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Mr. Arbuthnot: While my hon. Friend is in a gap between clauses, may I take him back to a point that he made about clause 35 and the annoyance caused by low flying? I, too, was worried about the clause when I first read it. I am worried that if the Ministry of Defence receives several complaints about low flying from people in a certain area, that might, owing to criminal offence under the clause, give rise to judicial review. People might thus take the Ministry of Defence to court to prevent low flying, although that is essential, as my hon. Friend said.
Clause 83 introduces a strange little power: the power of a judge advocate to authorise entry and search. Clause 84 provides definitions for the purposes of clause 83. The matter is important. A point was raised during the consideration of the last Armed Forces Bill following the experience of journalists who were accused of undertaking various underhand acts in the course of their journalistic activities. I recall that there was a case involving a house that was entered and searched by Ministry of Defence police, although no one seemed to know whether they should have been there. I suspect that the measures are designed to tidy up the situation. It is all very strange.
I seek clarification as I want to find out what is going on. I suspect that all sensible journalists will have gone off to bed or down to the pub, so they will not have heard me tonight. However, if they catch up with clause 84, they might have something to say.
I certainly support clause 99(6). It deals with limitations on custody without charge. I wonder whether the Prime Minister knew that the clause would be put into the Bill. There is a 48-hour maximum allowed in the context of limitations on custody without charge. Custody after charge is limited to eight days. That sounds pretty sensible to me and I am happy to support the provision.
I move on to clause 155(4)(d), which is the constitution of the court martial. This is fascinating. A chaplain cannot be a member of a court martial. Does that apply to other faithsfor example, to religious personnel, to Sikhs and to Muslims? We are delighted that the Minister has invited them to perform some of the roles that traditionally the Christian chaplains have carried out. I want to know why chaplains are specifically mentioned and whether that applies also to "chaplains" of other faiths.
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The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) made a passionate speech. I understood so much of what she was getting at. I would like to know one day what she thinks about clause 162, dealing with courts martial rules. An interesting argument arises. I have been to a few courts martial, sometimes to see constituents who have been involved in them. One of the problems is the mumbo-jumbo. For example, there were swords on tables pointing in particular directions and there was the question of whether headgear should be worn. All these things that have grown up over hundreds of years of military tradition are no more than mumbo-jumbo to ordinary people. I suspect that if some of the mumbo-jumbo was taken out of the process, the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood and her constituents would be reassured and their confidence would grow. Perhaps it is a similar argument to whether judges should wear full-bottomed wigs and so on.
Mrs. Humble: The families that I meet would welcome just being present and just being involved. They could probably cope with mumbo-jumbo. They are interested in getting answers and getting the truth.
My penultimate question lies with clause 332, that is headed, "Composition and procedure of service complaints panels". Can an independent memberand I generally agree with this, although it has perhaps not gone far enoughbe a naval chaplain? We do not know, and it might be thought that it does not matter. We do not know because so much will be introduced by regulation by the Secretary of State. We know that an Army chaplain cannot be an independent member of a complaints panel because that is provided for in the clause. However, clause 361 provides that naval chaplains, as explained in paragraph 849 of the explanatory notes, "have no rank". So if a naval chaplain has no rank, is he a member of the armed forces? So can he or can he not be an independent member of a complaints panel? This is a detail, but the sort of detail that will somewhere rear its head.
Mr. Kevan Jones : The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point, but the Deepcut families and others are seeking true independence. These are people who have no connection with any of the armed forces.
Robert Key: Up to a point, Lord Copper. There are people in the armed forces who really value the presence of chaplains in the community. Young members of the forces perhaps tend to be vulnerable and think that they may be being bullied, or are being bullied, and they might turn to a chaplain. The role of chaplains is crucialand I mean chaplains of various faiths. If a naval chaplain is allowed to be a member of an independent tribunal, that might be important for the person involved and as a principle or precedent for the role of chaplaincy in the armed forces.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab):
I am focusing on the hon. Gentleman's point. Surely clause 361 covers it. Does it not effectively extend to a naval chaplain the
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rank of officer? That is the way in which I read it. Ipso facto, he or she would have parity of treatment with an Army officer.
Robert Key: There are other circumstances where only certain sorts of non-commissioned officers can perform certain roles, as set out in the Bill. I do not know, and that is why I ask the question in all innocence. However, it is something that we will need to discuss in Committee.
Perhaps we need to look further afield if we are concerned about the true independence of the bodies that we are discussing. There is other experience. For example, there is the inspector general of the Australian defence force. It is an interesting example because his role is to
and then to the CRA. That is an important example. So is the defence force ombudsman of the Australian defence force. The Canadian military police have a complaints commission which really is independent, so perhaps we should consider its role.
Mr. Kevan Jones: I agree with the example that the hon. Gentleman gives of the Australian defence force. Does he agree that when there is a degree of independence from the chain of command that has not affected in any way the operational capabilities of the armed forces?
My final question relates to clause 343, which is headed "Exemption from tolls and charges". It is an extraordinary provision. I speak as a former Minister who was responsible for roads. The clause exempts from tolls and charges bridges, congestion charges, toll roads, road pricing and so on a vehicle that
Does that mean that Corporal Jones, going into Amesbury for a pint on Saturday night, will be exempt from paying a chargenot that there is a charge between Bullford barracks and Amesbury? If there were, what would be the position? I do not know because the provision is so broad. Neither the explanatory notes nor the terms of the clause help very much. We are told that no charge
We are talking about the best armed forces in the world. We are talking about a force that is brave and disciplined, based on hundreds of years of tradition and hundreds of years of keeping faith with the people of our islands and the peoples of the Commonwealth and beyond. It is all a matter of trust, and therefore it is a matter of justice. These things work both ways and that is what the Bill is all about. I warmly support it.
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