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May I say to the hon. Gentleman, who takes an enormous interest in these matters, that I am looking forward to the meeting at 5 pm, which I asked for in order to engage with the all-party group? We can
go into some of the detail of this at that stage. I understand the concern being put forward on behalf of families, but I reiterate that if we are to prioritise and focus our efforts on Afghanistan, that inevitably entails difficult decisions.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend accept that the announcement of the £20 million reduction that was made has already caused a great deal of demoralisation within the TA? Does he further accept that today's announcement, although welcome, does not go far enough to overcome that demoralisation?
Bill Rammell: I met my right hon. Friend before the summer recess to discuss his specific concerns. The original proposals, to which he referred, were driven by changes in communications technology, which led to an overall improvement in the capability of the TA. Nevertheless, in respect of these changes, we have listened to the arguments that have been put forward by many Members, himself included, and we have made this adjustment.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Ministry of Defence statistics show a £4.3 billion defence underspend in Scotland over recent years. Can the Minister tell us what the financial consequences of the current TA situation will be in Scotland?
Bill Rammell: The TA in Scotland will be affected in exactly the same way as the TA across the country. Non-pre-deployment training is being affected, but the adjustment that I am announcing today goes some way to addressing that concern. The TA, both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom, makes an enormous contribution to the safety and security of our country.
Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Given that the cuts were proposed by General Sir Richard Dannatt, has my hon. Friend announced the first Tory U-turn? Will he accept my reassurance that he will have our full support if he is to keep this policy under constant review?
Bill Rammell: This proposal was put forward by the current Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards. Nevertheless, as I said earlier, we will keep this under active review, and I welcome my hon. Friend's contribution towards that.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): I welcome the announcement that the Minister has made. It is a small step in the right direction-I hope that by the end of the evening a few more steps in the right direction will have been taken. No member of the TA is to be deployed unless they have passed through the reserves training and mobilisation centre at Chilwell. That is currently a testing organisation, but as a result of this change, the RTMC will become a training organisation before deployment. The Minister may have inadvertently misled the House, because at the moment some TA soldiers are being deployed at risk. I simply want his assurance that no more will be deployed at risk as a result of this decision.
Bill Rammell: I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman has welcomed this change. I know that it was a suggestion that he put forward last week, and that is evidence that, as a Government, we listen to the views expressed. However, I wish to be clear and specific about pre-deployment training. The advice provided through the chain of command from the service chiefs is that this will not impact on pre-deployment training and no TA soldier is being deployed at risk.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Having spent some time with the TA as part of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I am sure that my hon. Friend would wish to join in the tributes to the outstanding work that they have done. Does he accept that for people who have repeatedly been out to Afghanistan and Iraq this will look like a very poor return for their enormous service on the front line?
Bill Rammell: I do pay tribute-I did so earlier-to the incredible work that the TA does on our behalf. Members of the TA who have deployed to Afghanistan-indeed, this applies to the 544 deployed there at the moment-will understand the necessity to prioritise towards our efforts there. For that reason, the measure will provide some support. We have also listened and made the adjustment that is being put forward this afternoon.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The Minister says that no TA soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan unless they have been on pre-deployment training. Does he accept that a large number of TA soldiers may choose to walk away because of these spending cuts, so there will be fewer soldiers to go on pre-deployment training in any case?
Bill Rammell: I do not believe that that is the case, and the hon. Gentleman under-represents the commitment and enthusiasm of members of the TA. I do not believe that they will walk away. Nevertheless, with the small adjustment that we are making today, we have made it clear that we have recognised the need for some ongoing, month-by-month, paid training for reservists, even if they are not deploying to Afghanistan. I believe that that will be welcomed in the reserves.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I am sorry for the Minister, who has become an apologist for a crass decision. The problem that we face is, as he quite rightly states, that we have to make tough and hard decisions. However, we should not make the wrong decision-and that is what we have seen. Will he reflect on what he has heard today, go back to the Secretary of State and put the budget back in place? Otherwise, we will have nobody left in the TA.
Bill Rammell: I know that my hon. Friend has an enormous commitment to the Territorial Army. Nevertheless, with respect, I do not agree with his assertion. There are no easy options in managing the defence budget. Let us consider the challenges that we are facing this year: a significant uplift in recruits to the regular Army, reduced income from estate disposal and exchange rate fluctuations. I can honestly say to my hon. Friend that there are no easy options.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Members of the armed forces are aware that one does not blame one's subordinates for one's own mistakes. May I say to the Minister, who is a likeable cove, that it is unworthy of him to blame the Army and the Chief of the General Staff for the fact that he has had to come up with these cuts? Does he accept that the sole responsibility for these decisions lies with Ministers, who were responsible for underfunding the Afghan campaign and the armed forces as a whole?
Bill Rammell: It simply is not accurate to say that we have underfunded the Afghan campaign. The expenditure from the reserve has risen from £700 million three years ago to more than £3 billion today. I am certainly not blaming the military for this decision-I was simply asserting that it is a fact that in the debate about how decisions are made, Ministers listened to the advice of the service chiefs, and this decision is in line with that advice. Nevertheless, the responsibility for the decision is mine and that of the Secretary of State.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): May I impress on the Minister how angry and disillusioned members of the Territorial Army are? They were reassured that they were members of one Army, and now they are being treated as second-class citizens. Their pre-deployment training might not be in doubt, but how does the Minister expect them to turn up with the right levels of fitness and skills to take part in that pre-deployment training for Afghanistan?
Bill Rammell: I do understand the concerns; I have a TA regiment in my constituency. I endorse and agree with the hon. Lady's view on one Army and the critical role that the TA plays, but she is under-acknowledging the change that we are making today, which I believe will be widely welcomed by members of the TA.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I am pleased to bring back to this House the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, after it has been considered for some time in the other place and in the Public Bill Committee.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it would be helpful to me and to the House to be clear about whether he is clear that he is moving the programme motion at this point.
That the Order of 23 June 2009 (Marine and Coastal Access Bill [ Lords] (Programme) be varied as follows:
1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.
2. Proceedings on consideration and Third Reading shall be concluded in two days.
3. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken on each of those days as shown in the following Table and in the order so shown.
4. Each part of the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in relation to it in the second column of the Table.
|Proceedings||Time for Conclusion of Proceedings|
New Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules elating to Part 6; new Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 9; new Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 5; new Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 7; new Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 8.
The moment of interruption.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
New Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 1; New Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 2; New Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 3; New Clauses, amendments to Clauses, new Schedules and amendments to Schedules relating to Part 4; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules; remaining proceedings on consideration.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm on the second day.
I pay tribute to the work of the Committee and all its members, who have done sterling work on a Bill that was already extremely good when it entered the other place. It is now an even better Bill and I hope that as a result of our deliberations today, it will become if not perfect then as near to perfect as we can make it.
[Relevant documents: Report from the Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill, Session 2007-08, HC 552-I and -II, and the Government response, Cm 7422. Ninth Report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Session 2007-08, on the Draft Marine Bill: Coastal Access Provision, HC 656-I, and the Government response, Cm 7422.]
'(1) The authority for an IFC district may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, enter into an agreement with an eligible body authorising the eligible body to perform any function of the IFC authority-
(2) For the purposes of this section and sections [Eligible bodies], [Variation, review and cancellation of agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]], [Agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]: particular powers] and [Supplementary provisions with respect to agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]]-
'(2A) The provisions in sections [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies], [Eligible bodies], [Variation, review and cancellation of agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]], [Agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]: particular powers] and [Supplementary provisions with respect to agreements under section [Power to enter into agreements with eligible bodies]] shall apply to Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales.'.
Part 6 will replace sea fisheries committees with inshore fisheries and conservation authorities-IFCAs-in England. These will have a duty to manage sea fisheries sustainably, balancing socio-economic benefits with protection of the marine environment. They will have more money and strengthened powers, while retaining local involvement in decision making. Under the current Bill model, IFCAs will lead on marine species management in the inshore area, including in estuaries. The Environment Agency will lead on protection for salmon, trout, other migratory species and freshwater fish in estuaries and as far out as the 6 nautical mile limit.
As many hon. Members are aware, in January we launched a consultation on options for the number of future inshore fisheries and conservation districts. Following that consultation, I am happy to confirm that 10 IFC districts will be established, and the new IFCAs will be established with full powers and duties in April 2011. The Department will carry out more detailed consultation in 2010 to establish the exact landward and seaward boundaries of the new districts. I know that that announcement will be welcomed by all Members of the House.
During a useful Commons Committee discussion on part 6, concerns were raised by a number of Members that the Bill as drafted did not provide sufficient flexibility to ensure the most joined-up inshore fisheries management, particularly in areas such as estuaries. In Committee, considerable pressure was exerted on us to amend the Bill so that IFCA functions can be delegated to the Environment Agency in particular, so that marine fisheries in estuaries could be managed in the most efficient way.
To address this, we have tabled new clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and amendments 6, 7 and 8, which provide the option for IFCA functions to be delegated to the Environment Agency and to neighbouring IFCAs. An order-making power is provided to add to the list of eligible bodies so as to enable delegation to be made to other, named public bodies. Bodies can also be removed from the list.
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