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Lord Williams of Elvel: I am grateful to the noble Earl as far as that goes. But does he then mean to say that Part IV as a whole will not apply to partners or self-employed people or people on casual employment, or is there some arrangement in another part of the Bill which will allow that to work?

Earl Howe: I would do well to draw the noble Lord's and the Committee's attention to Clause 29(2)(a), which refers specifically to those not in qualifying employment. If someone is not in qualifying employment, clearly he does not need the employer's consent.

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Baroness Turner of Camden: Short-term contracts are becoming an increasing feature of the industrial scene nowadays. People have a contract for perhaps two years, and they may or may not have another contract at the end of the two years. Would that be qualifying employment or not?

Earl Howe: It is quite difficult to see how individuals on short-term contracts or temporary contracts could meet the terms of the special agreement. The nature of such employment would mean that many individuals would be completely unable to predict with any certainty what their future employment circumstances were going to be. It is also likely that their employer would not be prepared to give his consent. So I believe there are major difficulties there.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am sure the noble Earl will understand that this is quite an important point. This is a fairly new concept and we wish to explore it, if I may say so, at some length. The noble Earl replied to my noble friend that anyone on a short-term contract would have difficulty in complying with the arrangements.

As my noble friend pointed out, this is increasing not only in the national services but also in the manufacturing service in the sense that employers, looking to specialised firms to take on a workforce, contract that to what was formerly an employer--in other words, there is a contracting out of labour. That is very common not only in manufacturing industries, but also in national services and it will become more important as we go on. Without wishing to trespass on other matters, it allows employers more flexibility in the terms and conditions under which they can contract for a labour force. That is a reality in today's life.

Secondly, the noble Earl said that, in terms of self-employed and partners, quite rightly under Clause 29(2) they did not require a certificate from their employer; that is self-evident. Nevertheless, if you have a partnership in an accounting firm or a solicitor's firm, clearly a solicitor or an accountant would wish to sign a special agreement. How would he get the agreement of his partners either in a solicitor's firm or not? He does not have to have a certificate from his employer because he is not employed. How would all this work? I hope the noble Earl does not feel that I am raising points that are not of important principle and I should be grateful if he could help us further.

Earl Howe: I fully understand the points that the noble Lord has made and, of course, we live in an age when contracting out is very much a reality of life. I should draw a distinction between the type of contractor who has a permanent workforce which may be employed by somebody else to perform some task or other--in other words, there is a firm with permanent employees on its books and that firm is contracted to do a job--and the situation to which the noble Baroness referred, which I think is one of short-term work by individuals on contract, very often self-employed.

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Baroness Turner of Camden: It is not unusual, however, for people to be on short-term contracts for a very long time. They have a contract for two years. At the end of the two years there will be a renewal of the contract and so on. This has been a feature of certain kinds of work for a long while. I refer in particular, to people who work on, say, university projects for which there is a certain amount of money available. They will have two years and at the end of the two years there is still more money and they can be given another two years and another two years. It is not uncommon for people to go on for 14 or 15 years like that.

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is perfectly right but I come back to the point that I made earlier. There has to be certainty on both sides. If the individual cannot predict with certainty what he or she might be doing, then it is very difficult either for him or her, or the employer, to give consent and I think that there is a real practical difficulty in those circumstances.

The noble Lord asked me about partnerships. I think the problem with partnerships is that it would be difficult to legislate effectively to intervene in a business relationship of that nature. Partners are not employed by each other and it is a relationship of the utmost good faith in legal terms. In that light, a reservist would, in view of his duty of good faith to his fellow partners, discuss his intentions with them presumably before making a special agreement. It would be perfectly possible for him to do so--the Bill does not preclude it--but there is a different type of arrangement. We fully recognise that the pool of people with the necessary skills, whose personal and employment circumstances permit them to be available for operations at relatively short notice, may be quite small. It is better to find that out in advance than at a time of crisis. The short answer to the noble Lord is that it is, at the moment, too early to say how great a problem there might be. I believe that the Bill takes us a step forward from the arrangements that now apply. We shall, of course, do our best to make the concept a success.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am grateful to the noble Earl. I know that he recognises the difficulty. I agree entirely that the pool of people available to sign the special agreements specified in Part IV may be a problem. It is not only a question of short-term contracts by employers; it is also a question of short-term contracts by firms providing workforces on contract to people who are entrepreneurs. They could be banks; they could be anything. Clearly, a partnership is something that could be overcome; nevertheless a partnership agreement may be required which a party should sign. I am trying to help the Government to increase the pool of people available. There may well be ways of restructuring to allow for that. There may well be ways of making self-employed people available in a way we cannot yet predict. My concern, as I mentioned on Second Reading, is that we have to wait and see how the proposal works, but we need to understand the difficulties that may accrue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 18:

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Page 13, line 11, at end insert--
("( ) No person, other than a person with a medical qualification, shall enter into a special agreement unless he has, on the date on which he enters into that agreement, been under training for three years as a member of the reserve forces or as a member of the regular army.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is two-fold. First, to set a minimum time commitment for service and training before one can enter into a special agreement means that the soldiers entering that commitment will be properly trained. Secondly, there will be a small group of people who are specially trained in services the Army want. I talk about services that are available outside the Army. However, there are also specialities and skills that will only be acquired through training. I refer, for instance, to recovery mechanics serving with REME; there are very few outside. In the Signals regiments, there are those trained in specialist types of equipment. It takes a good deal of time to acquire all these skills. Although three years seems a prohibitive amount of time before someone can take part in a special agreement, the actual nature of training within the Territorial Army has to be appreciated to see why that period is necessary. The first year will be spent in basic training. There are only 35 man-training days a year in which to learn how to use a rifle, how to carry out basic first-aid, acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare skills and to attend camp. That leaves two further years in which to learn a specialised skill. In the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, vehicle electricians have to acquire such skills working on vehicles which are not usually in operation outside the Army. To acquire such specialised skills means attending courses within the Army. That will take up the training commitment for that year and although sometimes you can extend your man-training days you are limited to learning certain skills and you have to go on the next year to enhance your skills. Obviously the time commitment of three years seems more realistic although it is quite harsh.

The other point I wish to raise is that the most difficult time as regards employers is when employees first join the TA. One often finds that when people have been in the Territorial Army for a number of years their employer understands more about the Territorial Army. Perhaps he visits the Territorial unit and understands what it does and is therefore more sympathetic to the needs of the Territorial Army. In the amendment I exclude those with medical qualifications because doctors and the like will not need the same amount of military training as others. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee: I rise briefly to support this amendment. It is right that people with insufficient military experience should not be undertaking such a commitment. I believe there is a slight drafting error with the amendment in that it does not acknowledge previous Regular Army service or service in another force, but in principle it is right that we should restrict service in the high readiness reserve to people with sufficient experience.


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