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Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 17, after ("officers") insert ("who may be of either sex").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, which stands in my name and that of my noble friends Lady Turner and Lord Judd, it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 2.

The Bill as drafted makes a number of references to "men". It also does not, if I may say so, recognise the existence of women. I recognise that this may be a fact of legal drafting. Nevertheless, since we have found out in the course of discussions about the Bill that there have been certain matters which are the result of what I would regard as out-dated legislation which have been simply reproduced in the current Bill, I believe that it would be appropriate for the Committee to recognise

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that women are a serious and effective part of the reserve forces. I would hope very much that in some way--and I cannot say more than "in some way"--the existence of women can be introduced into the Bill so that we can go forward with the principle that in the reserve forces--this of course will carry through into the Armed Forces Bill when we come to deal with that--the existence of women and indeed the enhanced role of women in the past few years is recognised.

After all, women are no longer just people who serve in munitions factories or as nurses or whatever. Women are now pilots of aircraft, they are in the front line, and almost every other country that I can think of, including the United States, which is our NATO ally, recognises the important part that women play in equality with men. There are certain areas where that is not true. Nevertheless, I believe that we in this country ought to bring our attitudes up to date, and the bringing of our attitudes up to date should, in my view, be reflected in the legislation. How this is to be done, and in the context of the Bill that we have before us in this Committee, is not really for me to say. I put down this amendment simply in order to make the point that I very much hope that, when we come to future debates about the armed forces and reserve forces, and indeed when we discuss possibly even at this early stage in this Bill the contribution of women to our reserve forces, and indeed to the armed forces generally, that could be recognised in the legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone: In the earlier stage of this Bill my noble friend will remember that I picked up this very point on a particular amendment and he referred me to a part of the Bill which says that wherever it refers to men it means women too. I strongly agree with the principles which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, has advanced and I suspect that it is a matter which has been dealt with in the past. In modern times when women are very much treated as being as equal as possible under all circumstances in the armed forces it would be sensible to introduce an amendment to ensure that this matter is not just dealt with by a subsection of a clause which states, "for 'men' read 'women' as well". That is really rather diminishing. I think the principle of what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is saying would be well worth my noble friend taking up. It may mean quite substantial amendments but the Ministry is very experienced in the matter of producing substantial amendments at a late stage. Perhaps it can do so again.

Lord Redesdale: At this point I have to say that I did not speak on Second Reading and I should like to declare an interest. I have been a serving member of the Territorial Army for eight years and at the moment I am a serving officer with 103 Battalion Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.

I should just like to say that although I support the idea behind this amendment I do not support the amendment as it stands because I feel that it would do precisely the opposite of what was intended. I believe that the Territorial Army has a good record as regards the number of women who have taken roles within it. If one puts forward the idea of distinguishing between men and women that creates a bar where at present one does not

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exist. Although it is unfortunate that men and women are classed as men, equal opportunities should exist in the Territorial Army. I believe that they do at present.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo: Whilst supporting my noble friend Lord Williams on his amendment in principle, I really feel that we are going down the wrong road as regards the reserve forces. There are excellent organisations within the Territorial Army, Navy and the Air Force which regulate for this kind of thing. I would draw the Committee's attention to the fact that if one is sitting in an armoured vehicle with a woman between one's legs, that is rather inhibiting. This matter should be left to the discretion of the powers that run these forces and should not be on the face of the Bill.

Earl Howe: I fully understand the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to ensure that our legislation is not in any way sexist in content. However, I have difficulty with the line that he proposes in the first amendment. The point that I should like to make here is that the word "officer", both in ordinary language and in service terminology, already applies to both sexes. It is a gender-free term. So, not only is the proposed definition unnecessary, it might create doubt that references to officers in current legislation do not include women. That would be unfortunate.

The use of the word "man" in this Bill is more difficult. We thought long and hard to find another term without gender implications to cover male and female members of the reserve naval, marine, land and air forces. We have not succeeded in finding a better term. I should say that the word "man" is well known and understood within the services as applying to both males and females. Although my noble friend Lord Mottistone has already referred to it, the definition in subsection (4) of Clause 2 makes it clear that "man" means a person of either sex who is a member of a reserve force of or below the rank of warrant officer.

It may be appropriate for me to mention here that the Bill rectifies discriminatory provisions in the current legislation. The Reserve Forces Act 1980 provides that, in so far as it deals with the Royal Fleet Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve, and with former soldiers under the age of 45 liable to recall, it does not apply to women. This Bill makes no such distinction. As I have explained, every reference in it applies equally to males and to females.

I would also say this. In the services generally, very few roles now remain closed to women. The armed forces policy is that in future they will only be excluded from those posts where their presence would impair combat effectiveness. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will appreciate that. We have made great strides in recent years, and it is after all the practice that is important.

I hope that in the light of what I have said, and particularly in the light of what I would call the definitional difficulty that we faced, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

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Lord Williams of Elvel: I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply, and indeed to those noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. I am particularly grateful, if I may say so, to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who raised this point at an earlier stage. I do believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that it is time, however it is done, that we recognised that "man" as defined, as the noble Lord said, is rather derogatory to woman.

I shall not press this amendment but I would hope very much that in future legislation, or indeed in the Government's thinking, we might move away from what I regard as this antiquarian expression, however tight it is in legal terms.

Having said that, I understand entirely the noble Earl's argument. Of course I will not press the amendment today and I will not press it at a future stage. I simply want to put down a marker that, in spite of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, we think that equality of the sexes in the armed forces and reserve forces should be enshrined in some way and that we should get out of the tunnel thinking we have had for a long time that fighting people are men and men only. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Control of numbers in the reserve forces]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) Authorization by Parliament shall be by resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3 it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 16.

In the Bill as drafted we have what I regard as a rather curious expression--"Parliament". As I mentioned yesterday, I have dealt with many Bills on the Floor of the House involving parliamentary approval--approval by one House or another House--depending on international considerations or non-financial considerations. I understand that "Parliament" as such is something which appears normally in Bills to do with the armed forces. In that context, it seems to me--no doubt the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong--that it would be appropriate for the Committee to consider the possibility of how Parliament, in terms of the Bill--I am almost quoting from Clause 3--authorises. What is the mechanism? What is the instrument? Is it to be, as I suggest in my amendment, by resolution of both Houses of Parliament? Is it to be the affirmative procedure? Is it to be the negative procedure? Is it in some way built into the Defence Estimates which are passed by both Houses? What is the method by which Parliament authorises the numbers of the reserve forces? I have done some research. I find--subject to correction from the noble Earl--no expression of "Parliament" other than in the armed forces Act or the various Acts which derive from armed forces legislation. This dates, I understand, from the Civil War when Parliament arrogated to itself the right

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to decide what armed forces and therefore, by extension, what reserve forces there might be. As with the naval reserve, which we debated briefly the other day, I am inclined to believe we should move beyond the years of the Civil War and the 17th century and adopt a more modern procedure. It would seem to me right that if Parliament is to decide the numbers of the different reserve forces we should spell that out on the face of the Bill. There may be good legal arguments for not doing so. I shall be glad to hear them. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

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