HL Deb 29 June 1981 vol 422 cc13-24

3.17 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Viscount Trenchard)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I am sure the House would wish me to keep my remarks on the Second Reading of a largely technical measure as brief as possible and to avoid, both now and in my wind-up remarks, referring to the wider questions affecting the armed forces as a result of the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the the other day, about which we are to have a debate on 20th July.

This Bill is brought forward in order that the service discipline Acts may be continued in existence for a further five years. Under existing powers these Acts can only be renewed until the end of 1981. Your Lordships may recall that in 1955 the Army and Air Force Acts became quinquennial Acts subject to annual renewal by Order in Council, after affirmative resolution by both Houses, up to a maximum of five years, and that the Naval Discipline Act was placed on the same footing in 1971.

The Select Committee of another place, who have already carried out their customary vigorous scrutiny of the Bill, and to whose valuable report I shall return in discussing individual provisions, have recommended that, the same procedures should be adopted in the future". Clause 1 of the Bill does in fact provide for the system of parliamentary scrutiny to continue unaltered, and I hope that this will find favour with your Lordships.

As is customary, this Armed Forces Bill, in addition to providing for the continuation of the service discipline Acts, also remedies a number of omissions and anomalies which have come to light in existing provisions. Whereas the last two Armed Forces Acts have contained substantial innovations such as the standardisation of offences and punishments between the three services in the 1971 Act and the increase in Army and RAF commanding officers' powers in the 1976 Act, the present Bill does not include proposals for innovations in service discipline of comparable magnitude. Nevertheless, the Bill does provide for certain important new powers designed to keep service practice broadly in line with civilian procedures to the extent that the exigencies of service life allow. And so I should like now to consider in detail a number of the more innovatory provisions contained in the Bill.

Clause 2 of the Bill would empower courts martial to sentence a young service offender, whom it was not desired to retain in the service, to a civilian corrective institution. At present, courts-martial can sentence such an offender only to a military detention centre or a civil prison and these alternatives will not always be the most appropriate forms of custodial sentence. It may be noted that a similar power in respect of young civilian offenders overseas was conferred on courts-martial and standing civilian courts by the Armed Forces Act 1976. This provision was considered by the Select Committee of another place to be "an eminently sensible one"; and I hope that your Lordships will also welcome the greater flexibility in sentencing young service offenders which this clause will confer.

Two important new powers are sought in Clauses 13 and 14 of the Bill for the protection in service communities overseas of the mentally disturbed and of children considered to be at risk. In both cases, we have relied hitherto on administrative powers to return such persons to the United Kingdom where they could be cared for according to United Kingdom civil legislation. However, we now consider, and members of the 1976 Select Committee of another place expressed the same view when hearing witnesses from the department, that specific legal powers should be laid down regarding the action which may be taken in overseas service communities before an individual can be returned to the United Kingdom. A similar philosophy lies behind the approach we have taken in both clauses. It will be appreciated that both mental illness and the ill treatment of children can give rise to situations where immediate action is needed to protect and care for the individual away from his normal home. We have, therefore, attempted to provide powers which will permit the necessary short-term action to be taken and to lay down, in the interests both of the affected individual and of the service authorities, precisely what the legal limitations on such action should be. We have deliberately not provided for any system of longer-term care, since we consider that, as at present, if this proves necessary, the individual should be returned to the United Kingdom, where he will again be in the same legal position as any other citizen who is resident here.

Thus Clause 13 provides the power for temporary removal to and detention for treatment in service hospitals abroad of those suffering from mental disorder. This will apply to both servicemen and certain civilian support staff and their families. An individual's commanding officer will be enabled on the written recommendation of two medical officers to authorise the detention of a mentally disturbed person for up to 28 days. There is also an emergency power which would allow detention for up to five days with the consent of a single medical practitioner. At the end of the period of compulsory detention in an overseas hospital, which could not exceed 33 days, the patient would either be discharged or continue as a voluntary patient, or else be returned to the United Kingdom.

The Select Committee recommended that, where possible, one of the two certifying doctors for the purposes of this clause should be a civilian, preferably with specialised psychiatric knowledge. This would be difficult in some of the areas overseas where the services operate. Hence the Government do not believe that it would be realistic to adopt an administrative requirement for a civilian medical practitioner to be one of the two certifying doctors. The House will know that the medical personnel of the armed forces do, of course, respect the same medical ethics as civilian doctors. We therefore believe that service doctors will discharge the responsibilities imposed by this clause to the highest professional standards.

Turning to Clause 14, the proposed new power with regard to the protection of children at risk overseas is very similar in concept to that for dealing with the mentally disturbed. Where a child is considered to be suffering neglect, exposed to moral danger or beyond control, the commanding officer may order the removal of the child to a place of safety for up to eight days. This period may be further extended for up to 20 days by any officer superior in command to the commanding officer. In subsection (11) of the clause, the definition of a "place of safety" is intentionally widely drawn to allow for the needs of children of different age groups and circumstances.

In their report, the Select Committee in another place described this clause as "a necessary but humane one". The committee were, however, worried that the clause contained no provisions regulating the return to the United Kingdom of children affected by it once the short-term holding orders have run their course". In fact, there has not been any difficulty experienced hitherto in returning administratively service children to the United Kingdom who are considered to be at risk, and we do not therefore at this time favour seeking a legal power in this respect when the evidence suggests that it is not needed.

If I may now move forward to Clause 17 of the Bill, this has the effect of removing the death penalty as the maximum sentence for the offence under the Naval Discipline Act 1957 of spying for the enemy in ships or vessels or in naval establishments abroad. This offence applies only to civilians not otherwise subject to the Naval Discipline Act and has no counterpart in the Acts of the other two services. If this clause is enacted, the maximum penalty for the offence will be that of life imprisonment.

A thorough review of all the remaining offences which attract the death penalty under the service discipline Acts has been carried out by the Ministry of Defence and the results are set out in detail on pages 22 and 59 to 61 of the Select Committee's report. I hope that your Lordships will accept that no further reductions should be made in offences carrying liability to the death penalty other than as proposed in Clause 17.

I shall not therefore weary your Lordships with a description of the remaining provisions of the Bill. They are necessary technical up-dates. I should say that there will also be a number of technical Government amendments at the Committee stage of this Bill. The amendments are considered necessary mainly on legal grounds. Most of them, as so often appears to happen, are consequential on previous changes made in legislation, or on provisions which I have mentioned and which are entered in this Bill, which logically should affect some other parts of the Bill or of legislation. Overall, the Government believe that this Bill will make an essential contribution to the regulation of service discipline and, on this basis, I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Trenchard.)

3.28 p.m.

Viscount Bridgeman

My Lords, having at one time been concerned with the supervision of the Personal Services Department of the War Office, I can well appreciate the care and the amount of detailed and thankless work that has gone into the preparation of this Bill. Therefore, I fully support its Second Reading. But I hope that my noble friend will forgive me if, instead of dealing with the details of the Bill, I attempt to deal with some of the problems of those who are likely to be affected by it; namely, manpower.

I had down an Unstarred Question on manpower, but an Unstarred Question appears to demand an answer; and as I do not think that my noble friend could possibly have answered any question I asked at this time or in this place, I thought it might be best if, instead of asking for an answer, I went on the record with some of my thoughts.

Manpower has not had a fair share of attention in your Lordships' House for some time. I noted also that when the original Defence Statement was debated in the other place, only about two honourable Members mentioned manpower at all in their excitement over Trident and Polaris. Very little has been said in your Lordships' House lately, although there is a notable exception in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who has never ceased to raise the matter. In the latest White Paper we see the very welcome announcement about an increase in the strength of the Territorial Army and the reserve forces, and as a former director of the Territorial Army nobody could welcome this more than I do.

I am bound to say that of all the paragraphs in the White Paper, the paragraph about manpower seems to be the least decisive of them all. How many men will be wanted, and how will they be got? We do not know. Each year, every Statement on defence tells us how many men—and, in the old days, how many horses—of different kinds there are in the Army. It is a matter of regret to an antiquarian like myself that we no longer see the one donkey forming part of the garrison at Gibraltar. Nobody has ever said whether the number of men shown in those tables, compared to the requirement, is sufficient, too many, or too few, and so we cannot judge what measures are necessary to secure the number of people that are required.

It is not easy to understand this problem unless one goes back to 1957 when National Service was suspended. It was then cancelled by a succeeding Government, and that act deprived that Government and successive Governments of the power to take quick action to deal with any situation that might arise. In other words, they were up a ladder and letting go with both hands at the same time. The Regular Army was delighted at the return to voluntary service, but from that day to this I have never seen any evidence showing that anyone has made an attempt to find out whether the numbers which could be recruited voluntarily would meet the establishments and the necessary reserves. The matter was not made easier by a succeeding Government allowing Army pay to drop out of line with comparable pay in civilian life.

None of this mattered very much so long as National Servicemen still had a reserve liability to recall; the quantity was there if not the quality. But in the time of the last Government the reserve liability of those people ran out, and there were strong indications that the numbers in the regular forces and the reserves were not sufficient to meet the establishments. In other words, the shortage of men was having a serious effect on the readiness of the forces for war.

It has always struck me that considerable efforts were made to avoid this matter coming to notice. Over the years the references in Defence White Papers went as close as it was safe to go in saying that voluntary enlistment was so sacred that even if the numbers were short, such a shortfall had to be accepted—however big the shortfall was, and however much it affected our readiness for war. In paragraph 47 of the new White Paper we have something very close to that. I hope that before long the same clarity of thought and strength of purpose that has been shown already in other directions in the White Paper is going to be applied to manpower. Evidence may show that voluntary enlistment will produce the numbers. If so, no one will be more pleased than I, but I have never yet seen such evidence and I should like to see it.

That is my own position on voluntary enlistment. If voluntary enlistment can be maintained for the field force, nothing could be better—but the requirements in the services do not consist of the requirements of the field force alone. In addition to the field force, as was shown by the exercises in Germany last year, all sorts of people are wanted to maintain lines of communication and to meet other requirements. Then we come to the matter of home defence. Home defence is mentioned in the White Paper as being very much a matter of dealing with nuclear attack. But experience of the last war, as I know from my own Home Guard days, showed that a large number of people were needed to guard vulnerable points. Such people need not necessarily be wanted whole time. Not many knew in 1944, when forces were crossing the Channel, that about a quarter of a million Home Guards were under arms for three days, to prevent sabotage and subversion, but all of us know that sabotage and subversion in 1944 was child's play compared with what might happen today.

So we return to home defence and we get near to the point where I shall be out of order, because home defence and the manpower required for home defence is not a matter only for the Ministry of Defence; it is a matter also for several other departments. Those who have taken part in debates on civil defence will know how difficult it is to reach any conclusion because of the division of responsibility between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. We have games of table tennis between the noble Lords representing the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, and it seems to me that the score is regularly "love all".

I have said in your Lordships' House ever since 1947, and will continue to say until my dying day, that no proper solution to this problem will be found unless the Government resurrect the Home Defence Executive which handled these matters during the war and which kept the different departments working together instead of fighting for position. I hope most fervently, as I said earlier, that the same clarity of thought and strength of purpose will be applied to the subject of manpower as has been evidently applied to the subject of equipment. I hope also that something will be done to see that Government departments work together on this matter and that some method is found in place of interdepartmental strife.

3.38 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, for explaining the report of the Select Committee and also for the explanation he has given with regard to the present Bill. I have read both with interest and I agree with the final paragraph, Number 19 of the conclusions of the special report, that this type of review should continue. However, I feel that five years between every review is a little too long, and perhaps my noble friend can tell me whether any action will be taken in the time between different reports being given.

I also regret the failure to visit Germany, which I gather was caused by the late granting of the power to do so. I think this omission was a major weakne s in the review, for while it is unlikely that such a visit would have produced any substantial additions to the report, the special problems of the Rhine Army and the Royal Air Force in Germany can only be really understood and reviewed by an on-the-spot briefing and examination in Germany itself. Therefore, it is a little surprising that the Ministry of Defence, especially the permanent officials, do not understand these problems.

The fact is that the majority of the British Army and a high proportion of the Royal Air Force are located in Germany, together with tens of thousands of dependants and United Kingdom based civilians. May I suggest to my noble friend that the garrisons there can be likened to small towns and have exactly the same vast range of problems, but are divorced from the massive United Kingdom social and administrative networks and resources. In addition, they are located like little islands in a foreign land and in many cases are subject to the laws of that country. May I suggest that it should be mandatory for the 1986 committee to take evidence at the headquarters of BAOR and at the headquarters of the Royal Air Force in Germany as well as in London. It is very important that the committee should see for themselves.

The hope of the committee to have visited Germany to study the operation of the standing civilian courts established under the 1976 Act is too narrow. The provision in the Bill for dealing with young service offenders between the ages of 17 and 21 is to be welcomed, but one wonders what accommodation they will find in this country. As we know only too well, most of these establishments are very overcrowded. Could the Minister say whether he has looked into this point?

I am also pleased that the offender's interests are to be more carefully and thoroughly guarded than in the civilian courts. I should like to think I am correct in saying that courts-martial give far more weight to background factors than do civilian courts. I regret that in their report the committee have sniped—I think rather ineffectually—at the present system. I do not much care for their recommendation that social background reports should be obtained. I understand that this is the practice, anyway, in a variety of situations—not only for courts-martial but as part of normal service procedure. I am delighted to see that a copy of the reports of courts-martial is to be sent to parents or guardians.

With regard to the death penalty, I have always been against hanging, but I agree that here it must be retained, and this the committee had to accept. The existing definition of "enemy" needs, however, to be reviewed, as the committee have recommended. But the review is necessary not for the reason advanced by the committee—because it seems to open up an alarmingly wide range of interpretations—but because it is too restrictive in this day and age. I hope that the Minister will take this point into consideration.

We have been told today that Clause 17 deals only with civilians, not with service personnel. I should have thought that the example of the Foreign Office with regard to homosexuality would have been sufficient for the committee. The services are more vital to the country and have never been forced to accept homosexuals. I am very glad that this policy is to be continued.

While I see no objection to warrant officers serving on courts-martial, I do not think this recommendation will be welcomed by other ranks. Men were brought to me by their commanding officers when I held interviews at Devonport because they wished me to see what was happening. So far as I could judge, these men trust their officers and know that they will receive justice. Warrant officers tend to be rather harder and less objective. Of course, warrant officers could not serve on courts-martial trying officers, and I do not know whether they would be welcomed by other ranks.

Unfortunately—I am not speaking as a feminist—there are no women on this committee. As Clause 20 of the Bill completes the statutory assimilation of the women's services which are going to be administered by the Defence Council, it is a great pity that women's views have not been taken into account. I should like to know why the Charity Commissioners have stated that the Royal Star and Garter Home cannot be extended to include ex-servicewomen. Surely this question must be looked into again. In all other civilian homes, both statutory and voluntary, both sexes are accepted. It is very unfortunate that this proposal has been turned down, as I understand the report, by the Charity Commissioners as impracticable.

The qualifications of Members of Parliament to sit on this committee should be looked into. I know most of those who sit on the committee, and I am very sorry that Mr. Wellbeloved has been discharged. I always thought that he had a real knowledge and understanding of the subject. This committee should have the power to appoint persons with technical knowledge, either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity which it is very difficult for members of the committee to assimilate. It seems to me to be necessary that a little more attention should be paid to this point. I am pleased to note that the Royal Marines are now going to be called the Royal Marine Reserve. The words "Volunteer Reserve" are going to be taken away. I am sure that the name "Royal Marine Reserve" is a much better one for them.

Having read the committee's report and the Bill, I should like to know whether an investigation of the Property Services Agency could be considered. It ties up with this type of Bill. Such an investigation would be helpful. I consider that a tremendous amount could be done to make the Property Services Agency more efficient.

3.47 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, this is neither the time nor the place to express my deep concern at the Government's recent actions with regard to the Royal Navy. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to assure us that a proper debate on defence will take place before the Summer Recess. We could then express our views in proper circumstances.

This is a Bill about discipline. My experience when commanding ships was that discipline and morale were closely related. If morale was bad, discipline was harder to keep, but if morale was good discipline was not a serious problem. Recently the Government seem to have been making decisions about the future of the Royal Navy which bear no relation to the advice which they have received from their principal naval advisers. It seems to me that that will create a situation which is essentially bad for morale and which could lead to trouble. It would be useful if I could be reassured by my noble friend the Minister of State that this picture has been properly taken into account. Perhaps both this House and also the Fleet at sea could be reassured that the Government have listened to the advice which has been given to them by the Royal Navy, even though it appears that they have not. If my noble friend could give the House such an assurance it would make a big difference to the morale not only of the ordinary sailor but of officers and even of admirals. All people have a morale problem when their advice is not taken.

3.49 p.m.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, after so many distinguished senior officers have addressed the House, I wonder whether a mere company sergeant major could rise without notice to say a few words. The point to which I wish to direct attention is Clause 2, which concerns soldier offenders who may be sent to serve their sentences in civilian corrective institutions. I hope that the authorities will bear in mind that a sentence served in a civilian reformatory institution carries a stigma which stays with a man all through his life, whereas a military prison or similar sentence ceases to haunt the defendant on his demobilisation and return to civil life. So would it not be better that these relatively short sentences be served in military and not in civilian institutions?—especially as in civilian detention centres and borstals an offender is likely to be brought into contact with professional crooks and that would do him more harm than good.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Brooks of Tremorfa

My Lords, Mr. Arthur Davidson paid tribute in another place to the chairman of the Select Committee on the Bill and Mr. Bruce George complimented the Minister, Mr. Goodhart, on his diligent attendance at the committee and also thanked the many witnesses from the Ministry of Defence. I, too, would like to congratulate the members of the committee, the Minister and all the witnesses for their work in helping to produce an excellent report.

In the first paragraph of the special report we are told that—and I quote: Since 1971, discipline in all three Armed Services has been provided for by quinquennial Armed Forces Acts, subject to annual renewal by both Houses. These composite Acts serve to continue the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957. The present Bill is the third of its kind and, like its predecessors, has been referred to a Select Committee by the House of Commons. Hy this means the House of Commons has sought to ensure that a full examination of the disciplinary framework within which the Armed Forces operate takes place at appropriate intervals and that any measures proposed by the Ministry of Defence for updating it are thoroughly scrutinised.". The committee inquired into a great number of matters concerning the armed services and I am particularly pleased at the emphasis placed on welfare matters concerning young offenders, persons in service families suffering from mental disorder and children in such families who are in need of care.

There is reference in the report to the engagement of military social workers and this is described as a "new adventure". It is to be hoped that the present complement of three social workers can be improved upon because it is clear that the stresses of modern living are affecting service personnel with similar problems experienced by many in civilian life.

Contained in the report is a matter of concern which I have raised in this House by way of a Question to the Minister. It is that the provisions for supplementary benefit and youth unemployment benefits for BAOR wives and children of service families do not normally apply overseas. Recently I was privileged to visit the British Army on the Rhine and this problem was raised with me. Mr. Keith Best was concerned about this matter and asked a series of Questions and highlighted the problem of youngsters of service families and of employable age unable to find work in Germany and unable to claim unemployment benefit. Mr. Dromgoole, Assistant Under Secretary of State (Personnel and Logistics) stated in answer, at page 71 of the report—and I quote: I think it should be understood that this is a serious problem and has given rise to a good deal of anxiety in the Army and in the RAF. There is no way in which the difficulty of the provision of benefit overseas can be got over other than by direct subvention from the defence budget, and this is not contemplated at this time.". This is rather similar to the answer given to me when I asked my Question in your Lordships' House. Frankly, it is not good enough. Despite the current difficulties in financing defence expenditure, the relatively small amount of money involved should be found. We should not allow service families abroad to be subjected to anxieties of this sort, and I shall be returning to this subject on future occasions in this House. I do not of course expect a detailed response to this problem when the noble Viscount winds up the debate, but I should be grateful if he would write to me, giving me some idea of the scope of the problems and also some assessment of the cost involved in helping the service families affected.

In conclusion, I share the view of Mr. Goodhart that the procedures under which Armed Forces Bills are introduced every five years and referred to Select Committees are the right procedures to evaluate the workings of the services' discipline Acts and to ensure that, so far as the exigencies of service life allow, they are kept broadly in line with the practice in civil life. My Lords, I welcome the Bill.

3.55 p.m.

Viscount Trenchard

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what now clearly is a short Second Reading debate, and I am particularly appreciative of all the supportive things that they have said about the purposes of the Bill, especially those voiced on behalf of the Opposition by the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa. I will quickly run through the comments that have been made. I would say to my noble friend Lord Bridgeman that the matters which he has raised do not directly refer to the Armed Forces Bill that is before your Lordships and, if I may, I should like to deal with them at the time of the debate on 20th July. Perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Mottistone that that is the date on which the White Paper and the Statement are due to be debated in this House.

For my noble friend Lord Bridgeman to say (if I understood him correctly) that the White Paper has not laid out the numbers of personnel of every kind that we require and the effect upon numbers, is I think unfair. We have talked of the regrettable cost of sophisticated weaponry in this age and of the estimated reductions in numbers that are necessary in order to be able to get a proper balance between maintaining fire power and maintaining numbers. The problem which we shall watch very closely is of course the effect of these new plans on recruitment, which is going very well at the moment, and also we shall have very much in mind that wherever possible we want to avoid redundancy.

My noble friend Lady Vickers suggested that five years was a rather long gap, although other noble Lords have supported the period of five years as being approximately the right interval for a new Bill. I am sure that she is aware that there is in fact a special committee of the MOD which is sitting all the time and which, before each annual review, looks at subjects which clearly may need attention between two Bills. I am grateful to her for her remarks in relation to the Select Committee of the other place, particularly as to the need to visit Germany, and I hope she will accept that the most constructive way in which I can take her remarks is to ensure not only that they are brought to the notice of all concerned now but that a note is made about them, so that before we come up to the next five-year review the benefit of her observations can be put into the thinking of the programme of the Select Committee.

With regard to the absence of ladies on the committee, I will make sure that all those concerned will think about this aspect closely before the next time round. So far as membership is concerned, I will certainly pass on her comments. My noble friend Lady Vickers suggested that the borstals and other institutions of a corrective nature might be full up. I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, referred to this also. There has been consultation between departments on this point and I do not believe that a minor change in service practice alters the general situation in this area to any significant degree.

I noted what my noble friend said about the very excellent job that courts-martial have been doing in the past. While we have accepted much of the recommendations of the Select Committee, in doing so we had no intention of reflecting on the great care which is taken by many courts-martial.

As far as the Star and Garter Home is concerned, I have taken a personal interest in this case and looked at the powers of the trustees to extend the objects of the original articles of association of the institution, and have found that this is not really possible. But there are possible ways ahead for the Star and Garter to enable them to cater for ladies also, and I will make a point of advising my noble friend of the advice I have already given in this area.

I noted the remarks of my noble friend Lord Mottistone on the morale of the Navy and indeed of the services in relation to the question of listening to advice. I find that the advice is contradictory at times in the Ministry of Defence, but as I said when repeating the Statement of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, the majority of our service advice and a large majority of our expert scientific advice supports the general line that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has taken in the White Paper. One of the purposes of bringing forward his Statement and working at a fairly breakneck pace on the major review has been to relieve the uncertainty in order that morale, which has been affected by conjecture and anticipation, should as soon as possible be rectified. I personally believe that there is every possibility that in the areas where morale may have been weakened it will very soon be restored.

I would comment on the point the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, raised on the question of greater stigma attaching to a young offender sent to a civilian remedial institute rather than a military prison. I would like to take professional advice on this point. I think all those who are concerned with these cases will be well aware of the alternatives, and I am convinced that for a number of offences and for a number of individuals a military or a civilian prison is not the right answer. All that we are providing is the option to consider the other forms of remedial institution.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, that I very much welcomed the tone and constructive nature of the comments he has made on this Bill and will ensure that his complimentary comments are passed on to the people who should receive them. I have made a note of his other points, particularly his point in relation to supplementary benefits and unemployment benefits. I will communicate with him, as he kindly gives me the opportunity, before the next stages of this Bill.

The noble Lord received an answer to the Question which he tabled on this. I was not myself in the House when that Answer was given. I will familiarise myself with the detail and make sure that before the Committee stage of this Bill we have made clear our views on his points, which basically stem from the fact that the whole of the terms and conditions of employment, of life and taxation, pay and everything else, are different abroad. I nevertheless will not get lost in that argument alone, in considering whether there is still some residual substance to which we should attend. I will write to him on that. I would like to thank all noble Lords for their constructive comments.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.