HL Deb 05 February 1998 vol 585 cc851-2

11 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th January be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to see how packed the House is at this hour of night for what is a most significant and controversial piece of legislation which I am about to submit to your Lordships and about which I propose to say only three things.

First, this is merely an extension to some long-standing arrangements which we have enjoyed on a mutual basis with members of NATO and with certain Commonwealth countries. We propose to extend these exemptions from certain British laws to troops of countries that are signing up to the Partnership for Peace who will be training here, just as they are extending these immunities to our troops who are training or are stationed in their countries.

The second part of the order to which I draw your Lordships' attention is the removal of a minor anomaly in paragraph 7 of the 1965 order which places certain civilians who are in support of military forces here on the same basis as members of those forces. Thirdly, this order is an interim order and will be followed—I hope in not too many months—by a comprehensive order. We need a comprehensive order because many of the pieces of legislation which are referred to in the 1965 order have themselves been amended and therefore we shall need to tidy up what is really rather a mess. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th January be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Gilbert.)

Lord Burnham

My Lords, the Minister has threatened me with a fate worse than death if consideration of this order lasts more than five minutes. I should not care to risk that and therefore in front—as he has said—of the serried ranks of noble Lords I say on behalf of these Benches that we welcome this order.