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Draft Reserve Forces Bill

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): We are today publishing the draft Reserve Forces Bill, with accompanying notes. Copies will be available from the Printed Paper Office. Outside the House, the document is also being distributed widely to reserve units, employers and others, and is available on request from the Ministry of Defence.

The Bill is an important one. It brings the legislation on reserves up to date, to take account of changes in

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both the security environment and British society since the last substantial revision in 1966. The Bill principally provides: (a) A new power of call-out for peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief operations; (b) Two new categories of reserve: —the high readiness reserve: individuals with skills in short supply who, voluntarily and with the consent of their employer, accept a greater call out liability; and —the sponsored reserve, which will permit us to let more support activities to contract knowing that the reserve element allows the task to be continued in an operational environment by uniformed personnel. (c) A new opportunity to enable reservists to undertake tasks other than training in peacetime; (d) Three new safeguards: —for individuals, powers for my department to make payments to reservists in cases where their military pay when called-out is less than their civilian pay; —for employers, powers for my department to make payments whenever a reservist who is also an employee is called-out; —for both, new, formal rights to seek exemption from and deferral of call-out or recall, exercisable by employers or reservists themselves.

All this is set within a comprehensive tri-service legal framework for the reserves, which will greatly simplify their use in the future.

Particular attention has been given to the tripartite relationship between the Ministry of Defence, the reservist, and his or her employer. Full account has been taken of the comments received following the publication of a consultation document in October 1993, and I believe the Bill will meet with widespread acceptance from those affected by it.

The Bill's publication in draft forms part of the Government's commitment to improving the quality of legislation brought before Parliament, and we look forward to receiving many constructive comments. The Consultation period lasts until 15 June.

Joint Service Command and Staff College Proposals

Baroness Sharples asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have decided on the location of the proposed Joint Service Command and Staff College, and what impact this will have on the sites of the existing single service staff colleges.

Lord Henley: During the Front Line First consultation process on the establishment of a Joint Service Command and Staff College, my department received responses from a number of individuals and organisations to our proposals.

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All these responses have received the most careful and sympathetic scrutiny, and we have thoroughly reviewed the costings associated with our proposals. While there was general support for the proposal to establish a Joint Service Command and Staff College, there have been understandable local concerns, especially in Greenwich. No significant arguments have emerged, however, nor have any new suggestions been made which have caused us to alter our original proposals. The costings continue to demonstrate that Camberley is the most cost effective option.

I can therefore confirm that we shall establish the Joint Service Command and Staff College at Camberley, and that we plan to open it and close the colleges at Bracknell and Greenwich in late 1997. We shall now develop our plans along the lines indicated in the consultative document. The Bracknell site will be considered for disposal.

With regard to the future of Greenwich, I reaffirm the Government's commitment to finding suitable occupants for this most important historic site.

Our work on this continues. In terms of defence candidates, we have concluded that a restructured Defence School of Languages would be one such suitable occupant. This would generate at least the same level of occupancy as the two staff colleges currently at Greenwich. The nature of this establishment is such that, unlike the Joint Services Command and Staff College, it would be able to move in with only very minor changes to the fabric of the buildings and at a capital cost of only some £6 million.

We have also concluded that we should not continue to pursue the Tri-Service Chaplaincy School as an option for Greenwich. Work on an appropriate location for this school will continue, and we hope shortly to make an announcement.

In addition to potential defence candidates, interest in the Royal Naval College has been shown by organisations outside the Ministry of Defence, including the University of Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum. We do not intend to reach any firm conclusions on the future of the Royal Naval College Greenwich at this stage, but will shortly be seeking expressions of interest in the site from organisations able to propose uses sympathetic to the character of the buildings.

In considering the options, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence will have very much in mind his role as sole trustee of Greenwich Hospital, and also the imaginative proposals for Greenwich Park, including the Royal Naval College, by Dame Jennifer Jenkins in her report to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage. We hope to be in a position to announce firm proposals to the House for the future of the Royal Naval College by the end of the year.

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