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Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Of course I sympathise completely with the sentiment that he has just expressed. I believe that legislation should be brought up to date to reflect modern circumstances wherever possible. The position as reflected in the Bill could be expressed in this way, that the Sovereign acts within a statutory framework because the armed forces are statutory forces. They are the armed forces of the Crown. It would be quite wrong to sever that link. A good example of that is that His Majesty King George V needed the authority of the Air Force Constitution Act 1917 to create the Royal Air Force in 1918.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am again grateful to the noble Earl. This debate has been very useful to clarify the situation and to put on record the points of view of various noble Lords, including ourselves. I have no inclination at all to derogate from the position that the armed forces have had. My only concern is that the structure of the Bill tends, in my view, to override some of the structures elsewhere. I am satisfied with the noble Earl's explanation and I will not pursue the matter at a later stage because I do not want to stir the pot on this. But I believe that sooner or later we will have to have a more coherent view of who does what, where and with whom in the reserve forces and possibly the armed forces as well. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 5:

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Page 2, line 36, leave out ("after being") and insert ("as soon as").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I also speak to Amendment No. 47. There is an oddity here. The expression in the Bill at the end of Clause 4(5) is "after being made". In other words, an order or regulation under Clause 4:

    "shall be laid before Parliament after being made".

"After being made" has no time limit. "After being made" can be one year, two years, six years, 10 years, 20 years, whatever it might be. Again I do not want to raise the argument that I adduced as regards the last amendment that I moved, but it seems to me appropriate that an order under this clause, which will become a section of the Act, should be laid before Parliament as soon as it is made. It does not seem to me to be an unreasonable request looking at it from the point of view of parliamentarians. The same applies to Amendment No. 47, which, in a slightly different context, has the same effect. I therefore very much hope that the Government will agree to this because it seems to me an important principle that orders made under Clause 4 of the Bill, which will become an Act, should be laid before Parliament as soon as they are made. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I always like to be helpful to the noble Lord whenever I can, but I am afraid I find it difficult to see any scope for change here. The proposed parliamentary procedure for orders and regulations maintains the previous practice. I cannot recall any difficulties having arisen in the past. In practice, there is very little delay between making and laying orders. It may be of interest to the Committee to know that the Territorial Army Regulations 1978, which the minutes of proceedings record as having been laid before the House on Tuesday 23rd January, were made only on 18th January. That is a very topical instance of timely tabling and we would certainly aim to continue the practice of laying such orders promptly.

I might also add that no objection to the proposed procedure was raised by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in its report of 13th December last. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will not feel obliged to push me further. The amendment as expressed would impose an unnecessarily onerous obligation and, given that the practice works well already--I am not aware of any default in that regard--I hope that the problem he has identified is more apparent than real.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I find it very difficult to see how it can impose an onerous burden on the Government to lay an order as soon as it is made. The order is drafted, printed and so on. All that has to be done in laying an order is for some person or persons unknown to march it to the Ministry of Defence down Whitehall and lay the order in Parliament. It does not seem to me to be an onerous burden at all. I accept that this has happened in practice. However, as I have said on previous occasions, just because it has worked well in practice in the past does not mean that we should not necessarily try to improve matters.

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If the Minister is saying to the Committee that in his judgment and in the view of the Government any order under what will become Section 4 of the Act will be laid at the earliest convenient moment, if he is saying that as a ministerial statement, then of course I shall accept it. If not, then I think we have to review the matter.

Earl Howe: I am delighted to give the noble Lord that assurance. All such orders are laid at the earliest convenient moment. I was seeking to make the point that the phrase in the amendment "as soon as made" means in legal terms instantaneously. That is to say, the moment that the order is made--in other words, signed by the members of the Defence Council or by Her Majesty the Queen--it has to be laid. That is why I said that it was an onerous requirement. I hope the noble Lord will see that in fact what we have at the moment is a reasonable system that works very well and that the intention is to maintain timely laying of all orders as soon as is convenient.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am again grateful to the noble Earl. However, I do not understand why this is an onerous requirement and how, if the order is signed by Her Majesty the Queen, it cannot be produced immediately in this House. But if the ministerial statement that the noble Earl has made to the Committee is accepted by the Committee, then I am happy with that. I would prefer to have on the face of the Bill "as soon as conveniently possible". But under the circumstances I am perfectly happy with the assurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 36, at end insert ("and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we once again come to the question of what parliamentary control there might be regarding any order relating to the reserve forces. I am bound to say that I am a little concerned--and I would invite the Minister's comments on this--that, as I understand it, Parliament has no power under the Bill as drafted--I may be wrong and I am open to correction--even to pray against such an order, bearing in mind that there are very wide powers under Clause 4. While not wishing in any way--and I emphasised this on Second Reading and I have emphasised it throughout--to affect the efficiency of our reserve forces, I believe that there is a principle about parliamentary control which should be observed. If the noble Earl can give me the same kind of assurance as he gave me as regards the last amendment, I would be perfectly happy.

Earl Howe: I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has just said. I believe, nevertheless, that it would be inappropriate to subject the making of orders and regulations governing the day-to-day running of the reserve forces to parliamentary proceedings.

Just as an example of that, the regulations of the Territorial Army are in an A5 volume that is 30mm thick. The provisions need to be flexible, they need to be capable of being changed through simple, quick procedures and

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that is not just the Government's view, because I refer again to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee report of last December. It stated that making these orders or regulations subject to parliamentary proceedings would:

    "burden Parliament with a mass of detailed provisions which it would be difficult to scrutinise effectively".

I believe that speaks for itself. It is a view that we should not lightly cast aside.

I can say, however, that orders of Her Majesty and regulations by the Defence Council are very carefully considered before they are made. I do not believe I need to say that, but noble Lords will understand why I stress it. I hope, on the basis of what I have said, that the noble Lord will not think it right to pursue this amendment on simple grounds of practicality.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Again, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response, which is rather what I expected in the light of the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of this House. It is of course open--and I hope will be open--to any member of this House, or indeed another place, to put down any form of Motion relative to any of these orders. I do not believe that would be a procedure which would be ruled out of order by the Table in either House. On the understanding that that is the case--and I will take advice on the matter before we come to another stage--I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5, 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Pensions]:

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