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Earl Howe: It would in any event be the Government's practice to report the making of a call-out order under subsection (1) to both Houses. It is implicit in the requirement in subsection (8) that Parliament--not just one of the Houses of Parliament--be recalled if it is not sitting when the order is made. The noble Lord asked what the force of the word "forthwith" was in this part of the Bill. The answer is that in time of national emergency everything would be done forthwith. It would be a time of very rapid action indeed. We covered in a previous amendment the definition of the term "Parliament", so I do not propose to repeat myself on that. I believe that the proposed amendment is unnecessary and it is likely to lead to confusion over the meaning of the term when it is used elsewhere in the Bill and in other legislation.

Turning to Amendment No. 34, the noble Lord has raised an interesting point and I shall deal with it before dealing with the clause as a whole. I suppose that, in theory, if Her Majesty were driven by circumstances to make a recall order while Parliament was dissolved, there would be no Parliament to which the making of the order could be reported. That perhaps is obvious. Parliament would not be dissolved without a date being fixed for the sitting of a new Parliament, so it is most unlikely that there would be any substantial interval which would delay reporting the making of the order. It may also be reasonable to assume that we would not be subjected to national danger, a great emergency or attack on the United Kingdom, without having some warning of it, and one presumes that Parliament would not be dissolved in these circumstances. The key point is that the absence of Parliament sitting would not prevent us from acting as required.

Turning to the clause as a whole, it is important to put these remarks in context. The purpose of the clause is to enable the Crown to call out any member of any reserve force in the most serious crises. It is similar to the national danger great emergency provision in

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Section 10 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. It also incorporates the powers of call out in Sections 16, 18(1) and 22 of that Act in the event of actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom. It also supersedes the prerogative powers governing officers on the retired and emergency lists of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, officers of the regular army reserve of officers and retired officers of the Royal Air Force. Some former air force officers, principally those on non-pensionable commissions, serve in the air force reserve and are governed by statute.

The noble Lord read out a subsection of this clause in tones of some surprise. I do not know whether he would prefer it if we omitted a provision for Parliament to be recalled. I imagine that Parliament would prefer to be recalled in circumstances of national emergency, and that indeed is our assumption, too.

7 p.m.

Lord Judd: I am grateful to the noble Earl, but I do not think that I can quite let it rest there. If I may first deal with the point about "forthwith", it is rather disturbing to hear the noble Earl argue that if there were an emergency it would be possible for Ministers to do everything forthwith and indeed they would be doing everything forthwith, but it might be a bit of a nuisance to have to do things forthwith if there were not an emergency. It seems to me that defence is about defending our parliamentary democracy, and in defending parliamentary democracy the paramountcy of Parliament is terribly important in this context. Therefore, if this speed and expedition applies in this context, it really should have applied in the other context. If he will forgive my saying so, I do not think that he has adequately begun to justify the difference in approach on the two clauses.

If I may continue, on his point about whether I would prefer that there were no reference to the recall of Parliament and so on, what we are arguing here is that it is important to be assured that some thinking has gone into what would actually happen in a real situation if the provisions that are carefully laid out here were not actually possible. It seems to us that in the context and speed in which modern warfare moves, it is not impossible that they might not be possible. It therefore would be, we hope, in order for the Minister to take away this clause and think about what indeed would happen in circumstances which made this particular arrangement impossible to fulfill.

I wish to make one other point before I conclude. In a very gentlemanly way, the noble Earl rather dismissed my point about both Houses of Parliament. He suggested that Parliament is Parliament and Parliament involves both Houses of Parliament, so it is unnecessary to say both Houses of Parliament. But as things stand, it would not be unfair to argue that the Government could say that they had reported to one House and one House was part of Parliament and that they had therefore reported to Parliament. We are saying that it should be absolutely explicit that the reporting is to both Houses of Parliament.

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I really cannot see why, if the noble Earl and the Government feel that that is what is intended, there is any harm in putting simply and straightforwardly into the text the words "both Houses of Parliament".

Earl Howe: As to the noble Lord's last point, I shall reflect further and perhaps write to him between now and Report stage. He suggested that I was applying one rule to the laying of regulations and another rule to taking emergency action at a time of national crisis. That is not the case. If the noble Lord will recall, the words used in the previous amendment relating to the laying of orders and regulations were that they should be laid as soon as made. The point I was making then was that that phrase "as soon as" is equivalent to "instantaneously". That is not only onerous; it is a physical impossibility. That is rather different from the term "forthwith" which simply implies speed.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Will the noble Earl accept in a previous clause--Clause 4--the expression "forthwith" instead of "when it may"?

Earl Howe: I shall have to take advice on that. But I did say that I would reflect further on that question and I shall certainly do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, posits some extreme situations and he is perfectly entitled to do so. It might be helpful, however, to recall that during the Cold War there were plans for forming an emergency government in the event of a nuclear attack. Those plans were, as it were, on the shelf and would have been implemented no doubt had we been faced with that unfortunate situation. There are ways and means, I am sure, of ensuring that national government continues. My point was that in the age in which we now live it is likely that a national crisis leading to general war would be something of which we would have a reasonable degree of warning and that, correspondingly, a sudden nuclear attack from an unexpected quarter is less likely than it has been. Nevertheless, this has been an interesting debate and I hope it will have brought out at least some points to clarify the noble Lord's concerns.

Lord Judd: I thank the noble Earl. I do not think we can ever be too emphatic about this. For all of us--I am sure there is absolutely no difference between the noble Earl and ourselves on this point--the whole richness and privilege of living in a genuine parliamentary democracy is something very special. Our defence system is about defending that. Therefore if we are talking about acute situations we should not leave things just in the margins. We need to be fairly clear about what would happen.

If I may just make a point, the noble Earl has slightly fudged the issue by confusing the argument between the continuation of government and what happens to Parliament. It is not the same point at all. However, I notice that he said--and I listened very carefully--he would think about this and I know that he is a very committed Minister and that he does take points of debate seriously; I have experienced that. It is in the spirit of knowing that he will take this point seriously and look at it again that I shall not pursue it. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Clause 52 agreed to.

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

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Clause 53 agreed to.

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Clauses 54 and 55 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I suggest this is a convenient moment for the Committee to adjourn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 3.30 p.m.

        The Committee adjourned at seven minutes past seven o'clock.


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