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Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): It must be possible.

Dr. Moonie: I assure the hon. Gentleman that it was not possible this year, much as we might have liked to do it. It will be done on the next occasion that presents itself, and it will of course be done by a Labour Government: of that I am certain.

The Bill was never envisaged as a vehicle for tri-service measures. The Government have launched an initiative to create a framework for service discipline that will better meet the needs of armed forces that increasingly operate together. We acknowledged in the strategic defence review that the task would be massive and would take time. It is not simply a question of putting the three current Acts under one cover, and we owe it to our services to get it right.

Having decided to go for a tri-service Act, we had to review the consolidation project. We concluded that the unnecessarily complicated work involved in rewriting a significant amount of legislation was not worth the candle, but it will be done--although it will not be done this time, which I think we all regret.

According to the amendment, we have failed to

There is, in fact, no challenge to combat effectiveness, because the Government are determined that the effectiveness of our armed forces will remain paramount.

9 Jan 2001 : Column 971

That is evident from recent discussions on article 13 in the European Union, and from the treaty of Amsterdam, where we secured an exemption from the provisions in so far as they might impact on the armed forces.

The Opposition would like the United Kingdom to enter a reservation on the ECHR in relation to the armed forces, thereby denying the men and women of those forces the basic human rights applying to every citizen of this country. That is despicable.

I will not argue with the Opposition about the principle. They have their views and I have mine. Many of them rehearsed their limited arguments ad nauseam last year, and no doubt we shall hear exactly the same rubbish this year. What they said last year was completely off the wall, and I am afraid that it is even further off the wall now. We will not accept the contention that our armed forces should have fewer human rights than the rest of us.

Mr. Gerald Howarth rose--

Dr. Moonie: I have no time to give way, but I intend to respond to what the hon. Gentleman said during the debate. He will not be short of bites at the cherry.

We do not accept the proposition that the ECHR represents a threat to operational effectiveness--neither do the officers in the armed forces.

The amendment mentions the omission of

The position relating to employment of those under 18 in the armed forces is clear. The minimum age of entry--16--was determined by the school leaving age. Our policy regarding the non-deployment of under-17s in the light of the United Kingdom's declaration on signature of the optional protocol of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child has been implemented administratively. That is appropriate, as it provides flexibility in relation to the questions of combat effectiveness involved in who may and who may not be deployed in operations.

At the end of their amendment, the Opposition repeat their fear of a "creeping advance of litigation" that will in some way sap the morale of officers. I assure them that we have no intention of allowing that to happen, and that the officers with whom we deal every day have not the slightest fear that it will happen.

The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) had views on Ministry of Defence police powers. I am pleased to say that the Association of Chief Police Officers has broadly supported our proposals. We know that the same cannot be said of the Police Federation of England and Wales, but we think its reservations are based on an incomplete and possibly out-of-date assessment of the MDP's range of competencies and skills. We will, of course, explore these matters further during the Select Committee's consideration, but it may be useful to bear it in mind that, in 1999, Home Department officers called for MDP assistance on no fewer than 2,969 occasions in England and Wales, and on 63 occasions in Scotland. We feel that there should be a firm legal basis for such action.

We have no intention of allowing MOD police to be used to provide general support for duties in the community, but we see a need for a proper statutory basis for the very proper action that they must take on occasion, either collectively or individually.

9 Jan 2001 : Column 972

We see no need for legal aid schemes to be put on a statutory footing. It has been a long-standing policy of Governments of both parties that they should mirror schemes in the civilian system. The MOD funds the services' legal aid schemes for those armed forces personnel brought before a court martial or a summary appeal court, or for preparing the grounds for an appeal to the courts martial appeal court. In certain circumstances, the scheme extends to the dependants of service personnel and to other MOD civilian employees who may be brought before a standing civilian court or court martial while serving overseas.

I will not spend much time discussing one half of the Opposition's views on the employment of women in the armed forces because they should not be dignified in that way--except to say that we are committed to maximising opportunities for women in the armed forces in so far as is consistent with the requirement to maintain combat effectiveness. We are waiting for a study which is to be released at some time in the next few months. We will act once we receive it. We do not propose to react to hypothetical argument.

In an intervention, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) asked about the proposed powers of search within barracks--a matter raised by other Opposition Members. The provision for warrants relates to the search of sleeping accommodation in connection with the investigation of offences. In appropriate cases, searches of sleeping accommodation will require a warrant, but clause 16 clearly provides that the Bill does not limit the powers of a commanding officer to search such accommodation for reasons unconnected with the investigation of offences: for example, for health, safety or security purposes or for matters of routine discipline. There is no way that the standard inspection of quarters will be affected in any way by the Bill. The routine type of examination will be allowed. We are including a statutory basis for proper searches to be carried out. That is intended to enhance our abilities, not to restrict them.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) asked at whose behest MDP assistance would be provided. I think that I have answered that. It will be provided either at the request of an individual officer in an individual situation where an emergency has arisen, or where a chief constable requires general help--for example, with major flooding or other public order situations. I could talk about that at length, but we do not have time. We will cover it adequately in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) asked about police powers and their extent. They have been discussed with a wide range of parties. We feel that the limited extension of powers is appropriate in the light of the comments that we received.

The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) mentioned the effects of litigation. I am able to assure the House that my Department has no official directive requiring commanding officers to take out insurance in case they are sued. The MOD will stand behind its employees at all times--particularly service men and women--provided that they are acting in the course of their duty. The right hon. Gentleman may have been confused by the fact that public liability insurance must be purchased to cover activities that are not publicly funded, such as the provision of certain local sports clubs

9 Jan 2001 : Column 973

or playgroups, but there is absolutely no question of soldiers being required to purchase liability insurance to cover their operational duties--none whatever.

The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) thinks that he has spotted a mistake in the Bill. I assure him that it is not a mistake. The Navy requested that the gap be maintained, so that the commencing rank for service in a court martial by officers remained as it always had.

The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) mentioned the number of summary court cases and appeals. It is just my luck that the hon. Gentleman's own old regiment had one of them. In the two months since the commencement of the legislation for which I have figures, 2,638 summary offences were dealt with across the three services. Those have led to 42 appeals or 2 per cent. That is hardly excessive.

This is a worthwhile Bill, albeit it limited in scope. A much wider one will be introduced in five years' time. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 350.

Division No. 37
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
Sayeed, Jonathan
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. James Gray and
Mr. Keith Simpson.


Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Greg Pope and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Jan 2001 : Column 976

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):--

The House divided: Ayes 349, Noes 8.

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