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Column 609referred to training being organised at a steady rate--I think those were his words--compatible with the age group in question. Bearing in mind the fact that those cadets are often trained by service personnel, who are, as I have already intimated, in my view better qualified than civilian instructors, it is important that we make it quite clear that the HSE should not have a major say in the way in which that training is carried out, because if it did, it would make a mockery of the way in which the Army and the other services carry out their adventurous training.
Mr. Leigh: Is my hon. Friend aware that, such is the detail of the regulations, which may, apparently, be covered by the Bill--there are more than 2,000 of them--that, for example, regulation 1135 says: "Soap is not to be issued from Army sources. The cost of purchase is to be charged to the consolidated grant"--
no doubt, the Treasury Bench. That is the detail that the Army has amassed over two centuries and which may perhaps be covered by the ambit of the Bill. It is absurd.
When the Army sets about training its young soldiers and the Army cadets it looks after from time to time at annual training camps and so on--and the cadet training teams throughout the country, who do such a splendid job during the week, either at school-combined cadet forces or ACFs; the same is true for the other services--it is very much dealing with a military scenario. The whole point of adventurous training--this is pertinent to my hon. Friend's amendment--is that the bottom line is that one needs to train young soldiers and Army cadets to know their own capabilities, to push them physically to a particular limit when they are young, and to "the" limit, whatever that may be, when they get older.
When one joins the services--my hon. Friend gave the Army as an example-- one knows that one may well be put into an environment that is extremely hostile, in which one's life may be put on the line, and one knows that one will potentially be doing a very dangerous job. That is why it is important that, in the adventurous training activities to which I referred, particularly the physical activities--my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) referred to his experiences on the Brecon Beacons-- unless there is an element of danger, unless young people are pushed to a particular limit, whatever it may be at a particular time--it will vary depending on age, and will be much greater and much more arduous when one joins the services full-time--unless one is pushed, one will not understand what it will be like to be pushed into a hostile environment. Although there is physical danger in activities such as canoeing and abseiling, fortunately one is not usually being shot at while engaging in them. However, in that kind of controlled environment, it is important for young people to have the opportunity to understand what the real thing will be like. It is also important that, in that environment, the instructors of young cadets and young soldiers can see precisely what they are like, where their strengths and weaknesses are. It is a vital part of training.
My hon. Friends mentioned some of their experiences. I shall mention one. While listening to them, I was mindful of the fact that, every time I went abseiling as an
Column 610instructor, whether in the Brecon Beacons or in a quarry with a small drop, I knew that we would break for lunch. When I dropped off the side in the afternoon after a good lunch, I was just as nervous as when I was undertaking the activity in the morning. Given the worries and difficulties that went through my mind as an instructor, I was perfectly able to understand what it was like for a young cadet.
Mr. Nigel Evans: My hon. Friend was here when I relived the nightmare of the weekend in Crickhowell. Deep scars remain. Does he agree that, when the armed services are giving youngsters who are perhaps not part of a cadet training force a weekend taster for the services, they pay due regard to the health and safety of the youngsters in their charge?
Does he further agree that we do not want to go to the ridiculous length of a sergeant saying to me or to a 12 or 14-year-old youngster, "I want you to climb this 12 ft wall and jump from it using just a rope," and giving the youngster the opportunity to say, "Well, sergeant, I would rather not--it's dangerous"?
Given my hon. Friend's obvious expertise in this matter, can he say what regard the armed services pay to the safety of youngsters, because--
Mr. Banks: I think that I have the gist of my hon. Friend's important point. The amendment specifically mentions the armed forces, and I--and, I think, many of my hon. Friends--agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle that the armed forces should not be subject to the Bill's provisions. That is why he moved his amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) asked specifically about training. Bearing in mind my earlier remarks about pushing cadets and young soldiers to their limit, I can reassure my hon. Friend that, in my experience, cadets who were seen to be getting into physical difficulties were told to stop. The training was organised by serving soldiers and officers in a controlled environment, and they could say to people in difficulties, "Don't move. We will come and pick you up." That would be done if the cadets were close to a road in the Brecon Beacons or perhaps on an assault course.
Although it is necessary to push cadets to the limit, the limit will vary in individual cases, because of age and physical strength. If a cadet being trained by a serving soldier rather than a civilian instructor is seen to be getting into difficulties, it would be possible for the military instructor to call a halt. But it is a fine balance, and the training is designed to be tough.
I sometimes wonder how I managed to do some of the things that I did. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) was extremely lucky that there was not 6 in of snow on the ground when he engaged in whatever he was doing--he did not say who it was with--in the Brecon Beacons.
Column 611My hon. Friend spoke about assault courses. I can assure him from my own experience that, although sergeant-majors are not noted for their light touch in dealing with schoolboys who get stuck at the top of those unpleasant rope things which one has to climb, after five minutes of shouting and abuse, the penny dropped for me. They took control of the situation in the way that my hon. Friend has described, and got me down. I was relieved, and almost applied to become a librarian like my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant).
Mr. Banks rose --
It is important to recognise all this, and to take the time and trouble to look more closely at the Bill, so that the clause does not result in a knee -jerk reaction. It would be absurd if serving soldiers and members of the other services were subject to its provisions.
As I have said, the whole point of the training is to recognise the potential of each cadet. Perhaps, if my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East had been encouraged even more aggressively, he might have made it to the top of the rope and come back down again. That is the point of such activities, and the firm foundation of the military is to push cadets and young soldiers--I distinguish between the two--as far as they can go.
That makes young people begin to realise that they are able to undertake a particular activity and achieve an objective that they never thought they were physically able to achieve. That is the sort of training that the military tries to provide for its cadets, so that, when they join the services, they better understand how they tick, and will understand a hostile environment.
I have drawn a distinction between the qualifications of a serving soldier and civilian instructors. Training is usually carried out by non- commissioned and warrant officers, who are usually young. They form the cadet training teams which do such a tremendous job. Civilian instructors have a different set of qualifications, but I shall not trespass on your good will, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because we shall later come to amendments which deal with the qualifications of civilian instructors. No doubt I and some of my hon. Friends will wish to speak at that time.
Any suggestion that serving soldiers, service men and service women should be subject in such training to the general provisions of the Bill is absurd. I hope that the Minister will recognise my genuine concern and that of many of my hon. Friends.
Mr. Waterson: I want to be brief on the amendment, and I wish to associate myself with the congratulations given to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson). It is important that the Bill passes what remains of its parliamentary assault course today, and I shall not detain the House any longer than is absolutely necessary. It is important to bear in mind some crucial matters when tackling the kind of tragedy which spawned the Bill. As my constituency is on the south coast, I am conscious
Column 612of the dangers faced by those going out to sea in whatever kind of craft, or without proper supervision or experience. But it is equally important to avoid legislating in haste on an important matter, and reference has been made to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in that regard. The Bill must be applied not only to the tragedy that we are discussing, but to future tragedies which may be different. I referred in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) to the Air Training Corps, which has a popular and lively group in my constituency. With all due respect to my hon. Friend, we have not yet had a satisfactory answer as to whether air cadets, for example, will come outside the amendment. I shall only put down a marker on that point, as I hope that the promoter of the Bill or the Minister will be able to deal with those points in their speeches. I should say that there is also a thriving and long-established Territorial Army unit in my constituency.
Like several of my hon. Friends, I have served my time in the schools cadet force, where I learned such timeless skills as being able to take apart and put back together a Bren gun with a hood over my head. Unfortunately, the Bren gun became obsolete shortly after I mastered that skill, and it became as much use to me as my lessons in the quickstep and the foxtrot at roughly the same age.
I also had the benefit of annual summer camps with the cadets, although "summer" is an elastic word in that context, because the camps tended to take place in parts of the country where summer obviously meant something different from what it meant where I lived.
It is important to decide where we are drawing the line when we use the phrase "part-time military personnel". We have heard about those who are involved in full-time military training, and it is of course right that those people should not be concerned by the provisions of the Bill. That is common ground, and there has been no dissention from that view so far in the debate.
The real problem comes with the question of part-time personnel. Young people fall into two distinct categories with regard to the activities, and I am keen that these matters are dealt with in detail in the wind-up speeches on the amendments. There are those young people who have volunteered for the cadets or for the Air Training Corps. They are therefore regular members, who go once or twice a week to meetings, regular weekend events and annual camps. There is a persuasive argument that those young people--or, perhaps more realistically, their parents--are aware of the different risks to which they might be exposed. There may also be a different structure of training and supervision, as was eloquently described by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks), who is very much an expert on the issue.
The second category of young people needs to be addressed, and I am not sure that it would be right if they were drawn into the amendment and were therefore excluded from the Bill's provisions. That category is made up of young people who occasionally--certainly not regularly--go to military-run facilities for a day or a weekend, possibly through an arrangement with their school. I am a lawyer myself, and I can see how difficult it would be to draw a line, but I should have thought that those young people should be subject to the full benefits and rigours of the legislation.
Column 613Perhaps it is not beyond the wit of man--or the parliamentary draftsmen--to make that clear in the wording of the Bill. Some children and parents may be unable to see a realistic distinction between activities which the children perform both in school and out of school, such as canoeing or boating, and the kind of day or weekend trip about which we are talking.
We have heard a lot this morning about military matters. Someone once said that the trouble with the military was that generals were always preparing to fight the last war, not the next war. That could apply equally to this debate. We have discussed the Lyme bay tragedy, and it must be remembered that it is now two years and two days since that tragedy occurred.
There have been similar tragedies with different details. At Land's End in 1985, four children were swept into the sea and died, and four schoolboys were killed on a trip to Austria in 1988. It is not entirely clear whether such activities are covered by the Bill. It is important that we do not tailor the Bill to one particular tragedy, desperately sad though it was. We must look forward to other possible incidents, and make a realistic assessment of where the provisions of the Bill should fall. That is why it was important for my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle to table the amendment, although I think that further work needs to be done on it.
The Minister of State, Department for Education (Mr. Eric Forth): The debate has been interesting and welcome, as it has enabled many of my hon. Friends who have not so far been able to participate in the detailed consideration of the Bill to show their interest and involvement in it. I very much welcome that, as, I am sure, does the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson).
The debate has illustrated the value of the scrutiny process which Bills undergo in the House of Commons and in another place, because an item which now--having listened to the debate--seems to be so obvious to us all had never been raised previously during debates on the Bill. It was not raised on Second Reading or in Committee, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), who identified the matter and brought it to the attention of the House.
Before I get into the meat of the issue, I wish to outline some of the background to the Bill, as it is relevant to the consideration of the amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle said that he thought that there was a danger of the Bill being rushed through without proper consideration. I would contest that, because the Bill has received not only a lengthy Second Reading debate--which he will recall-- but proper consideration in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) played a distinguished part in that Committee, and raised many questions. I hope that my hon. Friend was satisfied by the replies he received, not so much from me as from the promoter of the Bill, during those detailed discussions. It cannot be said that the Bill was at any stage rushed through, and the House should know that. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle.
Column 614However, my hon. Friend referred to the key issue which we are talking about today. He said that the matter that he had raised in the amendment should be resolved in the Bill. That argument has run throughout the proceedings on the Bill.
It is important that the House and, in particular, my hon. Friend, should understand that, as I read the way in which the Bill has been drafted, it is a framework enabling Bill. It sets out the broad principles of what the hon. Member for Devonport wants to achieve, but--this is the crucial point- -after the Bill has received Royal Assent and following a period of detailed consultation, regulations would be drawn up to give detailed effect to the main thrust of the Bill. Because of that, it would be wrong to put too much detail into the Bill now.
I am sure that my hon. Friends recognise that it has always been the case with legislation that, if we put too much detail into a Bill, that sets the Bill in legislative concrete and makes it extraordinarily difficult to adjust and improve it as circumstances demand.
We are in a new area of regulation--a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle made most effectively and which I accept. I have always believed, ever since the hon. Member for Devonport introduced his Bill, that to put an excessive level of detail into the Bill would be wrong. Indeed, it would be wrong in principle, because it would set the Bill too rigidly and make it far too difficult for us to return to it subsequently were we to find that it needed improvements. It would also ignore the assumption that we have all made throughout--that there would be a period of consultation and then, on the basis of that, regulations would be introduced, subject to parliamentary approval, to give effect to the detailed requirements of the Bill.
That sets the scene, because it leads to the possibility that, were there to be the sort of errors or lacunae to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle referred, they would be picked up most effectively during the period of consultation.
Let us take the amendment as an example. In consulting everybody who might have an interest in the Bill, we expect many people to make observations on the relevance, for example, of extending the Bill's provisions to military facilities.
That brings me to the substance of the amendment. There is a danger of some confusion--if I dare say that to my hon. Friends. I noted carefully the comments of that distinguished war pensioner, my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks), who said that service instructors are better qualified than civilian instructors. I made a careful note of his words-- something that I always try to do during debates such as this.
Therefore, I equally recall that one or two of my hon. Friends pointed out that, tragically and regrettably, there are injuries and even deaths in the course of military training or activities in military camps. As far as I can tell, such injury and death have been avoided by most of my hon. Friends in the searing experiences which they recanted to us.
We cannot have it both ways, can we? Well, perhaps we can, but it is a little odd. One of my hon. Friends says that military installations are all right because the service instructors are better qualified, while others of my hon. Friends say that injuries and deaths can occur at such installations. I am a little reluctant to go all the way with
Column 615those of my hon. Friends who say that we should exclude, as a matter of course, all military facilities from the scope of the Bill.
Mr. Merchant: Surely the point is that the nature and the pressure of the training given to military personnel is that much more intense than in the civilian sector. It is a different sort of activity, and the personnel are stretched to a much higher level. That is why, sadly, injuries and deaths sometimes occur. It has nothing to do with the quality of the instructors.
"facilities which are provided exclusively for persons who have attained the age of 18"
being excluded. In other words, any facility that might encompass an activity undertaken by someone under the age of 18 should, at least in principle, be a candidate for inclusion in the scope of the Bill. As we have all said, youngsters under the age of 18 regularly enjoy, in one form or another, the facilities provided by the military. Therefore, it appears that they would be candidates for inclusion in the Bill.
The Bill then refers to facilities to
"some element of instruction or leadership."
Again, that appears to encompass the sort of activities provided by military facilities. Therefore, despite the distinction that my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) makes, in principle it appears that military facilities are candidates for inclusion in the scope of the Bill. We should at least accept that there is a debatable point; the matter is not entirely black or white. 10.45 am
Mr. Matthew Banks: My hon. Friend's cogent arguments are most persuasive. Can he satisfy my hon. Friends and me that his reference to opportunities in subsequent guidance if the Bill is passed would tackle some of the concerns that we have expressed?
Mr. Forth: Yes, I very much envisage that to be the case. I am trying to explain that I do not want to pre-empt the consultation and regulation-making process. However, I have no doubt that, during that process, these matters will be resolved. One reason why I cannot give the answers that my hon. Friends want is that we have yet to undergo the consultation process.
It is entirely possible that, at some stage, we may want to make a distinction between occasional part-time involvement in military activities and the involvement of full-time military personnel, albeit very young military personnel. I can envisage that possibility, although I do not want to pre-empt the consultative process or the making of regulations.
Mr. Leigh: My hon. Friend's comments are causing me slight concern. I am not a parliamentary draftsman, although I am a lawyer. I thought that my hon. Friend would say that I need not be concerned because the military would be excluded from the scope of the Bill. He actually said the opposite --that it may be included, which I find rather worrying.
I think that my hon. Friend accepts that some of our points about the nature of Army training are valid. Therefore, I hope that, as he develops his speech, he will
Column 616give an assurance, on behalf of the Government, that his aim is to use his power during the consultation exercise and the
regulation-making process to ensure that the military is excluded from the scope of the Bill.
Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend pre-empts what I had intended to say. I can help him by referring to a note that I have been given by my experts, which may reassure him. He has forced my hand, but I will answer his question.
The Bill does not apply to the Crown, so if the Army provides facilities for adventure activities, the Bill probably would not apply. I emphasise the word "probably". That is the bad news. The good news is that regulations can always make it clear that, if the Army provides facilities for adventure activities, it does not need a licence. That is the nub of the matter--the licensing is the key, as I expect the hon. Member for Devonport will tell us.
I cannot be as unequivocal as my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle would like, but it is clear that, in all likelihood, military installations would not be automatic candidates for the licensing regime specified in the Bill. I want to leave the door slightly ajar, for the reasons that I have given. We want to be satisfied, do we not, that there is no possibility of young people of school age being in any way vulnerable to anything that would expose them to an unacceptable level of danger?
If, as all my hon. Friends have suggested, during the consultation and regulation-making process, reassurances can be provided in relation to military facilities, I have no doubt that exclusion from the regulations would be entirely appropriate. I hope, however, that my hon. Friends will agree that we want that level of reassurance, despite everything that has been said about the expertise of the personnel, the instructors, and the relevance, or not, of the regulations, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle is such a master.
I hope that the sequence of events that I have described, and the flavour of my comments will reassure my hon. Friends. Equally, however, I hope that they will agree that we should not shut the matter out by putting an explicit exclusion on the face of the Bill at this stage, especially given some of my hon. Friends' doubts about the amendments.
The amendment's wording would be sufficient to cover all relevant military or militarily related facilities--there should be no doubt about that. However, it is unnecessary to include it. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle will accept the reassurances that I have tried to give today. Allowing a proper role for the consultation and regulation-making stage would be adequate. In the light of that, I hope that he will not feel it necessary to press his amendment this morning.
Mr. Jamieson: I thank Conservative Members for their kind words of support for my Bill. I am pleased to see that a number of hon. Members who were unable to speak in Committee and on Second Reading are in the Chamber to support the Bill, because undoubtedly its strength lies in the strong cross-party support that it has in the House, and in the enormous support that it has outside among many organisations that are involved with the safety of young people. I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification of a number of points. I shall not attempt to repeat the arguments that he has so eloquently outlined. A number
Column 617of hon. Members said that we would not wish to act in haste after a tragedy. I think that it was the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) who said, rightly, that the Lyme bay tragedy occurred exactly two years ago this week. During that period, I have met the Department for Education and the Secretary of State for Education twice, once nearly two years ago, and much careful time and consideration has been given to legislation to assist the safety of children in activity centres.
I therefore reject the comment of the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) that the Government may have rushed into this matter. They have had an opportunity to give full and proper consideration to the legislation. As the Minister said, we have in front of us not detailed provisions, but enabling legislation. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle tabled the two amendments. Of course we all accept his experience in the military, just as we accept the experience of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) as library monitor at Nottingham high school. He also made some useful comments about the amendments.
Amendment No. 2 would reduce the Bill's scope from the age of 18 to 17, so it would cover people aged 16 and under. I have listened to a number of arguments on that point. Just as I have had suggestions that the age may be lowered, I have had a considerable amount of correspondence from universities and higher education establishments suggesting that it should be raised. I have an almost equal balance of arguments from both sides. By putting the age at 17 and below, therefore, we may just have it about right.
The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle makes the point that people under the age of 18 are sometimes required to die for their country in the armed services, but I remind him that, equally, they cannot vote in elections, even for the hon. Gentleman, much as they may wish to do so; nor can they enter into a legal contract for a loan.
It is especially important that we identify people in an age group of immaturity and inexperience. We must protect them in particular. That is what the Bill seeks to do. A great difference exists between young people aged 17 and those aged 18. Those aged 17 are more likely to be in full-time education than those aged 18. Although I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman had excellent motives in tabling amendment No. 2, the Bill keeps the balance about right.
As the Minister said, we all have an ambition to anticipate what will come next in the legislation, the regulations and the legislation's next phase. Throughout Committee, hon. Members tabled amendments, and we had lengthy discussions about organisations that might be written in or out of the Bill. As the Minister said, a danger exists in putting too much detail in enabling legislation, lest we find later that we want to amend the primary legislation and that we have not got it right.
Comments have been made about the haste with which the Bill has been introduced. Two years of thought have been given to the Bill, but a further period of consultation will follow. Then there will be another period when the House can consider the detailed regulation that will come before it. Of course, that will have the full and proper scrutiny of the House, stage by stage.
Column 618At that time, hon. Members who have made valid points today about the armed services will have an opportunity to debate those regulations fully and properly, so the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle will have a further opportunity to return to the matter. What happens today will not close debate on it.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: I would welcome clarification of what will happen at a later stage. I understand that the regulation comes back by way of a statutory instrument, which will be considered, presumably, by a Committee upstairs, and therefore not on the Floor of the House. The opportunity for the wide debate that the hon. Gentleman envisages may not arise.
Mr. Jamieson: Should the Bill receive Royal Assent, I am sure that the Department for Education will undertake wide consultation to ensure that all the bodies that have a proper and legitimate interest in the matter are consulted fully and properly on the regulations. Those regulations would then be brought, as other regulations regularly are, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to the House. In Committee, I expressed the view that a Committee upstairs was the proper place for full scrutiny of the statutory instruments. If hon. Members are concerned about matters contained in those statutory instruments, they should take the opportunity, perhaps unusually, to discuss them with more thoroughness and diligence than is usually the case.
Mr. Waterson: I sit on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and on the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. We consider about 3,000 statutory instruments a year, and we are primarily concerned-- sometimes I would it were other--with the form and the vires of the regulations. I cannot envisage the prospect of a discussion on this issue in the course of such scrutiny. Unless some way is found of debating the regulations on the Floor of the House, that discussion is a forlorn hope.
Mr. Jamieson: I do not have the hon. Gentleman's experience and I am grateful to him for bringing his experience to this debate. However, I have sat on Committees in which there has been a full and proper debate, and I should have thought it possible for that to occur in this case. As we are dealing with primary legislation, and considering the secondary legislation that will flow from it, I should have thought it eminently possible to have a full debate in the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments to explore and tease out of the Minister all the details that may be required.
Mr. Jamieson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. Should the House wish to have a fuller debate, it is possible for the statutory instrument to be taken on the Floor of the House. I hope that that reassures the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle that the next phase will be given proper consideration. I believe that that aspect of the legislation should be given close consideration, so that we get it right and rule out those bodies and organisations that we wish to rule out, while ruling in most firmly those that we wish to rule in.
Column 619We have this morning debated matters related to the military. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle said that he would not want members of the Health and Safety Executive wandering around assault courses, but I am sure that he will accept that he would not expect young people on assault courses to be put at unnecessary risk. We expect the very highest standards of safety measures from the military when young people are involved. It would not be in the interests of any commanders to put their soldiers, sailors or airmen at unnecessary risk, especially those who are young, immature and inexperienced.
I draw an analogy with what I understand to be the position in schools. The Bill would not apply if a school undertook adventure activities led by teachers skilled in those activities. It would already be covered by the line of responsibility that runs from the teacher through the head teacher to the governors and, in most cases, to the local education authority. There is a chain of command and, as I understand it, safeguards exist because schools act in loco parentis.
I believe that the training of military personnel employed by the Ministry of Defence would fall into a similar category. There is a duty of care on the employer to the employee, and the Bill would not cover people employed by the military on active service.
As the Minister said, the grey area is whether those working in a part-time capacity and perhaps offering amateur services to the Air Training Corps and other cadet forces which successfully involve hundreds and thousands of children are or are not covered by the Bill. The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) specifically mentioned the training of such personnel. Many civilian instructors are former military instructors and therefore of the very highest standard, so I should not necessarily draw a distinction between the two in terms of quality.
I trust that, when we go through the consultation stage, we shall hear compelling arguments from the Army cadet forces and the Air Training Corps as to whether they should or should not come under the remit of the Bill. At that stage, many bodies will, quite properly, make a forceful case for why they should or should not do so. To accept amendment No. 3 at this stage would be unnecessary, although I understand why the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle has, as the Minister said, raised a matter that has not been discussed previously. Now that he has raised it, I am sure that it will be given careful consideration in the consultation period, and when we reach the most important stage of setting out the fine detail of the regulations.
Mr. Leigh: In view of the assurances given by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) and by my hon. Friend the Minister--in particular the Minister's assurance that this is simply an enabling Bill and that it is not the Government's intention to include military training in its ambit--I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss also amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 22, after `appeals', insert-- `(m) the minimum qualifications required by staff employed by persons providing facilities for adventure activities.'.
Mr. Merchant: I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for selecting the amendment because it gives the House the opportunity to hold a short debate on qualifications. The matter was raised in passing in Committee. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) will know that I sought at various points in Committee to strengthen the Bill, and I hope that he appreciates my motives in doing so. Amendment No. 8 deals with an important issue of principle--the standard of qualifications that instructors and others who work in activity centres should hold. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to give more detail about his plans. I accept that putting a specific requirement may not be the best way to proceed, but I hope at least to tease out of the Minister his intentions in this regard.
I also accept that I have probably not drafted the amendment as well as I should have, as I omitted to include a reference to establishments that had been licensed or, alternatively, to state that qualifications should be part of the licence requirement. It is my intention that the amendment should apply only to those centres that have been formally licensed under the Bill.
The issue of qualifications was widely discussed in relation to the safety of activity centres and in connection with the Lyme bay tragedy. Indeed, the issue played a central part in investigations after that unfortunate event just over two years ago and was discussed at great length in the investigations of the Select Committee on Education. It was also discussed in Committee. The regulations should cover staff qualifications. The amendment stresses that by including them in the specific list of requirements. The qualifications of staff at activity centres are a matter of long-standing concern. Children who attend activity centres are effectively placed in the hands of staff who may be very highly qualified but who, regrettably, in some cases, are wholly unqualified or who have only part qualifications, some of them inadequate. Although there are other causes of disaster and problems even when children are in the hands of fully trained staff, a mishap is far less likely to occur if the staff supervising and leading the activities know precisely what the risks are.
Qualifications should include full training in all aspects of safety, full training on equipment, how to use it and how it operates, full training in all emergency procedures and full training in the skills involved in looking after young people--what might be called the skills of leadership. Training in dealing with people in difficult situations is of prime importance. It is important for instructors to keep their head and to ensure that those around them do likewise because panic is often the greatest contributory factor to disaster. It makes the problem far worse.
I am not being over-dramatic in saying that training is at the core of the Bill. Most accidents and disasters do not stem from criminal intent. There is an outside chance that