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Lord Bramall: I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, my noble comrade in arms on this amendment. Of course, I first declare my interest. I am president of the Greater London Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve. All my contacts with volunteers have indicated that, unless there is a finite period for which people are going to be called out for these emergency operations, the volunteers will become disenchanted and it may persuade them to cease being volunteers.

I know there is argument about the exact length of time, but many of those to whom I have spoken feel that six months is quite long enough. Some have said that they think it is too long. I think anything under six months would make it very difficult.

I know you can argue that nine months is right, on the basis that the Territorials who were going to be called up might need some extra training before they were committed to a particular area of operations, and they might be joining a regular unit at the very beginning of its tour, which was a six month tour. If you put all that together it becomes much easier for the staff if the period is nine months. On the other hand, they may not require extra training. Many of the people being called up will be fully trained, and anyhow can have a certain amount of on-the-job training when they get there. Many of them will not be joining a unit that goes out there, and certainly will not be joining it at the beginning of the tour. Therefore, the fact that a regular unit goes out for six months is fairly immaterial.

I believe you have to look at it from the point of view of the bottom tier and very especially from the point of view of the employer. If you do go over six months you have a very great risk that both the employer and the volunteer will become very disenchanted and think that it is not something they wish to risk happening to them. Therefore, we will lose the whole value of the exercise, which at the moment has the volunteers' support, and what we will merely be doing is slightly on-the-cheap substituting unwilling volunteers for regulars who now no longer exist.

I believe the right time is six months. With six months it will be a successful scheme; with nine months it may be an unsuccessful scheme. I know this very well, as a commanding officer who has frequently had to go on unaccompanied tours, taking soldiers away from their families. In the old days we used to do four-and-a-half to five months. At six months there was a very decisive cut-off point when the man suddenly said, "If there is any more of this I don't want to know"; or, "If there is any more of this my wife will not want to know". Once you go from six to nine months, you get into a sea change, and I believe that the whole of this excellent idea may falter on this three-month period.

Earl Attlee: I support the noble Lord's amendment. I should perhaps remind the Committee of my interest, as I am a serving officer in REME TA. Clause 57 refers to Clause 56, which is purely for humanitarian aid and

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not a military operation, and therefore there should be limited requirements for extra training. Therefore soldiers could be sent out with fairly limited training to carry out specific tasks. If it is to support a six-month regular tour there should not be a problem with six months.

I have recently spent 11 months in Rwanda supporting the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It was not a military operation; I was operating purely as a civilian. However, I was working very long hours, away from home, and I found that more than six months became very hard indeed. The first six or seven months were not a problem, but when it came to 10 months and being operational all that time, I found it very hard. I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and other noble Lords for setting out their concerns on this part of the Bill so succinctly. The Government have considered carefully what maximum period should apply under this clause where there is need to call out a reservist under Clause 56. The services wanted to be able to call on reservists for up to 12 months in order to make an effective contribution to peacekeeping or humanitarian operations. During our public consultation on the Bill, however, employers expressed a wish to limit the absence of their reservist employees to six months for operations of that kind. A limit of nine months represents a compromise between the needs of reservists, employers and the services. It allows time for individuals to be accepted into service, to be trained for their roles and to perform a period of worthwhile service before preparations for their discharge begin. I think back to our debate last Thursday when, I believe, on both sides of the Committee we recognised the need for proper training in advance of deployment. Indeed, regulars also need pre-deployment training.

We do not have to hold reservists for the maximum period is there is no need to do so. That perhaps goes without saying. But a reduction in the period to six months, as proposed in the amendment, would place unacceptable limitations on the services and would prejudice this country's ability to make a sustained contribution to disaster relief and humanitarian or peacekeeping operations.

It is worth reminding ourselves that there is provision for flexibility in the Bill. If a particular employer or reservist is likely to suffer substantial disruption or hardship as a result of the call-out, he will be able to apply under regulations to be made under Part VIII of the Bill for one or more of a number of remedies. He will be entitled to seek exemption from call-out, deferral of call-out or an earlier discharge date or financial compensation.

I do not accept that the difference of three months represented by the amendment would mean the difference between success or failure of this power. We are confident that there is general acceptance of our

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proposals. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord feels more comfortable and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Bramall: The noble Earl appreciates, I hope, that members of the regular forces are not sent away from their families for more than six months. I know of no emergency tour--whether it is in Bosnia or anywhere else--which lasts for more than six months. I hope that he will therefore consider the question of taking the volunteer away from his family for more than six months.

Earl Howe: I take note of the noble and gallant Lord's vast experience in these matters. Naturally, what he has said will be noted and pored over in the Ministry of Defence. I do not believe that at this stage there is any more reassurance that I can give him. However, it is open to your Lordships to return to this matter at a later stage of the Bill and I shall in the meantime study what has been said.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am grateful to the noble Earl for that last sentence because I believe this is something that the Government need to reflect upon.

If I may say so, the most telling point was the last point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. If regular soldiers, sailors, and airmen are only sent away from their families for six months, why should volunteers be sent away from their families for nine months. That seems to be a very telling point. I hope very much that the noble Earl will bear that in mind when he re-considers this matter. Furthermore, my experience of these matters is that compromise solutions succeed in satisfying nobody; satisfying neither the employer nor the armed services. It is wise to come down on one side or the other because, if it goes wrong, then the Committee will have to accept that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, with all his experience, will be proved right and the whole scheme will fall flat on its face. That is not something we want. I hope very much that the noble Earl will consider this and we will come back to it at a later stage in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clauses 58 to 64 agreed to.

Clause 65 [Liability to recall]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 37:


Page 36, line 37, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: This is a very small amendment. Previously we included the Royal Fleet Reserve, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve in the numbers that Parliament was going to establish. I wondered whether we had left something out here which should properly be in the clause. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: There are good practical reasons why the number of persons who are recalled under the Bill should not count towards the numbers in the regular army or air force authorised by Parliament. Persons who

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are recalled are deemed to be enlisted in the regular services. Parliamentary control of the numbers of the regular Army dates back, as my noble friend, Lord Mottistone reminded us last week, to the prohibition in the Bill of Rights on the maintenance of a standing army in times of peace, except with the consent of Parliament. Parliament annually fixes the maximum numbers of the armed forces through the Votes A procedure. Thus, if there were an emergency requiring recall in large numbers, the numbers authorised--

4.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am sorry to intervene at this early stage, but my amendment is directed to leaving out subsection (5) of the clause on the ground that the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Fleet Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve could actually be included. At the moment it refers only to the regular Army or regular Air Force. Since we have amended that at the early stages of the Bill I would imagine that this might be something, without going through the rest of the clause, to which the noble Earl might address himself immediately.


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