rather stupid, but I must read out to the Committee Clause 19(1): Orders or regulations under section 4"— which is in the first part of the Bill may make provision with respect to the enlistment and re-engagement of men in, and the discharge of men from, the reserve forces and generally for carrying this Part into effect".

Lord Mottistone

What is wrong with that?

Earl Howe

The point here is that the clause is implicitly subject to the details set out in Clauses 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and so on. The Bill, as I said earlier, has to be read as a whole. It cannot be read piecemeal.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am grateful to the noble Earl for that. That is a statement of the position of the Bill which I am sure the courts will take into account, should it ever come to that.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 21 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Judd

I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Williams said about the number of clause stand part debates that we are having, but it seems to me that one of the advantages of the procedure that we are following is that in some ways it gives a better opportunity to probe the thinking and rationale behind particular clauses than may always he the case in the more usual procedures which we pursue in the Chamber itself. I do not feel apologetic about it, because it seems to me to be a very enlightened way to approach legislation.

It is in that spirit that we raise again our doubts on Clause 21. It is not that we want to oppose it; we do not fully understand it. That is the problem and I am sure that the noble Earl, in his very courteous and helpful way, will remove any doubts that we have.

At first sight, it seems to us—and it may just be that we are misreading what is intended—a little strange that if someone is serving in a particular force, he should he designated in any way that is unfamiliar to those with whom he is serving. It seems to me that for the time he is in that particular force, it makes much more sense to acquire the titles and designations which apply in that force so that everybody understands the situation and there are no complications. This may well be cleared up by the noble Earl in a moment or two. We should like to hear his observations on this.

Earl Howe

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I am happy to clarify the provisions of Clause 21 for the benefit of the Committee.

The purpose of this clause is to make it clear that former marines in the Royal Fleet Reserve are treated as marines and not as naval ratings when in permanent service, performing duties or undergoing training. It avoids two problems. First, men of the Royal Fleet Reserve come under the Naval Discipline Act when called out or being trained or exercised. Those who are former Royal Marines come under the Naval Discipline Act when on ship or on the books of a naval establishment, and are also subject to military law under the Army Act. This reflects the position of regular Royal Marines. This clause, in conjunction with the relevant service discipline Acts, recognises it.

Secondly, it clarifies which sets of orders, regulations and other powers apply to former marines in the Royal Fleet Reserve when called out or training. It is a fairly abstruse area, but that is the explanation. I hope that the noble Lord will find it of assistance.

Lord Mottistone

Having served with Marines both ashore and afloat, I can slightly help the noble Lords opposite. The Royal Marine, when he serves at sea, as was explained by my noble friend, comes under the Naval Discipline Act. When he serves ashore, on the whole he comes under the Army Act for disciplinary purposes. This kind of thing has to be taken care of and it has to be covered for reserves in a special way, particularly in relation to when they are in permanent service. It is an obscure area as my noble friend says, and I really feel that it would be helpful to the noble Lords opposite to have a lengthy lecture from a distinguished Royal Marine and, if necessary, I could try and arrange that for them if they really want to know the answer to this. But I can assure them that what is here makes a great deal of sense to me.

Lord Judd

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, for what he has just said. I find it very helpful. I would just like to suggest that, in view of the helpful explanation, there might be a case for the Government looking again at this clause and seeing whether it could not more self-evidently and clearly state what the noble Earl has explained to the Committee. I am not claiming any particular intellectual status for those of us on this side of the Committee, but if we were slightly bewildered by the intention of the clause it might be that others contemplating service or reading the Act, without the benefit of the background and experience, might also be a little bewildered. It seems to us that it is better if legislation states clearly what is intended as distinct from stating in a rather obscure way what is intended and only enabling people to discover the full meaning if they have the opportunity of questioning the responsible Minister. I would be glad if the noble Earl would take the main purport of what we have been saying and at least indicate that he is prepared to look at the matter before the Bill is finalised.

Earl Howe

I will gladly look at it again. The key point is that former regular soldiers joined the Army Reserve, former regular naval ratings joined the Royal Fleet Reserve hut so do former regular Royal Marines. The point of the clause is to keep those two bodies of men separate. That is the essence of it.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Williams of Elvel

Again, these are fairly small points. I am sure that all Members of the Committee would wish to preserve the principle that members of the reserve forces should be properly trained. Otherwise they will be no good when they are called out into service, and it is appropriate that there should be obligatory training as specified in Clause 22. The problem—if there is a problem—comes in exemptions to obligatory training. I should be grateful if the noble Earl could give an assurance that exemptions will be carefully monitored, limited to the smallest possible extent, and not given without due consideration. Will exemption under subsection (3)(b) "in the case of the unit or group" be carefully considered by senior officers?

Earl Howe

As the noble Lord indicated, the clause relates to the power to make exemptions from the training obligation under Clause 22, or to relax that obligation. Subsections (1) and (2) permit the appropriate orders or regulations to be made. It may be helpful to the Committee if I explain what lies behind the proposal. The power will be used, for example, to exempt officers who are in the Territorial Army or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve solely for the purpose of service with the cadet forces from their training liability.

Subsection (3) enables the Defence Council to delegate to an "authorised officer" the power to exempt particular units or other groups from their full training obligations. Those obligations may also be relaxed as an alternative to straight exemption. For example, it may be that some unusual circumstance leads to cancellation of a unit's annual camp. If there were insufficient time to arrange another in the training year, it would be necessary to exempt the unit from its liability. The "authorised officer" will be an officer somewhere in the chain of command between the Defence Council and the commanding officer of a unit. He might be, in the case of the Territorial Army, a Brigade Commander or Divisional Commander.

A commanding officer will have the power to exempt or relax the training obligations of individuals under his command. This might be because the individual already has the necessary qualification or skill or, indeed, to take account of personal commitments.

It is in our view sensible that decisions of this kind are taken by the people best placed to know the personal circumstances of the individuals concerned. I can assure noble Lords that all such decisions are very carefully taken and considered. I hope that is of help to the noble Lord and that the Committee will agree that this delegation of the power is appropriate and indeed can only work to the benefit of the individual.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Commitments to a period of full-time service]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 14: Page 10, line 40, at end insert— ("( ) A person who, in any training year, has been in continuous full-time service for a period exceeding one month shall—

  1. (a) have that period of service count towards the period of service required to qualify for a Territorial Decoration or Territorial Efficiency Medal;
  2. (b) be certified efficient and qualify for any annual training or liability bounty notwithstanding that he may not have passed all the relevant tests.").

The noble Earl said: I start by declaring a special interest. I already have my Territorial Efficiency Medal and I aspire to my Territorial Decoration. The Territorial Efficiency Medal is for soldiers; the Territorial Decoration is for officers. The position of my OC is the same, and several other officers within my unit are in the same position. They already have the TEM and they aspire to the TD.

There was a problem during the Gulf War where TA soldiers and officers were invited to take on an S-type engagement or a short service voluntary commission. The problem came at the end of the training year when it transpired that they had not carried out all their training commitments. Perhaps they had not done a camp, perhaps they had not passed annual personal weapons test—for some reason they had not met their training liability.

There was also another problem. The time they served in the Regular Army on the S-type engagement or the short service voluntary commission did not accrue towards either their Territorial Efficiency Medal or their Territorial Decoration. I hope the Bill covers this problem and I look forward to listening to what the noble Earl, the Minister, has to say on that.

At one point there was a study on the two TA long service medals. Does the Minister know where we are with that? If he does, can he advise us? If he does not know, can I ask him not to interfere? I have never heard a complaint about the two medals and they should be left exactly as they are. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

I support the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and speak to my amendment, Amendment No. 25. I realise that this is a probing amendment and I doubt that it will make the face of the Bill. However, I would like to question the Minister on what are two of the most useful tools of the Territorial Army in keeping both our soldiers for a long period of time and also making sure that they fulfil their commitment and training. Obviously the S-type engagement which has been discussed has raised questions in many people's minds and it is not a matter which is taken lightly. Both the TEM and the TD are regarded extremely highly and the people who are aspiring to these medals have to serve 12 years to get them. If they fail one year to fulfil their engagement, they have to complete a further year.

I believe that both the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and I are intimately acquainted with the problems that can he associated with this as we both commanded the same LAD and we have both had to deal with the paperwork involved when a craftsman, a recovery mechanic, had lost one payslip and was therefore discounted from getting his TEM. It caused a great deal of uproar within the unit.

I realise that it may not get on the face of the Bill, but I hope the noble Earl can give us some assurance that these matters will be taken seriously.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to both the noble Lords who have spoken. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, raised two points in his amendment which I know are of concern in the Territorial Army. I must say that I find myself in sympathy with much of it.

He is proposing, in essence, that time spent performing full-time service under a commitment as provided in Clause 24 of the Bill should count towards the time required to earn entitlement to the Territorial Decoration and the Territorial Efficiency Medal.

At present the time required to earn the Territorial Decoration and the Territorial Efficiency Medal must generally be spent continuously in the Territorial Army. We have not yet fully considered the rules which might apply to service under a Clause 24 agreement. I understand, however, that TA personnel joining the Regular Army on short service volunteer commissions and special S-type engagements may count that service towards their Territorial decoration or efficiency medal. I see no reason why the same should not apply to service under Clause 24, although, as I say, no decision has yet been made.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made a similar point in connection with the eligibility for such awards of those serving on special agreements under Part IV. The same remarks apply there. I should add for the benefit of the Committee that eligibility for medals and awards is governed entirely by prerogative, and is therefore not an appropriate matter for the Bill. But I will take away the views of the Committee, with which I find myself in sympathy.

The way in which full-time service under Clause 24 will affect entitlement to bounty has not yet been decided. We envisage that some types of full-time service would qualify for full regular rates of pay. It might be seen as unfair to regulars for such service to earn bounty as well. I can assure the noble Earl that I am very much aware of the strength of feeling that surrounds the issue of bounty in the Territorial Army and I believe that the concerns on this point should be drawn to the attention of the appropriate service authorities. I shall certainly do that. However, the details of such matters are properly matters for the various reserve forces regulations rather than this Bill.

I hope that, having heard those remarks, the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Attlee

I thank the noble Earl the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Additional duties commitments]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 15: Page 11, line 4, after ("duties,") insert ("including participation in operations,").

The noble Earl said: This amendment inserts the words "including participation in operations". It is a probing amendment to see how far the clause goes. Can the Minister confirm that there is absolutely no limit on what a TA soldier can be doing under this clause?

Earl Howe

Let me say immediately that the sense of the noble Earl's amendment is quite correct. We do wish reservists serving under Clause 25 to be able to undertake operational duties. However, the same is true of those serving under full-time commitment in Clause 24. We intend that reservists undertaking voluntary duties under Clause 27(1)(b) could take part in disaster relief operations.

The effect of the amendment would be to imply that the word "duties", when used elsewhere in the Bill, did not include operational duties. That would severely constrain the flexibility that the Bill would bring to the reserve forces. I hope that those remarks have clarified the position for the noble Earl.

Earl Attlee

I thank the noble Earl. Can we therefore understand that the word "duties" includes operations?

Earl Howe

The word "duties" is not defined in the Bill. It is understood to mean any activity which the individual may lawfully be required to carry out as a member of a force.

Earl Attlee

I thank the noble Earl for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Parliamentary control of commitments]:

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 27 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Williams of Elvel

Clause 27 deals with voluntary training and other duties. I wonder if the noble Earl could help me on what are relatively little matters. It is perfectly clear that the general thrust of the clause is right and acceptable but certain questions do arise. For instance, what happens if somebody wishes to undertake voluntary training? Who pays for that? Who meets the bill? Who meets the transport cost and the training cost? Is there any arrangement in force to ensure that the volunteer is not penalised? How will this all work in practice both financially and in terms of people's employment? I should be most grateful if the noble Earl could give us the Government's view on how this will work in the future.

Earl Howe

This clause formalises the existing arrangements under which members of the reserve forces carry out more than their statutory obligations. It explicitly allows them to carry out duties as well as training. The reserve forces can only function because so many of their members volunteer to carry out duties and training well beyond their minimum obligations. This clause simply gives a clear legal basis for this, and provides that an individual carrying out extra training or duties is subject to service law, which is what one would expect.

Under this clause members of the reserve forces could take advantage of any opportunities for training or duty which became available at short notice. It would also allow for those who were available to perform ad hoc tasks such as providing additional manpower in times of disruption caused by severe weather or something of that kind.

The noble Lord asked about the financial arrangements in connection with voluntary duties. Obviously the key point is that an individual performs his statutory requirement, his statutory duty, before the voluntary element comes into play. There are arrangements for unpaid training set out in TA regulations; that training is either like normal training but personnel voluntarily agree to forego the pay that they would have received, or it is training of limited value and whilst on duty the individual concerned does not incur a cost to the MoD. My explanation has reached its conclusion. I shall gladly take advice on the precise financial arrangements which apply and, if necessary, we can return to this at a later stage and I shall be delighted to elucidate the Committee further.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am most grateful to the noble Earl. I should be quite happy to receive a letter from him—which perhaps he might send to other Members of the Committee—on the precise details that, perhaps purely because of my limited comprehension, have not managed to get through to me.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Special agreements]:

5.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 17: Page 12, line 38, leave out ("in qualifying employment").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 17 stands in my name and those of my noble friends. Of course it is not the intention to leave out the expression "in qualifying employment" because that is an important expression in Part IV. Nevertheless, I should be grateful if the noble Earl could give us a definition, quite apart from the definition in the explanatory Clause 37, of qualifying employment. Is someone who is self-employed, a partner in a business, who may have, "a contract of service which normally involves employment for 14 hours" excluded? It could be a variable contract or it could be shift work. I am bound to say that I am a little confused about what "qualifying employment" really means and whether self-employed people and partners in businesses are excluded under this definition of "qualifying employment". I should be most grateful if the noble Earl could help me on the matter. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this amendment. Provisions for employers' consent have been influenced to no small degree by the consultation process that we carried out. We need to safeguard the legitimate interests of employers without excessive administration, while maintaining as far as possible the assured availability of the individuals for call out. What we wanted to allow for in the Bill was the fact that a proportion of reservists would not be in traditional, full-time employment. We wanted to protect the interests of the employer for whom a reservist works for, say, half the week but without giving a veto over the special agreement to, say, the landlord for whom the reservist serves drinks on one evening a week. That is why we introduced the concept of "qualifying employment". We have set the threshold at 14 hours a week, which is just less than two normal working days or their equivalent. There is provision in Clause 37(4) for that figure to be reduced if it seems appropriate to do so in future years. For the moment, however, we believe 14 hours to be right.

The noble Lord asked me about partnerships and the self-employed. The clause does not apply to either and in fact it would be difficult to legislate effectively to intervene in a business relationship of the kind that a partnership embodies. Indeed, legally speaking, neither the self-employed nor partners are employed people.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am grateful to the noble Earl as far as that goes. But does he then mean to say that Part IV as a whole will not apply to partners or self-employed people or people on casual employment, or is there some arrangement in another part of the Bill which will allow that to work?

Earl Howe

I would do well to draw the noble Lord's and the Committee's attention to Clause 29(2)(a), which refers specifically to those not in qualifying employment. If someone is not in qualifying employment, clearly he does not need the employer's consent.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Short-term contracts are becoming an increasing feature of the industrial scene nowadays. People have a contract for perhaps two years, and they may or may not have another contract at the end of the two years. Would that be qualifying employment or not?

Earl Howe

It is quite difficult to see how individuals on short-term contracts or temporary contracts could meet the terms of the special agreement. The nature of such employment would mean that many individuals would be completely unable to predict with any certainty what their future employment circumstances were going to be. It is also likely that their employer would not be prepared to give his consent. So I believe there are major difficulties there.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am sure the noble Earl will understand that this is quite an important point. This is a fairly new concept and we wish to explore it, if I may say so, at some length. The noble Earl replied to my noble friend that anyone on a short-term contract would have difficulty in complying with the arrangements.

As my noble friend pointed out, this is increasing not only in the national services but also in the manufacturing service in the sense that employers, looking to specialised firms to take on a workforce, contract that to what was formerly an employerW—in other words, there is a contracting out of labour. That is very common not only in manufacturing industries, but also in national services and it will become more important as we go on. Without wishing to trespass on other matters, it allows employers more flexibility in the terms and conditions under which they can contract for a labour force. That is a reality in today's life.

Secondly, the noble Earl said that, in terms of self-employed and partners, quite rightly under Clause 29(2) they did not require a certificate from their employer; that is self-evident. Nevertheless, if you have a partnership in an accounting firm or a solicitor's firm, clearly a solicitor or an accountant would wish to sign a special agreement. How would he get the agreement of his partners either in a solicitor's firm or not? He does not have to have a certificate from his employer because he is not employed. How would all this work? I hope the noble Earl does not feel that I am raising points that are not of important principle and I should be grateful if he could help us further.

Earl Howe

I fully understand the points that the noble Lord has made and, of course, we live in an age when contracting out is very much a reality of life. I should draw a distinction between the type of contractor who has a permanent workforce which may be employed by somebody else to perform some task or other—in other words, there is a firm with permanent employees on its books and that firm is contracted to do a job—and the situation to which the noble Baroness referred, which I think is one of short-term work by individuals on contract, very often self-employed.

Baroness Turner of Camden

It is not unusual, however, for people to be on short-term contracts for a very long time. They have a contract for two years. At the end of the two years there will be a renewal of the contract and so on. This has been a feature of certain kinds of work for a long while. I refer in particular, to people who work on, say, university projects for which there is a certain amount of money available. They will have two years and at the end of the two years there is still more money and they can be given another two years and another two years. It is not uncommon for people to go on for 14 or 15 years like that.

Earl Howe

The noble Baroness is perfectly right but I come back to the point that I made earlier. There has to be certainty on both sides. If the individual cannot predict with certainty what he or she might be doing, then it is very difficult either for him or her, or the employer, to give consent and I think that there is a real practical difficulty in those circumstances.

The noble Lord asked me about partnerships. I think the problem with partnerships is that it would be difficult to legislate effectively to intervene in a business relationship of that nature. Partners are not employed by each other and it is a relationship of the utmost good faith in legal terms. In that light, a reservist would, in view of his duty of good faith to his fellow partners, discuss his intentions with them presumably before making a special agreement. It would be perfectly possible for him to do so—the Bill does not preclude it—but there is a different type of arrangement. We fully recognise that the pool of people with the necessary skills, whose personal and employment circumstances permit them to be available for operations at relatively short notice, may be quite small. It is better to find that out in advance than at a time of crisis. The short answer to the noble Lord is that it is, at the moment, too early to say how great a problem there might be. I believe that the Bill takes us a step forward from the arrangements that now apply. We shall, of course, do our best to make the concept a success.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am grateful to the noble Earl. I know that he recognises the difficulty. I agree entirely that the pool of people available to sign the special agreements specified in Part IV may be a problem. It is not only a question of short-term contracts by employers; it is also a question of short-term contracts by firms providing workforces on contract to people who are entrepreneurs. They could be banks; they could be anything. Clearly, a partnership is something that could be overcome; nevertheless a partnership agreement may be required which a party should sign. I am trying to help the Government to increase the pool of people available. There may well be ways of restructuring to allow for that. There may well be ways of making self-employed people available in a way we cannot yet predict. My concern, as I mentioned on Second Reading, is that we have to wait and see how the proposal works, but we need to understand the difficulties that may accrue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 18: Page 13, line 11, at end insert— ("( ) No person, other than a person with a medical qualification. shall enter into a special agreement unless he has, on the date on which he enters into that agreement, been under training for three years as a member of the reserve forces or as a member of the regular army.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is two-fold. First, to set a minimum time commitment for service and training before one can enter into a special agreement means that the soldiers entering that commitment will be properly trained. Secondly, there will be a small group of people who are specially trained in services the Army want. I talk about services that are available outside the Army. However, there are also specialities and skills that will only be acquired through training. I refer, for instance, to recovery mechanics serving with REME; there are very few outside. In the Signals regiments, there are those trained in specialist types of equipment. It takes a good deal of time to acquire all these skills. Although three years seems a prohibitive amount of time before someone can take part in a special agreement, the actual nature of training within the Territorial Army has to be appreciated to see why that period is necessary. The first year will he spent in basic training. There are only 35 man-training days a year in which to learn how to use a rifle, how to carry out basic first-aid, acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare skills and to attend camp. That leaves two further years in which to learn a specialised skill. In the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, vehicle electricians have to acquire such skills working on vehicles which are not usually in operation outside the Army. To acquire such specialised skills means attending courses within the Army. That will take up the training commitment for that year and although sometimes you can extend your man-training days you are limited to learning certain skills and you have to go on the next year to enhance your skills. Obviously the time commitment of three years seems more realistic although it is quite harsh.

The other point I wish to raise is that the most difficult time as regards employers is when employees first join the TA. One often finds that when people have been in the Territorial Army for a number of years their employer understands more about the Territorial Army. Perhaps he visits the Territorial unit and understands what it does and is therefore more sympathetic to the needs of the Territorial Army. In the amendment I exclude those with medical qualifications because doctors and the like will not need the same amount of military training as others. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee

I rise briefly to support this amendment. It is right that people with insufficient military experience should not be undertaking such a commitment. I believe there is a slight drafting error with the amendment in that it does not acknowledge previous Regular Army service or service in another force, but in principle it is right that we should restrict service in the high readiness reserve to people with sufficient experience.

Earl Howe

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has raised an important point. I agree with him that those who take on the obligation of becoming a member of the high readiness reserve should be properly trained. Indeed that applies equally to those liable to be deployed on operations under other parts of the Bill, although I remember the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, explaining to us at Second Reading how such considerations were set aside in his case in 1939.

I can say that when we sought volunteers for deployment to Bosnia in December, minimum training qualifications were set for each post to be filled. The nub of the amendment is therefore well taken by the service authorities. There are difficulties —some of them fairly obvious—with setting out a provision like this which has universal applicability. The amendment mentions doctors as a special case, but what about engineers, say, or linguists? Quite often in the volunteer reserve forces one keen individual may make more progress in one year's service than another who can manage only the minimum attendance, would make in three years.

A provision taking account of all those points would be far too detailed for the Bill, and would still not allow the flexibility needed to deal with special cases. I have to say that it will be better to leave it to the service authorities to set their own rules and procedures. Those rules and procedures are fully in accord with the thrust of the amendment. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will be content to withdraw the amendment in the light of what I have said.

Lord Redesdale

I thank the Minister for that reply. However, although he says that certain skills are needed such as engineering or linguistic skills, certain requirements should not be overlooked. Just because someone turns up who can speak a Slavic language it does not mean that he should immediately go to Bosnia. He might never have seen a rifle let alone laid hands on one and there are still certain training commitments he should undertake such as training in the nuclear, biological or chemical fields. However, I take the point the Minister has made. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Attlee

Clause 28 is the paving clause for the high readiness reserve. It is clearly a very important and key part of the Bill. I have a little difficulty with it in that when I speak to the powers that be they seem somewhat unsure of exactly what sort of specialisations they are looking for. Are they looking for so many drivers, infantrymen or mechanics, or are they looking for chest surgeons, cartographers or other specialities?

It will cause a problem with recruiting in that many employers will think that members of the TA are likely to go off at short notice when in fact it has been acknowledged that the numbers involved in a high readiness reserve are really quite low. But it needs to be remembered that employment decisions and promotion decisions within commercial organisations are made at quite low levels by relatively unsophisticated people. Therefore, they can easily get the wrong end of the stick.

I also wonder whether it is strictly necessary. There is a concept within the new reserve forces structure of the ready reserve list, a list of volunteers who are prepared to go at short notice. The ready reserve list does not appear on the face of the Bill because it does not need primary legislation; it is basically an internal arrangement in the units. So I wonder whether the arrangement for high readiness reserves would be better made by the ready reserve list. I also wonder whether we are missing a great untapped wealth of skills throughout the TA for this reason. You can have an infantry unit with some very fine vehicle mechanics within that unit, when there is not a REME unit nearby. Therefore they will join the nearest unit which happens to be infantry. If we had a decent database we could do a trawl for the specialist skills we wanted and extract them from whatever unit they happened to be in.

My chief point is this. Exactly what does the Minister want out of the high readiness reserves in terms of the skills he is looking for? I beg to move.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for setting out his concerns with his usual clarity. This clause, as he has indicated, provides that a reservist may enter into a special agreement making him liable to be called out for up to nine months' permanent service anywhere in the world.

As I said earlier, it is not anticipated that the numbers of special agreement reservists will be great—perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 at most under current plans. The nine-month time limit, incidentally, is something of a compromise between call out for as long as the particular operation is in progress and the reality that the reservist in question has a civilian job to fulfil. It is generally considered that nine months will cover most foreseeable cases, either in their entirety or will give the regular forces sufficient time to identify a further reservist replacement at the end of that time. Furthermore, it is provided that the reservist's employer must be notified that his employee is proposing to take on this extra liability and he must give his consent to it.

This giving of consent does not preclude the employer, or indeed the reservist himself, from applying to have the reservist exempted from call out or to have that call out deferred under Part VIII of the Bill. In the nature of things I fully accept that the call out of such a reservist may arise at times which are extremely difficult for his employer and when that employer needs to have the reservist at his place of civilian employment. We would expect this to reduce the number of such applications in the first place.

The intention is that the approval of all employers to whom the employee provides significant service should be obtained. A reservist may have more than one employer for these purposes, but it is our clear view that it should not be necessary for a reservist to have to seek the consent of every person who employs him, no matter for how long. I have referred to that distinction earlier this afternoon. A reservist who has a part-time job working behind a bar for a few hours a week will not therefore need to get the consent of the publican. The clause introduces the concept of qualifying employment which provides that to require the employer's consent the reservist must work at the job in question for over a threshold of 14 hours per week.

The high readiness reserve is designed to attract skills which are in short supply. The basis for that is that it is not sensible to rely on seeking volunteers possessing such skills at a time of crisis. One cannot at the moment be specific as to all the skills which would be needed, but they are likely to include linguists, intelligence staff, medical staff, and air movement support staff. The skills required may well change over time. As we have said, it is too early to say how great a problem there might he in finding such people. Positive promotion to reservists and employers will be necessary; and recruitment to the reserves might be targeted on those with the appropriate civilian skills.

I hope that those remarks will have served to clarify the Government's thinking in bringing forward these proposals and that the Committee will be content to let the Clause stand part.

Earl Attlee

I thank the noble Earl for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Consent of new employer]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 19: Page 14, line 9, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend. I am not terribly happy about these subsections because I am not quite certain why they are necessary. It seems to me that, as they stand, they give a fair amount of power to the so-called authorised person and the employer, but not so much to the individual directly involved. Under these two subsections the authorised person gives a certificate on a prescribed form that the employer has given his consent, but it then goes on to say that the certificate is to be conclusive evidence that the employer has consented to the continuation in force of the special agreement, even when the special agreement would otherwise have been terminated under Clause 31(2).

It seems to me that there could well be a situation in which the individual concerned believes that a special agreement has terminated and that he therefore no longer has any obligations under it, whereas this may not be the case at all, and the employer could perhaps use it as a way of getting rid of someone he did not particularly like. This does not seem to me to be a very good idea. There is no hint in either of these two subsections that the individual concerned should be approached—it is simply a deal between the authorised person and the employer. I may have misunderstood these two subsections but I would appreciate hearing what the Minister has to say about what I have indicated in moving the amendment.

Earl Howe

Part of the point of requiring an authorised officer to certify the employer's consent is that it will protect the interests of the employer, but it also protects the interests of the employee too. Indeed, it is the individual who takes the initiative in the first place to enter into a special agreement of this kind.

It may help the Committee if I explain a little about the procedure. The most straightforward procedure would be for the services to accept a note conveying the employer's consent and accept that note at face value. A provision in the Bill allows the authorised officer to consider and investigate whether the consent is valid. It is not inconceivable that an over-zealous reservist might produce a note showing an employer's consent without actually having troubled his boss. Once the authorised person has concluded that the consent is valid, we then return to the position we would have been in anyway, which is that the consent is taken to be effective. If it later transpired that the consent was in fact not properly given, the employer would be able to apply for the agreement to be terminated under Clause 31(1)(c) and 31(2). Cases would be considered on their merits, but I can say it would be with a presumption that termination would be granted unless there were good reasons not to do so.

I hope that what I have said addresses the noble Baroness's main concern—certainly I have tried to do that. I would be happy to reflect further on what she has said between now and Report stage.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I thank the Minister for that response. We shall certainly look at it when we have Hansard to see whether we need to do something at Report stage. I am very grateful for his assurance that he will look at what has been said to see whether anything needs to be done to strengthen the rights of the individual. That is what I am concerned about—the rights of the individual employee. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Call-out notices]:

6 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 20: Page 15, leave out lines 9 to 11.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 28 and 45. Call-out notices are served which require somebody of high readiness—I am reading from the text of the Bill as drafted, to remain at that place until he is either accepted into service of informed that he is not to be accepted into service in pursuance of the notice". We have discussed the possibility that the pool of those available is perhaps rather more limited than we think. I wonder whether the noble Earl can help me on this matter? It does seem to me to be rather curious, to say the least, to expect somebody even in high readiness, having signed an agreement and having received a call-out notice, not to know whether he is going to be accepted for service. By remaining at that place, which could be for an indeterminate period of time, he could lose whatever preferment he had in his employment. He could be simply, as it were, sitting around and not moving house or whatever it might be. Am I right in interpreting it in that way, and, if so, is that really what the Government seek to achieve? I beg to move.

Earl Howe

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, has expressed concern that the placing of a legal requirement to remain at the place to which he is due to report may be somewhat onerous. I do not accept that. The clause and the corresponding clauses in Part V—Clause 43—Part VI—Clause 58—and Part VII—Clause 70—all make clear what has always been implicit in a call-out or recall notice. It is only commonsense that where an individual is required to present himself for service, he should be expected to remain there until the necessary administrative processes that enable him to be accepted into service can be completed, and he is told that he is or is not accepted. Having said that, the services will always endeavour to process personnel as quickly as possible. If there is a serious delay, it will be possible under Clause 32(5) for them to be told to come back at a later date. So I do not believe in practical terms there need be a difficulty here. I quite understand the general concern that the noble Lord has expressed but in practice I do not believe that this will be a problem. I hope in the light of what I have said the noble Lord will feel a little less anxious.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Let me take the position of an accountant. We have discussed the possibility of partners under a partnership agreement or whatever it is. Let me take the case of an accountant in one of the Big Six accounting firms. He has signed up because there is a requirement for accountants, let us say, at a particular point and we do not know what that requirement might be. He then is served with a call-out notice. You are required to come to wherever it is in, say, Chelmsford, when he works in London but lives in Chelmsford, and you are required, according to the words of the Bill, to remain at that place for an unspecified period of time until the bureaucracy of the armed forces, if I may put it like that, has decided whether or not you are accepted for service. In the meantime this chap, who is earning larger sums of money than either the noble Earl or I earn, is just sitting around doing nothing.

That is an extreme example and I accept that. All I am trying to get from the Minister is an understanding that within the pool of people who are liable to sign up for high readiness reserve, there may be some very experienced people earning large sums of money, who would be disadvantaged unless the procedure of acceptance or non-acceptance is accelerated beyond what is apparent in the Bill.

Earl Howe

As I have said, the services will always endeavour to process the flow of personnel as quickly as they possibly can. The call-out process inevitably involves a medical check and examination, completion of documentation and so on, and one would expect that process to be completed in a matter of hours. Many formalities could be settled in advance for those on special agreements, so there is nothing to preclude that.

I take the noble Lord's point that there may he cases where there is an undue delay. Let us suppose that if between the time a man presents himself for service and the time he is formally accepted into service there is a delay, and in that time he leaves the place concerned because he cannot afford to stay there any longer, technically he would be committing an offence under Clause 95(1)(b). But there is a defence of reasonable excuse to that offence, as there is to all the offences in Clause 95, of "leave lawfully granted or reasonable excuse". "Reasonable excuse" requires the defendant to prove that on the balance of probabilities, which is the lowest standard of proof, what he did was reasonable in the circumstances, so you would have to show that there was a good, overriding reason for him to leave the place he had been ordered to remain in.

I think that is taking the case to an extreme. I only mention it because it is informative to the Committee, but the main point is that I do not believe such considerations are likely to arise in practice.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am very grateful to the noble Earl, and I admire his optimism that such situations are not liable to arise. I myself remember, as I said at Second Reading, the recruitment of the Z reservists at the time of Suez, and the delays involved for people going through exactly the routine that the noble Earl has described—the medical check-ups and filling in the forms. It was not a question of hours—it took weeks. I am worried that someone will put forward the reasonable excuse, "I am earning £100,000 a year with an accounting firm and I cannot go on sitting here just because you do not have a doctor to do my ECG" or whatever it is, "I am really rather worried and I have to go on working". That is not actually a reasonable excuse and I do not believe it would be granted.

I put this point because we have to reflect on this. I do not wish to press it, obviously, but we ought to be fairly realistic about what happens if these high readiness reserves are served with call-out notices—not in the theoretical world but in the real world.

Earl Howe

There is a substantive point that I can add to this, because if a man is kept waiting for a long period and is someone who would otherwise be earning a large salary, there is the opportunity for him to apply there and then for exemption or deferral under Part VIII of the Bill. He could take that course, and one would suppose that in the circumstances I have described there would be every reason for that application to be supported.

Earl Attlee

In a mobilisation call-up situation, my expectation would be that if the volunteer came along he would stay at the appointed place for as long as it was necessary. I would expect that would be probably at least a week. The reason is that there has to be flexibility. The staff will decide how many people they want to call up and we know that they will not get everyone they want. If they want 500 men, they will call up 700 and see how many arrive. Therefore, it is bound to take them a week to find out how many they actually have who are fit on that particular day and have no valid reason for seeking deferment. I think the Minister is being very optimistic about how long it would take. Furthermore, if someone absented himself from a call-out situation, he would be in very serious trouble indeed. His decision just to leave would have all kinds of repercussions.

Earl Howe

Certainly a decision to leave could have all kinds of repercussions. I would just say that in our recent experience, when we had the call-out to Bosnia, those individuals were processed in a single day. It can be done and it is done.

Earl Attlee

I should like to support what the noble Earl said about that. The people who have been sent to Bosnia were processed very quickly and without any inconvenience.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I think we have pushed this matter far enough. The noble Earl is aware of our concerns. They are purely practical and we are trying to help. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 21: Page 15, line 42, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment it may be for the convenience of the Committee if at the same time I speak to Amendment No. 29.

These amendments cover the same points in both clauses. There seems to have possibly been a small slip-up in all that has been happening on the Bill in the past few clays in that Amendment No. 21 should, I think, have referred to subsection (6) as well as to subsection (7). Amendment No. 29 does, of course, refer to the matters covered in subsections(6) and (7) in Clause 21.

I do not want to make heavy weather of our concern in this area, but I do not think we should let it go by default. We live in an age of increasingly rapid mobility. What if suddenly someone was called away on a professional assignment or to a sick relative or indeed, in the case of younger people, what if somebody was—as is often the situation these days—travelling and arrangements made in good faith to notify their whereabouts, if known, had somehow gone awry? Before action was taken, it might be just as well, it has occurred to us, to have some provision for establishing whether indeed some kind of arrangements had been made in good faith, but which had just not stood the test. This part of the Bill is perhaps a little stark and I would just be reassured if the noble Earl could say how it would actually be applied in the circumstances which I have described, which are not altogether unlikely.

Earl Howe

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I are agreed on one point—it is desirable to be able to serve call-out notices by post. To that end, members of the reserve forces will, as at present, be required to provide information, including their address, in connection with the serving of notices. However, the noble Lord has explained that he is concerned over how a call-out is deemed to be served. He is thinking in particular of protecting those who may be away from their place of residence when a notice is served. I have listened carefully to what he had to say.

A notice can only be deemed to have been served if it is sent by registered post or recorded delivery. The removal of Clause 32(7) does not have the effect that the noble Lord perhaps intended. Subsection (7) provides that No steps may be taken against a person in respect of failure to comply with a call-out notice", unless it has been received, or deemed to have been served by virtue of subsection (6). If it has not been served personally or sent by registered post or recorded delivery these conditions will not have been met and the notice will therefore be deemed not to have been served. Equally, the removal of Clause 43(7) and (8) deletes all provision for the serving of call-out notices, which I am sure the noble Lord will agree was not what he was trying to achieve. However, I understand that he has used this amendment as a probing point. I agree that it is a little unfair to those who are away from their place of residence if a notice arrives in their absence. If the noble Lord is content, I shall undertake to consider this matter before Report stage to see whether any revision of the wording in this part of the Bill is possible. With that I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Judd

The noble Earl is being extremely helpful in our deliberations this evening and I should like to put on record our appreciation of that. I find what he has said reassuring. This was, of course, a probing amendment. Another way we could have raised this matter would have been through another clause stand part debate. However, I was probably getting rather nervous about putting forward another clause stand part debate and therefore I sought to air the matter in some other way. The observations the noble Earl has made are pertinent as regards the precise effect of these amendments, but the discussion has at least enabled us to probe the issue and to hear these helpful reflections of the Minister. We look forward to hearing further thoughts at a later stage. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 33 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Judd

I seek to deal with the same point that was dealt with in Clause 9(2)(c)on which the noble Earl made an extremely helpful observation. I hope that he will repeat that observation in this context.

6.15 p.m.

Earl Howe

Clause 33 deals with acceptance into service. The clause provides that reservists will report in accordance with their call-out notice to the place specified in it. However, the likelihood, particularly in a major crisis where many reservists are reporting, is that some reservists will be unable to report at the time and place specified. It is quite likely that some, on hearing of the crisis, will report to their usual drill hall or training centre, which may not be where the call-out notice specifies, before receiving any notice, or indeed before any notice is sent at all. The clause therefore separates the process of acceptance into service from the processes of authorising call-out and serving notices.

A reservist should be able to be accepted into service whether he has complied precisely with his call-out notice or not, and indeed even if he has not been served with a call-out notice. This clause provides the required flexibility. If a reservist presents himself for service to the appropriate officer he may be accepted into service by that officer. However, such acceptance does not, by itself, prevent him being punished if he has without reasonable excuse failed to comply with his call-out notice, though it may be powerful mitigation of any penalty.

I hope that that will serve to clarify the purpose and thrust of this clause. I am afraid that the audio system in the Chamber failed us a little bit whilst the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was speaking. If I have not picked up any salient questions, I apologise. I shall be very glad to address them further.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Exercise of functions by officers]:

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Clause 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 23: Page 17, line 34, leave out ("from time to time report") and insert ("report annually").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to Amendment No. 23 I would also like to speak to Amendment No. 30. The Bill refers to "from time to time". I find that very vague. I fear that at some time it might not be politically expedient to make the report. Is this a legal term for when there is something to report? What does it actually mean? Is the Minister aware that Parliament may actually be interested, even if he has not used any powers in a given crisis? I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Earl Howe

As the noble Earl has explained, the effect of the amendment would be to require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on the exercise of his power to call out persons subject to special agreement. I appreciate the reasons for the noble Earl's amendment but it would be strange, and indeed unnecessary, to impose on the Secretary of State an obligation to report to Parliament even if no persons subject to special agreements had been called out, I believe would be the effect of his amendment.

I am not sure what the noble Earl feels would be gained by having a strict requirement of the kind he proposes. The intention of informing Parliament is one with which I can wholly sympathise, but I would not want to bind the Secretary of State in a particular year when there had been no relevant activity on which to report.

Earl Attlee

My only point is that it appears to he a very vague term. It is not a matter of great consequence. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 36 agreed to.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 24: After Clause 36, insert the following new clause—

INFORMATION (" . There shall be established within the Adjutant-General Corps an agency whose purpose shall be to explain to each member of a reserve force who enters into a special agreement, whether an employee or self-employed, and, where applicable, to his employer, the financial implications of entering into such an agreement. and any financial compensation for loss of earnings that may be available.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to back up the information supplied to members of the Territorial Army who want to become a member of the high readiness reserve. The Minister, replying to my noble friend Lord Mayhew at Second Reading, gave the example of how a member of the Territorial Army could find out about financial arrangements when he became a member of the high readiness reserve by directing his questions to his commanding officer who would then write to the Ministry of Defence.

The high readiness reserve will need a great deal of promotion—indeed, as the Minister said earlier, positive promotion. The amount of information given out to individual members of the Territorial Army, and also to their employers, is crucial. It will take the agreement of the employer to allow the TA soldier to enter into the agreement. There is a probing amendment to give the Minister an opportunity to discuss how the financial arrangements will be presented to the individual soldier, I have suggested that a special unit be set up within the Adjutant General's Corps. Many members of the Territorial Army will not know what question to ask. They will not have read the Bill, which is perhaps lucky for them but there are a number of areas about which they will be uncertain.

I do not believe that it is the job of the commanding officer or the unit, which is often overstretched and perhaps might not have the relevant information, to try and sort out all the legal and financial complexities that each individual soldier might present. Therefore, it seems justified that there should be certain members of the Regular Army whose job it would be to go round and discuss with the soldier how he should arrange his financial position. considering that he is entering into a rather serious commitment. Also that member of the Adjutant-General's Corps could, if necessary, or if he was asked to, go and talk to the relevant employer, because the relevant employer might not know the financial safeguards, and without those financial safeguards he might be tempted to deny entering into the agreement. I hope that the Minister can give us some information on how he foresees this information being disbursed. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee

I rise briefly to support the noble Lord in his amendment. It is extremely difficult for volunteers to find out any information about financial arrangements. What would happen now if they were injured on an exercise, for example? Perhaps the Adjutant-General's Corps is not the right vehicle. Perhaps the TAVRAs would be more appropriate, because they have good relations with the employers. The problem of communication of the rights and obligations of soldiers needs to be addressed and I would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say to the noble Lord's amendment.

Earl Howe

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has made a most interesting suggestion in his amendment. Let me say first that we fully recognise that before he enters into a special agreement under Part IV, the reservist should be made aware of the effects of the agreement and that this should include appropriate information on the schemes of financial assistance provided for in Part VIII of the Bill. He would of course be given up-to-date information on these should he be called out.

We also recognise that the success of this scheme will depend in part on the information available to the employer and this might include information on the schemes of financial assistance. The employer would in all cases need to be given up-to-date information on this subject when the employee was actually called out, or was about to he called out. All reservists who are called out, whether under Part IV or under the general powers in Part VI, have the same rights to financial assistance under Clause 85. Their employers have rights to financial assistance under Clause 86 and this clause specifically provides for financial assistance for the self-employed. The details of the schemes will be in regulations, and the Bill imposes a duty of consultation before they are made.

It would, however, be difficult to detail fully the financial implications of call-out for a reservist or an employer since they will vary from case to case and over time, depending on individual circumstances. While we can provide relevant information, it would ultimately be for the reservist and the employer respectively to decide whether the implications—financial and otherwise—were acceptable.

I cannot agree with the noble Lord about the way to implement his proposal regarding the establishment of a statutory agency within the Adjutant-General's Corps. As far as reservists are concerned, the provision of the relevant information is properly a matter for the chain of command. It would not be in the interests of the services to have individuals entering into this level of commitment who were ill-informed about what it entailed. The detailed information and the arrangements for its provision must remain a matter for the service, and I do not believe it is a matter for the Bill.

As far as employers are concerned, we already pursue an energetic campaign of consulting with and informing employers about the reserve forces through the National Employers Liaison Committee or NELC and its various regional groups, and we envisage that that will continue. In addition to this general campaign, we recognise the need to ensure that information is available to the employers of reservists who wish to enter into special agreements and that there is prompt provision of relevant information on available financial assistance when his employee is called out under Part IV or any other power.

While I have spent some little time in answering the noble Lord, I hope that it will nevertheless have been helpful, because I believe the practice will recognise the overall concern that he has expressed. In the light of what I have said, I trust that he will feel comfortable in withdrawing the amendment at this stage.

Lord Redesdale

The Minister has raised two points on which I wish to come back. First, although he said it is a responsibility of the chain of command—and I ultimately believe that must be the case to a certain degree—we are talking about a very specialised area. It will not affect a very large number of people and in many units it will not affect anyone at all. In some units it might only affect one or two soldiers. Therefore, with the high turnover inside the Territorial Army, there might not be the expertise or the information might not be understood properly by the chain of command.

I realise that the Adjutant-General's Corps is perhaps not the right vehicle. I mention it only to give an example. Within the chain of command of a Territorial Army unit it is often the case that very few people will be in a position to explain carefully and clearly to many of the soldiers exactly what will be involved in one of these special agreements. Will there be a system by which that soldier can consult a particular individual about the special circumstances he will find himself in? I hope the Minister can give some information on that point.

Earl Howe

We recognise that it is extremely important for full and up-to-date information to be available. On that we are at one. One of the mechanisms by which we will achieve that is to have simple, straightforward leaflets available, setting out the salient facts. Those leaflets will be readily available. A man reading such a leaflet will be able at least to know who to ask if there are other questions that need answering. We will set about this exercise in a way which, I hope, ensures that information is easy to obtain and is up to date.

Lord Redesdale

I thank the Minister for that reply. I do not have the same faith in leaflets that he does. I have used other leaflets within the Territorial Army before. However, I do not think I can press him any further at this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Clause 37 agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Clause 38 [Purpose of Part V]:

Earl Attlee

Clause 38 is a paving amendment for the sponsored reserve. I have serious reservations as to the wisdom of this provision. First, no one I have talked to on the staff, apart from possibly the RAF, has any idea about what the requirement for the sponsored reserve is.

Members of the Territorial Army are genuine volunteers. Even soldiers in the Regular Army make a conscious decision to join Her Majesty's armed services. They are not coerced into it. My fear is that people will join the Territorial Army via the sponsored reserve for entirely the wrong reasons. In other words, a chap may be desperate for a job, he then finds a job and the only snag with it is that he has to be in the TA. The employers will say "Don't worry about it, the training requirements are minimum, it's a good wheeze", and so on. Therefore the chap will take the job, and then when he is called out he may not want to serve.

As I mentioned, the training apparently will be elementary. Even the defence industry itself is not sure about the wisdom of the sponsored reserve. Contract difficulties are foreseen in drawing up the necessary arrangements. The management of the sponsored reservist in the TA will cause problems. Where will the individual sponsored reservist train? If he is working for, say, Perkins, will he train at the nearest TA centre? Will he go to a central volunteer headquarters? Where will he be trained? What will be the rank structure? These clearly, we are told, will be for technical specialists, and therefore they must have a certain status within the organisation in which they are working in theatre, so therefore will they be senior NCOs? Will they have power of command over other proper soldiers? What will be the effect on the UK fourth line? I fear there will be a reduction in the surge capacity of industry. I have a number of concerns about the sponsored reserve, and I would be very grateful if the Minister could reassure me. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

It may be helpful to the Committee if I briefly set out the background to the sponsored reserve concept which Clause 38 introduces. Some support provided by regulars for the armed forces requires the application of skills that are predominantly civilian in nature. However, it cannot be provided by civilians because it might have to be delivered under operational circumstances when it could well be crucial to the success of an operation.

The provisions of Part V would allow civilians to undertake support tasks of this type by enabling them to assume suitably tailored liabilities for training, call-out and permanent service. They could then be called out, if that ever became appropriate, to continue operationally the tasks which they had been performing in peace time.

I should say that many elements of the sponsored reserve package are not new in principle. A precedent for civilian jobs requiring the incumbent to have a liability to continue the task in uniform in a crisis can, even today, be found in the Meteorological Office, the NAAFI and until recently certain Property Services Agency posts in Germany. The principle that the terms and conditions of service of groups of reservists can differ according to the requirements of the task and the circumstances of individuals, is also not new. What is new is that these elements have been drawn together in this part of the Bill and associated with a call-out liability unique to sponsored reservists, specially tailored to the circumstances.

I believe that the sponsored reserve concept has great potential value, for it will permit us to open additional support tasks to market testing. Market testing will discover whether savings can be achieved while maintaining the level of peace time and operational support required. Any savings that can be achieved will allow a greater proportion of our resources to be devoted to more front-line tasks. This is entirely in accordance with the Government's policy—Front Line First.

If the Committee will allow, I will briefly mention two other benefits of the arrangements. First, maintenance of equipment under operational conditions by sponsored reservists, who as civilians are employed by the defence industry, will inevitably lead to industry having a better understanding of the service's requirements. Secondly, the operational involvement of certain contract personnel is likely to reinforce their understanding of the importance of their peace time work to the Armed Forces.

Lord Redesdale

I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Does this mean that for vehicles that are at the moment on a leaseback deal with the Army, the mechanics at Leyland Daf are eligible for sponsored reserve status?

Earl Howe

Potentially civilians who might be brought in to service vehicles in peace time could become sponsored reserves to enable them to change their clothes in time of crisis when they were called out, and they would remain performing the same support tasks. That is the point that I have sought to make. I do not know if that answers the noble Lord, but that is the idea behind the sponsored reserve. As I say, I believe that the scheme has considerable potential. I commend the clause to the Committee.

The noble Earl mentioned one concern which was that some people might volunteer for the reserve service for the wrong reasons. The volunteer nature of entering sponsored reserve service will be stressed both to employers and employees who arc contemplating such an arrangement. I hope that the Committee will recognise that many volunteer members of our reserves have diverse reasons for being members of the reserve and a sense of service, although one might like to think so, is not always the primary reason. But that does not necessarily make for poor reservists. That is the point I would make.

Earl Attlee

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. Perhaps he is not in a particularly good position at the moment to advise me on the military aspects of how responsible reserves could work in theatre. Perhaps he can write to me and tell me how the rank structure and discipline will work in theatre for sponsored reservists once they are called up.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Entry into agreements]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Cessation of liability to be called out or to train]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 27: Page 20, leave out lines 33 and 34.

The noble Earl said: If I wanted to put down a wrecking amendment for the sponsored reservist, this would be it. I refer to the words: the termination of his employment with the employer whose consent was required to his entry into the employee agreement".

In other words, the sponsored reservist, on seeing the possibility of hostilities, could resign his civilian employment and therefore he would have no liability to be called up as a sponsored reservist. Is that really the case, or are there some other ways to ensure that he would not be able to wriggle out of his liabilities? Perhaps the Minister can advise on that. I beg to move.

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Earl for setting out his concerns, but I think there are some threads to be untangled here.

If the employment of a sponsored reservist with an employer who has an arrangement with the Secretary of State were to end, that person could not in any eventuality be called out. Under the provisions of Clause 43(1) the noble Earl will see that call-out is conditional on an arrangement between a person's employer and the Secretary of State. It is also conditional on the continuing nature of the individual's work in support of the armed forces. If a call-out cannot be effected after a person's employment has ceased, there is no point in the individual continuing to have a liability for it.

We did not think it right to call out as sponsored reserves persons who had ceased to perform their peace-time functions. We would not wish to rely on a person who would go to the lengths of terminating his civilian employment simply to escape his sponsored reserve liability. I hope that goes some way to explaining our thinking and to answering the noble Earl's point.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee

I thank the Minister for that reply which was more or less as I thought it would be. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 [Call out of special members]:

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]

Clause 43 agreed to. Clauses 44, 45 and 46 agreed to.

Clause 47 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

[Amendment No. 30 not moved.]

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clauses 48 and 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Liability of members of reserve forces under call-out orders]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 31: Page 26, line 22, after ("Act,") insert ("only").

The noble Earl said: This amendment addresses the problem of deciding whether one needs the services of the volunteer after one has called him up. We have discussed a problem previously in Committee where the volunteer on call-up had to remain at the place of call-up. My concern is that we will call up a volunteer, he will arrive, and then he will he told that his services are not required, but meanwhile he has so arranged his civilian commitments as to enable him to go off for full-time service. This provision would avoid the risk of his being called up again for another three months. I accept that this is not something which should appear on the face of the Bill, and it may not even be a matter for regulation because it will tie the hands of the staff too much. It is nevertheless a matter of concern that people will be called up, told they are not required, then called up again and again told they are not required. How does the Minister intend to address that particular problem?

Earl Howe

I am grateful to the noble Earl for explaining his amendment and I entirely understand his intention in seeking to protect the reservist. As he has indicated, the effect of this amendment would be to introduce a three months' safeguard following a reservist's release from call-out service, during which call-out is not possible. I do not think it is desirable to go down this route. It is necessary for the Ministry of Defence to retain flexibility for call-out. It may be necessary, for example, in a particularly grave emergency to call out a person or persons who have just been released or discharged from permanent called out service. The noble Earl's amendment would remove that flexibility.

I should like to reassure him that I do not envisage such circumstances occurring very frequently, but it is nevertheless necessary to make such provision. The Bill does in any case provide for the concept of aggregate service which defines the length and frequency of permanent service that any person called out under Part VI of the Bill could be required to perform. This provision applies equally to officers and men but varies with the call-out power. It is that safeguard, rather than the one that the noble Earl is proposing, that is perhaps more important to most people. It certainly leaves the Ministry and the services with the necessary flexibility that they may require. I hope that in the light of what I have said the noble Earl will be content to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Attlee

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Call out for national danger, great emergency or attack on the UK]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 33: Page 27, line 30, after ("to") insert ("both Houses of').

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment I hope that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if at the same time I discuss Amendment No. 34. I trust that it will be in order to facilitate our proceedings at this stage if we sweep up the clause stand part debate in the context of what I am going to say.

Amendment No. 33 deals with a point we have already debated today. It seeks to clarify what is meant by "Parliament". To be absolutely clear and so avoid misunderstanding when the event occurs, we say that it means both Houses. In advocating that point, which I am sure the noble Earl, in his very constructive approach today, will be willing to accept, may I just draw his attention to the fact that inadvertently subsection (7) does rather seem to substantiate the argument so well put forward by my noble friend Lord Williams. There may have been quibbling when we were discussing Amendment No. 5 about the words "as soon as". I thought that the noble Earl put up a brave attempt for his case in that context, but here we are saying "forthwith". That is exactly what my noble friend Lord Williams was arguing for, so it will be interesting to hear how "forthwith" applies here but "as soon as" could not possibly be accepted and would have put onerous and unacceptable responsibilities on Ministers and others in the context of Amendment No. 5. It is an interesting contradiction. I hope the noble Earl can deal with it. I hope too that the Committee will forgive me for raising the point in the context of this amendment.

Amendment No. 34 raises the interesting point of what happens, not if the House is prorogued or adjourned, but we are in the middle of a general election. I suppose that sceptics and cynics might say that the old guard in the Kremlin, with their very bureaucratic approach, would never have dreamt of challenging in the middle of a general election. They would have understood that the election must be over before going to war. We are now in a much more unpredictable, volatile age in which perhaps not all the mavericks who are operating understand the constitutional niceties. I wonder what would in fact happen if the House were dissolved. It is important that we hear the Minister's observations; hence our probing amendment.

I wonder, considering the clause, whether I am reading Alice in Wonderland. It says: (a) if it appears to Her [Majesty] that national danger is imminent or that a great emergency has arisen; or (b) in the event of an actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom".

Subsection (8) goes on: a proclamation shall be issued for the meeting of Parliament within 5 days,

One wonders what would have happened within those five days; where, indeed, Parliament might meet; how many Members might be able to turn up; all sorts of considerations of that kind. I find the clause delightful in the context of our discussions earlier on the Civil War, Cromwell and the rest, and perhaps in terms of the last century or the earlier parts of this century. However, it does not seem totally in tune with the awful realities with which we are now living. As we are coming towards the end of our proceedings today, I would like to say that the noble Earl has been extremely gracious and helpful and we appreciate it. It would be very helpful if he could put all our minds at rest on this matter. It may be that he and his Ministry have insights into how, in modern warfare, it will be possible to call Parliament within five days and everything will proceed absolutely methodically, carefully and well. However, I do not believe we are all totally convinced about that. It would be good to know how the noble Earl himself sees it.

Earl Howe

It would in any event be the Government's practice to report the making of a call-out order under subsection (1) to both Houses. It is implicit in the requirement in subsection (8) that Parliament—not just one of the Houses of Parliament—be recalled if it is not sitting when the order is made. The noble Lord asked what the force of the word "forthwith" was in this part of the Bill. The answer is that in time of national emergency everything would be done forthwith. It would be a time of very rapid action indeed. We covered in a previous amendment the definition of the term "Parliament", so I do not propose to repeat myself on that. I believe that the proposed amendment is unnecessary and it is likely to lead to confusion over the meaning of the term when it is used elsewhere in the Bill and in other legislation.

Turning to Amendment No. 34, the noble Lord has raised an interesting point and I shall deal with it before dealing with the clause as a whole. I suppose that, in theory, if Her Majesty were driven by circumstances to make a recall order while Parliament was dissolved, there would be no Parliament to which the making of the order could be reported. That perhaps is obvious. Parliament would not be dissolved without a date being fixed for the sitting of a new Parliament, so it is most unlikely that there would be any substantial interval which would delay reporting the making of the order. It may also be reasonable to assume that we would not be subjected to national danger, a great emergency or attack on the United Kingdom, without having some warning of it, and one presumes that Parliament would not be dissolved in these circumstances. The key point is that the absence of Parliament sitting would not prevent us from acting as required.

Turning to the clause as a whole, it is important to put these remarks in context. The purpose of the clause is to enable the Crown to call out any member of any reserve force in the most serious crises. It is similar to the national danger great emergency provision in Section 10 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. It also incorporates the powers of call out in Sections 16, 18(1) and 22 of that Act in the event of actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom. It also supersedes the prerogative powers governing officers on the retired and emergency lists of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, officers of the regular army reserve of officers and retired officers of the Royal Air Force. Some former air force officers, principally those on non-pensionable commissions, serve in the air force reserve and are governed by statute.

The noble Lord read out a subsection of this clause in tones of some surprise. I do not know whether he would prefer it if we omitted a provision for Parliament to be recalled. I imagine that Parliament would prefer to be recalled in circumstances of national emergency, and that indeed is our assumption, too.

7 p.m.

Lord Judd

I am grateful to the noble Earl, but I do not think that I can quite let it rest there. If I may first deal with the point about "forthwith", it is rather disturbing to hear the noble Earl argue that if there were an emergency it would be possible for Ministers to do everything forthwith and indeed they would be doing everything forthwith, but it might be a bit of a nuisance to have to do things forthwith if there were not an emergency. It seems to me that defence is about defending our parliamentary democracy, and in defending parliamentary democracy the paramountcy of Parliament is terribly important in this context. Therefore, if this speed and expedition applies in this context, it really should have applied in the other context. If he will forgive my saying so, I do not think that he has adequately begun to justify the difference in approach on the two clauses.

If I may continue, on his point about whether I would prefer that there were no reference to the recall of Parliament and so on, what we are arguing here is that it is important to be assured that some thinking has gone into what would actually happen in a real situation if the provisions that are carefully laid out here were not actually possible. It seems to us that in the context and speed in which modern warfare moves, it is not impossible that they might not be possible. It therefore would be, we hope, in order for the Minister to take away this clause and think about what indeed would happen in circumstances which made this particular arrangement impossible to fulfill.

I wish to make one other point before I conclude. In a very gentlemanly way, the noble Earl rather dismissed my point about both Houses of Parliament. He suggested that Parliament is Parliament and Parliament involves both Houses of Parliament, so it is unnecessary to say both Houses of Parliament. But as things stand, it would not be unfair to argue that the Government could say that they had reported to one House and one House was part of Parliament and that they had therefore reported to Parliament. We are saying that it should be absolutely explicit that the reporting is to both Houses of Parliament.

I really cannot see why, if the noble Earl and the Government feel that that is what is intended, there is any harm in putting simply and straightforwardly into the text the words "both Houses of Parliament".

Earl Howe

As to the noble Lord's last point, I shall reflect further and perhaps write to him between now and Report stage. He suggested that I was applying one rule to the laying of regulations and another rule to taking emergency action at a time of national crisis. That is not the case. If the noble Lord will recall, the words used in the previous amendment relating to the laying of orders and regulations were that they should be laid as soon as made. The point I was making then was that that phrase "as soon as" is equivalent to "instantaneously". That is not only onerous; it is a physical impossibility. That is rather different from the term "forthwith" which simply implies speed.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Will the noble Earl accept in a previous clause—Clause 4—the expression "forthwith" instead of "when it may"?

Earl Howe

I shall have to take advice on that. But I did say that I would reflect further on that question and I shall certainly do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, posits some extreme situations and he is perfectly entitled to do so. It might be helpful, however, to recall that during the Cold War there were plans for forming an emergency government in the event of a nuclear attack. Those plans were, as it were, on the shelf and would have been implemented no doubt 'had we been faced with that unfortunate situation. There are ways and means, I am sure, of ensuring that national government continues. My point was that in the age in which we now live it is likely that a national crisis leading to general war would be something of which we would have a reasonable degree of warning and that, correspondingly, a sudden nuclear attack from an unexpected quarter is less likely than it has been. Nevertheless, this has been an interesting debate and I hope it will have brought out at least some points to clarify the noble Lord's concerns.

Lord Judd: I thank the noble Earl. I do not think we can ever be too emphatic about this. For all of us—I am sure there is absolutely no difference between the noble Earl and ourselves on this point—the whole richness and privilege of living in a genuine parliamentary democracy is something very special. Our defence system is about defending that. Therefore if we are talking about acute situations we should not leave things just in the margins. We need to be fairly clear about what would happen.

If I may just make a point, the noble Earl has slightly fudged the issue by confusing the argument between the continuation of government and what happens to Parliament. It is not the same point at all. However, I notice that he said—and I listened very carefully—he would think about this and I know that he is a very committed Minister and that he does take points of debate seriously; I have experienced that. It is in the spirit of knowing that he will take this point seriously and look at it again that I shall not pursue it. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Maximum duration of service on call out under section 52]:

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clauses 54 and 55 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I suggest this is a convenient moment for the Committee to adjourn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 3.30 p.m.

The Committee adjourned at seven minutes past seven o'clock.