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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I was grateful to receive a copy of the letter that the Minister wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on 22nd June on this issue which, as he said, follows Amendment No. 62 which I moved at Committee stage. I was particularly grateful to read her assurance that the commission will have an ability, which I understand is to be spelt out in statute not today but at Third Reading, to comment on how it sees Clauses 9 to 24—which are the guts of the Bill—working in practice.

I agree that it is not desirable to treat the commission as a rolling Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. That would be inappropriate for its composition, powers and responsibilities. However, it is entirely sensible for it to be responsible for looking at the way in which miscarriages of justice are, we hope, being reduced and

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any obstacles to the reduction of miscarriages of justice, and for those views to be spelt out in the annual report and encouraged by statute. I shall listen with eager anticipation to what the Minister has to say.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, as promised, I looked at this issue very carefully in the light of the discussions we had on this point during Committee and the proposal which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, kindly made available to me subsequently. I have concluded that there would be some merit in making specific reference in the Bill to make it clear that the commission may comment, if it thinks fit, in its annual reports to the Home Secretary on the sufficiency of Clauses 9 to 24 of the Bill (those which set out its role, functions and powers) and the way in which it believes they are working. I propose, therefore, to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to that effect.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I am most grateful. That meets the point entirely. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 26, leave out lines 2 to 4 and insert:
("11. The Secretary of State shall defray the expenses of the Commission up to such amount as may be approved by him.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendment No. 20 with Amendment No. 11. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 21 and 22:

Page 26, line 40, leave out ("5. In section 12 of the Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1968") and insert:
("5.—(1) The Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1968 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In section 12").
Page 27, line 4, at end insert:
("(3) In section 28 (evidence)—
(a) in subsection (1) (power to receive evidence etc.), for paragraph (c) substitute—
"(c) receive any evidence which was not adduced at the trial.",
(b) for subsection (2) (duty to receive evidence in certain circumstances) substitute—
"(2) The Appeal Court shall, in considering whether to receive any evidence, have regard in particular to—
(a) whether the evidence appears to the Court to be capable of belief;
(b) whether it appears to the Court that the evidence may afford any ground for allowing the appeal;
(c) whether the evidence would have been admissible at the trial on an issue which is the subject of the appeal; and
(d) whether there is a reasonable explanation for the failure to adduce the evidence at the trial.", and
(c) in subsection (3), after "any" insert "evidence of a".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move the amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Schedule 3 [Repeals]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment Nos. 23 to 25:

Page 29, line 39, at end insert: ("In section 23(3), the words following "compellable".").
Page 29, line 40, at end insert: ("1968 c. 20.The Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1968. In section 28(3), the words following "compellable".").
Page 30, line 4, at end insert: ("In section 25(3), the words following "compellable".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 23 to 25 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order 1995

7.3 p.m.

Lord Henley rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd May be approved [21st Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 22nd May 1995 be approved.

The purpose of the order is to continue in force for a further year the Army and Air Force Acts 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957. These provide the statutory basis for discipline in the three services.

The House will be aware that an Armed Forces Bill is brought before Parliament every five years, with the primary purpose of continuing in force the three single-service discipline Acts. Each Armed Forces Bill is also an opportunity for the services and Parliament to review service discipline.

Between each five-yearly Bill, the services' statutory arrangements for discipline are renewed annually by the continuation order procedure, involving an Order in Council which is approved by resolution of both Houses. The last Armed Forces Bill was enacted in 1991; the next one is obviously therefore due next Session. I thus ask the House today to give the necessary annual renewal to the discipline Acts by approving the order.

I hope that the House will find it useful if, as is customary on these occasions, I say a few words about some of the disciplinary and personnel issues facing the Armed Forces.

In April this year we published Sir Michael Bett's report Managing People in Tomorrow's Armed Forces. The review which Sir Michael and his team undertook was a major independent examination of all aspects of service manpower, career, rank and pay structures and of terms and conditions of service. Its aim was to enable us, against increasing competition from the outside world, to continue to recruit and retain the high quality people we need in the Armed Forces. The review and the follow-up to it are looking ahead to the early years of the next century.

The Bett Report contains some 150 wide-ranging recommendations. Given their complexity and importance, we do not intend to take decisions

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precipitately. Many of the proposals need further consideration and development before we can take a view on their intrinsic merits. I can assure the House that the services are fully involved in this process, and we have encouraged individual members of the Armed Forces to give us their views and comments. We shall consider all of those very carefully.

It will be some months before we are in a position to make a final response to the report. However, we intend, before the Recess, to make a Statement about the further internal work we have commissioned to take the Bett recommendations forward. When, some time after that, we respond to the report's recommendations, we shall do so in terms consistent with the establishment of the review in the first place; namely, to enable us to continue to attract high quality people to a rewarding and worthwhile service career.

As now, we shall be seeking to attract these people from both sexes. Significant progress has been made recently in increasing employment prospects for women in the Armed Forces, and that progress is continuing. For example, there are now 11 qualified female pilots in the three services, including one in the RAF qualified as a fast jet pilot. Of course, these numbers are still small. But they must be seen as a start—even five years ago, few would have dreamt that we would be training and employing women in roles such as these.

Today, very few roles remain closed to women. The Armed Forces' policy is that in future they will normally be excluded only from those posts where their presence would impair combat effectiveness.

Last year's Criminal Justice and Public Order Act included provisions decriminalising the generality of homosexual acts by members of the Armed Forces. That fulfilled an undertaking given by the Government in response to the recommendation made in another place by the Select Committee on the last Armed Forces Bill, that homosexual activity that is legal in civilian law should not constitute an offence under service law.

Nevertheless, it remains our policy to exclude homosexuals from the Armed Forces. Many Members of this House were instrumental in inserting a reference to that policy in the provisions which decriminalised homosexual acts by service personnel. The reason for that policy is the special conditions of service life which, as I explained on another occasion, are quite different from those in the civilian community. I am glad that the judgment in the recent judicial review cases found the policy of excluding homosexuals from the Armed Forces to be lawful under United Kingdom domestic law, and that the EC equal treatment Directive was not applicable. However, a number of points were made by the court and we are giving them careful consideration.

It is customary on these occasions to pay tribute to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. I am delighted to follow that tradition. I know that all Members from all corners of this House share the admiration, respect and affection which is felt for our servicemen and women by the nation as a whole. Those feelings are the entirely deserved result of the professionalism, commitment and loyalty demonstrated wherever British forces are deployed. We have seen in Bosnia examples of the more obviously exacting

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challenges which confront our servicemen and women. But your Lordships will appreciate that difficulties and challenges of many kinds are successfully faced day in and day out by members of our Armed Forces, usually away from the public gaze.

The excellence of the British Armed Forces rests on a number of pillars, including training and equipment of the highest standards. Another pillar, I believe just as important, if not more so, is high morale. I can report that this is in as sound condition as ever. But even so, we cannot take good morale for granted. It needs careful maintenance. One tool which is necessary in maintaining high morale is a fair and equitable system of discipline, visible to all. That is what the service discipline Acts provide, and I therefore invite the House to approve the order.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd May be approved [21st Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Henley.)

7.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, we on these Benches do not seek to impede the order. The Minister has carefully pointed out that every five years there is what I call a major opportunity to consider these matters. That will fall next year.

I wish to say how impressed those of us who take an interest in such matters were with the thoroughness of the Bett Report. The Minister is absolutely right. There is so much to consider, and so many ways in which one can give effect to the report. We certainly do not expect precipitate action on any aspect of it.

However, as the Minister rightly pointed out, the opportunity is taken for Members on all Benches in this House to raise matters. Will the Minister say a little more about the role of women? He fairly pointed out that from a standing start five years ago, it appears as though there has been great increases in the effectiveness of women undertaking certain roles. However, he used the phrase, "roles such as these". Apart from the physiological limitations placed on women by the difference in the sexes, I should have thought that we ought to have a positive, encouraging, upbeat attitude towards using women far more widely to undertake aspects of the defence services. Is the noble Lord prepared to say that the Minister, the Ministry and the service chiefs are wholeheartedly behind encouraging an expansion in and extension of the use of women in our Armed Forces; or are they, as sometimes seems, simply going through the motions, not being as supportive as they might be?

Will the Minister say something about the incidence of drinking and the methods used in the forces to deal with that? We know, because from time to time there are illustrations in localities, that in the forces, as in other areas where there are clubs or groups, it is possible for drink—sadly, alcohol—to be used as a means of dulling the senses. Those of us who have been in the services know just how easy it is to resort to drink. The Minister could be helpful to the House, and I believe to the nation, if he were to underline how the Government seek to eradicate the incidence of heavy drinking.

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In his reply, will the Minister refer to the problem of drugs in the services about which there is deep anxiety? As he knows—I have never hidden the fact—for many years I had a close association with the Prison Service through the Prison Officers' Association. For years the Home Office denied strenuously that there was such a thing as a "drug problem" in prisons. Yet we who were close to the service knew that the problem existed; and it has been difficult to deal with it. Happily, I believe that it is being dealt with in a far better way now. It is not nice to say that there is a drug problem in the forces. I note that the Government, the Minister and the defence establishment seek to do their best.

Will the Minister tell us the position regarding the incidence of steroids? Where do steroids figure in the impact of drugs? As the Minister knows, steroids are the kind of substance which often is taken, especially by young men, to improve their physique. However, we also know that the drug can be addictive.

Will the Minister say something about the ethnic make-up of the services? At col. 7 of the Commons Official Report of the Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments &c., my honourable friend Mr. Eric Martlew said:

    "In 1992-93, of the 7,500 people who were accepted by the armed forces, 41 were black, 15 were Asian and 10 came from other ethnic groups".

The Minister must be as puzzled as I am that out of 7,500 individuals fewer than 100 were from ethnic groups. Will he tell us how seriously the Government seek to pursue an increase in and improvement to the ethnic mix of the forces? Those statistics—I have no reason to dispute them—certainly give me the impression that they need to be considered.

Perhaps I may deal specifically with the point the Minister made on the treatment of homosexuality in the forces. It was welcome news in respect of decriminalisation. However, the Minister made passing reference to the High Court judgment. That allows me to bring into the debate other aspects of the judgment. For instance, I am told by Stonewall—I believe that that organisation is doing a very decent job, representing lesbian and gay individuals in our community—that although Lord Justice Simon Brown said that he could not overturn a policy which had been approved by Parliament, he roundly rejected the MoD's arguments for maintaining the ban and recognised that the ban involved a fundamental breach of human rights. He commented that:

    "The tide of history is against the Ministry. Prejudices are breaking down ... it seems to me improbable, whatever the court may say, that the existing policy can survive much longer".

Will the Minister hazard a guess as to how long it might be before the Ministry accepts the illogicality of its present attitude?

The Minister and Ministry constantly say—I noted what the noble Lord said—that there are special conditions of service life. Can the Minister reflect on this factor? The special conditions of service life in Britain can be no more special than those in service life in other countries. He does not have to plead the case that living in closed communities, as servicemen and women have to do, is different from living in a family

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environment. Yet, with the exception of Turkey, Britain is alone in NATO in totally excluding homosexuals from serving. In Britain identification as a homosexual is reason enough for discharge, and celibacy is no escape from the loss of your career, home and friends. Why do the Minister and Ministry insist on saying that service life is so special that it cannot survive, and cannot service defence needs in the same way as do many of our allies?

For instance, since the Select Committee on the Armed Forces in 1991 reported—we shall review the situation completely next year—there have been a number of changes to the way in which our allies have viewed homosexuality in their armed forces. In October 1992, Canada removed all the barriers to homosexuals serving in the Canadian services. In November 1992, Australia scrapped its ban. In December 1992, New Zealand lifted its ban. In 1993, Israel and Ireland did so. Can the Minister tell me what is special about the needs of the armed services in those countries, and about the nature of homosexuality among the individuals who are members of the armed services in those countries? What is special about either the defence needs of the country or homosexual needs? The Minister has a duty to be more explicit than he was.

I conclude by saying that we on these Benches are no exception, we share the Minister's tribute to our Armed Services and the men and women of whom we are rightly proud. We are proud of what they do, not least in Bosnia, the current field of conflict, but in many other ways. In the 50th year after the Second World War, those of us who served in the forces sadly recognise that many, even those serving now, may expect some of their comrades to be killed in action. They deserve our support; and I believe that the answers that the Minister can give will go a long way towards reassuring those on these Benches that he fully understands the problems.

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