HL Deb 18 October 1999 vol 605 cc737-8

2.49 p.m.

Earl Attlee asked her Majesty's Government:

How the working time directive will affect Her Majesty's armed forces.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, the working time directive was incorporated into domestic legislation as the Working Time Regulations on 1st October 1998.

The provisions of the regulations are applicable to the armed forces, but the services are excluded from many of the provisions under Regulations 18 and 25 which implement Article 2.2 of the framework directive. Those exclusions allow significant flexibility for the armed forces to safeguard operational effectiveness and training.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. I remind the House that I have an interest as a serving officer in the TA. I understand that the DTI has told the MoD that the working time directive will apply to the TA. Will that not make the TA unworkable?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the important factor to remember is that not all the service that the Reserve Forces—they include the Territorial Army—render is covered because it is exempted under Regulation 18. Some of the duties—they would be the same for the Army—would cover operations.

However, as regards the Territorial Army, exercises simulating operational conditions and operational training are completely exempted in the first place.

We are considering advice to be promulgated to reservists to identify the provisions which affect them. We hope to be able to promulgate that advice by the end of the year.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, as regards those parts of the service which are not exempted, will members of the Regular Army or the Territorial Army be expected to sign certificates of exemption in the way that civil servants are expected to do if they are required to work longer hours?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, no. your Lordship will remember that I mentioned two regulations. Regulation 18 refers to operational requirements. Regulation 25 exempts the Ministry of Defence from keeping records of the time worked by members of the armed forces which would be applicable in the civilian part of the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, perhaps I may welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box on her first appearance wearing this particular hat. From the way in which she conducted semi-military affairs in Kosovo, I have no doubt that the join will be seamless.

In the light of her reply, will she tell the House the undoubted major cost implications on training? The time required for training is likely to be extended by 20 to 30 per cent. Who will pay for that? Will it come out of the defence budget?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for his kind remarks. I assume that he is talking about additional costs which will flow from the working time directive. Operating the regulations for the Armed Forces has not in any discernible way contributed to costs in the way that the noble Lord suggests it might. We have of course been keeping a firm eye on the issue across all three armed services and all three are reporting that they see no operational difficulties. None has reported any additional costings.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, if any of the armed services found any difficulties, would we be able to do anything about it?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am sure that we would be able to do something about it because the Ministry of Defence would have to ensure that money was available in order to keep the law of the land. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, is reassured by the fact that we have looked specifically at all three armed services and no such difficulties have been reported. Of course, the regulations have been in operation only since October last year and I am sure that we will continue to keep a very firm eye on what is happening.