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Clause 116 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

It being after Nine o’clock, The Chairman, pursuant to Order [12 December 2005], proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Clauses 117 to 163 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clauses 164 to 168 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clauses 169 to 180 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clause 181 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clauses 182 to 205 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7 agreed to.

Clauses 206 to 271 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clauses 272 to 275 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clauses 276 and 277 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clauses 278 to 293 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 294


Service detention

Amendment made: No. 1, in page 147, line 19, at end insert—

‘(1A) Subsection (1)(a) does not apply if—

(a) the sentence has not taken effect; or

(b) the sentence has ceased to have effect by virtue of section 289 or 290 and has not resumed effect.'.— [Huw Irranca-Davies.]


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Clause 294, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 295 to 319 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clauses 320 to 322 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 323


Evidential burden as respects excuses

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 162, line 12, leave out ‘Parts 1 to 13' and insert—

‘sections 1 to 41, 107, 228, 265 and 304'.— [Huw Irranca-Davies.]

Clause 323, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 324 to 347 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clauses 348 and 349 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clauses 350 to 354 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Clauses 355 to 363 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 15 agreed to.

Clauses 364 to 371 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 16


Minor and consequential amendments

Amendment made: No. 3, in page 267, line 25, at end insert—

‘Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1908 (N.I. 27))

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);”.

63B In Article 4 of that Order (rehabilitation of persons dealt with in service disciplinary proceedings), after paragraph (1) insert—

“(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.”

63C (1) Article 6 of that Order (rehabilitation periods for particular sentences) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph (1)—

(a) in sub-paragraph (c) omit the “and” at the end;

(b) in sub-paragraph (d) omit “or a corresponding court-martial punishment”;

(c) after that sub-paragraph insert—

“(e) a sentence of detention for life, or for a term exceeding thirty months, passed under section 208 of the Armed Forces Act 2006;

(f) a sentence of detention during Her Majesty's pleasure under section 217 of that Act; and


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(g) any of the following passed as a result of any of sections 218 to 221 of that Act—

(i) a sentence of imprisonment for public protection under section 225 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003;

(ii) a sentence of detention for public protection under section 226 of that Act;

(iii) an extended sentence under section 227 or 228 of that Act;”.

(3) In paragraph (2)—

(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,”;

(b) in Table B—

(i) in the fourth entry, after “1998” insert “or under section 208 of the Armed Forces Act 2006”;

(ii) in the fifth entry, after “Article 45” insert “or that section 208”.

(4) After paragraph (4) insert—

“(4A) Where in respect of a conviction an order under section 210 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (detention and training order) was made, the rehabilitation period applicable to the sentence shall be—

(a) in the case of a person aged 15 or over on conviction, five years if the order was for a term exceeding six months, or three and a half years if it was for six months or less;

(b) in the case of a person aged under 15 on conviction, a period beginning with the date of conviction and ending one year after the date on which the order ceases to have effect.

(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—

(a) in the case of a person aged 18 or over on conviction, 5 years from the date of conviction;

(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.”

(5) In paragraph (9)—

(a) omit sub-paragraph (a);

(b) in sub-paragraph (c) after “1998” insert “or section 208 of the Armed Forces Act 2006”.

(6) After paragraph (9) insert—

“(9A) In this Article—

(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.”

63D In the Schedule to that Order (service disciplinary convictions referred to in Article 7(6)(bb)), after paragraph 6 add—

“Provisions of the Armed Forces Act 2006

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.]

Schedule 16, as amended, agreed to.


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Schedule 17


Repeals and revocations

Amendment made: No. 4, in page 306, line 40, at end insert—

    ‘Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1908 (N.I. 27))

    Article 4(5).

    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).'.


Schedule 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 372 to 378 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with amendments.

Order for Third Reading read.

9.17 pm

Mr. Watson: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

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-out—I 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.


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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 Churchill’s quote been so valid—enemy 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. Lady’s 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?

Mr. Watson: I share the hon. Gentleman’s disappointment. The matter is serious and will not go away at the end of the evening. I take his point on board.

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 Acts—the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957—which provided the legal basis for service discipline for so
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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 Bill’s 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.

9.25 pm

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.


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