Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Attlee: I am most grateful for that reply. As for Clause 11, I do not believe I covered it properly but I am sure we can move on. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 [Re-engagement for service]:

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Judd: On behalf of my noble friends and myself, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I just suggest that we ought to look a little at the significance of this clause before we endorse it.

It seems to us that there are two interesting principles at stake here. On the one hand, of course, in the whole concept and ethos of the volunteer services, one is wanting to capitalise on the sense of commitment, keenness and the identification of the individual with the part of the forces in which he or she is serving. That is obviously a very rich asset. But on the other, we are recognising--I believe we are all realistic about this and I am sure the reserve forces take great heart from it--that the reserve forces are becoming increasingly more significant in the total defence effort.

Therefore we wonder just how realistic this clause is. It would be extremely helpful at this stage to hear a little from the noble Earl about the thinking and rationale behind it. Let me just underline the point that I am trying to make.

The clause refers to the right of a man in the Territorial Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve to be enlisted for the service "as he may select". That is good in the sense of the whole issue of morale and identification and a sense of trust, but at a time of acute need, with tremendous pressures on the nation and on the reserve forces, how practical will this always be in terms of the priorities that may be emerging in a particular situation? We would appreciate some enlightenment from the noble Earl on this point. The clause also goes on to say, and in the context of what I have just been saying it is perhaps a little more significant, that a man of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve,

Again, on the one hand, of course it is ideal to have an individual doing something he really wants to do and believes in doing, but in the context and reality of a hot situation, a complicated, demanding situation, will this

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH61

always be possible? Therefore, while we raise this question, we are looking at the balance between the two principles. We are also anxious that people contemplating service in these contexts, should not in any way be misled. I am sure, therefore, that the noble Earl will realise that we raise the matter not in any sense of hostility to what this Bill is intending to do at all. As the noble Earl will know, we are very much behind the general thrust of the Bill. If I may put it very candidly, we have a sense of anxiety about the implications of the clause and it would be very helpful if the noble Earl could put us more fully in the picture at this stage.

Lord Redesdale: I would like to speak against the proposal that the clause do not stand part because I believe that many members of the Territorial Army are very keen to join one particular arm of the Territorial Army. Indeed, one of the points that must be raised is that we have an increasingly sophisticated army and it takes rather a long time to train members of the Territorial Army to fulfil adequately the function for which they are training. I believe this clause is quite necessary.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for setting out his concerns and it may be helpful to the Committee if I explain the purpose of this clause. It allows men of the Territorial Army and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force the right on enlistment to choose the corps, unit or body in which they wish to serve.

A similar right also extends to men of the Army Reserve or Air Force Reserve who may choose which military or air force body they wish to join when they enlist in those forces.

There is no equivalent provision for the reserve naval and marine forces because they are not divided in the same way as the reserve land and air forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned service ethos.

There is one point that I would stress in this context which is that the choice of corps or unit is an essential part of the volunteer ethos. Allowing an individual a choice of unit or corps with which he can identify is an important aid to maintaining morale.

As the noble Lords will be aware, many units have a strong local identity and recruiting base. This helps to develop and strengthen their links with the local community. They also have in many cases long, honourable and illustrious histories. This really is a powerful factor in encouraging people to join the volunteer reserves. Allowing an individual to choose to join the local unit of his or her choice is an essential part of that.

I believe it is an important reassurance to volunteers that, having chosen their unit, they may not be posted or transferred away from it without their consent. Subsections (3), (4) and (5) provide for this. The prospect of enforced posting is likely in our view to damage recruitment or damage retention or both.

To complete the picture, and in response to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd made, I should perhaps mention that subsection (6) provides that the right that I have referred to is suspended while individuals are in

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH62

permanent service. That deals with the point about hot demand. Clause 20 explains this in more detail and provides that at the end of a period of permanent service a man is entitled to return to his original unit.

I hope that that is of some assistance and, having heard what I have said, the noble Lord will feel content to let the clause stand part.

Lord Judd: I would like to thank the noble Earl for what he said and I certainly do not want in any way to make a fundamental stand on this clause. But I would like to make the observation that, while I completely take the point he has made about hot situations and subsection (6), which I think is a very valid response by the noble Earl, I am still concerned--as I think it is fair to say are my noble friends--about the importance of not inadvertently selling a false prospectus. One can envisage situations developing in which--however much one would wish it and sees the strength of the principle--it would not be rational or reasonable to put, above all else, the first wish of the individual concerned. In the end, the armed services in any form must be about the defence of the realm and it must be what is necessary for the defence of the realm that takes priority.

In that context, I quite accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made about not wanting to discourage recruits. But I think it is important that anyone contemplating service should always bear in mind, as an individual, that it is not just about doing something nice with friends in a good social setting. It is a serious commitment for the defence of the realm and, therefore, there must be a readiness to do whatever is demanded at any particular time.

Having made those observations, I suspect that I am underlining that we are not totally assured. However, I do not want to delay the proceedings and, therefore, we are quite content to see the clause go forward.

Earl Howe: Before indicating our assent or otherwise to this clause, perhaps I could come back on one point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has made. There may be some factors which inevitably limit the choice available to a potential reservist and that may be the case, for example, where there is some specialism, experience or age range that is a prerequisite for entry into particular units, bodies or corps. Orders or regulations under Clause 4 will have the power to impose such entry restrictions. But, those restrictions are made known to potential recruits through the appropriate advertising literature, so that there is no difficulty about that. They are made known at the time when they inquire about enlistment. I do not believe that there is any question of selling the reserve forces, as it were, on a false prospectus.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Clause 15: [Discharge by commanding officer]:

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16: [Entitlement to discharge]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 6, leave out line 24.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH63

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 12 stands in my name and those of my noble friends. Clause 16 deals with entitlement to discharge. The Committee will be aware that we have had a number of clause stand part debates which is always rather irritating in a sense for the Committee--which we try to avoid--but nevertheless as we are in a position where all these are probing amendments or probing debates I hope the noble Earl will be patient with us. Indeed these are two amendments--if I may speak to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 together--which are essentially probing and essentially clause stand part-type amendments, if I may use that expression.

I should be grateful if the noble Earl could say a few words, on Amendment No. 12, as regards what other circumstances would enable somebody to be entitled to be discharged. It is a broad provision in the Bill. I am perfectly happy that it should be quite broad, but I should be grateful if the noble Earl could give us some indication of what the Government have in mind in including this provision other than a blanket clause just allowing somebody, or the Defence Council, or commanding officer, to specify whatever he thinks is appropriate. Will there, for instance, be some sort of continuity of relationship between the different services and the different voluntary organisations? Will there be any mechanism for ensuring that entitlement to discharge in one service is similar to entitlement to discharge in another? Will there be precedents? Will those precedents rate at all? There are all sorts of questions that arise out of this particular expression

    "in such other circumstances as may be prescribed".

If I may speak for a minute to Amendment No. 13, again I do not wish to leave out subsection (4); this is purely a probing amendment. But the question of whether the man--or presumably woman--concerned should deliver up,

    "in good order, fair wear and tear excepted, all arms, clothing and other public property issued to him"

is something which strikes a rather odd chord here. If somebody--and it may be a member of the volunteer services--for some reason or other gets into difficulty, illness or whatever it might be, the idea that he should hand in all his kit and all the rest of it as a sort of pre-condition to entitlement to discharge seems to us slightly odd. It depends entirely, as I read the clause, on the whim of the commanding officer as to whether these matters should apply. I should be grateful if the noble Earl could clarify these matters a bit, in the light of the fact that we do not care what government statements are made about the amendments that we move. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page