Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Redesdale: I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Does this mean that for vehicles that are at the moment on a leaseback deal with the Army, the mechanics at Leyland Daf are eligible for sponsored reserve status?

Earl Howe: Potentially civilians who might be brought in to service vehicles in peace time could become sponsored reserves to enable them to change their clothes in time of crisis when they were called out, and they would remain performing the same support tasks. That is the point that I have sought to make. I do not know if that answers the noble Lord, but that is the idea behind the sponsored reserve. As I say, I believe that the scheme has considerable potential. I commend the clause to the Committee.

The noble Earl mentioned one concern which was that some people might volunteer for the reserve service for the wrong reasons. The volunteer nature of entering sponsored reserve service will be stressed both to employers and employees who are contemplating such an arrangement. I hope that the Committee will recognise that many volunteer members of our reserves have diverse reasons for being members of the reserve and a sense of service, although one might like to think so, is not always the primary reason. But that does not necessarily make for poor reservists. That is the point I would make.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. Perhaps he is not in a particularly good position at the moment to advise me on the military aspects of how responsible reserves could work in

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH91

theatre. Perhaps he can write to me and tell me how the rank structure and discipline will work in theatre for sponsored reservists once they are called up.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Entry into agreements]:

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Cessation of liability to be called out or to train]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 20, leave out lines 33 and 34.

The noble Earl said: If I wanted to put down a wrecking amendment for the sponsored reservist, this would be it. I refer to the words:

    "the termination of his employment with the employer whose consent was required to his entry into the employee agreement".

In other words, the sponsored reservist, on seeing the possibility of hostilities, could resign his civilian employment and therefore he would have no liability to be called up as a sponsored reservist. Is that really the case, or are there some other ways to ensure that he would not be able to wriggle out of his liabilities? Perhaps the Minister can advise on that. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Earl for setting out his concerns, but I think there are some threads to be untangled here.

If the employment of a sponsored reservist with an employer who has an arrangement with the Secretary of State were to end, that person could not in any eventuality be called out. Under the provisions of Clause 43(1) the noble Earl will see that call-out is conditional on an arrangement between a person's employer and the Secretary of State. It is also conditional on the continuing nature of the individual's work in support of the armed forces. If a call-out cannot be effected after a person's employment has ceased, there is no point in the individual continuing to have a liability for it.

We did not think it right to call out as sponsored reserves persons who had ceased to perform their peace-time functions. We would not wish to rely on a person who would go to the lengths of terminating his civilian employment simply to escape his sponsored reserve liability. I hope that goes some way to explaining our thinking and to answering the noble Earl's point.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee: I thank the Minister for that reply which was more or less as I thought it would be. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 [Call out of special members]:

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]

Clause 43 agreed to.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH92

Clauses 44, 45 and 46 agreed to.

Clause 47 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

[Amendment No. 30 not moved.]

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clauses 48 and 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Liability of members of reserve forces under call-out orders]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 26, line 22, after ("Act,") insert ("only").

The noble Earl said: This amendment addresses the problem of deciding whether one needs the services of the volunteer after one has called him up. We have discussed a problem previously in Committee where the volunteer on call-up had to remain at the place of call-up. My concern is that we will call up a volunteer, he will arrive, and then he will be told that his services are not required, but meanwhile he has so arranged his civilian commitments as to enable him to go off for full-time service. This provision would avoid the risk of his being called up again for another three months. I accept that this is not something which should appear on the face of the Bill, and it may not even be a matter for regulation because it will tie the hands of the staff too much. It is nevertheless a matter of concern that people will be called up, told they are not required, then called up again and again told they are not required. How does the Minister intend to address that particular problem?

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Earl for explaining his amendment and I entirely understand his intention in seeking to protect the reservist. As he has indicated, the effect of this amendment would be to introduce a three months' safeguard following a reservist's release from call-out service, during which call-out is not possible. I do not think it is desirable to go down this route. It is necessary for the Ministry of Defence to retain flexibility for call-out. It may be necessary, for example, in a particularly grave emergency to call out a person or persons who have just been released or discharged from permanent called out service. The noble Earl's amendment would remove that flexibility.

I should like to reassure him that I do not envisage such circumstances occurring very frequently, but it is nevertheless necessary to make such provision. The Bill does in any case provide for the concept of aggregate service which defines the length and frequency of permanent service that any person called out under Part VI of the Bill could be required to perform. This provision applies equally to officers and men but varies with the call-out power. It is that safeguard, rather than the one that the noble Earl is proposing, that is perhaps more important to most people. It certainly leaves the Ministry and the services with the necessary flexibility that they may require. I hope that in the light of what I have said the noble Earl will be content to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH93

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Call out for national danger, great emergency or attack on the UK]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 27, line 30, after ("to") insert ("both Houses of").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment I hope that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if at the same time I discuss Amendment No. 34. I trust that it will be in order to facilitate our proceedings at this stage if we sweep up the clause stand part debate in the context of what I am going to say.

Amendment No. 33 deals with a point we have already debated today. It seeks to clarify what is meant by "Parliament". To be absolutely clear and so avoid misunderstanding when the event occurs, we say that it means both Houses. In advocating that point, which I am sure the noble Earl, in his very constructive approach today, will be willing to accept, may I just draw his attention to the fact that inadvertently subsection (7) does rather seem to substantiate the argument so well put forward by my noble friend Lord Williams. There may have been quibbling when we were discussing Amendment No. 5 about the words "as soon as". I thought that the noble Earl put up a brave attempt for his case in that context, but here we are saying "forthwith". That is exactly what my noble friend Lord Williams was arguing for, so it will be interesting to hear how "forthwith" applies here but "as soon as" could not possibly be accepted and would have put onerous and unacceptable responsibilities on Ministers and others in the context of Amendment No. 5. It is an interesting contradiction. I hope the noble Earl can deal with it. I hope too that the Committee will forgive me for raising the point in the context of this amendment.

Amendment No. 34 raises the interesting point of what happens, not if the House is prorogued or adjourned, but we are in the middle of a general election. I suppose that sceptics and cynics might say that the old guard in the Kremlin, with their very bureaucratic approach, would never have dreamt of challenging in the middle of a general election. They would have understood that the election must be over before going to war. We are now in a much more unpredictable, volatile age in which perhaps not all the mavericks who are operating understand the constitutional niceties. I wonder what would in fact happen if the House were dissolved. It is important that we hear the Minister's observations; hence our probing amendment.

I wonder, considering the clause, whether I am reading Alice in Wonderland. It says:

    "(a) if it appears to Her [Majesty] that national danger is imminent or that a great emergency has arisen; or

    (b) in the event of an actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom".

Subsection (8) goes on:

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH94

    "a proclamation shall be issued for the meeting of Parliament within 5 days;"

One wonders what would have happened within those five days; where, indeed, Parliament might meet; how many Members might be able to turn up; all sorts of considerations of that kind. I find the clause delightful in the context of our discussions earlier on the Civil War, Cromwell and the rest, and perhaps in terms of the last century or the earlier parts of this century. However, it does not seem totally in tune with the awful realities with which we are now living. As we are coming towards the end of our proceedings today, I would like to say that the noble Earl has been extremely gracious and helpful and we appreciate it. It would be very helpful if he could put all our minds at rest on this matter. It may be that he and his Ministry have insights into how, in modern warfare, it will be possible to call Parliament within five days and everything will proceed absolutely methodically, carefully and well. However, I do not believe we are all totally convinced about that. It would be good to know how the noble Earl himself sees it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page