Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly. The noble Lord might like to look at Ministry of Defence Policy Paper 6, which has just been sent out to us all, on individual training and education in the Armed Forces. It does not mention pensions anywhere.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord; he will understand that it is, of course, my bedside reading. The choice between pension schemes will be determined by individual circumstances. Service personnel will need to make a judgment; they will be given a window of opportunity. Accessible information about the new scheme will be made available in booklets, briefing material, road shows and on our websites. We will also target service personnel and their spouses through magazine articles. We are examining how we might best facilitate access to independent financial advice, but it must be independent, as the noble Lord will understand clearly, which makes life slightly difficult.

I have heard the extremely powerful remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Redesdale, and many others, about wanting to see more on the face of the Bill. We have looked carefully at that. We believe that it would be impractical. It is not possible to include principles in primary legislation without getting into considerable detail because the commitments would need to be legally clear. For example, a clause on the rate for dependants' benefits would need to cover accrual rates and the definition—and it is not an easy one—of pensionable pay, including arrangements for dynamisation.

Many other public service schemes are drawn up on the basis of enabling primary legislation with rules in secondary legislation. It follows that if we saw that principle through, we should end up putting everything in the primary legislation that is in secondary legislation.

I have to say that just for a moment I slightly resented the noble Lord's suggestion that the Ministry of Defence was hiding the fact that there is an abatement of pay each year because of pensions. I do not think that the Ministry of Defence have ever hidden that away. Many members of the Armed Forces know precisely how their pay is made up. It would certainly be possible for them to find out. There is no hiding away here. I am sure that is not what he meant.

A powerful point about the Armed Forces Pay Review Body being mentioned on the face of the Bill was made by my noble friend Lady Dean and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. I am afraid that we disagree about that. We see no reason to include the role of the AFPRB in primary legislation. We understand that it has performed its role on pay with
10 Jun 2004 : Column 495
great ability—not least under the chairmanship of my noble friend—for many years without provision in primary legislation. If its role and remit were now to be placed in primary legislation, that would reduce the flexibility with which it could be used in the years ahead.

One reason we do not want to put too much detail on the face of the Bill is because every time we need to change it in any regard we have to move primary legislation in this House. That is a problem. I am sure we shall return to the issue in due course.

We believe that there is a special status for the Armed Forces. We think the Bill shows that in two ways. In overall design terms, this measure is well up to good practice outside. I remind the House that we commissioned independent reviews before finalising our designs which confirm that, and we have included featured designs specifically to address the special demands of hazards of a service life. These include the exceptionally early age for a full pension, retention of a defined benefit scheme, still generous benefits for those who have to leave in mid-career, valuable lump sums and income paid to those injured as a result of service—with improved focus in this Bill on the more severely disabled—and the major improvements to dependants' benefits reflecting the particular risks of military service. So we believe that the special status of current and ex-servicemen is recognised in the Bill.

I conclude with the standard of proof. I know this is an important issue for a number of noble Lords. Balance of probabilities is used widely elsewhere, including in the civil courts. My noble friend said that in our legal system there were two standards of proof—beyond reasonable doubt and on a balance of probabilities; one for the criminal system that we enjoy and one for the civil system that we enjoy. I have to remind him, as he knows very well, that the balance of probabilities standard is adopted in civil cases in this country. The issues we are talking about are civil rather than criminal in nature. That is one reason we believe that this change, which was the law for many years, is the right one to continue with.
10 Jun 2004 : Column 496

We have listened carefully—we will continue to do so—to the concerns of the Royal British Legion and others that a large number of claims will fail as a result, but we do not believe that to be right. We have explained carefully why we think that that is based on a misunderstanding. The basic issue for us is that we will ask claimants to offer evidence on why they think that a condition is more likely than not to have been linked to service. In today's world, that must be right. Many injuries arise at home in private social life. The department simply cannot have visibility of those.

The responsibility to furnish evidence is not all one-way, however. As a department, we must disclose the medical and other service records that will help to reveal whether a condition has a history arising from service. We make it clear again that we recognise the seriousness of our role in that respect. We also accept that there have been errors in the past in medical records; we believe that that position has improved. If there is a lack of medical records in any such matters when they arise, it certainly will not do the department's case any good at all in the real world. I am confident that no claim would fail where there was reasonable evidence that disablement was due to service.

I have spoken for quite long enough. We have a further opportunity to discuss the issues during the remaining stages of the Bill's passage. Believe it or not, I actually look forward to that. Some of the issues are complex and all are important. They raise strong emotions, touching as they do on the lives of a group of men and women to whom we, in this House and in the country generally, owe a very great responsibility. I have commended the principles behind the Bill to the House enough times already this afternoon. We believe that the schemes are good, so I commend the Bill to the House for a final time today.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, before we conclude, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, for not being eagle-eyed enough to pick up the fact that she had spoken in both debates.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Grand Committee.

Written Statements

Thursday 10 June 2004

10 Jun 2004 : Column WS15

Mainstreaming Gender into Foreign Policy

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The FCO has today published a booklet entitled Inclusive Government: Mainstreaming gender into foreign policy, prepared by its Gender Advisory Group. Copies of this booklet have been placed in the Library of the House. From 23 June it will also be available on the FCO's website at

Mainstreaming gender is about considering fully the impact on men and women of a particular policy, project or service, and taking steps to ensure that those impacts are positive for both sexes. Mainstreaming gender is crucial to the work of the FCO.

This booklet draws together the work the FCO is already doing on gender, and serves as a toolkit for FCO staff to mainstream gender more fully into their work. I hope it will help to ensure that the FCO can devise more effective policies, and make better use of resources, leading to positive outcomes for the UK.

Iraq: Service Police Investigations

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Mr Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 4 May, I told the House that 33 cases of civilian deaths, injuries or alleged ill treatment in Iraq have been investigated by Service police. The Secretary of State repeated this figure in the House on 10 May as did the Prime Minister on 12 May.

A detailed verification exercise was put in place to ensure that all cases were being properly investigated and centrally reported. As a result of this continuing exercise it has come to light that the figure given on 4 May failed to incorporate details of investigations from all branches of the Service police.

The correct number of investigations into civilian deaths, injuries or alleged ill treatment undertaken at 4 May was 61. Of these 23 were still in progress, 31 had concluded with no further action being taken and seven were pending a decision whether to prosecute. None of these additional 28 cases relates to detention facilities.

We have initiated a further 14 investigations since 4 May. These new investigations can principally be attributed to the high operational tempo over the past
10 Jun 2004 : Column WS16
month, and a small number of new allegations made by Iraqi civilians relating to earlier incidents.

Steps have been taken to ensure that information on all Service police investigations into incidents in Iraq are now held centrally. I will continue to update the House on significant developments as appropriate.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page