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Lords Chamber

Volume 569: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1996

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 27th February 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield

Poverty Overseas: Uk Assistance

Whether they ARE satisfied with the level of public awareness of poverty overseas and of the United Kingdom's aid programme, and if not, what steps they propose to take to improve it.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, the ODA is constantly striving through its information department to increase the public awareness of the extent of poverty overseas and of the UK's development programme to alleviate it. Our recent communications review has produced recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public information.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. As most news about the third world relates to emergencies and not to development, will she assure the House that the Government will do more to promote development through education and the media? Will she also assure the House that it will not he left entirely to non-governmental organisations, which are reducing their aid and education programmes drastically, and to the European Union, which increasingly must pick up the bill for good education materials in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his question. Although the media give me probably 95 per cent. of my coverage for just 12 per cent. of the budget, the other 88 per cent. of the work is eminently valuable because so often it prevents tragedies. As regards the noble Earl's second point, I believe that he is aware of the excellent education publications produced by the development educational organisation, World Aware. I know that he recently helped to produce some new teaching materials on India. I hope that he also knows that World Aware is core-funded by the ODA. No projects were supported by the European Union in 1995 which the ODA had declined to fund. That is because we specifically give grants of more than £650,000 to organisations undertaking development education.

My Lords, my noble friend is aware that I am chairman of the UK branch of Plan International. In contradiction of what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I must point out that the organisation is not reducing expenditure on educational projects but it is increasing expenditure. Therefore, his statement is not a blanket statement that applies to all NGOs. Has the Minister any plans to meet representatives of World Aware?

My Lords, I thoroughly agree with what my noble friend said. Most of us are trying to spread the word further because we believe that, as regards education at every age and in every quarter, it is valuable that people are made more aware of the problems to be tackled. I am pleased that I shall soon be meeting World Aware's business leaders' forum. One of the things that business is increasingly realising in this country is that it is in its own interest that we undertake good development work overseas, which in the long term brings benefits to Britain as well as to those countries.

My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that, in spite of years of effort by the Churches and voluntary agencies, the time and space available within the school curriculum are so limited that the Department for Education and Employment cannot do a great deal to improve it?

My Lords, while I am pleased that the Churches and voluntary agencies continue to do as much as they can, the ODA is looking at what more it can do with the Department for Education and Employment to increase the opportunities for young people to learn the facts about a situation at an early age. Perhaps then more people will grow up with an understanding of why development overseas is essential to this country.

My Lords, having risen several times to ask my question, I now understand how hard it is to praise the Minister. I congratulate her and her department on helping the Street Children's Consortium launch today its directory of resources. Is that not a good example of how a small amount of public money can he magnified to have impact where it really matters among some of the most deprived sections of humanity?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his kind remarks. In launching the Street Children's Consortium book this morning, I saw people from all over the world who have come together to share their knowledge in the best possible way in order to try to alleviate the plight of street children. That is a serious plight in more parts of the world than television has shown. I have been saddened but privileged to see some of the excellent work that is being done all over the world in that respect. We should do all that we can to help the Street Children's Consortium.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that poverty is to some extent—indeed, a great extent—caused by over-population? My noble friend has done splendid work in drawing attention to that problem. Will she tell your Lordships to what extent there is some hope that the lesson that she has been teaching has been learnt?

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Renton is right. The difficult problem of population running way ahead of the growth of developing countries is one which needs to he tackled continuously. In the past few years, this country has been doing far better. At the Cairo conference, I announced a programme of £100 million to be spent over two years on family planning projects and sexual health projects. In fact, I have been able to commit £181 million on those projects in that same time span. But the other critical part of tackling population growth so that we can alleviate poverty is education, and above all to educate women, because the more education they have, the more they realise that it is right to have smaller families.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that those of us involved in World Aware are very grateful for the Government's support? Will she also take heart from the fact that a public opinion poll published just last autumn indicated that 80 per cent. of the British public is in favour of maintaining, and preferably increasing, the overseas aid programme? I hope that she finds that a powerful argument on the part of the British public when she takes on her colleagues in the Treasury and elsewhere.

Does the Minister accept that no country in the world is more dependent on its international relationships than Britain, and that she will receive support from all quarters of the House when she works with her colleagues in the Department for Education to ensure that no youngster leaves our schools unaware of Our relationship with the world and our dependence on a prosperous, stable world for the future of the British economy.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. World Aware is an excellent organisation. As I mentioned earlier in answer to my noble friend, it is very good that it is tackling awareness among business leaders because business leaders as well as the rest of us need to understand what we are dealing with. It may he that the public opinion poll results will show further improvements; and I shall never give up fighting for something which I believe firmly is right for Britain as well as for the developing countries. I need only say that the opportunities for Britain based on our international relationships have grown, are growing and must continue to grow. More investment in development is needed.

My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that there is no duplication among certain organisations as regards their work on education? What steps is she taking to liaise with the British Council on that?

My Lords, as the House well knows, I am never satisfied about anything. However, because there is so much work to be done, I believe that there are niches into which each of the organisations can fit.

Us Embassy In Israel

2.46 p.m.

Whether they will promote a démarche by the European Union to the United States Government against the proposed move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in advance of the final status negotiations.

My Lords, the US Administration had made clear that it does not intend to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until a settlement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians on the Jerusalem issue. Thus, we have no plans to make representations on this issue.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful reply. Will the Government continue to work for a common position within the European Union on the future of Jerusalem and against any creation of facts on the ground by the parties concerned there in advance of the negotiations?

My Lords, will the noble Baroness explain to the House what business it is of ours to organise a démarche to the United States, which is capable of determining those matters on its own account? If we have a definite view about this matter, which quite clearly the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, does, would it not be better that our general sentiments, in so far as we consider it to be our business, ARE conveyed through the usual channels; namely, through the British Embassy?

My Lords, I think that either I have misunderstood something that has been said or the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, may just not have heard when I said that we have no plans to make representations on the issue about which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked me. Of course we make our representations through bilateral channels. In dealing with the long-term allies such as the United States, that is the way we work. But there are times with other nations when the weight of 15 members of the European Union is more powerful than simply one country speaking alone. Therefore, with other countries it is right that there should he a European Community démarche.

My Lords, might it not he a more appropriate demarche, in view of recent events, to send the deepest sympathy of this House to the Israeli Government on the recent horrific and violent acts against innocent civilians; and to congratulate the Israeli Government on their continued striving for peace in the Middle East?

My Lords, we deeply regret the tragic events on Sunday in Jerusalem and Ashkelon. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister issued a statement on Monday. We shall always deplore and condemn terrorism. The peace process must continue because it is the only way to ensure lasting peace and we congratulate all those who have been working hard to try to make the peace process a real success.

My Lords, it appears from her last answer that the noble Baroness accepts that the peace process is the single most important factor in the well-being of all parties in the Middle East. Therefore, as those of us who live a safe distance away, if we cannot always do much to promote it ought at least not to retard it, does the Minister agree that it should not become a pawn in American domestic politics? Will the Minister further accept from me that, if the Government deliver that message, however they do so, they will receive the total support from many of us in all parts of the House whose friendship for Israel and for the United States has never been in doubt?

My Lords, no one in his right mind would wish to retard the peace process. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, is absolutely right. However, I learnt long ago that one would find it quite difficult, unless one had spent many years in the United States, to understand how domestic politics in that country really work and why some things happen. Therefore, in the coming months leading up to the presidential elections I expect that we will hear, sadly, a number of expressions of view which we would gladly not hear. But we will keep our nerve. We will work for peace in the Middle East and for peace in Northern Ireland and everywhere else. We shall try to influence our American cousins to do likewise.

My Lords, in view of the strong: support of the Government and their influence in Middle East affairs, can my noble friend the Minister advise the House as regards the support that the British Government ARE giving to the Palestinians, who are, after all, the other half of the peace process?

My Lords, my noble friend is correct. We have been giving a great deal of bilateral aid to Palestine. We have been helping with police equipment; we have formed a know-how fund over three years; we have a major education project for the Gaza area; and we have been training for elections. We continue to carry out such work. We shall also be giving assistance in the future to the new Palestinian Council, in which I am glad to say our parliamentary Clerks in both Houses will be involved. We are delighted that that should be so. In addition, we give help through the World Bank, the EIB and of course the ECA package.

Chinese Satellite: Re-Entry

2.52 p.m.

What guidance has been given to local authorities on the possible landing in their areas in March of the satellite launched recently in China but now out of control.

My Lords, we have issued guidance to local authorities on four occasions about a Chinese satellite which was launched in October 1993 and which is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere between the beginning of March and the end of April this year. In the highly unlikely event that it lands in the United Kingdom or in UK coastal waters, local authorities and the emergency services have been briefed on the correct course of action. I understand that the Chinese Government attempted to launch a further satellite on 15th February this year. It failed to reach orbit following an explosion shortly after the launch.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her very full reply. Should the satellite land here, is it the intention of the Government to return it to China with a view to helping international research? Further, will bulletins he issued during the next few weeks on the erratic flight path of the satellite?

My Lords, there is absolutely no doubt that if the satellite landed on UK soil or, indeed, in UK waters we would have an obligation to return it to China and to do so as soon as possible. As regards its erratic flight path, I should point out that the missile is out of control and beyond anyone's control. However, we are tracking it and making predictions on a daily basis as to where and when it will land.

My Lords, is the report correct which states that local authorities in Scotland have been directed to cover the satellite, on arrival, with a tarpaulin to protect it from normal British weather? That would be a gesture to an inanimate object which, I believe, goes further than necessary in setting an example in human rights to the Chinese Government.

My Lords, I stressed that the satellite is out of control. Indeed, such will he its speed on re-entry that I do not believe there is any hope that re-entry may he delayed due to the weather. If the satellite should land here, it would be extremely hot. Even a tarpaulin would not, I think, protect it from the weather.

Joint London Advisory Panel

2.55 p.m.

Why it was necessary to establish a Joint London Advisory Panel.

My Lords, the Joint London Advisory Panel was established in order that Ministers from the Cabinet Sub-Committee on London should be able to meet and discuss matters of relevance to London with London organisations.

My Lords, I am glad to welcome the recognition that London needs a strategic approach. However, in a democracy, would it not he more appropriate if the people were allowed to choose the members of that authority? Control has passed from the people to a number of unelected quangos and, therefore, into the hands of a government department. Can the Minister explain what advantage the Government see in the situation?

My Lords, there is a pretty considerable advantage. I gather that the noble Baroness was really referring to the fact that the GLC was once there but that that is no longer the case, even if—

Well, my Lords; the noble Baroness signified assent, so perhaps she is at variance with the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip. However, I believe that that is what she was getting at. All I can say is that, when the GLC functioned, it had 92 councillors, 20,000 staff, a budget of £1,000 million but only looked after 11 per cent. of the services. That seemed to he a total waste of money. Now that the GLC is no longer there, it has not been missed. We believe that this is a much better way. On the other hand, if Members opposite intend to reintroduce another layer of local government, it would he very helpful if they would say so, because then the people of London would know what they were in for.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that all soundings of public opinion that have been taken in the Greater London area indicate that the electorate ARE desirous of once again having an elected forum to look after the global aspects of London? Is the Minister further aware that London is the only city of its kind in Europe where the residents ARE being denied that privilege?

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, I do not believe that the electorate is being denied a privilege. There ARE 32 boroughs and all those councils are elected by people. The point of the Joint London Advisory Panel is that it enables matters which are of considerable interest to be considered across borough boundaries. The other important point is the fact that it has involved business and other organisations for the first time in trying to further the interests of London, which was not possible when a bureaucratic regime was involved.

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the advantage of an elected authority is that it comes under the influence, and is subject to the wishes, of the people of London? We are discussing an authority which is totally unconnected with the people of London. Moreover—and contrary to what the noble Earl said—there is a growing feeling in London that the city badly needs the restitution of an elected body so that the people can communicate with it and be a part of it.

My Lords, that is a most interesting intervention on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. If in fact it is the view of the party opposite to reintroduce an extra layer of government, I believe that the people of London should know about it. All I can tell the noble Lord is that, with the £1,000 million which it spent and the 20,000 staff that it had, only 11 per cent. of London's services were catered for by the GLC; the remainder was covered by the boroughs. We find that the present position is very much more satisfactory. I see that the noble Lord shakes his head, hut, if his party wants to introduce another expensive layer of government, then people should be told about it. If that is the case, the party opposite should he able to tell us.

My Lords, is it not deplorable that London is one of the very few capital cities in the world without a civic head and with no civic control over its own police force?

My Lords, London is not the only place in the world in that respect; indeed, apart from anything else, the City of London has its own police force and its own system of operations. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that obviously a certain majesty is lost when one does not have a focal point. The objective of having a focal point is only achieved if it works well. We have found that the system works better as it is.

My Lords, would it be one of the tasks of this London advisory body to look at such services in London as might he more effectively dealt with on a London-wide basis? For example, in the case of transport in London there are something like 40 different bodies that have a say in that matter. Would this not he better co-ordinated centrally for London?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, makes a valid and a helpful point. That is exactly what is happening. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is encouraging area partnerships between local authorities, business communities and the voluntary sector on such matters as the Thames, theatreland and cross-river partnerships. He is encouraging the Lambeth and Southwark Councils and Westminster Council and the City and others to operate together as regards bridges and other matters. All those items require specialist attention. That is why it is better to consider the individual items separately with the help of business people who are interested and enthusiastic to see London propel itself ahead.

My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that, if it is the policy of the Opposition to introduce another tier of local government—that is, the old GLC—taxation must inexorably increase?

My Lords, my noble friend makes another valid point. He is absolutely right. Of course it will lead to increased taxation. That is why we want to know whether the party opposite intends to introduce an extra layer of government, but the Front Bench opposite remains remarkably silent. I can only assume from that that either it has not made up its mind or it does not want to let us know its intentions.

My Lords, is not the Minister aware that since the abolition of the GLC the Government have had to set up a whole range of bodies and co-ordinating groups to make up for some of the functions of the GLC without which London cannot function, and that the Joint London Advisory Panel is merely one of them? Does not the Minister further agree that what London badly needs to cover these issues is not a replacement for the GLC but a strategic body which is democratically elected and responsive to the wishes of the people of London?

My Lords, I am not quite certain how that differs from the GLC, because that was an elected body. As I have explained on more than one occasion, it was an expensive one too. There are matters of considerable interest here and the Joint London Advisory Panel brings together the organisation London First, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the CBI, the Association of London Government, the London Planning Advisory Committee, the Corporation of London, Westminster City Council, London Voluntary Services Council and the London Training and Enterprise Councils. They have all got together because they wish to co-operate.

My Lords, as probably the only Member of your Lordships' House who served on the Standing Committee which considered the London Government Bill in another place, does the Minister remember that it was the Tory Government of Mr. Macmillan which introduced the GLC, and the Tory Minister of Housing and Local Government, the then Sir Keith Joseph, who masterminded it through that committee? Does not the noble Earl accept that, without introducing an authority which is identical to the GLC, there is a great deal to he said for the argument that some elected authority should mastermind the services which he has mentioned, which are best dealt with on a London-wide basis rather than at the level of the boroughs?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, may well be correct as regards Mr. Macmillan setting up the organisation, but 25 years have passed and we decided, with the approval of Parliament, that there should be a change. Because London is important, there is a meeting of "London Ministers", known as the ED, EDE, EF, or whatever it is. I always hate these acronyms because they are confusing and no one ever knows what the letters stand for. Nevertheless, the meeting I have mentioned is a meeting of Ministers for London who are drawn from 10 different departments. Many local authorities and individual organisations assist those Ministers. Therefore I believe that process will work better than the alternatives which have been suggested.

My Lords, it is certainly true that the panel will review a number of questions on a London-wide basis, as the Minister has said, for example on education, transport, private finance initiatives and so on. Why in that case is the debate of this panel to be held in private and why is the Chairman of the Conservative Party, who is not a London Minister, on the panel?

My Lords, it is not a question of the meetings being held in private, as I believe the noble Lord said. It is perfectly reasonable that a body should discuss its problems and organisation in private. The panel is expected to meet three times a year and a note of the discussion will he made public within 24 hours. Ministers and the London Pride Partners will submit papers as necessary.

My Lords, does not the Minister agree that one of the major problems facing people who live in London is traffic pollution, and that the piecemeal arrangements for discussions on an area-by-area basis cannot possibly solve that problem? Would the Minister care to comment on the fact that in terms of public expenditure the Government now allocate more public money to people who are not elected by the general population but are appointed by Government? Therefore the issue is one of democracy, not public expenditure.

My Lords, it is not a question of democracy but of how one obtains the best results as economically as possible. This Government, along with everyone else, have been castigated for spending too much. I have explained that by removing the GLC there has been a considerable saving of money. I thought when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, rose to his feet that he would tell us what the Labour Party's policy was and whether it wished to reintroduce the GLC, but he did not do so. This is a question of saving money. That is in contrast to the party opposite, which apparently wishes to give £5,000 to every person who gets married. That seems a most extraordinary expenditure.

My Lords, will the noble Earl tell us how much of the £1,000 million that he was boasting about has been saved'?

My Lords, arising out of what the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, will the panel be able to consider the future of the Victoria Coach Station, which is situated in a conservation area? As a committee member of the residents' association, I can inform the Minister it has been causing us considerable anxiety. Since the demise of the GLC we have not been able to get a decision or any sense out of anyone.

My Lords, I am sure that that is a matter which will be taken into account by the advisory panel. I am sure that, if the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, cares to draw it to the attention of the panel, it will be considered.

Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Reserve Forces Bill Hl

3.8 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 4 [ Orders and regulations concerning the reserve forces]:

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 35, at end insert ("each House of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may he for the convenience of the House if, in moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 12, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 31, 33 and 36. These amendments are almost drafting amendments. There has grown up by tradition, as I understand it, in legislation dealing with defence matters, the expression "Parliament" rather than "both Houses of Parliament" or "each House of Parliament". That is an odd expression. In other Bills that I have covered from this Front Bench I have noticed that mostly we refer to the "Houses of Parliament" or "joint Houses of Parliament", or whatever it may be. "Parliament" as a single entity is a rarity. In Committee, the noble Earl recognised that fact. It is carried forward from history.

In the case at issue, when we ARE talking about reports to Parliament I believe that it would be simpler to provide that those reports should he made to "each House of Parliament" rather than to "Parliament". To some extent this is a drafting amendment, but I believe that it would make the Bill better than it is at the moment. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am not sure that the anxiety of the noble Lord is fully justified. If we look at the text on the first page of the Bill we find the familiar words:

"Be it enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled".
So "Parliament" has entered as an accepted phrase into our legislation with great frequency for a very long time.

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, both today and in Committee. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for his observations.

I continue to believe that, strictly speaking, the amendments are unnecessary, for in this context "Parliament" means both Houses. Nevertheless, in a spirit of co-operation I am happy to accept the amendments as proposed by the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 36, leave out ("after being made") and insert ("forthwith).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee we had a discussion about the orders to be laid under Clause 4(5) of the Bill. As at present drafted, the Bill says simply that:

"Any order or regulations under this section shall be laid before Parliament after being made".

There is no time limit; that is done some time after the order or regulation has been made. It seemed to us that it would be appropriate for the orders or regulations to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as possible.

As the noble Earl will remember, we proposed a formulation in Committee which was "as soon as made". The noble Earl pointed out that that created difficulties. I understand and take the noble Earl's point that "as soon as" implies almost instantaneous action, which might be rather difficult. However, in other parts of the Bill we have the expression "forthwith", and it seemed to me that the formulation "forthwith" might he more palatable to the Government than "as soon as". In that spirit I beg to move Amendment No. 2.

My Lords, the noble Lord has once again expressed his concern that no time limit is laid down within which regulations under Clause 4 must be laid. In Committee I illustrated that the Ministry of Defence is prompt in laying such regulations before Parliament with the example of Amendment 16 to the Territorial Army Regulations 1978, which was made on 18th January and laid before your Lordships' House on 23rd January. I also gave an undertaking that such regulations would continue to he laid before Parliament at the earliest convenient moment. I hoped that the noble Lord would be happy with that assurance, as he indicated he was at the time.

I acknowledge that when the question of the meaning of "forthwith" came up in our discussions, I undertook to look further into the matter. "Forthwith" carries with it the meaning of "as soon as possible given the circumstances". That is certainly the interpretation that we would put on it. That is why it is entirely appropriate when dealing with matters of the seriousness of call-out and recall and why it is inappropriate here.

The regulations which will be made under Clause 4 are essentially concerned with the internal government of the armed forces. The numbers of changes and amendments can be considerable and of great complexity, but will often be concerned with matters of detail or minor significance. As an example, Amendment 16 to the Territorial Army Regulations runs to around 100 pages and deals almost entirely with minor amendments or matters of detail. Such changes are made relatively frequently, and to be required to lay them before Parliament immediately seems to me to he excessive. There would certainly be extra costs involved in doing so. For example, instead of passing documents through the normal internal mail it would be necessary to use special messengers.

I am not clear why the noble Lord wishes to impose this burden on the Ministry of Defence in respect of the reserve forces. It does not confer any benefit on the reserve forces. It offers no advantage to Parliament over the present arrangements, which work well.

In any case, the issue goes far wider than this Bill. There are many other powers to make regulations in the defence area alone, and it is not clear whether the noble Lord would wish such regulations to be laid before Parliament forthwith. Indeed, would he wish all regulations under any statute which are required to be laid before Parliament to be laid forthwith?

Altogether I do not believe that this is an appropriate amendment. I hope that I have said sufficient to persuade the noble Lord to withdraw it.

3.15 p.m.

My Lords, as always, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response.

The House will wish to take note of the fact that these regulations and orders relate inter alia, under Clause 4(1)(a), to:
"the government and discipline of any reserve force".
That is not an insignificant matter. It is not something which is pushed under the table. If there is to be a change to the government and discipline of any reserve force I believe that Parliament ought to be informed officially "forthwith".

The noble Earl said that most of the orders are insignificant, but I hope that he takes the point that there is a possibility that orders will he made under Clause 4(1)(a) which are of extreme importance to Parliament and the reserve forces. I should have thought that somehow we should try to reconcile the position that I have taken, which I admit perhaps goes too far, with the position the noble Earl has taken.

Therefore, I hope very much that before Third Reading we can talk further about the matter and see whether we can arrive at an arrangement that will satisfy both of us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [ Pensions]:

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert ("provided that the pensions of those in civilian lift ARE fully safeguarded.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the issue of pension entitlement for those members of the reserve forces who are liable to he called upon under the terms of the Bill.

We are most anxious to ensure that those who perform this duty are not disadvantaged thereby. In particular, we do not want their pension entitlement to be undermined. Many will be members of private occupational pension schemes. Their ultimate entitlement under such schemes is dependent upon the continuity of scheme membership, in particular contribution continuity, and any breach of continuity may adversely affect ultimate pension entitlement unless steps are taken to ensure that such continuity is protected in some way.

It is true that at one time people of working age gave little thought to pension entitlement until perhaps about 10 years before they were due to retire. All that has changed. The Government have been anxious to make people pension minded because of the concern that in the next century no government may be able to afford to pick up the tab if individuals have not made such provision. The Maxwell scandal and the subsequent Pensions Act have all combined to make people pension conscious. That is a good thing. But it means that individuals affected by the Bill will wonder about the possible effect upon their civilian pension entitlement if they are called upon to breach the contribution record as a result of being called to give service under the terms of the Bill. We do not wish to put people who give up their time and perhaps put at risk their health and their lives to be disadvantaged in pension terms because of what they have done for this country. Hence the amendment.

The Minister may claim that Clause 8 contains some safeguards. Clause 8(1)(b) allows for,

"the making of payments towards the provision of pensions".

That presumably can cover civilian pensions although it is not clear from the text. However, the commitment is not explicit. We believe that it should be. It may be argued that this could result in additional expenditure. We believe that that has to be faced if it is the only way in which such a guarantee can he provided. If employers can he persuaded to retain employees on service duty in their own occupational schemes that would be a good idea. In any event the addition of the words to the clause—the provision does not specify precisely how it should be done; simply that there should be a guarantee—still leaves it open to the Government to make appropriate arrangement by way of regulation.

We raised the issue in Committee and I had the impression that the Minister was sympathetic to what we sought to do. We believe it right and proper that some guarantee should be on the face of the Bill. I hope that this time round the Minister will be disposed to accept some form of guarantee. If he does not accept this wording, at least let us have something on the face of the Bill before it leaves the House after Third Reading. I beg to move.

My Lords, it seems to me that the noble Baroness is on to a point of some significance. I have no doubt that the Government realise fully that it would be very wrong indeed if the civilian pension of someone called up under the Bill should be endangered. Many pension schemes, as those who have experience of them know, insist on continuity of membership and contribution. Therefore I shall be particularly interested to hear what the Minister says. As matters now stand, it seems a point about which the House would do well to concern itself.

My Lords, we on these Benches support the amendment. Consideration of their rights is often raised by people as regards the Territorial Army. When considering a six to nine months' commitment, the issue will be important to them. However, one area which must be looked at even more closely is making the information about how pension contributions will be supplied available to those considering taking up the special agreements. Without that detailed knowledge, many people will be scared away in case their pension is put at risk.

My Lords, I, too, beg the Minister to pay heed to the amendment. Without the provision, or something similar, I do not believe that members will join the reserve forces if only because of persuasion by their families if their pensions are interfered with in any way as a result of that service. I beg my noble friend to find some way of meeting the point put by the noble Baroness.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. I find myself in agreement with the sentiments expressed by all noble Lords who have spoken. The Government understand the necessity to safeguard the civilian pension provisions of reservists; that was made abundantly clear during the consultation process. That is why we have a power to permit us to do it in Clause 82(2) and (3).

In Committee and again today the noble Baroness expressed concern that the provisions in the Bill are not sufficient. I believe that she implied that having a permissive power was not the same as using it. I can assure the House that we intend to use the power. Indeed, the concerns expressed by reservists have been such that we do not believe that the Bill would he properly effective without protection for civilian pensions. We are aware from the responses that we received during the various rounds of consultation on the Bill that reservists see pension provision as very important. Their primary concern is that a period of called out service should not reduce the eventual retirement benefits from their civilian pension scheme. We therefore have it as a policy objective to safeguard the reservists' civilian pension during a period of permanent service. In essence, so long as the individual were prepared to pay any employee's contribution due, we would pay the employer's contribution, thus ensuring that there was no loss of period of reckonable service.

As I imagine noble Lords are aware, the field of pensions is very complex. We therefore see even more than the usual benefit from a period of consultation on the regulations in this area. Informal discussions with the pensions industry, reservists and employers are already under way. Many variations are possible. However, the essential choice is between complicated administration with precise benefits and simpler schemes which fit the Bill on average but not exactly in every case. The precise arrangements, therefore, have yet to be worked out.

I think that a statutory duty would be difficult to word. The formulation tabled as amendment to Clause 8 is somewhat imprecise. I feel that such a statutory provision would add little or nothing to the undertaking that I have given this afternoon. If the noble Baroness wishes for further assurance, she might find it in the Government's recognition that action on civilian pensions is necessary to maintain the support of reservists themselves for the more flexible use of reserves. I hope that the assurances I have given will be sufficient to persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that detailed statement. I note in particular his comment that provided the individual concerned paid the employee's contribution, the Government would be prepared to pay the employer's contribution in a number of instances. That is very important because that is the way in which continuity would be maintained in many cases. I am grateful indeed for the assurances that have been given. I note that the noble Earl thinks that the wording is a little vague and perhaps not precise enough. We are committed to the notion that there should be a statutory duty to ensure that pensions are fully safeguarded. However, in the detailed statement he has gone a long way to meet the concerns that we had on this side of the House. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [ Enlistment of men in the reserve forces]:

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 4, line 10, leave out from beginning to ("of") in line 13 and insert—

("(c) any consul-general, consul or vice consul or any other person duly exercising the functions of a British consul in any place outside the United Kingdom.

(3) A recruit may not be enlisted in any country or territory outside the United Kingdom which is specified for the purposes").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in our view enlisting is a serious and significant matter. Clause 9 recognises that. Clause 9(2)(a) refers to an enlisting officer as,

"a lord-lieutenant or deputy lieutenant holding office under Part VI of the Reserve Forces Act 1980: or an officer of the regular services or of any reserve force".

There follows a strange reference to,

"any other person authorised for the purpose".

We believe that that diminishes and demeans the act of enlistment. The wording is altogether too casual, vague and wide. We have put forward the amendment in the hope that it will make the process specific wherever it takes place, whether within the United Kingdom or overseas.

The second part of the amendment deals with Clause 9(3). I say in all humility that it is simply a matter of drafting. We hope that the amendment simplifies the language and expresses clearly the intention. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. As I said in Committee, Clause 9(2)(c) perhaps emerged in too broad a form. It is, though, prudent to retain the ability to recruit overseas, should the need arise. I therefore gladly agree to the proposed amendment, which brings the wording into line with that of Section 1 of the Army Act 1955 and the Air Force Act 1955.

With the leave of the House, I wish to raise an issue relating to the clause brought to my notice by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. It concerns lord-lieutenants who are named in Clause 9 as persons who may act as enlisting officers. Lord-lieutenants are appointed under the power in Sections 130 and 131 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. That is not changed by the Bill, although there is a proposal for a consolidation measure to bring the provisions relating to lord-lieutenants into a single Act. As the House will recall, the Reserve Forces Act 1980 was a consolidation measure. The power in Section 130 of that Act replaced powers in the Local Government Act 1972. Section 131 replaced powers in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Unfortunately, the change did not come to the attention of those responsible for appointing lord-lieutenants.

My noble and learned friend believes that that oversight may place the validity of the appointments in a certain amount of doubt. He wishes to remove any possible doubt. The position is being investigated with urgency and I hope that the Government will be able to bring forward a suitable amendment at a later stage of the Bill, we hope on Third Reading.

My Lords, we ARE grateful to the Minister for his response and for the gracious way in which he made it. We take the point made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

Clause 19 [ Orders and regulations as to enlistment etc.):

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 7, line 38, leave out from ("forces") to end of line.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment stands in the names of my noble friends Lord Williams and Lady Turner, and myself. To take the noble Earl's words, we again found that in Clause 19 the wording was somewhat broad. We debated the matter thoroughly in Committee. There could he an anxiety lest regulations under Clauses 4 and 19 could override matters on which there is already expressed statutory provision. As we understand it, that is not the Government's intention. I hope that the amendment is helpful because it is designed to remove any possible grounds for misunderstanding. I beg to move.

My Lords, we had an interesting debate on the matter in Committee. I believe that there was a general welcome for the flexibility of the provisions in the clause for enlistment and re-engagement. Experience has shown that the equivalent provisions of the 1980 Act were too rigid.

However, I recognise that there were concerns about the apparent scope of the power in the clause as drafted. I have considered what the noble Lord said on the issue and am happy to accept the proposed amendment, which gives those powers greater clarity.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [ Service of marines in the Royal Fleet Reserve]:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we find Clause 21 confusing. Of course, we recognise that it concerns the discipline Acts and there are references to them in Amendment No. 52, tabled by the noble Earl, relating to Schedule 9. The issues raised by the clause cover the basis for effectiveness and clarity of command in demanding operational situations. If the Royal Marines take the role of naval personnel who have their own designations of rank, surely while they do that it will be clearer for all concerned if they were known by the rank designation which is immediately recognisable and familiar to others within the Royal Fleet Reserve.

I should like to say how much we appreciate the fact that an amendment was put to us by the Minister's office. We found that the suggested amendment did not in this case meet the point which we are making. If anything, it underlined our anxiety. That is why we put forward the amendment at this stage in the hope that between now and completion of the passage of the Bill the Government will find some way of meeting the point. I beg to move.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that he found the clause somewhat confusing. I shall try as best I can to explain its purpose. As I said in Committee, the provision is necessary because the Royal Fleet Reserve contains both ex-regular naval ratings and ex-regular Royal Marines. The issue does not arise in relation to the volunteer reserves because the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve are distinct legal entities. There would be some logic in having separate ex-regular forces as well, but since the Royal Fleet Reserve as a whole is only a little over 4,000 strong, it would be difficult to justify the administrative complexity of dividing it.

Naval ratings and Royal Marines serve alongside one another with great distinction. They do, however, have different jobs, training, ranks, promotion requirements and so on. As we discussed in Committee, they ARE also treated differently under service law. That aspect is not mentioned in the clause because the necessary provisions are in Section 210 of the Army Act 1955 and Section 112 of the Naval Discipline Act 1957.

I am sure that a former Royal Marine would not think it right to he required to serve as a rating and Parliament has agreed. Clause 21 simply repeats the substance of Section 52 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, which itself originated in Section 1 of the Naval Reserve Act 1900. If the House were now to decide to remove the statutory protection, would it be with the intention of requiring marines to serve as sailors? Certainly, if the House wished it to have that effect, it would adopt the noble Lord's amendment. I firmly believe that it is most desirable to retain the clause.

As the noble Lord mentioned, I undertook in Committee to consider whether Clause 21 could be made clearer. Parliamentary Counsel succeeded in producing a revised form of words which I passed to the noble Lord, Lord Williams. With the benefit of the explanation which I have just given, I hope that there may be scope for noble Lords to look again at the wording of the clause. It remains available. If the noble Lord, Lord Judd, or any other Peer cares to table it for Third Reading, I should be happy to accept it. In the meantime, I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that Clause 21, whether in its current version or in a refined form, is a necessary part of the Bill.

My Lords, again the spirit in which the noble Earl speaks is greatly appreciated. He said that the wording could be in its present form or in a refined form. We hope that between now and the passing of the Bill he will be able to consider the points that we made in Committee and have re-emphasised this afternoon. Of course, we take his point about law but our concern is about operational clarity. If people work in a demanding situation, it is surely better that there should he as much familiarity as possible with the status and rank of the people who may give orders or instructions.

We believe that there is possibly room for confusion. We therefore hope that the noble Earl will consider the point again. In the meantime, in view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 [ Parliamentary control of commitments]:

Page 12, line 14. leave out from ("in") to end of line 16 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, again, we find this subsection as drafted a little mystifying, despite any rationale that might be advanced in terms of existing practice. Why is the Navy alone exempted from the reference to parliamentary authorisation? Our amendment aims to bring the Navy into line with what seem to he very sensible provisions for the other two services. For that reason we have put forward wording that we hope covers the point. The same point will arise on Amendments Nos. 11, 15, 17 and 25. Therefore, with the leave of the House, I take this opportunity to speak to those amendments at the same time. I beg to move.

My Lords, again, I should like to be helpful to the noble Lord. Unlike the Army and the Royal Air Force, the numbers of officers and men serving in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines have never been subject to statutory parliamentary control. The Bill reflects that, continuing with the structure that was used in the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

However, Parliament does in practice provide maximum numbers for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It will cause no difficulty to generalise the references in these clauses. I am therefore content to accept the amendment that the noble Lord tabled.

My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will not feel I am being patronising when I say that I must commend him for his spirit of co-operation this afternoon. We are delighted, and express our appreciation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [ Employers' consent before entering agreements]:

Page 13, line 19, at end insert—

("( ) It shall not be an obligation on an employee outside a special agreement to inform his employer of service in the reserve force.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is quite simple. It seeks an assurance that it will not become an obligation for those who are members of the Reserve Forces to inform their employers of that fact. I do not plan to press the amendment. I hope the Minister can give an assurance that no such obligation will come into force.

At present, many members of the Reserve Forces do not feel that they have to tell their employer, or indeed they do not want to tell an employer for whatever reason, that they are members of the Reserve Forces. I have come across that in the LADs that I have commanded. A surprisingly high number of members of the Territorial Army do not want their employers to know that they are members. The amendment seeks an assurance that there is no intention to create such an obligation. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have a certain sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord. However, I see some difficulties and very much hope that the noble Earl will be able to help. Clearly, nobody can he forced to advise an employer that he or she is a member of a reserve force. On the other hand, if it comes to a call out, particularly following our discussion on the subject of pensions, it would be rather odd if the employer did not know that an employee was a member of the Reserve Forces and was suddenly told that this would happen and that pension rights should be preserved. Perhaps the noble Earl can give us some guidance on that point.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for raising this matter and to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for his remarks. On the underlying point, I am happy to assure the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the Bill does not impose a general obligation on reservists to disclose their reserve status to their employers. We encourage reservists to inform their employers of their membership. We know that many do so and seek, and gain, their employer's co-operation. That often extends to additional leave for training, for example.

Equally, we know that some reservists feel it better not to inform their employers. We respect their view. The three-way relationship between the reservist, his employer and the Ministry of Defence can function only if there is openness and trust on all sides. That is as much the case in the relationship between the reservist and the employer as it is in the other part of the relationship. It would damage that trust for an employer to ask an individual whether he was a reservist and for the individual to reply untruthfully.

It would be most unusual for there to be a statutory provision to enable an individual to avoid having to answer the question truthfully or at all. Many consequential difficulties could arise from that. For example, reserve forces membership might be a material fact where an insurance policy was being taken out by the employer. The employer could not disclose it to the insurer if the individual had given a false answer.

It is axiomatic that members of the reserve forces have a call-out liability. If or when call out occurs, it would be impossible for the individual to hide his absence from the employer, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, rightly said. Indeed, for the employer safeguards under Part VIII of the Bill to operate it will be necessary for the employer to be formally advised of the call out. It could sour the future employment relationship for the employer to discover at that point that the reservist had misled him.

Altogether, we believe it best to leave the existing position unchanged. Some employers will ask about reserve status and the employee should answer truthfully. Others will not ask, and the reservist is under no obligation to volunteer the information. I hope that I have said sufficient to persuade the noble Lord that all is well.

3.45 p.m.

My Lords, is it true that, so far as employment is concerned, a reservist could not be disadvantaged—neither by declaring his membership, nor, on call out, by the employer putting him at a disadvantage as a result of his being a member of the reserve forces? Is that correct under another section of the Bill?

My Lords, we shall discuss that point, probably under Clause 121 of the Bill. I suggest to my noble friend that we leave the debate until that point.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. It is the one that I sought. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 [ Consent of new employer]:

Page 14, line 13, leave out from ("of) to ("such") in line 14 and insert ("subsection (2)(a)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, with the leave of the House I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 14, 29, 32 and 37. These are all minor amendments in the interests of clarity, or to correct internal cross-references in the Bill. I am obviously willing to say a little about each if that would be helpful; however, I believe that they are all self-explanatory. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 [ Call-out notices]:

Page 15, line 38, leave out subsection (6) and inser—

("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address: and any call-out or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, it might be for the convenience of the House if I also speak to Amendments Nos. 13, 24 and 28.

We realise that the noble Earl has been examining this matter. I gather that he may be willing to meet the point made by us in Committee about the need to be confident that, in deeming a notice to have been served, there must be real evidence that the notice has in fact been delivered to the person concerned or to another identifiable person at his or her last known address. That is particularly important in an age of increasing mobility, when people move vast distances at short notice. We cannot just assume that they will always be exactly where we thought they were. We hope therefore that this amendment covers that point and that it will be acceptable to the Government. I beg to move.

My Lords, I must support the sentiment behind the amendment. On a number of occasions, I myself have had the misfortune of trying to track down errant individuals over a number of weeks, only to find that they moved to three or four different places. This is an important amendment which needs consideration.

My Lords, I believe I emphasised in Committee that it is important to be able to serve call-out notices by post. A notice can only be deemed to have been served if it is sent by registered post or recorded delivery. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for the points that he raised. As ever, they are pertinent and in the interests of the individual.

Noble Lords will recall that when the matter was raised in Committee I agreed to consider it further. I have done so. I agree that the Bill as drafted is a little unfair to those who ARE away from their place of residence. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, protect those individuals who are absent from their place of residence when a call-out notice is sent. I believe that the changes are sensible. At the risk of lavishing benevolence on noble Lords opposite, I am happy to accept them.

My Lords, I should be very content for the noble Lord to retain those sentiments for the rest of the afternoon. Let me reciprocate by saying that on this side of the House, if we must have a government of another political persuasion, we are reassured and delighted to see the noble Earl fulfilling his role. It is very reassuring. We are grateful for his response. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36 [ Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

Page 17, leave out lines 32 and 33 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").

Page 17, line 34, leave out ("report to Parliament") and insert ("lay before each House of Parliament a report").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to these amendments. I beg to move them together.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 43 [ Call out of special members]:

Page 22, line 38. leave out subsection (7) and insert—

("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address; and any call-out or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 46 [ Exercise of functions by officers]:

Page 24, line 28, leave out ("45.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 9. 1 beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 47 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

Page 24, line 45, leave out from ("in") to end of line 46 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services").

Page 25, line I, leave out ("report to Parliament") and insert ("lay before each House of Parliament a report").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 15 to 22 en bloc. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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

Page 26, line 24, leave out from ("persons") to end of line 27 and insert ("who are in service under a call-out order shall not be reckoned in any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Page 27, line 30, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53 [ Maximum duration of service on call out under section 52]:

Page 28. line 44. after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 54 [ Call out for warlike operations]:

Page 29, line 34, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 55 [ Maximum duration of service on call out under section 54]:

Page 30, line 38, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 56 [ Call out for certain operations]:

Page 31, line 34. after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 57 [ Maximum duration of service on call out under section 56]:

Page 32, line 6, leave out ("9") and insert ("6").

The noble and gallant Lord said: My Lords, this amendment stands in my name and the names of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and my noble friend Lord Attlee. With the indulgence of the House, I should like to read a short letter from a commanding officer in Bosnia—in this case, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) to a Territorial Army headquarters in this country. It will, I feel, help to provide a valuable background and urgency to this particular clause and to the whole Bill. The letter reads:

"Thank goodness for the Territorial Army! I write both as the (temporary) Commander Equipment Support and as Commanding Officer 3 Battalion REME. Without wishing to appear melodramatic, the 30 Territorial Army soldiers who arrived before Christmas saved the REME bacon. I was faced with a 'surge' that began mid-December with no additional manpower—all we had was the same organisation that was designed to support a relatively static UN operation. I also had to find and sort out 'bases' for any future REME reinforcements. I cancelled Christmas and New Year R&R for my soldiers but without the influx of Territorial Army soldiers we would not have coped: as it is, we ARE barely coping. All of the Territorial Army soldiers have been quite excellent. To a man, they are enthusiastic, cheerful and willing. Their motives for coming here vary from wanting to do something a little different to good, old-fashioned patriotism. They fitted in to the battalion with ease and immediately became a valuable part of the team; the additional skills some of them have brought from their civilian occupations have already been an extra bonus.

I apologise if this letter seems a little gushing. My thanks are heartfelt; we were hard pressed over the Christmas period and would have looked very bad indeed were it not for the fact that so many of your soldiers were willing to give up their Christmas to help us out".

That is all splendid stuff. What the letter does not mention, and it is highly relevant and causing senior officers in the Army some concern, was the difficulty which was experienced in getting that number of REME volunteers to leave their jobs or getting their employers to release them. Taken altogether, that both emphasises the importance and urgency of the whole Bill and indicates the need to set the maximum period for which territorials and reservists can be called out at a realistic and reasonable level, acceptable to both employees and employers alike. It was that important factor which influenced our amendment which in Clause 57 seeks to reduce that period from nine months to six months.

I should point out first, in case it has escaped noble Lords' notice, that the figure in subsection (6) of Clause 57 refers back to Clause 56, which in turn covers:

"operations outside the United Kingdom for the protection of life or property; or … anywhere in the world for the alleviation of distress or the preservation of life or property in time of disaster".

In short they ARE largely humanitarian operations. It does not cover warlike operations, which come under Clause 54, let alone those under Clause 52, which deal with situations of more immediate urgency, of imminent national danger and a possible attack on this country. Those have their own conditions. We are talking about conditions far short of general war.

I submit that, under those circumstances, however badly the reinforcements are needed by the overstretched regulars and however convenient it may be for the staff to have them for a longer rather than shorter period, it is utterly unrealistic and unreasonable to expect them to leave their jobs for more than six months. That would equally apply to employers releasing them for longer than that period. Even six months is a big sacrifice and a large slice out of a career. Even with regular troops, unaccompanied tours linked to six months are fairly stringently enforced. As a former commanding officer, I know that a sea-change occurs after that time.

So to ask more of both parties would, I believe, lead to fewer people volunteering or more opting out, which could jeopardise the whole scheme. Moreover, I suggest that six months should be perfectly adequate. These are not the types of operation which would require much, if any, preliminary specialist training. I stress again that I am not talking about operations under NATO control. The reservists or volunteers would already be trained in the basic skills. There would be a certain amount of on-the-job training. Indeed, as that letter showed, skills obtained in civilian life might prove an extra bonus. So they should have no difficulty in fitting in with the six-month tours of the regulars. They can always—the machinery exists—volunteer to serve for longer, should they so wish or should the urgency be very obvious.

So, on all counts I urge the Government to accept the six-months cut-off period in this clause. I and many of those in the TA with whom I come in contact also believe—although, I stress, not the widely representative TAVRA council, which I know does not agree with me on this point—that it may make all the difference between enthusiastic and lukewarm acceptance of this important and urgent Bill and therefore between its success and failure. This is an important amendment. I beg to move.

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, to which I have put my name. First, I ought to emphasise, as did the noble and gallant Lord, that we are discussing call out for what might be called humanitarian operations. We are not talking about war-like operations or about war. We are talking about cases of natural disaster, protection of life or property and alleviation of distress operations, which are summarised in Clause 56, as the noble and gallant Lord pointed out. We are not attempting to change the maximum period of service under Clauses 52 or 54; we are simply concerned with humanitarian relief missions.

It may be that a definition of what is a "war-like" operation could help us in this matter. Perhaps the noble Earl could give us a precise definition of what is a war-like operation and what is a humanitarian operation. To give one example, as the noble and gallant Lord said, as the operation in Bosnia is under NATO command, that may be defined as a war-like operation. On the other hand, I imagine that an operation in Rwanda under the United Nations command may well be considered a humanitarian operation. Perhaps the noble Earl can clarify those points.

We need to know now, rather than when the Bill is in operation, what the obligations of reservists will be for humanitarian operations. I join forces with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, in believing that, if the Bill is to be as effective as we want it to be, a period of six months maximum service under what will be Section 56 is the right period. Anything longer than that will be a serious disincentive to people who would otherwise wish to sign up as reserves.

4 p.m.

My Lords, I should perhaps declare an interest as an honorary colonel of a TA unit. I regret to say that I do not support Amendment No. 23.,

On my reading of the amendment, it will enable individuals to he called up for service for a period not exceeding nine months. I understand that honorary TA colonels and the executive council of TAVRA strongly oppose any reduction from nine months to six months. I also understand that the regular Army and the Territorial Army units wish the period to remain at nine months.

If the right team spirit is to be built up it is essential that there should be a period of pre-training before any deployment, he it operational, peace-keeping or humanitarian duties, which is what the amendment involves. It is most important that reservists blend in, in the same way as the regulars, and that both regulars and reservists get to know each other well.

If the period of service is reduced to six months, it will only allow the reservists to spend around four-and-a-half months with the unit. That would leave a gap of one-and-a-half months when new reservists would fill in and, to my mind, be much less effective. The one-and-a-half month reservists would be left behind by the outgoing unit and taken on by the incoming new unit. They would have to become familiar with the new unit and with all the new methods that that unit may employ.

Four-and-a-half month deployments would be disruptive. They would not be in the interest of good man management and would make it more difficult to build up the necessary close relationship between reservists and regulars. They would also be more expensive. I do not support the amendment.

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as a serving officer in the Territorial Army. My noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall has vast and comprehensive experience of military matters, as we all know. No one is better placed to balance the requirements of the services against the interests of the volunteer and his or her employers. He pointed out in Committee that regular soldiers are only away from home for six months, which should be enough to persuade us all of the virtues of Amendment No. 23.

I am grateful to my noble and gallant friend for reading out the letter, which I too have seen before. It is especially relevant to this debate in that the volunteers to whom my noble and gallant friend referred undertook minimal pre-deployment training. By "minimal" I understand that they merely ran through their Army training directives, which made sure that they knew how to operate their weapons, how to protect themselves in the event of an NBC attack and understood the basic principles of first aid, in which they had already been trained. That was so even when they were going to an operation which could be classed as war-like.

As my noble and gallant friend said, Amendment No. 23 is only relevant to Clause 56. Thus the pre-deployment training need not be prolonged and should not take more than two or three weeks. For some types of operation it might be longer. If a much longer period of pre-deployment military training is required it would suggest that the call-out should he made under either Clause 52 or Clause 54.

The attitude of the employers will be crucial. If an employer is sure that the volunteer will be away for no more than six months he may not take steps to have that volunteer exempted from call-out. It should be remembered that employers will be tempted to have the best quality men and women exempted from call-out. But those high quality men and women will be equally valuable to the volunteer reserve unit when engaged in operations. I therefore have no hesitation in supporting the amendment.

My Lords, I too support the amendment. We should remember that it is unlikely that the Government will at any time compulsorily call up a member of the reserve forces for this type of operation. I admit that they may want to, but I hope that they would always be able to rely on members of the reserve forces volunteering for such operations. As my noble and gallant friend said, if such a volunteer wishes to serve for more than six months, he can always do so.

We are also talking about members of the reserve forces who are called up as individuals to reinforce or strengthen some other unit or for some specialist purpose. It is almost inconceivable that complete TA units would be called up for the operations specified. The arguments put forward by my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall and my noble friend Lord Attlee are strong arguments, both from the point of view of the employer and of the volunteer. It is important for both to feel that if the reservist is compulsorily called up, it will not be for more than six months.

My Lords, we had an interesting discussion on this point in Committee and I drew attention then to the position of those serving in public bodies such as hospitals, who have a specialist interest. If the specified operations are humanitarian, such people may well be required—even in this country if the IRA bombing continues.

Do we really have enough information? I understand the position of the honorary colonels and they are right to press for the maximum period that they think proper for their purposes. But do we have enough information about the attitude of employers who will be asked to release, for this period of nine months, people who they really want? Before we place that obligation upon employers, as well as those who are ready to volunteer as reservists, we ought to ask their view. If at the end of the day it is found that, despite what the honorary colonels want, the withdrawal of specialists for humanitarian purposes interferes with the operations of employers, in particular hospitals and similar institutions, we should think again and make it six months. Therefore, for the moment I support the amendment.

My Lords, the assumption made here is that all the operations are humanitarian and that for the sixth-month rather than nine-month period which the amendment proposes they will remain either humanitarian or associated with disaster relief. One wonders whether that is a safe assumption. What happens if our armed forces get involved in operations in a theatre to which they have gone initially for humanitarian purposes? We have only to remember Somalia to recognise that it is not a safe assumption that any operation that starts as a humanitarian or disaster relief operation will invariably run its course as that and nothing else.

4.15 p.m.

My Lords, we had an extensive debate on this important issue in Committee. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken today, in particular my noble friend Lord Vivian who supported the wording in the Bill.

I turn initially to the point of definition raised by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. Part VI contains three distinct powers of call-out. Clause 52 covers the most serious type of crisis. Clause 54 applies when warlike operations are in preparation or in progress. Clause 56 applies to humanitarian operations but also to peacekeeping and disaster relief operations. Whether a particular call-out power may be used in any given circumstances is a matter of act. The reservists who serve in Bosnia have been called out under Section 1 1 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 because it is clear that our forces are prepared for warlike operations. If the Bill were in force call-out might be under either Clause 54 or Clause 56, since the purpose of the operation would be essentially peacekeeping. If it were desired to call out reservists for peacekeeping operations that did not have a warlike element, clearly only Clause 56 would be applicable. United Nations-sponsored operations in Rwanda may be a good example, although whether it is under NATO or UN command is not strictly relevant. Whether or not it fell under Clause 56 would depend entirely on the facts of the case.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, rightly drew our attention to the possibility of the nature of the deployment starting as one thing and changing to something else. It is conceivable that the circumstances of an operation changed while reservists were called out. Clause 61 contains a power that would permit those individuals to be treated as if they had been called out under a different power appropriate to the new circumstances. That would not worsen their position. They could be released from service under the old power and immediately called out again under the new.

I do not believe that there is as great a difference between the Government's position and that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, as may appear at first sight. As he indicated in Committee perfectly correctly, it is the aim of the Army to limit emergency tours to six months for regular soldiers. However, one recognises that that is not always possible. Some personnel, especially in the logistics corps, serve for longer. The Royal Navy routinely deploys for seven months and often nine months. I believe that the noble and gallant Lord and I are agreed that the six-month target should be applied to reservists; that is, that reservists should not normally serve on operational tours for more than six months. I can happily give an undertaking to that effect. However, we part company when the noble and gallant Lord suggests that six months should be the statutory limit on called out service under Clause 56. It is clear to me that reservists should be able to undertake six-month operational deployments when called out under Clause 56. It is also clear that deployment must form part of a longer period of called out service. Time must be allowed at the start for the process of mobilisation itself. Time must be allowed either for individuals to be assimilated into a regular unit or for a group of reservists to form up; and time must be allowed for training, sometimes general, sometimes specialist and sometimes specific to the theatre of operations.

Inevitably, after the operational tour there will be a certain amount of administration to complete. After a six-month deployment a regular soldier is, quite properly, given leave, usually one week for separation and three weeks from his normal entitlement. Reservists should receive no less. I suggest that that will he just as important after humanitarian operations as in other cases. Our servicemen and women work just as hard and may have experiences that are as traumatic in humanitarian operations as in other kinds of operation. It is important that that leave should be protected from employer pressure to return to civilian work.

Following the debate in Committee the three services have reviewed the position. They have been able to draw on their current experience of call-out for operations in the former Yugoslavia. For the reasons I explained, the services remain of the view that a nine-month total period of called out service is necessary. Anything less will not permit the services to plan on reservists undertaking six-month operational tours alongside their regular colleagues.

Since the debate in Committee we have also taken fresh soundings within the TA. The volunteers are keen to be able to be called out to join regular units on operational tours, and they know that that requires a nine-month limit. The TA colonels, who make frequent visits to the units for which they are responsible, ARE unanimous that nine months is appropriate. One of those TA colonels is my noble friend the Duke of Westminster. He has written to me to express his views as the senior serving yeomanry officer. He asks me to say that he and the seven yeomanry commanding officers are unanimous in supporting the Government's view. I understand that the chairmen of the 14 Territorial, Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Associations are also unanimous in their support of the nine-month limit, as the noble and gallant Lord himself indicated.

The House will appreciate that not all operations under Clause 56 will require the prolonged support of reservists. Some may last for only a few weeks or months. We will call out reservists for shorter periods than the maximum permitted whenever possible. We have done just that in the case of operations in Bosnia. I can tell the noble and gallant Lord that the TA REME provided twice as many volunteers as were sought for the Bosnia call-out. We must be able to plan on the basis of nine months' maximum permanent service for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. The proposal to limit permanent service to six months will allow only about four and a half months in theatre, assuming that a long period of pre-deployment training is not required. The time in theatre will be further reduced if more pre-deployment training is required. For a prolonged operation the more limited the time reservists can spend in theatre the greater the number of reservists we will require to call out each year to fill a certain number of posts. That alone will both increase costs and inconvenience more employers.

The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, referred to the attitude of employers. I said in Committee that if a particular employer or reservist felt that he had good grounds on which to object to the duration of a call-out he could apply under Part VIII of the Bill for any of a number of remedies. He could seek exemption from call-out, deferral of call-out, or an earlier discharge date. These measures demonstrate that we are fully seized of the necessity to place as small a burden as possible on reservists and their employers. However, at the same time we must be able to make good and economic use of our reservists where there is a need for their service. In the consultation process the majority of employers were content with the nine-month period. Employers who would find that difficult can seek exemption.

My Lords, before my noble friend leaves that point, will be deal with the point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley? In view of what my noble friend said earlier, it would seem that that point has been overtaken except that my noble friend said that there would be cases involving humanitarian relief when men would be called out not for nine months but for six months. Let us suppose, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said, it ceases to be a humanitarian matter but becomes an operational matter. Will it then be possible for that period of six months to be extended?

My Lords, I believe that I covered that point earlier. I certainly endeavoured to do so. I mentioned that under Clause 61 there is a power which would allow individuals to be treated as if they had been called out under a different power should the circumstances of the deployment change. The point I emphasised was that that would not worsen their position were those circumstances to occur because they could be released from service under one power and then immediately called out again under the new power. That is how it would work. I believe that that answers the point that was raised.

There is more I could say about the damaging impact of the six-month limit that would be imposed by the amendment. I believe that the Government's proposals carry wide support within the services, within reserve forces particularly and within the TAVRAs. I hope I have now said sufficient to persuade the noble and gallant Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, not to press the amendment.

My Lords, I am most grateful for the thorough and articulate reply that the noble Earl has given on this very important subject. I am glad that we have had a good debate on the amendment. There ARE two sides to the argument, as the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, has made abundantly clear, including giving me a lecture on man management, which he is perfectly entitled to do.

I do not want the Government to be over-optimistic about the relish that employers and employees will have in the future about compulsory call up. As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said, I do not think they should underestimate the position, particularly in the medical services, where I think the National Health Service will have strong views about letting their surgeons and anaesthetists go out to humanitarian operations overseas for too long when they have plenty of humanitarian operations to do back in their own country. I hope that the Government will be conscious of not compulsorily calling out these people for any longer than is necessary. The noble Earl gave an assurance that he had that very much in mind and that in the normal course of events six months overseas would be the maximum, the rest being taken up with some sort of mobilisation procedures.

I believe that the penny has dropped on this point. But if it has not dropped there could be considerable trouble ahead. The Government have taken great steps to consult inside the services, with the TAVRAs and with the regimental colonels. They have done a very good job in that. In view of the consultation that has taken place and in view of the Minister's assurance that he is conscious that it would be wrong to give the impression that volunteers or reservists would always be called up for more than six months, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 [ Call-out notices]:

Page 33, line 34, leave out subsection (7) and insert—

("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address; and any call-out or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have spoken to Amendments Nos. 24 to 28. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 65 [ Liability to recall]:

Page 36, line 37, leave out from ("service") to end of line 39 and insert ("under a recall order shall not be reckoned in any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 68 [ Recall for national danger, great emergency or attack on the UK]:

Page 39, line 10, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 69 [ Maximum duration of service on recall]:

Page 40, line 9, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70 [ Recall notices]:

Page 41, line 5, leave out subsection (7) and insert—

("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address; and any recall or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 72 [ Period of service and release]:

Page 42, line 2, leave out (" 68(7)") and insert (" 68(8)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 9. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

After Clause 75, insert the following new clause—

RECALL NOT TO AFFECT SERVICE PENSIONS

(". Where a person to or in respect of whom a service pension is payable has been accepted into service under a recall order—

  • (a) any pay or other emoluments to which he is entitled in respect of his service on recall shall not be reduced by reason of the service pension;
  • (b) the service pension shall not be withheld or reduced by reason of any such pay or emoluments.").
  • The noble Earl said: My Lords, in the light of the Committee debate on pensions, I reviewed the provisions in the Bill. One particular provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 had not been carried forward into the Bill. It concerns those in receipt of a service pension who would be, as former regulars, liable to recall into service under Part VII of the Bill. The usual Treasury rule is that when an individual in receipt of a public service pension is re-employed in a similar capacity that pension should be stopped or abated. Section 31(5) of the 1980 Act gives statutory exemption from that rule to service pensioners recalled to service in an emergency. This amendment replicates that protection for those liable to recall under Part VII. They will not all be service pensioners but a proportion will be. This is a very straightforward point. I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 76 [ Interpretation of Part VII]:

    Page 43, line 45, after ("before") insert ("each House of").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 80 [ Regulations under sections 77 and 78: supplementary]:

    Page 47, line 8, leave out (" 69(7)") and insert (" 69(6)").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 9. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 85 [ Power to suspend payments due to national danger or great emergency]:

    Page 50, line 5, after ("before") insert ("each House of").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 97 [ Punishment etc. of offences of desertion or absence without leave]:

    Page 54, line 40, after ("of') insert ("desertion or").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendment No. 35. These two minor amendments correct the references to "desertion" in Clause 97. The words "desertion or" are, from the construction of the subsection, clearly missing from Clause 97(2). Clause 96(2) creates an offence of absence without leave. The reference to that subsection in Clause 97(4) means that the words "desertion or" should be removed. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 55, line 3, leave out ("desertion or").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 116 [ Regulations as to associations]:

    Page 62, line 21, after ("before") insert ("each House of").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 121 [ Safeguard of employment for members of reserve forces]:

    Page 63, line 24. leave out ("section 58 or 59") and insert ("Part VI").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 9. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    4.30 p.m.

    Page 63, line 29. at end insert—.

    ("( ) After section I. there shall be inserted—"

    Obligation not to discriminate.

    1A.—(1) It is unlawful for a person. in relation to employment by him at an establishment in Great Britain. to discriminate against another on the grounds that he is or may become a member of the Reserve Forces of the Crown—

  • (a) in the arrangements he makes for the purpose of determining who should be offered that employment; or
  • (b) in the terms on which he offers him that employment; or
  • (c) by refusing or deliberately omitting to offer him that employment.
  • (2) It is unlawful for a person to discriminate against a person employed by him at an establishment in Great Britain, on the grounds that that employee is or may become a member of the Reserve Forces of the Crown—

  • (a) in the terms of employment which he affords him; or
  • (b) in the way he affords him access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, or to any other benefits, facilities to services, or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford him access to them; or
  • (c) by dismissing him, or subjecting him to any other detriment.
  • (3) Subsection (2) does not apply to benefits, facilities or services of any description if the employer is concerned with the provision (for payment or not) of benefits, facilities or services of that description to the public, or to a section of the public comprising the employee in question, unless—

  • (a) that provision differs in a material respect from the provision of the benefits, facilities or services by the employer to his employee; or
  • (b) the provision of the benefits, facilities or services to the employee in question is regulated by his contract of employment; or
  • (c) the benefits, facilities or services relate to training.".").
  • The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 38 which stands in my name and the names of my noble friends Lord Williams of Elvel and Lord Judd and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. We return to this amendment on the issue of non-discrimination in employment because it will be recalled that in Committee, following a briefing that we received from the British Medical Association, we tabled an amendment which sought to make it illegal for employers to try to prevent employees from joining the reserve forces and fulfilling their training and other obligations arising from that. We received information that the Minister was sympathetic to our point of view.

    We were assured by the BMA that it is common for employers in the NHS to try to discriminate, despite assurances to the contrary. Some NHS trusts ARE apparently issuing contracts which do not permit medical staff to join the reserves. The BMA in particular was concerned that the competitive nature of the internal market was likely to lead to an increase in the number of trusts attempting to do that and to put obstacles in the way of staff wishing to join the reserves.

    As I said earlier, the Minister appeared to be aware of the BMA's concerns when we discussed the matter in Committee. However, he does not appear to have tabled a government amendment to try to come to terms with those concerns, so we have largely repeated the wording that we tabled in Committee. I hope that the Minister will now be able to say that he is prepared to accept our amendment—or, if not this, something similar which could be accepted formally on Third Reading.

    It is not only a question affecting employers in the NHS. Our amendment would cover employers generally because we believe that discrimination against employees who want to become members of the reserve forces should not be permitted and that it should be stated on the face of the Bill that such discrimination is illegal. The BMA is still worried about the matter. Indeed, as recently as this morning I received a telephone call from its office asking whether we intended to pursue the amendment. In the circumstances, I wonder whether the Minister will be prepared to accept the amendment this time round. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I support the amendment which returns us to an issue that was raised in Committee. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said in Committee that one way of avoiding discrimination was to work through the National Employers' Liaison Committee. That body has done great work in the past and should be praised.

    However, I should like to press the point that it is not only the National Health Service which could he affected. In the case of the high readiness reserve, what would happen if a particular section of the business community saw that its employees would be needed for particular operations and started to take it upon itself to write into contracts of employment clauses forbidding employees from becoming reservists? That is more likely to apply in the case of smaller companies which will fall outside the general system of negotiation. What would be the attitude of the Ministry of Defence to that? How would the MoD address the problem? I realise that it is unlikely that the Minister will support the amendment, and that reintroducing such provisions would need primary legislation which is unlikely to be brought forward. Therefore, what measures does the Minister envisage being taken if the scenario that I have outlined comes to pass?

    My Lords, naturally in principle one should be in favour of an amendment of this kind. On the face of it and at first glance, it looks sensible and sound, but all manner of complications arise. They are analogous when wartime comes—some of us still remember that—with the principle of reserved occupations in time of war. If that principle were to be accepted by the Government as part of our legislation, I expect that the provisions would have to be redrafted stating very considerable exceptions in order to deal with circumstances where it would manifestly be wrong to compel somebody to refrain from employing a person in the reserve forces. Therefore, I would expect my noble friend to be cautious on this matter. I was not able to be present in Committee, but I understand that the matter was at least raised then. I should be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about it now.

    My Lords, as the noble Baroness indicated, we discussed this issue extensively in Committee. I am not convinced that the case that she makes for an anti-discrimination provision is the best way ahead. The proposal is full of good intent, but I fear that it would not have the desired effect because it would damage the relationship between employers, the reserve forces and those employees who are also reservists.

    I am firmly of the opinion that the constructive approach that we have adopted to date should continue. Building and maintaining the three-way partnership between employers, reservists and the Ministry of Defence requires openness and trust.

    The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned the work of the National Employers' Liaison Committee (NELC) and I too take this opportunity of saying that the Government ARE most appreciative of NELC's work. It has been particularly helpful during consultations on the Bill. It is upon that body that much of the successful co-operation rests. We have no wish to move from this co-operative approach, which is generally successful, to one which cannot help but be adversarial in nature.

    An anti-discrimination measure would also be widely perceived as a punitive burden on employers. The expense to business of complying with such a measure would be unwelcome to employers. Businesses would not welcome the constraints on their management flexibility that would be imposed by having to avoid any suggestion that they were treating a reservist in some way unfavourably. Many employers might as a result come to the conclusion that the easiest way of avoiding the problem was simply to avoid recruiting reservists in the first place. Discrimination of that nature at the time of recruitment to employment is inevitably difficult to substantiate.

    It follows that far from encouraging the employment of reserves, such a measure could be counterproductive. Any change in employer attitudes would affect not only the volunteer reserves, but also ex-regular servicemen and women seeking to establish a civilian career. Nor do I believe that the amendment would be of benefit to reservists in employment. It would inevitably begin to change the relationship between a reservist and his employer from a constructive and open one into being an adversarial and confrontational one. In those circumstances, neither the reservist nor the employer would benefit.

    Perhaps I may comment in passing on a thought prompted by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. To achieve even a modest and effective provision in the spirit of the amendment which the noble Baroness has proposed would require a quite substantial Bill in its own right. The Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act run to over 70 and 80 sections respectively. An initial assessment is that a substantial number of sections would he needed to achieve an equivalent level of protection for reservists.

    During the proceedings in Committee and again today, the noble Baroness expressed concern that some employers were attempting to bar employees from joining the volunteer reserves by writing terms into their contracts to that effect. It appears to be the wish of the noble Baroness to make it unlawful to incorporate a term in a contract which purports to bar an employee from being a reservist. I do not believe that such a provision is necessary. The existing law copes with that situation. The Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 provides that it is a criminal offence to sack an employee who is a reservist because of his or her reserve liability. Therefore, if an employee became a reservist in breach of a term in his contract and the employer attempted to sack him, the employer could be prosecuted for so doing. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it might also be an unfair dismissal. If action less than dismissal were attempted that might be constructive dismissal.

    I believe that the existing provisions in law achieve the effect that the noble Baroness and other noble Lords desire. I cannot agree that any significant change in the law is necessary. I hope that in the light of my comments the noble Baroness will not press her amendment. I urge her to think again.

    Before I conclude, perhaps with the leave of the House I may address briefly two separate but connected issues relating to the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985. In the light of the debate in Committee, we have looked again at the provisions of that Act, which I remind noble Lords gives reservists who enter into a period of permanent service a right to reinstatement in their civilian employment. It also makes it a criminal offence to dismiss an individual for being a reservist before the date on which he is required to report for the purpose of commencing his permanent service. That would leave an individual who attended on the day his call-out notice required, but who was not accepted into service, without either of the protections that I have mentioned. That is undesirable and I intend to bring forward a simple amendment on Third Reading in order to rectify that deficiency.

    During an informal discussion the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, raised the position under the 1985 Act of a female reservist who was granted maternity leave while called out. The 1985 Act makes no explicit mention of maternity leave. That might not jeopardise the position under the Act of a pregnant female reservist, but I recognise that it would be preferable for the position to be beyond doubt. I will consider whether an amendment can he prepared for a later stage in the consideration of the Bill, perhaps even for Third Reading next week.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed explanation. However, I do not altogether share his sanguine view about the lack of necessity for any kind of protection on the face of the Bill. It is clear that people who have studied the Bill, including members of the BMA, have real doubts about the degree to which their members are protected if they wish to become reservists. They are keen to have some kind of provision on the face of the Bill which gives the necessary protection as they see it.

    The noble Lord, Lord Renton, commented on what happens in the case of war and reserve occupations. I believe that in such a circumstance there would he a necessity for special legislation to protect that position. Real anxieties were expressed by a number of people when the Bill was first published and I am not at all certain that the Minister's explanation covers them all. Nevertheless, I will read Hansard and study what has been said because the reply was detailed with references to the 1985 Act and so forth. It is to be hoped that we will arrive at a situation in which people feel they are adequately protected.

    I am grateful to the Minister for the consideration that he has given to other aspects of the 1985 Act. I look forward to seeing the text of the two amendments which he intends to introduce at Third Reading, including an amendment in relation to women who become pregnant. That issue was raised during our informal discussions and in our discussions in Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 124 [ Absence for voting]:

    Page 64, line 18, leave out from ("at") to end of line and insert ("—

  • (a) any election of a Member of Parliament or a Member of the European Parliament, or
  • (b) any local election, or").
  • The noble Lord said: My Lords, the rubric of Clause 124 is "Absence for voting". In Committee I made the point that the clause refers only to voting at an election of a Member of Parliament. As I also said in Committee, I believe that no one should be punished on account of his absence from duty in the election of either a Member of Parliament, a Member of the European Parliament or even voting in local elections. I am pleased to say that the force of that argument was accepted by the noble Earl. In that spirit, I move the amendment to include Members of the European Parliament and local councillors as being people for whom reservists might conveniently vote without penalty. I beg to move.

    My Lords, we on these Benches support the amendment, in particular the reference to local elections. It would be most unfortunate if potential voters missed their opportunity to vote.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, raised the issue in Committee and I believe that he makes a powerful point. It is right that individuals should have the opportunity to vote in elections of all kinds. The amendment provides for that and I am happy to accept it.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    4.45 p.m.

    After Clause 127, insert the following new clause—

    APPLICATION OF ACT TO PERSONS CURRENTLY SERVING IN THE RESERVE
    FORCES OR REGULAR SERVICES

    (".—(1) Schedule (Application of Act to transitional members) shall have effect with respect to the application of this Act in relation to members of the reserve forces who are members of the transitional class.
    (2) Nothing in the Reserve Forces Act 1980 shall apply to a member of a reserve force who is not a member of the transitional class or, in the case of a person who is to be transferred to the reserve from the regular services, is not capable of becoming a member of the transitional class.
    (3) In this Act "the transitional class", in relation to members of the reserve forces, shall be construed in accordance with Part I of Schedule (Application of Act to transitional members).").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 40 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 50 and 51. The three amendments adapt the provisions of the Bill to those individuals with reserved rights to be called out under the existing powers in the Reserve Forces Act 1980 and the prerogative powers applicable to certain officers. They will be able to opt to become fully subject to the Bill. The new clause after Clause 127 introduces the schedule. It also provides that the Reserve Forces Act 1980 will not apply to individuals fully subject to the Bill. The new schedule draws together transitional provisions which were formally spread throughout the Bill in what I believe to he a much clearer and more coherent form. The amendment to Schedule 8 is a consequential change.

    The Bill includes the repeal of almost the whole of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. However, the repeal of the sections which continue to apply to these individuals with reserved rights will not he made effective immediately. Those sections will continue to be in force while there are individuals subject to them. In particular as regards former regulars, that could be for a considerable period. In theory, it could be as long as 43 years. That period would be reduced if those who had most recently joined the regular services were to opt to be subject to the new liabilities. I commend the amendments to the House. I beg to move.

    My Lords, for reasons which my noble friend has given, it is plain that we need the new clause. It is purely a drafting matter but the proposed new schedule in Amendment No. 51 appears to be incredibly elaborate. One would have hoped that some general phrase which covered all or most of the provisions referred to could have been inserted instead of the mass of detail. Indeed, it might have been done by delegated legislation.

    Speaking for myself and for many others, one does not like to see Acts of Parliament cluttered up with too much purely technical detail. I say that in the hope that the draftsman on this occasion and other draftsmen on other occasions may well advise the Government on ways in which we can ensure that Acts of Parliament are not cluttered with such relatively minor detail.

    My Lords, I too accept the need for such a schedule. It sets out with a certain amount of clarity what is necessary. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that some of the drafting of the schedule appears to be odd. I am surprised to find expressions such as "transitional officer" and "transitional man". I presume that "transitional man" includes "transitional woman". I am not quite sure what that means but I find that transitional men and women may raise a number of problems with which your Lordships may not wish to deal.

    My Lords, I believe that it would he accurate to say that either of those situations could arise.

    My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord knows more about this matter than I do. I ask the noble Earl whether he is satisfied that the drafting is of the standard which legislation requires. I understand that the subject matter is right and needs to he dealt with but perhaps the Minister would look at that matter.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and to my noble friend Lord Renton for their remarks. As I said, I am satisfied that the schedule is necessary and, indeed, as I have indicated, I believe that it sets out in a clearer and more coherent form provisions which were previously spread about the Bill.

    However, having heard those strictures, I shall certainly study the wording. I am entirely in sympathy with the general theme of the remarks made by my noble friend—that is, that Occam's razor, as it were, should be applied wherever possible to Plato's beard. I am sure that that is something which should commend itself to all parliamentary draftsmen. Having said that, I commend the amendment.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 5 [ Charitable property on disbanding of units]:

    Page 76, line 21, leave out ("comes into force") and insert ("is made").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 42 to 49.

    These minor and technical amendments serve principally to bring the provisions on charities established for the benefit of reserve forces in Scottish law more into line with those for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to clarify the duties of the Lord Advocate in connection with this schedule.

    I should not wish to burden your Lordships with a detailed explanation of the amendments but I should he happy to explain any questions that are raised with me. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I am not an expert on Scottish charity law. Perhaps the noble Earl will tell me in what respect Scottish charitable law differs from English and indeed Welsh charitable law so that these amendments are necessary.

    My Lords, that in itself would require an essay and perhaps more debating time than is available this afternoon. I should he happy to encapsulate in as brief a space as possible, perhaps on paper, to the noble Lord, the precise aspects in which Scottish charitable law differs from English law. Rather than read out the extensive notes which I have here, perhaps the noble Lord will accept that suggestion.

    My Lords, while we are looking at this matter, I wonder whether I may draw attention to Amendment No. 42 and merely register a point. While we are delighted to see that the Government are proposing this amendment and that the lines in question should he deleted, we are concerned that at several points in the Bill in the early stages of drafting there have been extraordinarily general provisions. We seek an assurance from the Minister that he will take that up with those concerned to make sure that future legislation is specific. It is distressing that we should always have to go back to passages like this in order to make sure that very sweeping generalisations are removed.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, as we are on Report, I shall respond very briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Amendments Nos. 42, 45 and 48 arise as a result of examination of the Bill since its introduction. Some slight inconsistencies have been revealed between the provisions of Part III of the schedule, which deals with succession to charitable property in Scotland, and their counterparts for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As I say, we are seeking to bring Scottish provisions into line with those which apply elsewhere in the United Kingdom. These amendments simply make minor drafting changes.

    I share the noble Lord's frustration at having to make such alterations and to bring in general provisions but I am advised that they are extremely necessary and desirable for the good governance of the country.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 77, leave out lines 29 and 30.

    Page 77, line 32, leave out ("comes into force") and insert ("is made").

    Page 77, line 39, leave out from beginning to ("with") in line 42 and insert ("for the court to make an order—

  • (a) providing that paragraph 9 shall cease to apply to that property or part; and
  • (b) exercising,").
  • Page 77, leave out lines 45 to 47 and insert—

    ("( ) On an application under sub-paragraph (1), the court may exercise any such power as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(b) to make such order as it considers to be appropriate, whether or not that power would normally be exercisable at the instance of such a petitioner.").

    Page 78, line 5, leave out ("may") and insert ("—

  • (a) if he has not given a direction under paragraph 9, may; and
  • (b) if he has given such a direction, shall,").
  • Page 78, line 8, at end insert—

    ("( ) On an application under sub-paragraph (1), the court may, subject to any such direction, exercise any such power to make such order as it considers to be appropriate, whether or not that power would normally be exercisable at the instance of the Lord Advocate.").

    Page 78, line 10, leave out from beginning to ("affect") in line 11, and insert ("None of the following, that is to say, a warrant, a direction under paragraph 10 or an order under paragraph 11 or 12 shall").

    Page 78, line 45. leave out ("comes into force") and insert ("is made").

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Schedule 8 [ Transitory and transitional provisions]:

    Page 86, leave out lines 44 to 47 and insert—

    ("(4) If any such officer or man is transferred to a reserve force on or after the day appointed for the purposes of Part 1 of Schedule ( Application of Act to transitional members)—

  • (a) he shall he regarded for the purposes of paragraph 2 of that Schedule as if he had been a member of that force since immediately before the appointed day;
  • (b) the references in that paragraph to "that time" shall be taken to refer to the time at which he was transferred to the reserve force.").
  • On Question, amendment agreed to.

    After Schedule 8, insert the following new schedule—

    ("SCHEDULE

    APPLICATION OF ACT TO TRANSITIONAL MEMBERS

    PART 1

    THE TRANSITIONAL CLASS OF MEMBERS OF THE RESERVE FORCES

    1.—(1) The transitional class consists of persons who—

  • (a) ARE members of a reserve force:
  • (b) for the time being fall within paragraph 2 or 3; and
  • (c) have not made an election under paragraph 4.
  • (2) In this Schedule "transitional member" means a member of a reserve force who for the time being is a member of the transitional class; and "transitional officer" and "transitional man" shall he construed accordingly.

    (3) In this Part of this Schedule "the appointed day" means such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint for the purposes of this Part of this Schedule.

    2. A person who, immediately before the appointed day, was an officer or man of a reserve force falls within this paragraph if—

  • (a) he has remained a member of that force without interruption since that time; and
  • (b) he has not extended his service in, or become an officer of, that force since that time.
  • 3. An officer or man who becomes a member of a reserve force on or after the appointed day, on transfer to the reserve from the regular services, falls within this paragraph if—

  • (a) he joined the regular services before the appointed day and did not re-enlist, re-engage or extend his service, or become an officer, in the regular services on or after that day;
  • (b) he has remained a member of the reserve force concerned without interruption since being transferred from the regular services; and
  • (c) he has not extended his service in, or become an officer of, that force since being so transferred.
  • 4.—(1) A person who is a transitional member of a reserve force by virtue of paragraph 2 or 3 may elect to cease being a transitional member.

    (2) An officer or man serving in the regular services who—

  • (a) joined those services before the appointed day: and
  • (b) has not re-enlisted, re-engaged or extended his service, or become an officer, on or after that day.
  • may elect not to be a transitional member on his transfer to the reserve.

    (3) An election under this paragraph is irrevocable and must be made in the prescribed manner.

    (4) A person who has made an election under this paragraph shall cease to be or. as the case may he, shall not become a transitional member of the reserve force concerned.

    5.—(1) In this Part of this Schedule "man", in relation to the regular services, means a person of or below the rank or rate of warrant officer.

    (2) A person in permanent service on recall (whether under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, in the case of an officer, otherwise than under this Act) shall not be regarded for the purposes of this Part of this Schedule as serving in the regular services.

    PART II

    APPLICATION OF ACT TO MEMBERS OF TOE TRANSITIONAL CLASS

    6. The provisions of this Act (other than section ( Application of Act to persons currently serving in the reserve forces or regular services) and this Schedule) apply in relation to members of the transitional class in accordance with this Part of this Schedule.

    7.—(1) Any reference in this Act to a reserve force, to two or inure of the reserve forces or to all the reserve forces shall, unless the context otherwise requires, he construed as a reference to the whole of the force, or of each force, concerned, including any transitional members.

    (2) Any reference in this Act to members. officers or men of a reserve force includes, unless the context otherwise requires, a reference to members, officers or men who are transitional members.

    (3) This paragraph has effect subject to the exceptions and modifications in the following provisions of this Part of this Schedule.

    8.—(1) In the application of section 17(1) to a transitional man. the reference to permanent service includes a reference to permanent service under the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

    (2) Section 17(2), (3) and (4) do not apply to transitional men.

    9.—(1) In the application of sections 18, 20 and 21 to a transitional man, the reference to permanent service includes a reference to permanent service under the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

    (2) In the application of section 21 to a transitional man of the Royal Fleet Reserve, the reference to training and other duties includes a reference to training or other duties in pursuance of any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

    10. Section 22 does not apply to transitional members of a reserve land, air or marine force.

    11. In the application of section 24 to a transitional member who has entered into a full-time service commitment—

  • (a) for the reference in subsection (7) to permanent service under Part VI there shall be substituted a reference to permanent service on call out under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or. as the case may be, under any other call-out obligations of an officer; and
  • (b) for the reference in subsection (8) to training under section 22 there shall (except in the case of a member of a reserve naval force) be substituted a reference to training required under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, under any other training obligations of an officer.
  • 12.—(1) Transitional members may (subject to the provisions of this Act) enter into a special agreement or an employee agreement; and Parts IV and V apply accordingly.

    (2) Transitional members of a reserve force do not lose their status as transitional members by virtue of either becoming special members of the force or (where they continue as ordinary members under section 42) ceasing to be special members of the force.

    13. In the application of section 31(1) to a special agreement entered into by a transitional member, for the reference in paragraph (d) to permanent service under Part VI there shall be substituted a reference to permanent service under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or. as the case may be, under any other call-out obligations of an officer.

    14. In the application of section 34(5) to transitional members. the reference in paragraph (b) to section 57(11) shall be omitted.

    15. In the application of section 40(5) to a transitional special member—

  • (a) for the reference to section 22 there shall (except in the case of a member of a reserve naval force) be substituted a reference to the corresponding provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, of any other training obligations of an officer;
  • (b) for the reference to Part VI there shall be substituted a reference to the corresponding provisions of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or. as the case may be, of any other call-out obligations of an officer.
  • 16. An order may he made under section 41(6) suspending the operation of section 41(1)(c) in relation to transitional special members, notwithstanding that Part VI does not apply to transitional members.

    17. In the application of section 45(5) to transitional members, the reference in paragraph (b) to section 57(11) shall be omitted.

    18. Part VI does not apply to transitional members.

    19. Regulations under section 77, 82 or 83 may make provision. in relation to transitional members liable to be called out under—

  • (a) the Reserve Forces Act 1980, or
  • (b) any other call-out obligations of officers,
  • corresponding to the provision which may be made in regulations under that section in relation to members of the reserve forces liable to he called out under Part VI of this Act.

    20. In the application of section 95(1) to a transitional member—

  • (a) the reference to any provision of this Act includes a reference to any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, of any other call-out obligations of an officer; and
  • (b) for the reference in paragraph (a) to section 58(3)(c) there shall be substituted a reference to the corresponding provision of that Act or those obligations.
  • 21. In the application of section 96(2) to a transitional member, for the reference to section 22 there shall (except in the case of a member of a reserve naval force) be substituted a reference to the corresponding provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, of any other training obligations of an officer.

    22. In the application of section 101(2) to transitional members—

  • (a) the reference in paragraph (a) to any provision of this Act includes a reference to the corresponding provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, of any other call-out obligations of an officer;
  • (b) the reference in paragraph (d) to training includes (except in the case of members of a reserve naval force) a reference to the corresponding training required under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or, as the case may be, under any other training obligations of an officer.
  • 23. In the application of section 122(1) to a transitional man, the reference to permanent service includes a reference to permanent service under the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

    24. In the application of section 124 to a transitional member, the reference to permanent service includes a reference to permanent service under the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or. as the case may be. under any other call-out obligations of an officer.").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 9 [ Minor and consequential amendments]:

    Page 87, leave out lines 8 to 38 and insert—

    ("1.—(1) Section 205(1) (persons subject to military law) of the Army Act 1955 shall be amended as follows.

    (2) For paragraph (e) there shall he substituted the following paragraphs—

    "(e) every officer of the Territorial Army who is not a special member;
    (ea) every officer of the Territorial Army who is a special member when in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not);
    (eb) every officer of the army reserve when in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the army reserve;".

    (3) In paragraph (g) for the words from "called" to the end there shall he substituted the words "in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the army reserve:".

    (4) In paragraph (h) for the words from "embodied" to "parades" there shall be substituted the words "in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or undertaking any training or duty". 2. At the end of section 205 of that Act there shall he inserted the following subsection—

    "(4) In this section—
    "full-time service" means service under a commitment entered into under section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996:
    "permanent service" means permanent service on call out under any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, the Reserve Forces Act 1996 or any other call-out obligations of an officer; and
    "special member" has the same meaning as in the Reserve Forces Act 1996."

    3.—(1) Section 210(2) (application of section 205 to Royal Marines) of that Act shall be amended as follows.

    (2) After paragraph (a) there shall he inserted the following paragraph—

    "(aa) any reference to an officer of the army reserve shall be construed as including a reference to an officer of the Royal Marines Reserve or a marine officer of the Royal Fleet Reserve;".

    (3) For paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the following paragraphs—

    "(b) any reference to a warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or man of the army reserve shall be construed as including a reference to a warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or a marine of the Royal Marines Reserve and to a marine warrant officer or non-commissioned officer or a marine of the Royal Fleet Reserve; and
    (ba) any reference to the permanent staff of the army reserve shall be construed as including a reference to the permanent staff of the Royal Marines Reserve or the Royal Fleet Reserve."

    4. In section 210(3) of that Act, for the words "the Royal Marines Reserve or" there shall be substituted the words "or the Royal Marines Reserve and a marine officer, marine warrant officer or non-commissioned officer or a marine of".

    5. In section 210(4) of that Act, for the word "or" there shall be substituted the words "and to marine officers, marine warrant officers or non-commissioned officers and marines of".

    6. After subsection (5) of section 210 of that Act there shall be inserted the following subsection—

    "(6) For the purposes of this section references to marine warrant officers or non-commissioned officers and marines of the Royal Fleet Reserve shall be construed as references to persons who were transferred to that force from the Royal Marines or who enlisted in that force as marines."

    7.—(1) Section 211 (application of Act to reserve forces) of that Act shall be amended as follows.

    (2) In subsection (1)—

  • (a) in paragraph (a), for the words "any reserve of officers" there shall he substituted the words "the army reserve"; and
  • (b) for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the following paragraph—
  • "(b) officers of the Territorial Army when in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the Territorial Army,".

    (3) For subsection (2) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(2) Subsections (5) and (6) of section 17 shall apply to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the army reserve and the Territorial Army as if the references to forfeited service were references to a period of permanent service or, as the case may he. of service as a member of the force concerned, which is to be disregarded under section 97(6) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996."

    (4) For subsections (4) and (5) there shall be substituted the following subsections—

    "(4) The provisions of this Act mentioned in subsection (4A) below shall apply to officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the army reserve and the Territorial Army only when they are in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or serving on the permanent staff of the army reserve or the Territorial Army.

    (4A) The provisions referred to in subsection (4) above are—

  • (a) sections 150 to 153 of this Act;
  • (b) except insofar as they may he applied by regulations made under section 102(2) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996, the provisions of Part II of this Act relating to the award of stoppages and sections 144 to 149 of this Act."
  • (5) For subsection (6) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(6) Section 182 of this Act shall not apply at any time to officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers or men of the Territorial Army."

    (6) For subsection (8) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(8) An officer of the army reserve or the Territorial Army may be attached temporarily to any of Her Majesty's naval or air forces whether or not he is in permanent service but, if not in permanent service, shall not be so attached except with his consent."

    (7) After subsection (8) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

    "(9) In this section—
    "full-time service" mean service under a commitment entered into under section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996; and
    "permanent service" means permanent service on call-out under any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, the Reserve Forces Act 1996 or any other call-out obligations of an officer."

    8. In paragraph 22 of Schedule 7 (provisions as to Royal Marines: application of section 211) to that Act—

  • (a) after the words "Royal Marines Reserve" there shall be inserted the words "or marine officers, marine warrant officers or non-commissioned officers or marines or; and
  • (b) for the words "any reserve of officers" there shall be substituted the words "the army reserve".
  • Air Force Act 1955 (c.19)

    9.—(1) Section 205(1) (persons subject to air-force law) of the Air Force Act 1955 shall be amended as follows.

    (2) Paragraph (c) shall cease to have effect.

    (3) For paragraph (f) there shall be substituted the following paragraphs—

    "(f) every officer of the air force reserve or Royal Auxiliary Air Force who is not a special member;
    (ff) every officer of the air force reserve or Royal Auxiliary Air Force who is a special member, when in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not);".

    (4) In paragraph (h). for the words from "called" to the end there shall be substituted the words "in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the air force reserve;".

    (5) In paragraph (i), for the words from "embodied" to "parades" there shall be substituted the words "in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or undertaking any training or duty"

    10. For subsection (3) of section 205 of that Act there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(3) In this section—
    "air forces commission" means a commission in the Royal Air Force, the air force reserve or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force;
    "full-time service" means service under a commitment entered into under section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996;
    "permanent service" means permanent service on call out under any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 the Reserve Forces Act 1996 or any other call-out obligations of an officer;
    "special member" has the same meaning as in the Reserve Forces Act 1996."

    11 .—(1) Section 210 (application of Act to reserve forces) of that Act shall he amended as follows.

    (2) In subsection (1)—

    (a) for paragraph (a) there shall be substituted the following paragraph—

    "(a) officers of the air force reserve when in permanent service, in full-time service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the air force reserve,"; and.

    (b) for paragraph (c) there shall be substituted the following paragraph—

    "(c) officers of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force when in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not) or when serving on the permanent staff of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force,".

    (3) For subsection (2) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(2) Subsection (4) of section 17 shall apply to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the air force reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as if the references to forfeited service were references to a period of permanent service or, as the case may he, of service as a member of the force concerned, which is to be disregarded under section 97(6) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996."

    (4) For subsections (4) and (5) there shall be substituted the following subsections—

    "(4) The provisions of this Act mentioned in subsection (4A) below shall apply to officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the air force reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force only when they are in permanent service, in full-time service, called out for home defence service or serving on the permanent staff of the air force reserve or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

    (4A) The provisions referred to in subsection (4) above are—

  • (a) sections 150 to 153 of this Act;
  • (b) except insofar as they may be applied by regulations made under section 102(2) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996, the provisions of Part II of this Act relating to the award of stoppages and sections 144 to 149 of this Act."
  • (5) For subsection (6) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(6) Section 182 of this Act shall not apply at any time to officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers or men of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force."

    (6) For subsection (8) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(8) An officer of the air force reserve or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force may be attached temporarily to any of Her Majesty's naval or military forces whether or not he is in permanent service but, if not in permanent service, shall not be so attached except with his consent."

    (7) After subsection (8) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

    "(9) In this section—
    "full-time service" means service under a commitment entered into under section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996;
    "permanent service" means permanent service on call out under any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, the Reserve Forces Act 1996 or any other call-out obligations of an officer."

    Naval Discipline Act 1957 (c.53)

    12.—(1) Section 111 (application of Act to naval forces etc.) of the Naval Discipline Act 1957 shall be amended as follows.

    (2) For subsection (3) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

    "(3) Any officer or rating of any of the naval reserve forces is subject to this Act while—

  • (a) in permanent service on call out under any provision of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, the Reserve Forces Act 1996 or any other call-out obligations of an officer;
  • (b) in full-time service under a commitment entered into under section 24 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996;
  • (c) undertaking any training or duty (whether in pursuance of an obligation or not); or
  • (d) serving on the permanent staff of the Royal Fleet Reserve or the Royal Naval Reserve."
  • (3) In subsection (4), for the words from "naval" to the end there shall be substituted the words "person recalled to the Royal Navy under section 30 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980 or Part VII of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 is subject to this Act from the time he is accepted into service until duly released or discharged."

    13. In section 132 (definitions of Her Majesty's forces, etc.) of that Act—

  • (a) in subsection (7), for the words from "warrant" to the end there shall be substituted the words "marine officers and persons who were transferred to that force from the Royal Marines or who enlisted as marines.";
  • (b) for subsection (8) there shall be substituted the following subsection—
  • "(8) In this Act "naval reserve forces" means the Royal Fleet Reserve (except so far as it consists of marine officers and persons who were transferred from the Royal Marines or who enlisted as marines) and the Royal Naval Reserve." ").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 53 and 54. Again, I shall endeavour not to burden your Lordships with a long exposition on the amendments.

    Schedule 9 makes changes to the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957. The changes take account of the new forms of service introduced under the Bill. Their effect is as follows. Special members under Part V of the Bill will invariably he subject to service law only when on duty. Conversely, individuals on full-time reserve service under Clause 24, and members of a reserve force serving on the permanent staff of that force, will he subject to service law at all times.

    The schedule also removes obsolete terminology from the sections of the Service Discipline Acts concerned with reserves. The amendments to Schedule 10 are minor consequential changes to the schedule of repeals. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I apologise for detaining the House at this stage. Earlier the noble Earl said that he would look at Clause 21 and the possibility of. refining the wording. I hope that when he does that and considers the arguments that we put forward, he will look also at the implications of this schedule to see how far it is tied 10 accommodating the points about which we ARE anxious as distinct from investigating ways in which the situation could he changed.

    My Lords, I am happy to take that point on hoard and I shall look into the matter as the noble Lord suggests.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 10 [ Repeals]:

    Page 89, line 27, column 3, leave out from beginning to end of line 29.

    Page 89, line 35, column 3, leave out from beginning to end of line 37 and insert ("Section 205(1)(c).").

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Social Security Benefits Up-Ratingorder 1996

    4.59 p.m.

    rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [8th Report front the Joint Committee].

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this draft order, I wish to speak also to the other five draft orders. The orders provide, as they have done in the past, an important opportunity to debate the central issue facing all developed countries; namely, the control of welfare spending.

    Since the welfare state was established, spending on social security has grown by 5 per cent. a year faster than inflation and twice as fast as national income. On average the social security system costs every working person £15 for every working day. For the past three years we have carried through a widespread programme of reform as a result of which we have reduced the planned growth of the welfare budget to little more than I per cent. a year.

    Next year, planned spending on social security will he £90 billion. That is below the planned spending we announced two years ago. The sum includes £3 billion for the up-rating of benefits. Generally, benefits will rise by 3.9 per cent.—at a time when the latest figure for the retail prices index is 2.9 per cent. That provides the largest percentage up-rating for key benefits such as retirement pensions for four years, even though inflation is running at the lowest level for more than two years. Income-related benefits, which rise in line with a different index more appropriate to the items covered by the benefits, will increase by 3 per cent.

    Looking at the overall budget of social security, the fight against fraud remains our key priority in curbing spending. We are reviewing fraud, benefit by benefit. We have conducted a detailed survey of income support and unemployment benefit fraud. The survey showed that fraud in those benefits alone was costing the taxpayer more than £1.5 billion a year. A new strategy to prevent and deter that fraud was introduced.

    We also reviewed housing benefit. Fraud and errors were costing £1 billion a year. We are introducing a comprehensive package of measures to tackle such fraud.

    In addition to fraud, we ARE looking at ways to control all other aspects of the social security system. A few weeks ago I brought before your Lordships' House the asylum seekers changes that we have introduced in order to plug benefit loopholes in that sphere. Those regulations were introduced to restrict access to the benefits which were being widely abused by bogus asylum seekers. That abuse involved something like £200 million every year. Our reform restricts benefits for economic migrants but continues to meet our proper obligations to genuine asylum seekers. We had a significant debate a few weeks ago on the issue at the end of which, I am happy to recall, your Lordships were kind enough to support me in the Division Lobbies.

    I turn now to another aspect of the benefit system where we have announced changes; namely, the position of lone parents. We have long recognised the difficulties faced by this group. We have announced a major pilot scheme to help lone parents back into work. However, we also recognise that benefits to lone parents will cost in excess of £ 9 billion this year—something like 10 per cent. of the total benefit budget.

    Our strategy to ease the burden has three elements. We will improve incentives for lone parents to return to work through improvements in family credit. About 270,000 lone parents are already benefiting from family credit. We have previously extended family credit to those who work part time, and, from last July, it was raised by £10 a week for people working full time. From next April, we propose to raise the allowance for the cost of child care to £60 a week. That measure will be particularly helpful to those with more than one child and those in full-time work.

    We also intend to ensure that the benefit system does not place married couples at a disadvantage compared to lone parents. In the words of Mr. Frank Field MP, the chairman of the Social Security Select Committee, in another place:

    "For decades, politicians would not talk about the issue. Tax and benefit policy was squeezed to help single parents and childless couples. Single parents gained more help than did two parents. The policy has got to he reversed".

    As a first step we propose not to increase the one-parent benefit or the lone-parent premium in April.

    The one-parent benefit was introduced in 1976 when it was described as an "interim" benefit until the child benefit scheme came into being. When the Child Benefit Bill was going through the House of Commons, the noble Baroness, Lady Castle of Blackburn, then Barbara Castle, said:

    "There is to he an interim benefit of £1.50 a week for the one-parent family for a year from April 1976 until the child benefit scheme comes into effect".

    Since that day, through changes in the benefit and taxation system, it has become possible for a lone parent to have a higher net income than a couple even when both receive similar levels of gross income—and that despite the fact that the couple would have an extra adult to support. We do not believe that the situation is right. We intend to narrow the gap between benefits for lone parents and those for couples. Regulations have been laid before the Social Security Advisory Committee to enable that to be done at a controlled pace and, most importantly, in a way which does not produce cash losers. Our proposals will increase opportunities to work for all families. They will improve incentives for lone parents to avoid welfare dependency and they will reduce the burden on couples who support themselves. We will also ensure that more lone parents receive regular maintenance from the absent parent.

    The Child Support Agency is now proving increasingly effective and is on target to collect and arrange 60 per cent. more maintenance this year than in the previous year. Absent parents on benefit should also contribute to the cost of their children. One of the measures included in the package of regulations we ARE discussing today will double the minimum contribution to 10 per cent. of basic income support.

    We also propose to improve incentives for all workers and not just for lone parents. From April 1996 employers will qualify for one year's remission from their national insurance contributions for each person they take on who has been out of work for two years or more. One of the measures before us today will cut Class 4 national insurance contributions paid by the self-employed by 1.3 per cent. from April. We also intend to reduce the main rate of employers national insurance contributions by 0.2 per cent. from April of next year.

    We are rightly proud of the extent to which we have encouraged people to provide for their own retirement in this country. More than three-quarters of employees who are eligible to do so have opted for a private scheme rather than remain in the state earnings related pension scheme. The total value of investment in British pension funds is nearly £600 billion. That is more than that of all the other European Union countries put together; indeed, in the past year, it has increased by £100 billion.

    The next priority in our successful pension strategy is to encourage more provision for the cost of long-term care for the elderly. From April 1996 we propose to double to £16,000 the upper capital limit for income support for those in residential care and we are more than trebling the lower limit. We are consulting on the important issue of developing attractive schemes for self-provision for long-term care.

    We are fortunate that there are fewer people out of work in this country than in any other major country in western Europe; indeed, there are more people in jobs and, of course, we have the lowest level of inflation for a generation. The measures before us will protect the most vulnerable; they will strengthen work incentives; and they will maintain our long-term control of social security expenditure. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January he approved [ 8th Report front the Joint Committee].—( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    5.9 p.m.

    My Lords, I feel sure that the House is most grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his typically full and lucid explanation of this up-rating order; and, indeed, of the other orders that we are discussing today. I should begin by declaring an interest. I am lucky to be in receipt of a National Insurance pension and also of a war pension. I am most grateful to the taxpayers and the National Insurance contributors who found the money for those two benefits.

    When I had some responsibility for these matters in the early 1970s the up-rating was implemented by primary legislation. There were many hours of debate as the various stages of the Bills were discussed in both Houses of Parliament. Now, of course, we have much less time for such discussion. The present practice appears to he on the day following the Budget Statement to have a statement in which the appropriate Minister gives details of the up-rating proposals to come into operation at the beginning of the next financial year. Then we have a short debate at about this time of year, as we are now doing.

    It is a pity that we spend so little time on this matter. This, after all, is one of the main financial transactions of the whole year. As my noble friend has said, we are dealing with expenditure of £90 billion in one year, which is over 40 per cent. of government expenditure. Nearly every man, woman and child in this country is affected. They are either payers or receivers. It is a pity that we allow these orders to be accepted after such a short debate.

    My noble friend mentioned the main up-rating. He was too modest to say whether the government commitment is met by this. As your Lordships know, the Government have a firm commitment to increase pensions and the other main benefits each year in line with prices so that they maintain their value. I should be grateful if my noble friend could confirm that this commitment is fully honoured in this up-rating statement and that it also applies to war pensions which arc, of course, increased by Royal warrant. I think I am right in saying that the commitment is more than honoured because of the downward path of inflation.

    I now turn to a point briefly mentioned by my noble friend in regard to national insurance contributions for employers. This seems to me to he an immensely important provision which has not perhaps received the attention or the commendation it deserves. I welcome very much the remission of employers' national insurance contributions for a year for every person taken on who has been out of work for two years or more. welcome, too, the cut in Class 4 contributions for the self-employed by 1.3 per cent. from April, and, finally, the cut in the main rate of employers' contributions by 0.2 per cent. from April 1997. These reductions will help to contain the cost of employing people and they will make a valuable contribution to maintaining competitive conditions in this country and to keeping down unemployment. Employers in other European Union countries face much bigger burdens of employment regulations and charges than is the case in the United Kingdom. I think I am right in saying that for every pound of pay in our country there are additional labour costs amounting to £18. In Germany the figure for labour costs is £32; in France £41; and in Italy £44.

    My Lords, am I right in thinking I heard the noble Lord refer to £l? I think the relevant figure is £100 of pay.

    My Lords, I meant to say for every £100 of pay. The figures I have mentioned are the additional costs as I understand the position. I believe that if those figures are accurate they partly explain why our unemployment rate is lower than that of most other European Union countries. They also explain why we are a successful magnate for inward investment. They show how wise are Her Majesty's Government to resist the social chapter, or what is better called the European tax on jobs, as it would be bound to increase labour costs and destroy jobs. I believe that these reductions in the employer's national insurance contribution will make a significant contribution to the economic performance of our country.

    I turn now to fraud. I was glad to note that my noble friend made clear that the drive to tackle fraud will continue. It is clearly outrageous that taxpayers should be defrauded of vast sums by people who steal money to which they are not entitled. I was also glad to hear from my noble friend today that the methods of detecting fraud are being improved all the time. I hope he can confirm that that applies not only to domestic fraud but also to fraud among asylum seekers. Can my noble friend give an assurance that these drives against fraud will not be diminished in view of staff economies in his department and in the appropriate agencies?

    Finally, I turn to the biggest question of all, which again was referred to by my noble friend; namely, the future costs of social security, and whether we are placing on future generations bigger burdens than we should. As your Lordships well know, in most developed countries, including our own, there is a declining working population and an increasing retired population. This is causing great anxiety, especially of course in countries such as France and Germany where pension schemes operate mostly on a pay-as-you-go basis, and where pensions and other benefits have to be met out of taxation.

    Our problems are, fortunately, not so acute because of our well developed funded pension schemes where money is saved and invested. My noble friend has already given the figures and has noted that the savings and investments that we have in our occupational pension schemes ARE greater than those of all the rest of the European Union countries together. We have now reached the stage where 62 per cent. of people retiring have an occupational pension or other savings income. Of course, the proportion is going up all the time but it is still not high enough. I am glad to note that it is now possible to save through another route; namely, through personal pensions. This is a valuable additional method of saving for those who do not have access to occupational pensions.

    The principle of personal pensions is sound in spite of the fact that there has been some misselling when people were wrongly persuaded to leave an occupational pension scheme and take out a personal pension policy. It is important that full restitution should be provided for those people as soon as all the relevant information is available. I am also glad to note that we now have the possibility of group personal pensions where employers who do not have an occupational pension scheme can negotiate group pensions for their employees. I believe that this will be particularly valuable for the smaller employer, and will again help to increase the number of people for whom occupational pensions are available.

    In addition to the state basic scheme and a greatly reduced State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS), which both operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, we now have occupational pension schemes, personal pension schemes and group pensions schemes all providing savings and investment. This should ensure that a growing number of people have a private pension when they retire and are therefore less dependent on the state schemes. Another reason that our problems are not as acute as those of most other European Union countries is that the Government have pursued a deliberate policy of step-by-step reforms in social security. My noble friend mentioned that today. It has been a considerable achievement. It is never popular or easy to reform the social security system. Therefore, it is a considerable achievement and I believe that the Government deserve great credit for it.

    I am very glad to sec that Her Majesty's Official Opposition also now recognise that reforms are required in the social security arrangements. I am glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, nods her head. I believe that the Opposition are now thinking the unthinkable. The trouble is that when it comes to considering the reforms put forward by the Government the Opposition nearly always seem to vote against them. It seems that when it comes down to brass tacks old Labour is more powerful than new Labour. I hope that that is not the case, because it would be of immense benefit to the stability of our social security arrangements if some element of consensus were to develop. That may be hoping for too much, but it would he a good thing if that were to happen.

    In conclusion, I believe that the search for economies must continue if our generation is not to hand on insupportable burdens to the next generation. These orders strike the right balance. They mean more help for the most vulnerable, stability for those who receive benefits and economies where that is possible. They also tackle abuse while at the same time maintaining the essential fabric of our social security system.

    5.21 p.m.

    My Lords, normally on these occasions I try to avoid going over old arguments and to concentrate on the material in the orders before us. Unfortunately, today the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, have exercised no such restraints. I shall not rise to all the red rags that have been waved in front of me, but I shall rise to one or two of them.

    The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, challenged the Opposition with voting against some of the Government's so-called reforms. He tried to make a number of points about old Labour and new Labour. I have nothing to do with either of those groups, but a great many of us in all parts of the House have voted against the so-called reforms because we believe they offend against common sense, humanity and financial prudence. Many reforms are not the economies they are made out to be. If assertions of that kind are to be made I am afraid that we shall continue to respond to them.

    I shall not rise to the red rag that the Minister waved in front of me about the asylum regulations. However, I shall draw his attention to information I received in this morning's post that in the very first week the regulations were in force 70 people turned up destitute at the door of the Refugee Council. I do not believe that that is a long-term economy.

    The Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, had a great deal to say about falls in the level of unemployment. I too welcome that, but I should like to know why it is that when the level of unemployment is falling the percentage of adults on income support is nevertheless rising. Admittedly last year it rose by only 0.1 per cent., which is refreshingly small. That rise needs an explanation. I can think of many possible explanations, not all of them to the Government's discredit. However, the Government ought to be able to tell us, in order to put the debate in a proper context, why the rise has occurred. I do not know; I shall be very interested to hear the answer.

    I welcome the decision to up-rate all the major benefits. Through successive public spending rounds the Secretary of State has put a great deal of effort into preserving the up-rating of benefits, and that is appreciated. I notice that he wrote in The Times last August that there was no substantial saving to he made from cuts in benefits. I agree with the Secretary of State; I am extremely glad that he made the point.

    I welcome very warmly the increase in the childcare disregard on family credit for single parents. That is something for which I have asked many times. It is therefore incumbent upon me, as well as a pleasure, to welcome it.

    I am not so happy with the rest of the policy on lone parents. I am informed by a usually reliable source that the Government intend to reduce income support for lone parents in order to increase the incentive to work. I very much hope that the Minister can tell me that that is not true. If it is necessary to reduce income support in order to create an incentive to work, that surely means that we are entering a world where wages are too low. In fact, we are approaching the same position that has existed for some time with the reduced rates of income support for those under 25.

    I promised the Minister that I would not reopen old arguments where I could avoid it. However, I should like to put one or two questions that I have not asked before. Do the Government have any studies of wage levels for those who are above and below 25? Do they match the differential to those wage studies, or have they plucked a figure out of the air? Have they considered the hypothesis that the differential itself may be influencing wage levels? If so, have they considered whether what they are doing is compatible with the principles of a free market? Finally, if they continue along that line, is there any floor which they will put under that desire to reduce income support levels in order to increase the incentive to work? Is there any point where that process could stop, and if so where is it?

    The decision not to up-rate lone parent premium or one parent benefit is a decision I deeply regret. There is a considerable amount of evidence, most recently in a report by the Rowntree Trust which I have read, which shows both that there are considerable extra costs in being a single parent, as common sense would lead one to suppose, and that a considerable number of single parents on benefit are having difficulty getting enough to eat. That risks health costs. I believe that there is unpublished research in the Department of Health which I look forward to seeing. I shall say no more than that. There is other research going back to the Finer Committee and the Government's own Green Paper of 1985 which touches on the same point.

    On the theme of wages being too low, I have been looking at the report of the Government Actuary. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, that we ought to take that together with these regulations because all form part of a common picture. I notice that the Treasury supplement to the National Insurance Fund is running at 8.8 per cent. of benefit expenditure. The statutory maximum is 10 per cent. When the Government introduced that 10 per cent. cap, I asked them for once in a blue moon to consider the virtues of flexibility. But this Government never seem to want flexibility when there is any use for it. It may he necessary to have further primary legislation to achieve flexibility.

    I want the Government to consider to what extent the size of the Treasury grant, which is £1.925 billion, involves a cost of low wages. That, of course, produces a considerable loss to the National Insurance Fund, a great deal of it in the form of people being in part-time jobs under the lower earnings limit. In fact, if one looks at the PSBR figures, a great deal of the problem is a shortfall of revenue rather than an increase of expenditure. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, to reconsider his remarks about the social chapter having taken that shortfall of revenue from wage cutting into account. It is costing the Government a great deal more than they are aware of. Sound accounting, I think, calls for a proper examination of the question.

    Twelve months ago I gave the Minister notice that, if he did not up-rate the capital limits I should want to know why. He decided not to do so. The noble Baroness did the same. He has not up-rated the capital limits. I wish to know why. I have given him 12 months' notice. I had given him 24 hours' notice too. If I do not receive an answer, I shall ask again before the noble Lord sits down.

    Schedule 8 features a growing list of deductions, disqualifications and so forth. What has been done to monitor the effect of those deductions? Do we know the overall effect? If not, why not?

    I agree with everything the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, said about the need to control fraud. It is taking money out of pockets where it legitimately belongs. I should like to make some qualifications with which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, might also agree.

    First, the charges of fraud must he a matter of proper standards of legal proof. I was a little dismayed to see in the Benefit Agency's review of fraud that its category of total fraud was made up in almost equal proportions of confirmed fraud and suspected fraud. Suspected fraud is not proved fraud; one cannot punish it until it is proved.

    I also support the question of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, about the effects of cuts in the finance of the department on the drive against fraud. In a document printed in the Guardian, which has not been disowned, Mr. Lilley stated that in the context of the drive against fraud the cut in his department's running costs filled him with despair. I understand that comment. I think that the House is entitled to some reassurance.

    Finally, I turn to the increase in the deduction from income support under the CSA. I divided the House at 10 minutes to 12 at night against that deduction from income support when it first came in. I believe that there ARE too many deductions already from income support. Increasing that deduction to 10 per cent. when there is also a 15 per cent. capacity for deductions for gas, water, electricity, court fines, rent arrears and all the rest will reduce people to real poverty. As regards the recovery under the CSA of money from people on income support, what is the cost of administration per pound recovered? Is this measure really cost effective? I should like to know the answer.

    5.34 p.m.

    My Lords, I am sure that we should all like to thank the Minister for introducing the up-rating order. Like the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I, too, welcome the fact that the major benefits have been indexed as regards RPI.

    It is a brief debate. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, that a debate of such significance in terms of the money spent and the number of people affected should attract more care and attention from this House. However, the noble Lord would not expect me to agree entirely with the remainder of what he said. I agree with him that most believe we are spending too much on social security. Since 1979 expenditure has increased by £30 billion in real terms. Whereas in 1979 one family in 12 received social security, it is now one family in six. To pay for that the national insurance stamp for employees—a true form of taxation—has risen from 6.5 per cent. in 1979 to 10 per cent. now, a 50 per cent. increase.

    Yet such expenditure on social security has not reduced the inequality which has grown since 1979. Since that date, as all research now indicates—the Government's own low household income figures support this—the top 10 per cent. in our population have seen their incomes rise by 60 per cent., and the incomes of the bottom 10 per cent., after housing costs, have fallen by 17 per cent. in real terms. The gap between the richest and the poorest in our country has widened more since 1979 than in any other OECD country.

    Yet that is not because the benefit expenditure has produced benefit levels which are either decent or sustaining. On the contrary, they are modest and inadequate, and to live on them means a life of severe hardship. Yet each and every year the Government seek to contain the budget not by tackling the real issues of why it is growing but by reducing already mean benefits still further for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

    Therefore, even over the past few years we have seen cuts in the benefits of the chronically sick and disabled. When invalidity benefit became incapacity benefit, not only did fewer chronically sick people qualify for it but they received lower benefits. Equally, we have seen the removal of benefits from 16 to 18 year-olds so that 90,000 young people are without a job, training, work and an income. Many of them are living on and off the streets.

    Equally, we have seen the removal recently of income support for the mortgages of those who become unemployed. As the building societies warned us at the time, and as is happening, repossession figures have again started to rise. At the point at which someone loses his job and his income he is now again faced with losing his home.

    Hence also we have the removal of benefits from asylum-seekers and their families. That is not because the Home Office has said that they are not genuine but because they have applied in-country and not at the port of entry.

    Hence also the new jobseckers' allowance which we debated last summer means that, although paid for by national insurance, the moment one claims for a dependant the allowance turns into a means-tested benefit. That acts as a disincentive for a spouse to seek and find work.

    In other words, the Government have sought to cut the cost of welfare spending by doing precisely as the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, suggested: by making economies, salami-style, on a range of benefits as they affect a range of- people. They have not used welfare spending to help people off welfare but have reduced still further the living standards of those who have no choice but to remain on welfare—the chronically sick and disabled, the unemployed, vulnerable young people and asylum-seeking families.

    In social security we should seek to provide a decent floor, a decent minimum, for those who cannot support themselves, while helping those who can and should move into independence. Instead, Government have privatised risk. Under this Government, social security is neither coming from society nor offering security. Each individual is expected to cope as best he can in a world where insecurity is growing so rapidly that even those in work have no assurance that they will have a job in five years or a pension in 20 years.

    I am afraid that we cannot reform the welfare state—this is where I so strongly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree—by making salami-style economics. What is needed is a more coherent. intelligent approach to what the Government should he doing. Yet what do we see in the up-rating? We see more of the same—more cuts, salami-style, and worsening living standards for the poorest—while apart from the issue of the child disregard the Government are doing nothing to use welfare for people as a springboard back to independence.

    I focus on the three main issues to which the up-rating order refers. The first is lone parents. The Government propose to freeze lone parent benefit and the one-parent premium, worth £6.30 and £5.20 respectively, to save all of £5 million. According to the Government, that is less on financial grounds than on the assumption that one-parent families are better off not marrying. That is a perverse incentive.

    As the Government know from their own departmental research, most one-parent families are in that situation not because they have never been in a partnership but because the marriage or the partnership has broken down. The average age is 33. When people become single parents, they move into greater poverty. The latest information suggests that 80 per cent. of children of single-parent families are on income support or below. Only 18 per cent. of those are in two-parent families. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, has referred to the point that the Rowntree Report of December 1995, a month ago, showed that for a single parent it costs proportionately more to bring up a child than in a two-parent family. Housing, heating and constant costs remain the same, but you then have to consider the cost of child care and the ability to obtain part-time work. As a result, on average single parents have only two-thirds of the income of two-parent families.

    Ministers say that single-parent families should be treated in the same way as two-parent families. But they do not start from the same position. Equal treatment in unequal circumstances is not fair. That is what the Government are achieving. As we know, most single parents stay on income support for only two to three years and move off it when the eldest child is five or more and goes to school. We want to help the move towards self-support, yet the Government's strategy of freezing the one-parent benefit makes it harder, because it is a benefit that people can take with them on the train to work. It is perverse to freeze it but the Government ARE doing so.

    The second area in which we have concern relating to the up-rating orders is housing benefits. We are seeing the housing benefit for young people under 25 chopped and limited to the average cost of shared accommodation. What are the implications? First, if the young people are entrepreneurial and energetic, they will share with other young people and rent a house, thus making rented accommodation scarcer and more expensive for families. Secondly, they may go into gungy and dank bedsit land in houses in multiple occupation, where the housing stock is of poor quality and rents are high. What is worse is that they receive their housing benefit one month in arrears. Since most landlords demand the rent a month in advance, with a month's deposit, young people will find it harder to enter the housing market.

    What is the third option? If they cannot rent decent accommodation together and ARE being pressed into the grottiest parts of the private rented bedsit land, their third possibility is to go home and live with their families. However, in the same up-rating statement, the Government are substantially increasing the adult non-dependent deduction from housing benefit. That means that if you are receiving housing benefit and your son and daughter come home to live with you, your housing benefit will be cut, even though they may be on income support. What signals are the Government sending out about family values when, if your son or daughter comes home to live with you as a result of housing benefit changes in the private rented sector, the bill is increased for the family left at home?

    To summarise, the first concern which I mentioned is the Government's treatment of lone parents and the disincentive to seek work. The second concern was housing benefit. The third concern about the up-rating statement is what the Government ARE doing about child support. We on these Benches entirely agree that both parents should contribute to the maintenance of the child. There is no question about that. However, what the Government are doing in the up-rating statement is doubling the contribution from £2.40 to £4.80 which an absent father —let us take the man —on income support has to find from his breadline income. Top-slicing £4.80 from an income support income of just £37 a week if a person is 23 or 24 is punitive. It does nothing to help the child because not a penny of it goes to the child, it merely goes back to the Treasury. What chance will the man have to do what we all want —travel to see his child, take it to the cinema or buy it a hamburger? He cannot afford to do that. If that £4.80 were retained by the mother so that it was a contribution to the well-being of the child, we would have less objection. Instead, it is a cut in benefit to punish men who have had a child out of wedlock and are now on income support. That is no way to run a social security system.

    So, on the one hand, we see benefits for the most vulnerable cut, while, as the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, rightly said, the total benefit bill soars. Why? It is because the Government persist in spending the money on the wrong things. Why has the housing benefit bill soared? —not because tenants choose luxury accommodation but because the Government encouraged private landlords to decontrol their rents, promising that housing benefit would take the strain. As soon as the landlords did that, housing benefit did take the strain and the Government decided that that would not do. So while rents have floated up, the Government seek to push down people's capacity to pay by cutting housing benefit.

    The Government will make much of the fact that they prefer to subsidise people, not bricks and mortar. But the Minister knows well that subsidising people in that context means making them dependent on subsidy. That is what the words mean. It means extending the dependency culture which we are trying to stop.

    It would be much better to have lower priced accommodation so that people are not penalised if they seek work. More costly accommodation and housing benefit deducted at 65p in the pound mean that for every pound one earns between £80 and £180 a week, one is only 5p or 8p per pound better off. Through their benefit system and extending people's dependency on housing benefit because they have cut housing subsidies, the Government have extended the very dependency culture they claim to deplore.

    Why is social security expenditure rising? —because we are spending too much on in-work benefits. It is probably the fastest growing area of the DSS budget, with in-work benefits topping up low pay. What do family credit and the earnings top-up do? Employers know that they can cut wages, aware that we, as taxpayers, will take the strain in housing benefit, council tax and family credit and soon with the earnings top-up.

    I believe that in-work benefits are a decent and benign response of government, but they are the utmost folly if they are not underpinned by a minimum wage. Without it, employers can pitch wages where they will, knowing that when the money wage is below a living wage we, the taxpayers, must subsidise it so that people can live and survive. The in-work benefits are the consequence of falling pay and they cost every taxpayer £750 a year because we are willing to tolerate low pay. Instead of relieving family poverty, we see a vast programme offering arbitrary state subsidies to low-wage and often bad employers. At the same time as we are privatising risk, we are nationalising the employer's wages bill. Odd that, coming from a Tory Government.

    We are dealing with unemployment. The reason for that is not merely that, absolutely, there is a major problem of long-term employment, but that work is not appropriately shared. We know from the Dahrendorf Report, which we debated not so long ago, that we are in a society of two-wage earners and no-wage households. The reason for that, not entirely but in part, is the structure of the benefits system that the Government have shaped. It is a result of the means-testing which means that, the moment a wife is in work, she can afford to seek work and retain it only if her husband is already in work himself. The Government have constructed a benefits system based on means-testing that deters the second partner from holding down a job. That is perverse.

    Finally, there is the problem of lone parents, on whom the Government believe we spend too much. The children of two-thirds of lone parents are under five and it is perhaps not reasonable to expect such parents to work. We know that when the youngest child is past five, they will re-enter the labour market. Being in work will float them off poverty. Why are we cutting today one of the very few benefits that take lone parents who are currently out of work into the labour market without facing disincentive?

    The right way to control the social security budget is not the Government's way, which is to salami-slice individual benefits to make one-off economies that depress the living standards of those who ARE already vulnerable, sick, unemployed and poor. That is not the right way to tackle the problem. That generates dependency. It confirms the mixture of unemployment and low pay that underlies our soaring bill, along with demographic factors such as old age. Wise strategy would tackle the problem of the job market, low pay and access to the labour market. This up-rating statement does not do so. It represents yet again a major opportunity missed.

    5.52 p.m.

    My Lords, the debate, although short, has been an interesting one. I am grateful to noble Lords who took part. In my defence, I ranged rather widely because precedent clearly showed that the debate would range rather widely; and so it has done. Perhaps I may deal with those questions to which there are quick answers.

    I confirm to my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree that, indeed, the up-rating is entirely consistent with our commitment to up-rate pensions in line with prices. It has been fully honoured again this year; and war pensions, about which he asked specifically, have also been fully honoured. Our position on this matter is absolutely, perfectly and abundantly clear. We promised to up-rate pensions in line with prices, and that is what we have done.

    That contrasts a little with the position of the party opposite. Last year I asked the noble Baroness if she could tell me whether the Opposition intended to restore that link, which was broken some years ago, given the kind of costs I mentioned then of up-rating in line with earnings rather than prices —a cost that I suspect would already have brought the social security spending budget to around £100 billion rather than £90 billion.

    The noble Baroness did not answer me then, and she avoided the subject completely today. I am not entirely surprised. In the debate in the other place, my right honourable friend Sir Norman Fowler, a former distinguished Secretary of State for Social Security, specifically asked Mr. Chris Smith, the Opposition spokesman on social security, a question about that up-rating. The answer he received was quite interesting:
    "we are in the process of looking at all our policies in relation to social security and, at this stage, no decision has been made. However, we shall make our policy clear within the next few months". —[Official Report, Commons, 20/2/96; cols. 210-211.]
    I certainly look forward to seeing that policy. Not only will the policy on up-rating, prices and earnings be revealed to us, but also other policies on spending. I understand that that is now to happen in less than three months' time. It started off as six months. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness is part of that great thinking team. She indicates her assent. She will therefore know exactly how many weeks ARE still to go before the Opposition unveil their social security spending.

    I am very intrigued about this particular point. When my right honourable friend Mr. Lilley intervened and asked Mr. Smith:
    "Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it" —
    namely, his about-to-be-unveiled package on social security —

    "can be achieved without spending more money?",
    Mr. Smith said:
    "Yes, and if the Secretary of State will contain himself for a few weeks, he will learn how we intend to go about it". —[Official Report, Commons, 20/2/96; col. 211.]
    Perhaps now is the time.

    My Lords, I am intrigued that the Minister persists in treating the Opposition as though we are the Government, and responsible for the up-rating system. Is he getting into practice?

    My Lords, all I am doing is getting into practice for next year and the year after —

    We shall have exactly the same speech from the party opposite without a single indication of what it would do to contain the total amount of expenditure —a point to which I shall return. We have only a few weeks to wait before the party opposite unveils its proposals. Therefore I say to my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree that it will be very interesting to see what the Opposition decide on a number of issues, but in particular on the expensive issue of linking pension increases to earnings and not to prices.

    When he pointed to the national insurance contribution changes, my noble friend quite rightly underlined the importance of keeping non-wage costs down. The noble Baroness made a great deal in her speech of the need to improve the opportunity for people to find work. There is not much between us on the principles involved, though there may be something between us on how we go about doing it.

    I am absolutely sure about one thing. Had the noble Baroness been present for the debate introduced last week by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, she would have heard the figures quoted on a number of occasions. I am absolutely sure that increasing non-wage labour costs is not one of the routes which should be followed. If it were, the countries quoted by my noble friend Lord Dean that have gone down that road would be showing lower unemployment in general and, for example, in the youth sector. The simple fact is that they are not. In some cases they are showing hugely higher unemployment levels in both those sectors than we are. Therefore, before we move down the social chapter route, described by my noble friend as the European tax on jobs —and indeed the route of the minimum wage so beloved of the party opposite —the British people ought to ask why we have such significantly lower unemployment, especially in the youth field, than such countries as Spain, France and Italy. Indeed, the Germans have often been held up as the example to follow. They are now seeing their unemployment rate rising to a figure above ours and continuing to rise, whereas ours continues to fall. Therefore, when it comes to non-wage costs, people ought to consider those examples.

    My Lords, the Minister quoted the German example. Can he say what comparable burden to German reunification this country has borne in the past five years'?

    My Lords, I do not believe that that has anything to do with the point about non-wage labour costs. Non-wage labour costs were there long before German reunification came about. I fully accept that the German economy has indeed had to absorb considerable problems from Eastern Europe. The fact that it has done so is a great credit to that country. However, it does not get away from the simple fact that Germany's non-wage labour costs were considerably higher, and always have been, and that unemployment is now rising. Powerful companies, which I suspect would have been considered by most noble Lords to be unassailable —companies such as Daimler-Benz —are now suffering great problems. Again, that was mentioned in the debate last week on the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf.

    The noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked me a number of questions. He asked why, when unemployment is falling, does income support rise? That is an interesting question. I shall have to study it in a little more detail. Certainly, one factor must be the rise in single parenthood, which I mentioned earlier. That has to be one factor in the growth in income support. Pensioners too are a factor. There is an increasing number of pensioners. In relative terms, although, as my noble friend Lord Dean points out, an increasing percentage of pensioners are making their own pension provision, the fact is that the absolute number of pensioners is increasing, and that therefore the total number requiring income support to back up the retirement pension will probably increase as well. The noble Earl has exercised my interest. I may look into that point in a little more detail. Certainly, however, those two factors must provide an important part of the answer.

    The noble Earl asked me specifically, as he did last year —he was kind enough to give me a year's notice —why I have not up-rated the capital provisions, the £8,000 and £3,000 limits. I am surprised that I did not give him an answer last year. Indeed, I thought that I had done so and I must check that. My answer is the same as the one that I gave, or would have given, last year. We do look at capital limits, but we believe that we have to give second priority to them. We give first priority —I appreciate that the noble Earl thanked us for it —to up-rating the benefits themselves. We believe that capital limits are not of the first priority. When there ARE so many priorities to be met and, in our view at least, control to be kept on the total amount of social security spending, I must say to the noble Earl that capital limits must remain where they are. A disregard of any real consequence is an expensive provision to make. I do not have the figures to hand but I remember looking at them when I considered this question. To give a significant increase in capital limits costs quite a considerable amount of money. That would probably have to be taken from the up-ratings. We should prefer to concentrate on the benefit levels themselves.

    I return to points made by both the noble Earl and the noble Baroness about work incentives and trying to encourage people to get hack into work. The noble Baroness, as always, made a great deal of what she called the perverse effect of income-related benefits. For the life of me I cannot see any other conclusion than that the noble Baroness would in fact countenance an increase in expenditure on those benefits. If we did not take into account the earnings of the spouse or some of the part-time earnings of the individual, inevitably that would mean that we would spend more money on benefits. That is the inevitable conclusion to the noble Baroness's argument on this point, which I have heard on a number of occasions.

    My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene. We have had this argument on a couple of occasions and I am sorry that he did not take the main point. In seeking short-term savings, which is what happens when moving to means-tested benefits, the Minister produces longer term costs because he pulls the second partner out of work. As ever, the Government sacrifice the longer term benefits for short-term gains.

    The noble Baroness has made that point also on a number of occasions. I am not too sure that there is a great deal of evidence for it. In any case, even if there are what she calls short-term gains, they would fall to be an increase in the social security benefit system, which, as her honourable friend down the Corridor said when he answered the Question last week of my right honourable friend Mr. Lilley, can be contained within its present limits.

    But the noble Baroness, the noble Earl and I agree on the need to encourage people back to work. We also agree that, even when someone has found a job, there is a problem of crossing the bridge between being on benefit and not being on benefit. We have taken and are taking steps to try to improve the situation; namely, the faster processing of family credit; the housing benefit and council tax benefit extended payment, the run-on for an extra four weeks; the back-to-work bonus; and the child maintenance bonus. We have also taken steps to improve the advantages to people of working for longer hours. There is the longer hours premium, which from July this year will mean £10 a week extra in family credit and disability working allowance for people working 30 hours or more a week.

    So, we all agree on the objective of trying to make sure that, when somebody finds a job, there will not be economic disincentives for them in taking the job and moving off benefit. I believe that the steps that we have taken over the past two years and those that we are currently taking will help to solve that particular problem.

    The noble Baroness and the noble Earl discussed the lone parent provision. The noble Earl sometimes has a suspicious turn of mind when it comes to the Government's motives. But it is not the Government's policy to reduce income support to lone parents in order to increase work incentives. There will he no cash losers from the changes to the lone parent benefit. Our policy is to narrow the gap between lone parent benefits and those benefits which go to couples with children.

    I do not want to weary the House with details. But there are a number of scenarios in which the gross income in a household is not big hut, taking together the income and the benefits, a single parent with one child can get more income in the week than a married couple with one child. That cannot be a correct position. It is especially odd when one considers that in the family with the greater income there are only two mouths to feed, whereas in the two-parent family there are three mouths to feed. It seems to me that we must guard against appearing in the benefits system to be approving of that and of saying to two-parent families, "No, you can live on a smaller income than a one-parent family".

    Undoubtedly, at constituency surgeries of my honourable and right honourable friends from the other place there will be couples who come and say, "We shall be better separated or divorcing." A decade ago, I came across young couples looking for housing who found that they were being constantly jumped over by single parents and who asked whether the solution to the problem would be to separate in order to get a house.

    Undoubtedly, all the facts tell us that it is only by working that lone parents can improve the living standards of themselves and their children. On average, lone parents in work improve their income by some £30 a week. We could not possibly, especially as we are attempting to contain expenditure —the party opposite says that it will do the same —increase the amount of income support by that amount. As I said in my introductory remarks, lone parents already consume 10 per cent. of the total social security budget. Our aim must be to reduce that figure and not increase it. We can only do that by encouraging lone parents into work. That will benefit them and society.

    We are attempting to do that in a number of ways. They receive the same adult credit as two-parent families for family credit and disability working allowance. We have taken a series of measures, some of which I have mentioned already, to improve the position. We have reduced the qualifying hours for family credit and that has helped lone parents in a very big way. I believe that no responsible government can hide from the considerable increase over the past years in the number of lone parents and their cost to the taxpayer. We believe that the way to improve their position is to give the lone parent far greater opportunities to gain work. That is what we propose to do.

    My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his explanation. But can he rebut the imputation, which I invited him to deny, that the Government propose to reduce income support in order to increase the incentive to work?

    My Lords, I believe I started my contribution on lone parents by saying specifically that that was not our intention.

    Perhaps I may turn to the question raised by the noble Baroness, the noble Earl and indeed my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree. They asked, in the context of fraud, about the reductions in the cost of the social security budget on which my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Lilley and the other Ministers in his team are now engaged.

    First, we are determined to ring fence those amounts of money which are going into the pursuit of fraud, the clarification of what that fraud is and how we intend to stop it. For example, the noble Earl asked about the distinction between confirmed and suspected fraud. Suspected fraud involves claims where we have a strong suspicion of fraud, but where it cannot properly be established in the time available. Confirmed fraud is exactly what it says.

    The interesting point about our decision to try to reduce the administrative costs of the social security budget is that, to begin with, the party opposite told us that it was impossible without all kinds of awful things happening. Indeed, I spent a period of time nearly a fortnight ago in radio and television studios trying to explain the Government's position and countering the Opposition's accusation that it was impossible to do what we want to without all sorts of dreadful things happening.

    Then, lo and behold, into our hands fell a letter from Mr. Andrew Smith, MP, who is the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to Mr. Chris Smith, MP, the social security spokesman. The noble Baroness accused me of practising being in Opposition. But the Opposition are practising to be in government in a big way when the Shadow Chief Secretary sends rude minutes to his colleagues about cutting government expenditure and then proceeds to have them leaked to the press. I say no more on that, other than admitting to being slightly amused. However, it is not amusing. It shows a tendency to say one thing and mean another.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I am intrigued by his insisting on practising his oppositional stance. Would be also like to remind the House of the exchange of letters between Mr. Lilley and Mr. Waldegrave a few months ago, when Mr. Waldegrave was proposing, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, various cuts in the administration of the department and Mr. Lilley pointed out how unwise and foolish it would be? It is clear that the Treasury, as ever, overruled Mr. Lilley. He has now acquiesced in those cuts. I am sure the Minister would like to entertain the House with a similar exchange of letters.

    My Lords, I am happy to see that the noble Baroness is still keeping herself in practice for continued opposition by introducing a diversionary tactic. In fact, the letter was leaked. As usual, the picture was incomplete. The correspondence at that time concerned running costs in the coming financial year. The position we are now in is looking at a step-by-step change over the next three years in the way the benefit system is administered in order to achieve the savings at the end of that period.

    The noble Baroness will not divert me from giving your Lordships the flavour of the letter before I sit down. It states,
    "Following Peter Lilley's announcement last week that he is seeking to axe his department's running costs by a quarter, I have been making some informal enquiries about the feasibility of his plans … The advice I am getting, which is necessarily incomplete, nevertheless suggests that savings in running costs of this magnitude are perfectly feasible".
    Thank you very much, Mr. Andrew Smith! The Observer, which runs a lie detector scheme each Sunday, and which it usually attempts to practise on the Government, was forced to practise it on its friends last Sunday and make the little lie detector show clearly in the "truth spin lies" lever, that it is clearly pointing to lies. That points to the distinction I made. Mr. Chris Smith said,
    "[The Government] make a nonsense of [his] much vaunted fight against fraud. [The benefit system would be] pushed past breaking point".
    His Shadow Chief Secretary says, as I read out, that,
    "savings in running costs of this magnitude are perfectly feasible"
    What is perfectly feasible, but difficult to do, is to contain the social security budget. We have done it by attempting year on year to keep control. The other night I was attacked by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, for allowing the public sector borrowing requirement to go out of control, as he put it. It is not out of control, but that is neither here nor there. I invited him to tell his noble friend that the next time I come forward with proposals to contain the social security budget, he should remind the noble Baroness that keeping control of one's expenditure is a vital and important fact in the Government balancing their budget. Keeping control of this enormous budget — £90 billion —as my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree pointed out, is central to that control.

    We have done it. With the measures that we have taken over the past few years, virtually —I could probably say "all", but because I have not checked 1 shall say "virtually" —all opposed by the noble Baroness in debates such as this, we have kept the expenditure down to £90 billion when it might otherwise have approached £100 billion in this second half of the 1990s. That is sensible budgeting. It is looking after the people who need the help most and yet not at the same time imposing an intolerable burden on the taxpayer. I commend the regulations to the House.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Social Security (Contributions) (Re-Rating And National Insurance Fund Payments) Order 1996

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [ 8th Report from the Joint Committee]. —( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Social Security (Contributions) Amendment Regulations 1996

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [ 8th Report front the Joint Committee]. —( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 1996

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [ 8th Report from the Joint Committee]. —( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Social Security (Incapacity For Work) (General) Amendment Regulations 1996

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [ 8th Report from the Joint Committee]. —( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Child Support (Maintenance Assessments And Special Cases) And Social Security (Claims And Payments) Amendment Regulations 1996

    Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31st January be approved [ 8th Report front the Joint Committee]. —( Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Chemical Weapons Bill

    6.17 p.m.

    My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

    Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee. —( Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    House in Committee accordingly.

    [The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD LYELL) in the Chair.]

    Clause 1 agreed to.

    After Clause I, insert the following new clause —

    NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

    (". —(1) There shall be a Chemical Weapons Convention National Advisory Committee (the "National Advisory Committee"), with such membership as shall be determined by the Secretary of State.
    (2) The Secretary of State shall appoint persons of relevant expertise, including scientific expertise, to serve on the National Advisory Committee and shall consult the appropriate professional bodies about its membership and role
    (3) The duties of the National Advisory Committee shall include the provision of advice to the Secretary of State about all aspects of the Act and the Convention.").