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Lord Judd: My Lords, we are again grateful to the Minister for his response.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [Service of marines in the Royal Fleet Reserve]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 6:

Leave out Clause 21.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we find Clause 21 confusing. Of course, we recognise that it concerns the discipline Acts and there are references to them in Amendment No. 52, tabled by the noble Earl, relating to Schedule 9. The issues raised by the clause cover the basis for effectiveness and clarity of command in demanding operational situations. If the Royal Marines take the role of naval personnel who have their own designations of rank, surely while they do that it will be clearer for all concerned if they were known by the rank designation which is immediately recognisable and familiar to others within the Royal Fleet Reserve.

I should like to say how much we appreciate the fact that an amendment was put to us by the Minister's office. We found that the suggested amendment did not in this case meet the point which we are making. If anything, it underlined our anxiety. That is why we put forward the amendment at this stage in the hope that between now and completion of the passage of the Bill the Government will find some way of meeting the point. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that he found the clause somewhat confusing. I shall try as best I can to explain its purpose. As I said in Committee, the provision is necessary because the Royal Fleet Reserve contains both ex-regular naval ratings and ex-regular Royal Marines. The issue does not arise in relation to the volunteer reserves because the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve are distinct legal entities. There would be some logic in having separate ex-regular forces as well, but since the Royal Fleet Reserve as a whole is only a little over 4,000 strong, it would be difficult to justify the administrative complexity of dividing it.

Naval ratings and Royal Marines serve alongside one another with great distinction. They do, however, have different jobs, training, ranks, promotion requirements and so on. As we discussed in Committee, they are also treated differently under service law. That aspect is not mentioned in the clause because the necessary provisions are in Section 210 of the Army Act 1955 and Section 112 of the Naval Discipline Act 1957.

I am sure that a former Royal Marine would not think it right to be required to serve as a rating and Parliament has agreed. Clause 21 simply repeats the substance of Section 52 of the Reserve Forces Act 1980, which itself originated in Section 1 of the Naval Reserve Act 1900. If the House were now to decide to remove the statutory

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protection, would it be with the intention of requiring marines to serve as sailors? Certainly, if the House wished it to have that effect, it would adopt the noble Lord's amendment. I firmly believe that it is most desirable to retain the clause.

As the noble Lord mentioned, I undertook in Committee to consider whether Clause 21 could be made clearer. Parliamentary Counsel succeeded in producing a revised form of words which I passed to the noble Lord, Lord Williams. With the benefit of the explanation which I have just given, I hope that there may be scope for noble Lords to look again at the wording of the clause. It remains available. If the noble Lord, Lord Judd, or any other Peer cares to table it for Third Reading, I should be happy to accept it. In the meantime, I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that Clause 21, whether in its current version or in a refined form, is a necessary part of the Bill.

Lord Judd: My Lords, again the spirit in which the noble Earl speaks is greatly appreciated. He said that the wording could be in its present form or in a refined form. We hope that between now and the passing of the Bill he will be able to consider the points that we made in Committee and have re-emphasised this afternoon. Of course, we take his point about law but our concern is about operational clarity. If people work in a demanding situation, it is surely better that there should be as much familiarity as possible with the status and rank of the people who may give orders or instructions.

We believe that there is possibly room for confusion. We therefore hope that the noble Earl will consider the point again. In the meantime, in view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 [Parliamentary control of commitments]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 12, line 14, leave out from ("in") to end of line 16 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, again, we find this subsection as drafted a little mystifying, despite any rationale that might be advanced in terms of existing practice. Why is the Navy alone exempted from the reference to parliamentary authorisation? Our amendment aims to bring the Navy into line with what seem to be very sensible provisions for the other two services. For that reason we have put forward wording that we hope covers the point. The same point will arise on Amendments Nos. 11, 15, 17 and 25. Therefore, with the leave of the House, I take this opportunity to speak to those amendments at the same time. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: My Lords, again, I should like to be helpful to the noble Lord. Unlike the Army and the Royal Air Force, the numbers of officers and men serving in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines have never been subject to statutory parliamentary control. The Bill reflects that, continuing with the structure that was used in the Reserve Forces Act 1980.

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However, Parliament does in practice provide maximum numbers for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It will cause no difficulty to generalise the references in these clauses. I am therefore content to accept the amendment that the noble Lord tabled.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will not feel I am being patronising when I say that I must commend him for his spirit of co-operation this afternoon. We are delighted, and express our appreciation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Employers' consent before entering agreements]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 13, line 19, at end insert--
("( ) It shall not be an obligation on an employee outside a special agreement to inform his employer of service in the reserve force.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is quite simple. It seeks an assurance that it will not become an obligation for those who are members of the Reserve Forces to inform their employers of that fact. I do not plan to press the amendment. I hope the Minister can give an assurance that no such obligation will come into force.

At present, many members of the Reserve Forces do not feel that they have to tell their employer, or indeed they do not want to tell an employer for whatever reason, that they are members of the Reserve Forces. I have come across that in the LADs that I have commanded. A surprisingly high number of members of the Territorial Army do not want their employers to know that they are members. The amendment seeks an assurance that there is no intention to create such an obligation. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I have a certain sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord. However, I see some difficulties and very much hope that the noble Earl will be able to help. Clearly, nobody can be forced to advise an employer that he or she is a member of a reserve force. On the other hand, if it comes to a call out, particularly following our discussion on the subject of pensions, it would be rather odd if the employer did not know that an employee was a member of the Reserve Forces and was suddenly told that this would happen and that pension rights should be preserved. Perhaps the noble Earl can give us some guidance on that point.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for raising this matter and to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for his remarks. On the underlying point, I am happy to assure the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the Bill does not impose a general obligation on reservists to disclose their reserve status to their employers. We encourage reservists to inform their employers of their membership. We know that many do so and seek, and gain, their employer's co-operation. That often extends to additional leave for training, for example.

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Equally, we know that some reservists feel it better not to inform their employers. We respect their view. The three-way relationship between the reservist, his employer and the Ministry of Defence can function only if there is openness and trust on all sides. That is as much the case in the relationship between the reservist and the employer as it is in the other part of the relationship. It would damage that trust for an employer to ask an individual whether he was a reservist and for the individual to reply untruthfully.

It would be most unusual for there to be a statutory provision to enable an individual to avoid having to answer the question truthfully or at all. Many consequential difficulties could arise from that. For example, reserve forces membership might be a material fact where an insurance policy was being taken out by the employer. The employer could not disclose it to the insurer if the individual had given a false answer.

It is axiomatic that members of the reserve forces have a call-out liability. If or when call out occurs, it would be impossible for the individual to hide his absence from the employer, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, rightly said. Indeed, for the employer safeguards under Part VIII of the Bill to operate it will be necessary for the employer to be formally advised of the call out. It could sour the future employment relationship for the employer to discover at that point that the reservist had misled him.

Altogether, we believe it best to leave the existing position unchanged. Some employers will ask about reserve status and the employee should answer truthfully. Others will not ask, and the reservist is under no obligation to volunteer the information. I hope that I have said sufficient to persuade the noble Lord that all is well.

3.45 p.m.

Earl Bathurst: My Lords, is it true that, so far as employment is concerned, a reservist could not be disadvantaged--neither by declaring his membership, nor, on call out, by the employer putting him at a disadvantage as a result of his being a member of the reserve forces? Is that correct under another section of the Bill?

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