Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Attlee: I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Perhaps I could say a few words about enlisting. Generally speaking the chap who enlists a soldier is the attesting officer. Only certain officers in the unit are authorised to attest the new recruit. As for re-enlisting, generally speaking any officer would be involved in the re-enlisting procedure. I support the noble Lord and I suggest that only a commissioned officer should be involved in enlisting a soldier.

Earl Howe: The intention of this clause was to bring the practice for the enlistment of reservists broadly into line with the procedure provided in Section 1 of the Army and Air Force Acts 1955, but in a simplified form.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH57

Those Acts allow for recruits to be enlisted by three groups of people. The first is any officer authorised under regulations of the Defence Council. The second applies only in a colony and comprises any person authorised by the Governor of the colony. The third group applies only outside the United Kingdom and colonies and comprises any British consul. These latter provisions were presumably included to cater for overseas enlistment in a possible crisis. It is almost invariably the current practice that recruits to the reserve forces are enlisted by regular or reserve officers.

We should not wish to rule out the possibility of enlisting recruits to the reserve overseas in a time of crisis. However, Clause 9(2)(c) has perhaps emerged in a form which is broader than it need be to meet that requirement. In the light of the cogent points which both noble Lords have made, I shall undertake to re-consider the wording of this paragraph further before the next stage of the Bill. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment this afternoon.

Lord Judd: I should like to thank the noble Earl for that positive and encouraging response. In the light of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 9:

After Clause 10, insert the following new clause--

Annual report on performance

(". A commanding officer shall ensure that each man in his command is given an annual confidential report on his performance.").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to Amendment No. 9 it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I also speak to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. In fact this matter should be properly covered by TA regulations; it concerns confidential reports. My objective is that there should be an annual appraisal of every soldier. This process is perfectly normal in industry. The reason this is necessary is that those in junior ranks in the TA are young and inexperienced. They are unsure of their progress and they do not see a promotion ladder leading to the position of the senior NCOs. They do not realise that the senior NCOs were themselves privates once. Sometimes a private or a lance corporal cannot understand why he is not being promoted to the next step. Good officers already produce confidential reports annually but that is not a requirement. There may be other higher priorities such as recruitment and organising exercises and it is easy to leave out confidential reports.

I am proposing a very simple report: just one sheet a day with a simple matrix to lay out the soldier's personal qualities and then a pen picture and something to say what his personal characteristics are. I would suggest that a confidential report would encourage and motivate the soldier and enable him to improve his performance where the confidential report says that there is room for

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH58

improvement. I feel that it would improve retention of soldiers. Retention is a big problem in the Territorial Army--we are looking at a 30 per cent. loss rate in many units--so any improvement to retention by keeping soldiers, by telling them what they need to do, will help.

It will also be a very objective tool for promotion. It will avoid the risk of over-promoting and also of overlooking soldiers who ought to be promoted. It will also address the problem of poor attenders because the confidential report would suggest that the soldier should attend more. Finally, it should not be a surprise for a soldier if the unit decides that his services are no longer required because a confidential report would say words to the effect that "You're not doing enough".

I turn now to Amendment No. 10. Again this should be properly covered by the TA regulations and not on the face of the Bill. The problem concerns that of unsatisfactory soldiers. You can improve a unit by instigating better training, more interesting exercises, better personnel management, and that can result in high attendance and high retention. The problem is that if you do that you can quickly end up in a situation where you have no vacancies for further good soldiers who want to get into your unit. The solution to the problem is to remove some of the dead wood--soldiers who are not really attending enough or soldiers who are bounty hunters. All they do is turn up for the minimum amount of time in order to get their bounty. You may also have soldiers who were good performers at one point but their performance has tailed off somewhat.

We should be able to review our soldiers as to whether we really want them any more and, if we do not because they do not meet our requirements, we should be able easily to let them go. Therefore I am proposing that if at the time of re-enlistment we do not want them we should be able to say "Thank you very much for your service but we no longer require your services".

The Regular Army does not have this problem because soldiers are frequently moved around units. They are discharged if they are too old for the rank and they are promoted out of the unit if their performance is good.

The Minister may tell me that this amendment is not required. If it is not required, why do we need to keep re-enlisting soldiers? It involves us in a great deal of administration. Sometimes soldiers run out on their engagement without our realising and then the soldiers cannot be paid. If this is not an appropriate mechanism and not necessary, why do we bother with re-enlisting? Why do we not simply have a notice engagement that once you have done your first two years you just carry on until you no longer wish to serve in the TA? I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Lord Mottistone: What the noble Earl has just said makes a lot of good sense but I do not think that what he proposes is suitable for primary legislation. As he himself said, it is the sort of thing which is much better catered for in Territorial Army Regulations. That is where it should be. I hope that the Ministry of Defence

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH59

will read what the noble Earl has said and act on it. I do not think it is suitable for this sort of legislation.

Lord Vivian: I very much support what Lord Mottistone has just said.

Lord Craig of Radley: I should also like to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has said. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has raised a number of very cogent and interesting points but I do not see them as necessarily suitable for the face of the Bill. After all, there may be differences in treatment of reports--whether or not they are confidential, annual and available to the individual--as between the three services. It would be over-complicated to try to do this on the Bill.

Earl Attlee: I fully accept that it should not be on the face of the Bill. That was the first point I made in moving my amendment.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Earl and I listened with great interest to the points that he made. I am sure he will know from his experience that there is a requirement in the regulations of the volunteer reserve forces for annual confidential reports on all officers. That is in line with the practice in regular forces. There is no requirement in the regulations for such formal reports on warrant officers and below in the reserve forces.

However, it is the practice for warrant officers and below in the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the RAF Volunteer Reserve to be the subject of annual reports. In the Royal Marines Reserve they go one better, and report every six months. There are also annual reports on warrant officers and below in certain corps within the Territorial Army.

The noble Earl has raised an interesting suggestion. However, if it were desired to introduce a formal requirement for such reports, I believe it would be appropriate to do so through the regulations rather than have such a requirement on the face of the Bill. In that light, I will therefore undertake to draw the noble Earl's views to the attention of the Service authorities. I hope he will feel more comfortable in withdrawing the amendment on that basis.

Turning to the noble Earl's second amendment, Amendment No. 10, he is quite correct to say that only those men whose services are required should be re-engaged. However, I do not believe his amendment is necessary. What Clause 11 does is create the possibility of re-engagement. It does not create an absolute right for the individual to be re-engaged. In fact, the regulations for the reserve forces impose the condition that the noble Earl mentions, and it will also indeed add other important ones. For example, paragraph 5.142 of the Territorial Army Regulations says that applications for re-engagement are to be subject to the individual's efficiency, his medical standard, his age and a recommendation by his commanding officer. Again, it would not be appropriate to put all those detailed requirements in the Bill, as the noble Earl readily acknowledges. We would not wish to promote one requirement above the others by putting it in primary legislation. That is the other danger.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH60

Perhaps I may advert to a concern expressed by the noble Earl on the question of re-engagement. Clause 19 creates the possibility of notice engagements, so that probably meets his point. I am not sure whether the noble Earl spoke to his final amendment. I may have missed the detailed remarks on that but I would be delighted to respond if he wished to speak to it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page