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Earl Howe: I turn first to Amendment No. 43. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, has expressed concern that the rules for appeal tribunals will be drawn up by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will be bound by Section 8 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 to consult the Council on Tribunals before he can make rules for the appeal tribunals.
The noble Lord will, I am sure, be aware that the Council on Tribunals consists of not more than 15 nor less than 10 members appointed by my noble and learned friends the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Advocate. Members of the council and its Scottish committee are selected for their knowledge of the law and other relevant professional matters, and indeed their general experience. I note that the chairman of the council is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, who is admirably qualified to serve in that capacity.
If, despite the scrutiny of the Council on Tribunals, Parliament is still not satisfied on the appeal tribunal rules, it can pray against the rules which will be statutory instruments subject to the negative resolution procedure. There is therefore effectively a double check on any rules made by the Secretary of State.
On the other point that the noble Lord makes in connection with the clause, although we expect that the appeal tribunal hearings will normally be held in public, it is important for the tribunal to be able to sit in private in appropriate circumstances. Examples might be where classified or commercially sensitive material may be produced or matters discussed which are intensely private in nature.
Paragraph (g) allows for the possibility of parties being represented by someone other than lawyers, for example. This is consistent with our intention that appeal tribunal hearings will be informal and inexpensive. I can assure the Committee that it is our intention to broaden rather than to narrow the range of persons who may represent appellants.
Lord Williams of Elvel: I am most grateful to the noble Earl He is quite right in saying that my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell is admirably qualified to adjudicate on these matters. I cannot think of anybody better qualified. However, it seems to me to be odd, in spite of all the safeguards that the noble Earl said are available, to transfer the responsibility from the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Advocate, in the case of appointment of members of a tribunal, to the Secretary of State in the case of procedures. I shall not press this matter too far because I understand that there are certain safeguards, but it seems to be a very odd type of arrangement.
On the question of privacy, I conceded the point-- I hope the noble Earl agreed--that there may be occasions when the tribunal has to be held in private because certain confidential information might be and had been made available. But I take the noble Earl's point--and I hope that he means it with his usual seriousness--that it is the Government's intention that these tribunals should normally be held in public. We take that as a ministerial statement of what we believe this clause to mean.
On the question of representation, I also take it that the noble Earl means that the Secretary of State will never say under paragraph (g) that nobody will represent the parties; that that will not be part of the rules of procedure which will be set out by the Secretary of State, but there will always be the possibility of representation; that what the noble Earl is trying to do is to broaden rather than narrow these arrangements and that there will always be the possibility of legal representation. I hope that I am right in saying that.
Lord Judd: We thought it would be quite important, before this clause was endorsed by the Committee, just to dwell on its implications a little. As we understand it, the thrust of this whole Bill is to strengthen the central role of the reserve forces in the total defence effort. That is something which is happening, and this Bill is designed to make it happen as effectively as possible.
There is, of course, within the reserve forces and Territorials a tremendous amount of tradition which unashamedly is to do with the social ethos of the Territorials and the reserves, which is very important. It seems to us that in this particular clause, this coming together of the tradition and the new demands becomes quite acute.
That is quite intriguing because it is the convenience of the business and the needs of the employers being given very high prominence over the demands of the service. Yet at the same time we are saying that the Bill is all about the reserve forces and Territorials becoming much more central to the organisation of defence. Perhaps we need to think about that and hear the noble Earl's reflections, because we can see possible contradictions there.
That seems arguably very essential for operational requirements. Why this should be something within the powers of the reserve forces own organisation, as it were, as distinct from the mainstream organisation of defence, is not necessarily self-evidently clear. It is important to get the thinking behind these points on the record at this juncture so that we do not just endorse the clause but endorse it full-heartedly with the Minister's explanation of how it will operate a little more clearly on the record than the Bill itself makes possible.
Lord Bramall: I understand that the spirit behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is one of seeking information rather than protest. I have already declared my interest but I think that the associations perform a very valuable role. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, has often mentioned the umbilical cord aspect of the reserve forces. I think the association can contribute enormously to that in establishing the roots of the reserve forces into the various shires, counties, boroughs and so on. I think it is very important.
I do not see much wrong with the drafting. There is one very quaint phrase about manoeuvres which I have not heard used since 1930, but apart from that it seems to me that Clause 3 and the various subsections put very clearly what the responsibilities and limitations of the association are. That is very important. I can see no great harm in that going in. I think there must be some recognition of the
Lord Mottistone: I strongly agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. It is important that this is really an updating and not a very great change on Section 124 of the 1980 Act. I think its origins stem from Lord Haldane in 1908. The important thing about the territorial associations--the noble and gallant Lord also said this--is that over the past nearly 90 years they have proved themselves to be an extraordinarily strong and capable organisation for handling the Territorial Army reserves in this country. They have survived two major wars without anybody wanting substantially to change the kinds of things that are required of them. I think that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Perhaps Members of the Committee opposite should reflect on the fact that there is nothing new here and nothing extra is required.
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