Dr. Moonie: The clause does not apply to excluded and special procedure material. Subsection (1)(a) applies only when the conditions specified in paragraphs (a) to (e) of clause 5(1) are satisfied. Clause 5(1)(d) imposes a condition ensuring that excluded and special procedure
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Obviously, secondary powers have been taken to make regulations governing the powers and duties of judicial officers in respect of reviews. It is certainly our intention that the actions of commanding officers in respect of initiating such reviews should be subjected to a fairly rigorous test that is properly applied. That is why the judicial officer has a role in reviewing actions.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: Does the Bill continue the existing arrangements that are in place under the current quinquennial legislation, or does it set out a new procedure? I am seeking to establish whether there has been a change in procedures relating to the seizure of documents and possessions and to the return of such items to their owners.
Dr. Moonie: The clause gives powers to the Ministry of Defence police to make searches in specific circumstances, but it does not affect existing powers. Clause 7 clarifies the action that can be taken by a commanding officer when a warrant cannot be obtained. In other words, that clause deals with circumstances in which it is urgent to ensure that the material that is sought is not spirited away. The new powers that are conferred on the MOD police are the subject of appropriate safeguards; indeed, I think that the Select Committee agreed on that. As I said, the provisions allow the Secretary of State to extend regulations governing the powers and duties of judicial officers in respect of the reviews. Currently, the powers of the service police are not set out in legislation.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Blunt: Will the Under-Secretary explain how the statement made by the Ministry of Defence a couple of weeks ago about the future provision of single living accommodation for the armed forces will affect the application of the clause? As I understand it, the Ministry is introducing a programme to ensure that all single soldiers will have en suite facilities. Obviously, it will take a long time to provide such accommodation and the programme will be expensive to implement. Indeed, it will consume rather more than the extra resources that the MOD won in real terms from the Budget. Like others in the armed forces, I hope that it will go ahead, and I know that the Secretary of State has made it a priority, although it is one that is causing discomfort in other areas of the MOD budget and in respect of other programmes.
The explanatory notes appear to suggest that the programme will have an impact on the application of the clause, as the phrase "service living accommodation" appears to apply to shared areas. If all single soldiers in the armed forces are to have their own en suite facilities, will those facilities be analogous to the family accommodation that is dealt with elsewhere in the Bill? The explanatory notes refer to a distinction in respect of family accommodation. Should single service men expect to be subject to the clause when, in due course, they have proper accommodation? If so, how will it affect them?
The point of the provision is to ensure that a certain amount of private space is defined as personal, irrespective of whether a person is living in single or shared accommodation. The definition is intended to ensure even in communal accommodation that a certain amount of space is allocated as personal and can be searched only when a warrant has been obtained.
Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South): Would a separate warrant be required to search the part of a billet shared with others that was specific to a member of the armed forces? If three other people shared the accommodation,
Mr. Blunt: As the programme for single service men to have their own accommodation is implemented, will a warrant be required for each service man's space? In future, everyone will have their own space. On land, although not at sea, few areas will therefore be defined as communal. The number of warrants that are required for individuals will therefore increase. Has the Department considered the implications for, for example, communal searches for drugs? Will the warrants have to name a large number of individuals?
Dr. Moonie: The warrant applies to space that can be searched, not to the person. Warrants will be specific and refer either to shared or single accommodation. As the hon. Gentleman suggested, it will take a long time to provide single accommodation for everyone. We hope to make a start shortly.
Mr. Hancock: I represent many service personnel, and it is important to be clear about the point. If three service men share accommodation and one is under suspicion and a warrant is obtained to search the premises, will it apply to the space occupied by all three, or simply to the part that belongs to the person who is under suspicion? If the former is the case, what protection is afforded to the other two occupants in such circumstances?
Dr. Moonie: So far as I am aware, the provision applies to the space of the person who is under investigation, and not to anyone else. Protection will exist to ensure that the rights of others are not infringed.
I tabled an amendment, which was not selected, to propose a committee of inquiry into the system. It suggested that civilian law standards and procedures and the Human Rights Act 1998 should form part of the inquiry. The Bill represents a missed opportunity on the court martial system. It tinkers with a fundamentally unjust system that is long past its sell-by date, and it does so without an overall perspective.
In peacetime, a defendant from the armed forces should have the same rights, including human rights, as a defendant in a civilian court. Such defendants should have a jury trial, an independent judge, the ability to choose a defence lawyer and a public hearing. That should apply especially when custodial sentences could be imposed. Trials for civilian offences should take place in a civilian, not a military, court. Other less serious matters should be subject to internal disciplinary rules and procedures, but not disciplinary courts with legal power. They should resemble employment tribunals.