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Earl Howe: The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has raised an important point. I agree with him that those

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who take on the obligation of becoming a member of the high readiness reserve should be properly trained. Indeed that applies equally to those liable to be deployed on operations under other parts of the Bill, although I remember the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, explaining to us at Second Reading how such considerations were set aside in his case in 1939.

I can say that when we sought volunteers for deployment to Bosnia in December, minimum training qualifications were set for each post to be filled. The nub of the amendment is therefore well taken by the service authorities. There are difficulties--some of them fairly obvious--with setting out a provision like this which has universal applicability. The amendment mentions doctors as a special case, but what about engineers, say, or linguists? Quite often in the volunteer reserve forces one keen individual may make more progress in one year's service than another who can manage only the minimum attendance, would make in three years.

A provision taking account of all those points would be far too detailed for the Bill, and would still not allow the flexibility needed to deal with special cases. I have to say that it will be better to leave it to the service authorities to set their own rules and procedures. Those rules and procedures are fully in accord with the thrust of the amendment. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will be content to withdraw the amendment in the light of what I have said.

Lord Redesdale: I thank the Minister for that reply. However, although he says that certain skills are needed such as engineering or linguistic skills, certain requirements should not be overlooked. Just because someone turns up who can speak a Slavic language it does not mean that he should immediately go to Bosnia. He might never have seen a rifle let alone laid hands on one and there are still certain training commitments he should undertake such as training in the nuclear, biological or chemical fields. However, I take the point the Minister has made. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Attlee: Clause 28 is the paving clause for the high readiness reserve. It is clearly a very important and key part of the Bill. I have a little difficulty with it in that when I speak to the powers that be they seem somewhat unsure of exactly what sort of specialisations they are looking for. Are they looking for so many drivers, infantrymen or mechanics, or are they looking for chest surgeons, cartographers or other specialities?

It will cause a problem with recruiting in that many employers will think that members of the TA are likely to go off at short notice when in fact it has been acknowledged that the numbers involved in a high readiness reserve are really quite low. But it needs to be remembered that employment decisions and promotion decisions within commercial organisations are made at quite low levels by relatively unsophisticated people. Therefore, they can easily get the wrong end of the stick.

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I also wonder whether it is strictly necessary. There is a concept within the new reserve forces structure of the ready reserve list, a list of volunteers who are prepared to go at short notice. The ready reserve list does not appear on the face of the Bill because it does not need primary legislation; it is basically an internal arrangement in the units. So I wonder whether the arrangement for high readiness reserves would be better made by the ready reserve list. I also wonder whether we are missing a great untapped wealth of skills throughout the TA for this reason. You can have an infantry unit with some very fine vehicle mechanics within that unit, when there is not a REME unit nearby. Therefore they will join the nearest unit which happens to be infantry. If we had a decent database we could do a trawl for the specialist skills we wanted and extract them from whatever unit they happened to be in.

My chief point is this. Exactly what does the Minister want out of the high readiness reserves in terms of the skills he is looking for? I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for setting out his concerns with his usual clarity. This clause, as he has indicated, provides that a reservist may enter into a special agreement making him liable to be called out for up to nine months' permanent service anywhere in the world.

As I said earlier, it is not anticipated that the numbers of special agreement reservists will be great--perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 at most under current plans. The nine-month time limit, incidentally, is something of a compromise between call out for as long as the particular operation is in progress and the reality that the reservist in question has a civilian job to fulfil. It is generally considered that nine months will cover most foreseeable cases, either in their entirety or will give the regular forces sufficient time to identify a further reservist replacement at the end of that time. Furthermore, it is provided that the reservist's employer must be notified that his employee is proposing to take on this extra liability and he must give his consent to it.

This giving of consent does not preclude the employer, or indeed the reservist himself, from applying to have the reservist exempted from call out or to have that call out deferred under Part VIII of the Bill. In the nature of things I fully accept that the call out of such a reservist may arise at times which are extremely difficult for his employer and when that employer needs to have the reservist at his place of civilian employment. We would expect this to reduce the number of such applications in the first place.

The intention is that the approval of all employers to whom the employee provides significant service should be obtained. A reservist may have more than one employer for these purposes, but it is our clear view that it should not be necessary for a reservist to have to seek the consent of every person who employs him, no matter for how long. I have referred to that distinction earlier this afternoon. A reservist who has a part-time job working behind a bar for a few hours a week will not therefore need to get the consent of the publican. The clause introduces the concept of qualifying employment

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which provides that to require the employer's consent the reservist must work at the job in question for over a threshold of 14 hours per week.

The high readiness reserve is designed to attract skills which are in short supply. The basis for that is that it is not sensible to rely on seeking volunteers possessing such skills at a time of crisis. One cannot at the moment be specific as to all the skills which would be needed, but they are likely to include linguists, intelligence staff, medical staff, and air movement support staff. The skills required may well change over time. As we have said, it is too early to say how great a problem there might be in finding such people. Positive promotion to reservists and employers will be necessary; and recruitment to the reserves might be targeted on those with the appropriate civilian skills.

I hope that those remarks will have served to clarify the Government's thinking in bringing forward these proposals and that the Committee will be content to let the Clause stand part.

Earl Attlee: I thank the noble Earl for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Consent of new employer]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 14, line 9, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend. I am not terribly happy about these subsections because I am not quite certain why they are necessary. It seems to me that, as they stand, they give a fair amount of power to the so-called authorised person and the employer, but not so much to the individual directly involved. Under these two subsections the authorised person gives a certificate on a prescribed form that the employer has given his consent, but it then goes on to say that the certificate is to be conclusive evidence that the employer has consented to the continuation in force of the special agreement, even when the special agreement would otherwise have been terminated under Clause 31(2).

It seems to me that there could well be a situation in which the individual concerned believes that a special agreement has terminated and that he therefore no longer has any obligations under it, whereas this may not be the case at all, and the employer could perhaps use it as a way of getting rid of someone he did not particularly like. This does not seem to me to be a very good idea. There is no hint in either of these two subsections that the individual concerned should be approached--it is simply a deal between the authorised person and the employer. I may have misunderstood these two subsections but I would appreciate hearing what the Minister has to say about what I have indicated in moving the amendment.

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Earl Howe: Part of the point of requiring an authorised officer to certify the employer's consent is that it will protect the interests of the employer, but it also protects the interests of the employee too. Indeed, it is the individual who takes the initiative in the first place to enter into a special agreement of this kind.

It may help the Committee if I explain a little about the procedure. The most straightforward procedure would be for the services to accept a note conveying the employer's consent and accept that note at face value. A provision in the Bill allows the authorised officer to consider and investigate whether the consent is valid. It is not inconceivable that an over-zealous reservist might produce a note showing an employer's consent without actually having troubled his boss. Once the authorised person has concluded that the consent is valid, we then return to the position we would have been in anyway, which is that the consent is taken to be effective. If it later transpired that the consent was in fact not properly given, the employer would be able to apply for the agreement to be terminated under Clause 31(1)(c) and 31(2). Cases would be considered on their merits, but I can say it would be with a presumption that termination would be granted unless there were good reasons not to do so.

I hope that what I have said addresses the noble Baroness's main concern--certainly I have tried to do that. I would be happy to reflect further on what she has said between now and Report stage.

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