|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
63A In Article 2 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (interpretation), in paragraph (2), in the definition of service disciplinary proceedings, after any of the following insert
(za) any proceedings (whether or not before a court) in respect of a service offence within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (except proceedings before a civilian court within the meaning of that Act);.
(1A) Section 369(1) to (3) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (conviction and sentence in relation to summary hearings and the SAC) apply for the purposes of this Order as they apply for the purposes of that Act.
(a) in Table A, in the fifth entry for Any sentence of detention substitute Any sentence of service detention within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006, or any sentence of detention corresponding to such a sentence,;
(4B) Where in respect of a conviction a service community order under the Armed Forces Act 2006 or an overseas community order under that Act was made, the rehabilitation period applicable to the sentence shall be
(b) in the case of a person aged under 18 on conviction, two and a half years from the date of conviction or a period beginning with the date of conviction and ending when the order ceases to have effect, whichever is the longer.
(a) references in paragraphs (1) and (2) to section 208 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 include references to section 71A(4) of the Army Act 1955 or Air Force Act 1955 or section 43A(4) of the Naval Discipline Act 1957;
(b) the reference in paragraph (1) to section 217 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 includes a reference to section 71A(3) of the Army Act 1955 or Air Force Act 1955 or section 43A(3) of the Naval Discipline Act 1957.
7 Any service offence within the meaning of the Armed Forces Act 2006 except one punishable in the case of an offender aged 18 or over with imprisonment for more than two years.'. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1908 (N.I. 27))
In Article 6, in paragraph (1), the word and at the end of sub-paragraph (c), and in sub-paragraph (d) the words or a corresponding court-martial punishment, and paragraph (9)(a).'.
I am delighted and slightly relieved to stand at the Dispatch Box this evening with the task of sending the Bill on its way to another place. I should like to pay sincere tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), who was responsible for introducing the Bill. He is a great parliamentarian and a good friend. His deep regard and support for the armed forces are well respected by Members on both sides of the House. His open and consensual approach to the Bill, which helped the Select Committee to conduct its businesses effectively, were widely welcomed. I am indebted to him, and I am very grateful indeed for his authoritative and constructive contribution to our debate. On a personal note, I thank him for the support that he has given me.
I pay tribute to members of the Select Committee, which was chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth). Many of them have made sincere contributions today with the common purpose of ensuring that we introduce legislation that can better meet the needs of the 21st century. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) has been gracious to me on my first run-outI am sure that he could have been harder. He mentioned his former colleague and very good friend, Eric Forth. I remember Eric with admiration, having been a Friday Whip before assuming my new role. One thing that Eric pioneered was in-flight refuelling during debate. Some of my hon. Friends have been good at in-flight refuelling this afternoon. I will not name them, but they have my grateful thanks.
I am sure the House will join me in sending good wishes for a speedy recovery to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key), who cannot be with us this evening. He served on the Select Committee on the Bill, and made a significant contribution to it.
I place on record my thanks to the staff of my new private office, and the Bill team in particular, who did not quite take away the sleepless nights, but they helped with detailed briefings throughout the afternoon. They know what they did and, if it is not out of order, I offer them a small drink after the debate.
We have had a good debate. I shall not cover old ground, but I shall mention my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen). We crossed swords for a couple of hours, especially over what constituted the definition of an enemy. Never has Churchills quote been so validenemy behind, opposition in front. My hon. Friend may have defined his enemy this afternoon, but I hope he will be my friend at the end of the debate.
Although my time as Minister responsible for the Bill has been brief, it falls to me to mark an important stage in its progress. I will not detain the House unduly, but I shall say a few words about the Bill. It is a good Bill.
Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): My hon. Friend spoke a moment ago about going over old ground. May I ask him to cover some new ground? He will be studying the review by Nicholas Blake QC of the events at Deepcut. A key recommendation from Nicholas Blake is the establishment of an armed forces ombudsman. Perhaps as the debate on the Bill continues in another place, my hon. Friend will consider that important recommendation to make sure that the Bill deals with all the concerns that people have about the armed forces.
Mr. Watson: I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. She concerns herself in great detail with the Bill. We take the Blake review extremely seriously. Although I am new in the position, the Department hopes to respond shortly. I am sure my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to express her views in her usual way.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I do not wish to detain the Minister, but he will accept that the hon. Ladys view is shared on a cross-party basis? The parents of those who lost their offspring at Deepcut Army barracks will feel disappointed that on Report the Minister and others did not get to discuss the recommendations of the Blake inquiry. Can he give the House an assurance that he takes the concerns of the parents seriously, and that there will be continuing discussion to see if we can bring about closure for the parents, albeit with the possible revelation of some as yet undisclosed reports?
The Bill marks an historic change for the armed forces. In a sense, the most important test of its value is the support that it has from the armed forces. The services have been central to the development of the Bill. The clear modern drafting is a testament to the skills of parliamentary counsel. The chiefs of staff, commanding officers and men and women of all ranks have supported the Bill.
It is right that we should replace the three service discipline Actsthe Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957which provided the legal basis for service discipline for so
many years. Importantly, when enacted the Bill will deliver the undertaking that the Government gave in 1998 in their strategic defence review to introduce a single system of service law. Under this legislation, for the first time, we will have a single system that will apply to all three services at all times and wherever they are in the world; nor should we forget the civilians who accompany them overseas.
The Bill recognises a world in which the three services increasingly train and operate together, but equally it will underpin the maintenance of discipline through the chain of command that is so fundamental to the operational effectiveness of our armed forces in which we all take such pride. We have listened to Members and made some sensible amendments. This is still work in progress, as we have said. The Government will take the opportunity during the Bills passage in another place to bring forward any further amendments to ensure that we give the armed forces the best possible system that we can.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: I join the Minister in thanking those who have contributed over the last four or five months to our deliberations on these matters. It is true that the Bill team has been working even longer;I think for 18 months. I should remind the House that when the House last debated this matter in 1955, the Select Committee took two years. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that hon. Members on both sides of the Select Committee have undertaken in four or five months that which our predecessor Committee in the 1950s took two years to undertake. That seems like a productivity enhancement to me.
I should also like to pay tribute, as I have done already, to the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) for all the help behind the scenes that he gave, and to the Minister I am bound to say, A very good opening performance, and I hope that he will take some confidence from that. I also hope that he will accept that he has one of the best jobs in the Government in representing and acting on behalf of some of the finest men and women in our country.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, said that consideration had now been completed, but consideration of the Bill has not been completed. We have not been able to discuss a number of amendments. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) had tabled a new clause about an ombudsman that we were unable to discuss, and we had some concerns over service panels and the make-up of the court martial panels. We also had a concern that the director of service prosecutions must have a military background, and there were other issues as well. So unfortunately we will bid the Bill farewell to another place not fully considered here, and I hope that some of those points will be taken up there.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|