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Lord Mayhew: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps he would be kind enough to give me the very simple reassurance that I asked for. I am sure that he will be able to do so. Can he confirm that no further pilot schemes will be started before all the monitorings and assessments of the scheme are carried out?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I tried to cover that point in my response. It is unthinkable that any further pilot schemes should be commenced--or, indeed the main scheme commenced--if the pilot scheme had not been fully evaluated and found to have been a success.

Lord Judd: My Lords, perhaps I may, first, make the observation that I always appreciate the optimism of the noble Earl that it will in fact fall to him and his honourable friend Mr. Soames to make the evaluation in a year's time. Of course, it will be those of us who find ourselves on this side of the House this evening who will be making that evaluation. Nevertheless, we

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listened carefully to the responsibilities which the Minister has placed upon us. No doubt we shall do our best to discharge them to the full.

I turn now to the very firm assurances which the Minister has given this evening, which we take most seriously. First, he said that there will be no question of proceeding if the pilot scheme is a failure. That, of course, is reassuring. Secondly, he said that there will be full consultation with all involved; that there will be an opportunity for Parliament to debate the matter, and that Parliament's views will be taken into account. In the light of such assurances I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

However, I wish to make the following observation. I believe that there is a constitutional issue at stake. It is not satisfactory that what is in fact happening is that we are giving the Executive a go-ahead on a scheme because, in the end, it will be the Executive who consults and the Executive who makes the decision. We are doing so before we have available to us the outcome of the pilot studies. As I said, that is not satisfactory. Nevertheless, the Minister is a man of great good faith; indeed, I am sure that no one in the House doubts that fact. We take what the Minister said seriously. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Clause 21 [Sex discrimination: Great Britain]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 15, leave out lines 30 to 45 and insert--
("(9B) A complaint to which subsection (9A) applies may be presented to an industrial tribunal under section 63(1).
(9C) Nothwithstanding subsection (9B) of this section, a complaint to which subsection (9A) applies may be made to an officer under the service redress procedure applicable to the complainant.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the above amendment I shall, with the leave of the House, speak also to Amendments Nos. 3 to 17. The amendments deal with those clauses in the Bill which cover issues of racial and sexual discrimination, grievances concerning equal pay, employment rights and industrial relations matters. The purpose of the amendments is to enable those with a complaint or grievance to go straight to a tribunal and not to make their access to a tribunal dependent upon first pursuing a complaint internally, which is what the Bill proposes.

In moving the amendment, perhaps I may re-emphasise--as, indeed, I did on Report--that there is no question but that we on this side of the House strongly favour the internal procedures. That is the way that you build a strong organisation. In that way an organisation can learn from its experiences. It is also a way to keep high morale; indeed, our amendments recognise that. However, what we do not understand is the Government's insistence on keeping the services special in terms of the right to go direct to a tribunal. If that right exists, it is a guarantee of the quality of the internal arrangements.

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In my view, if the internal arrangements are working well, there is virtually no chance that anyone will want to go to a tribunal directly because those with a grievance or complaint will have confidence and would much prefer to see the matter settled internally rather than face the hassle and doubts about the future which would inevitably arise if the matter were dealt with outside. We believe that that is an unnecessary, self-imposed handicap on the future of the services. It will be good to hear tonight what the Minister has to say on the matter.

Perhaps I may briefly mention four specifics. First, in the Bill as proposed, we see a retreat on the provisions as they have so far operated in relation to the Sex Discrimination Act. Under those provisions it has been possible for someone to go straight to a tribunal. In the interests of consistency--and, of course, we see the importance of consistency--the Government are moving back from that position. That seems to us to constitute a loss. We believe that to be a pity.

Secondly, there remains the issue of the need to pursue up through the chain of command a complaint or grievance should it arise. The armed services have all the formality of a big organisation and that, inevitably, could be very intimidating for the person concerned. It also has the potential disadvantage that if it were decided at a later stage to take the matter to a tribunal, having first gone through the internal procedures, some of those with whom the complainant may have been pursuing the case could then become witnesses for the services. That seems to us to be a problem.

I suspect--indeed, I believe that I know--that the Minister will tell us tonight that there will be provision for other officers to move in so that, if there were a complaint about the particular officer, that officer would not be hearing a complaint against himself. But that does not deal with the issue of what happens if there is a general culture in a particular part of the armed services which is giving rise to concern. If there is a general cultural problem in a particular area, it seems to me that that right to be able to go to a tribunal becomes most important.

Then there is the issue of the oral hearing. I believe that the Minister misunderstood our case at an earlier stage, but I believe that he came to appreciate the grounds upon which we were arguing on Report. The important point about an oral hearing is that it enables the complainant, the person with the grievance, to hear the evidence against him and to cross-examine those concerned. Anything that the Minister can say on that subject will be most helpful.

Finally, I should like to make one point. I do so in the context of one who has become quite convinced that the services are taking extremely seriously the whole issue of racial discrimination; the need to tackle it and root it out. At this Third Reading stage, I should like to repeat what I said at an earlier stage of the proceedings. I believe that the handbook produced by the Adjutant General is a model; indeed, it is superb when one sees military language being employed to spell out what should be decent behaviour. It somehow puts all the

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academics and others into perspective. It is very clear and uncompromising language. All concerned, especially the Adjutant General, should be commended.

However, we know that there have been problems. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will realise that there is no room for complacency. The services are working to get it right. They are working with the Commission for Racial Equality, which thinks very highly of the endeavours that the services are making. I believe that we should look again just briefly, as we did in Committee, at the work being done at Glasgow University by Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford. The Minister will recall his research has revealed that, of the 103 service personnel who reported to him in his survey that they had been victims of racial discrimination, only 14 sought redress through official channels. Colonel Crawford himself comments, and I quote:

    "This shows quite simply that the army's grievance procedure is not working".
We have to take that point very seriously, hence the background to our amendments. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I have listened with interest to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We have heard the argument before and it is a good one. But I would like to introduce a consideration which perhaps the Minister finds a little difficult to introduce, and it is this.

Sometimes the course of action taken by soldiers is not perhaps the wisest one. I fear that, if they are able to complain outside the services' chain of command, there may be a danger that they will rush off and make a complaint. The organisation to which they have complained would then be able to accept that complaint and act on it. The whole matter could snowball out of all proportion. If a soldier has to go through the internal procedures for what may be a minor issue, the matter could perhaps be sorted out by an apology without the need to involve outside agencies.

I would also like to touch on the comments made by the noble Lord on race. It is a very important matter. He said that there were not many complaints under the redress of complaints procedure, and I am not surprised. The answer, therefore, for the services is actually to get rid of race discrimination themselves so that there is no need to go for redress of complaint.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has rightly indicated, Clauses 21 to 27 of the Bill essentially make provision for servicemen and women to submit complaints on certain matters to industrial tribunals. They also include a requirement for them to use the services' internal redress of complaint procedures before they may make application to the tribunal. The clauses ensure that, whatever the statutory basis for the complaint, the arrangements for access to tribunals will be on a consistent basis. The proposed amendments to Clauses 21 to 27 would remove the requirement for prior use of the internal service procedures.

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I have given further careful thought to the arguments which were put forward in Committee, and again at Report stage, which questioned the need for the mandatory prior use of the internal procedures.

I very much welcomed the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that there was no dispute between us over the importance of these internal procedures for considering complaints. As he rightly added, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality also believe strongly that their use should be encouraged. I know that from my own dealings with those bodies. It is also perhaps worth noting here that the equal treatment directive refers to a right to pursue claims by judicial process,

    "after possible recourse to other competent authorities".
However, there does seem to remain some misunderstanding about the internal procedures and, in particular, about the question of oral hearings.

I should start by saying that the internal procedures do not attempt to match the industrial tribunal procedures. The two systems serve quite different purposes. Industrial tribunals are a means of satisfying the requirement, under EU law, for an independent and judicial remedy in the event of complaints on such matters as equal treatment. The vast majority of complaints considered under the services' internal redress procedures are not such as to require this type of external scrutiny. However, for those that do, such as those concerning discrimination, the industrial tribunal hearing will now be available if the complainant is not satisfied with the decision under the internal system.

The internal redress system serves quite a different purpose. It is there to investigate complaints and to provide, where possible, a swift resolution. It is, essentially, a management tool, designed to help both managed and the manager. Generally speaking, therefore, it would not be appropriate to make a requirement for formal oral hearings to be a part of such a system. We have to be wary of making the procedure so full of formal stages as to be off-putting to would-be complainants.

Nevertheless, the internal system does provide for oral hearings if the case reaches the appropriate service board. It would simply not be practicable to have oral hearings at every stage of its progress through the chain of command. During such hearings the complainant will be able to question witnesses. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was actually mistaken when he said during the debate on Report that that was not possible.

Once a complaint has reached the service board, the board must, in every case, decide whether an oral hearing would be appropriate and any request for a hearing made by the complainant would naturally be considered very carefully. The board will be fully aware that a subsequent industrial tribunal hearing will be able to question any decision not to hold a hearing and that, moreover, a complaint about the way a case has been handled internally can itself be added to the grounds of application to a tribunal.

If an oral hearing is held, the complainant must be given the opportunity to question any witnesses called. He or she will already have received copies of all the

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evidence which has been submitted to the board. Thus, board members and the complainant will be in exactly the same position.

This is, of course, as it should be. The board is seeking to establish the facts of the case and to provide a remedy if it finds that a wrong has occurred. The board does not constitute, as it were, "the other side" in a dispute with the complainant. The services' system is not adversarial. The purpose in calling witnesses is to clarify any points which are not sufficiently clear from the written evidence.

I should also reply to another point which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, raised on Report. He said that it was unfair to expect a complainant to argue his case through the chain of command when any of those who dealt with it might be called as witnesses at a subsequent tribunal hearing. In fact, I think that the only circumstances in which something like this could happen would be if a complainant added to the tribunal application a complaint about the way the original complaint had been handled. However, that is unavoidable for any employer.

It might be helpful if I explain that Clause 20 amends the Service Discipline Acts to ensure that complaints will in future be made to "such officer as may be prescribed" in Queen's Regulations. Currently all complaints must be made to the commanding officer even if he is the subject of the complaint.

The regulations will provide for complaints about a commanding officer, or anyone else in the command chain, to be made to a different officer and will, of course, make clear that any officer with any involvement in the complaint should not be invited to consider it at any stage. We shall, of course, make the regulations as flexible as possible to ensure that sensible and pragmatic solutions can be made to suit the circumstances of individual cases. I hope that that takes care of the particular point raised by the noble Lord, to which he could not see a solution.

I very much hope that I have been able to clear up any remaining misunderstandings. I do assure the noble Lords opposite that our aim in including these provisions in the Bill is not to make life more difficult for servicemen and women. Quite the contrary, in fact. We wish to ensure that service personnel have immediate access to a procedure which will investigate any complaint thoroughly and with despatch. I was very much in tune with what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said in that regard.

We are conscious that the demands made on service personnel are very different from those made on the vast majority of employees. The services themselves feel very strongly that the concomitant need for absolute loyalty and trust makes it essential that the redress of complaint system is used in all cases and should not be able to be bypassed in some instances. I stress again that no serviceman or woman will be denied the right to put an eligible case to an industrial tribunal. They are simply being required to use their own internal redress system first.

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I accept that for sex discrimination cases there will no longer be a right for cases to be taken direct to industrial tribunals. However, as I have explained in previous debates, it was never the intention that this should be a permanent arrangement. This Bill has presented the first appropriate legislative opportunity to bring the Sex Discrimination Act into line with the provisions for prior use of the internal system first introduced in 1993 by amendment to the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.

For race discrimination cases, of course, we are introducing a new right of access to industrial tribunals. Having said all that, however, it has become clear during the course of our debates that there is perhaps a need for information on such questions as oral hearings and the opportunity for complainants to question witnesses to be disseminated more widely. Each of the services already has procedures for regularly drawing the attention of all personnel to the detailed Queen's Regulations on the use of the redress of complaint procedures. However, I believe that these could usefully be supplemented by information on the guidelines followed by the chain of command and the service boards in dealing with individual complaints. This will include advice that, although the decision as to whether an oral hearing is to be held is for the service board, complainants may submit a request for one if their complaint reaches that level. We will be taking steps to include such information both in the "permanent" regulations such as the Queen's Regulations, and in the services' equal opportunity directives and the pamphlets issued to individual service personnel--the Army version of which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has, to our great pleasure, kindly commended in his remarks this evening and in previous debates.

As I have already mentioned, the services place great importance on their statutory redress of complaint system and on the system being used in all cases. Its value would, I strongly suggest, be undermined if it could be bypassed in some cases. I therefore put it to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that, if there are problems with the internal procedures--and there may well be in individual cases--then the best approach is to seek to improve these, by in any event keeping the procedures under review as part of our normal business; by addressing specific concerns and criticisms; and by ensuring that the detail of the procedures is more widely known through the services, as I have already indicated we intend to do. I would suggest to your Lordships that this will be a more productive approach than adopting these amendments, which imply the acceptance of a number of criticisms of the internal system, and suggest that the only remedy is to bypass that system rather than to seek improvements to it.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Judd: My Lords, first I must say that of course we appreciate the considerate response given by the noble Earl. What he had to say about the increased amount of information on procedures is encouraging. However, I found the candid observations of the noble

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Earl, Lord Attlee, rather worrying. If there is a likelihood that soldiers will rush off to an independent tribunal if they have the possibility to do so, that seems to suggest there is something wrong as regards the team spirit, cohesion and the rest that is so important to the Army. I do not think we can have it both ways. If the team spirit and the cohesion are working well, a soldier will not rush off to an independent tribunal. To have the right to go to a tribunal is the guarantee that the team spirit is working well. If that is not the case, soldiers will rush off to such a tribunal. There is a certain illogicality in the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which bears consideration.

I have held the Queen's Commission myself and I have been a service Minister. Therefore I know what is being talked of here and it is important to the ethos of the services. Sometimes people say that the services are unique. However, I do not think that argument is completely credible in a modern society. I refer to the flight deck of a civilian airliner and other demanding situations in civilian life. I refer to people in the fire service and the new hazards that sometimes arise when coping with disasters that occur in urban areas and elsewhere. I believe that some of the principles we are discussing apply to those situations too. To argue that there is something particularly special about the services is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain convincingly in the context of certain situations.

I note what the Minister said about oral hearings. That was encouraging, but I am sure he will agree that he indicated it was not a right but a possibility. We should all be clear about that. In terms of what I was discussing a moment ago; namely, the need for cohesion and the importance of having an ethos and a team spirit in the services, if another officer is to step in and hear a complaint about a commanding officer or someone else I suspect that might be difficult for people in the armed services to handle. The situation could be defused by having an independent body look objectively at the situation. In that way the embarrassment of confronting officer to officer relationships within the services would be avoided.

Therefore I believe there are still some issues at which we need to work. Before I conclude I return briefly to the research of Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford. The work he has undertaken is of tremendous importance. I quote from his research where he posed the following question:

    "'Having been a victim of racial discrimination, why did you not seek official redress?' The answers to this question show why the Army's grievance procedure is not working. Respondents could identify more than one reason if appropriate, and therefore absolute numbers do not match the 89 individuals who said they had taken no action. Forty individuals ... said that they did not complain because they believed such a step might adversely affect their careers. Twenty-seven ... thought they would not be taken seriously; 23 ... feared increased discrimination; while 20 ... did not complain".--[Official Report, 18/6/96; cols. CWH35-36.]
as the person to whom they would have to make representations was involved in the discrimination against them. That illustrates the size of the problem.

However, I am greatly encouraged by the seriousness with which the Army, the Ministry of Defence and Ministers are treating this issue. I am convinced that

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they want to see racial discrimination rooted out in the armed services. I believe that what is now proposed is definitely a move in the right direction. More may have to be done at a later stage, but it is a move in the right direction. Far from falling into that awful trap of saying, "The bottle is still half empty" I want tonight to say, "The bottle is apparently at least half full, and let us fill it" in terms of adopting the right approach. It would be unfortunate to pursue any kind of negative stance this evening. I wish therefore to finish on an encouraging note.

I am sure there is a great deal of agreement between both sides on this matter. The armed services are there to protect what will be for all time a multi-racial society in Britain. Therefore the more the armed services can reflect that multi-racial society and--if I may digress slightly--the more the Houses of Parliament come to reflect that multi-racial society in all manifestations; namely, MPs, Peers, officials and others, the stronger our society will be. However, that is another issue.

It is important that that should occur in the armed services. I believe the armed services are determined to move in that direction. I commend them. I hope the noble Earl will forgive my having just emphasised some of the handicaps and difficulties which I believe may still have to be tackled. I wish the armed services well in what they are trying to do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]

Clause 22 [Sex discrimination: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Racial discrimination]:

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 10 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Equal treatment: Great Britain]:

[Amendments Nos. 11 to 13 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Equal treatment: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Other complaints: Great Britain]:

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Clause 27 [Other complaints: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Greenwich Hospital]:

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