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Earl Howe: My Lords, we shall discuss that point, probably under Clause 121 of the Bill. I suggest to my noble friend that we leave the debate until that point.

Earl Bathurst: My Lords, I thank my noble friend.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. It is the one that I sought. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 [Consent of new employer]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 14, line 13, leave out from ("of") to ("such") in line 14 and insert ("subsection (2)(a)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, with the leave of the House I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 14, 29, 32 and 37. These are

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all minor amendments in the interests of clarity, or to correct internal cross-references in the Bill. I am obviously willing to say a little about each if that would be helpful; however, I believe that they are all self-explanatory. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 [Call-out notices]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 10:


Page 15, line 38, leave out subsection (6) and insert--
("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address; and any call-out or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, it might be for the convenience of the House if I also speak to Amendments Nos. 13, 24 and 28.

We realise that the noble Earl has been examining this matter. I gather that he may be willing to meet the point made by us in Committee about the need to be confident that, in deeming a notice to have been served, there must be real evidence that the notice has in fact been delivered to the person concerned or to another identifiable person at his or her last known address. That is particularly important in an age of increasing mobility, when people move vast distances at short notice. We cannot just assume that they will always be exactly where we thought they were. We hope therefore that this amendment covers that point and that it will be acceptable to the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I must support the sentiment behind the amendment. On a number of occasions, I myself have had the misfortune of trying to track down errant individuals over a number of weeks, only to find that they moved to three or four different places. This is an important amendment which needs consideration.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I believe I emphasised in Committee that it is important to be able to serve call-out notices by post. A notice can only be deemed to have been served if it is sent by registered post or recorded delivery. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for the points that he raised. As ever, they are pertinent and in the interests of the individual.

Noble Lords will recall that when the matter was raised in Committee I agreed to consider it further. I have done so. I agree that the Bill as drafted is a little unfair to those who are away from their place of residence. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, protect those individuals who are absent from their place of residence when a call-out notice is sent. I believe that the changes are sensible. At the risk of lavishing benevolence on noble Lords opposite, I am happy to accept them.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I should be very content for the noble Lord to retain those sentiments for the rest of the afternoon. Let me reciprocate by saying that on this side of the House, if we must have a government of another political persuasion, we are reassured and

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delighted to see the noble Earl fulfilling his role. It is very reassuring. We are grateful for his response. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendments Nos. 11 and 12:


Page 17, leave out lines 32 and 33 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").
Page 17, line 34, leave out ("report to Parliament") and insert ("lay before each House of Parliament a report").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to these amendments. I beg to move them together.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 43 [Call out of special members]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 13:


Page 22, line 38, leave out subsection (7) and insert--
("( ) Notices under this section may be served on a person by delivering it to him or by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, his last known address; and any call-out or variation notice delivered to that address by registered post or recorded delivery shall be deemed to have been served on him.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 46 [Exercise of functions by officers]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 14:


Page 24, line 28, leave out ("45,").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 9. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 47 [Parliamentary control of numbers and reports]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendments Nos. 15 and 16:


Page 24, line 45, leave out from ("in") to end of line 46 and insert ("any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services").
Page 25, line 1, leave out ("report to Parliament") and insert ("lay before each House of Parliament a report").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 15 to 22 en bloc. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 50 [Liability of members of reserve forces under call-out orders]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 17:


Page 26, line 24, leave out from ("persons") to end of line 27 and insert ("who are in service under a call-out order shall not be reckoned in any numbers for the time being authorised by Parliament for any of the regular services.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 52 [Call out for national danger, great emergency or attack on the UK]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 18:


Page 27, line 30, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 19:


Page 28, line 44, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 54 [Call out for warlike operations]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 20:


Page 29, line 34, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 55 [Maximum duration of service on call out under section 54]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 21:


Page 30, line 38, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 56 [Call out for certain operations]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 22:


Page 31, line 34, after ("to") insert ("each House of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 57 [Maximum duration of service on call out under section 56]:

Lord Bramall moved Amendment No. 23:


Page 32, line 6, leave out ("9") and insert ("6").

The noble and gallant Lord said: My Lords, this amendment stands in my name and the names of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and my noble friend Lord Attlee. With the indulgence of the House, I should like to read a short letter from a commanding officer in Bosnia--in this case, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) to a Territorial Army headquarters in this country. It will, I feel, help to provide a valuable background and urgency to this particular clause and to the whole Bill. The letter reads:


    "Thank goodness for the Territorial Army! I write both as the (temporary) Commander Equipment Support and as Commanding Officer 3 Battalion REME. Without wishing to appear melodramatic, the 30 Territorial Army soldiers who arrived before Christmas saved the REME bacon. I was faced with a 'surge' that began mid-December with no additional manpower--all we had was the same organisation that was designed to support a relatively static UN operation. I also had to find and sort out 'bases' for any future REME reinforcements. I cancelled Christmas and New Year R&R for my soldiers but without the influx of Territorial Army soldiers we would not have coped; as it is, we are barely coping. All of the Territorial Army soldiers have been quite excellent. To a man, they are enthusiastic, cheerful and willing. Their motives for coming here vary from wanting to do something a little different to good, old-fashioned patriotism. They fitted in to the battalion with ease and immediately became a valuable part of the team; the additional skills some of them have brought from their civilian occupations have already been an extra bonus.

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    I apologise if this letter seems a little gushing. My thanks are heartfelt; we were hard pressed over the Christmas period and would have looked very bad indeed were it not for the fact that so many of your soldiers were willing to give up their Christmas to help us out".

That is all splendid stuff. What the letter does not mention, and it is highly relevant and causing senior officers in the Army some concern, was the difficulty which was experienced in getting that number of REME volunteers to leave their jobs or getting their employers to release them. Taken altogether, that both emphasises the importance and urgency of the whole Bill and indicates the need to set the maximum period for which territorials and reservists can be called out at a realistic and reasonable level, acceptable to both employees and employers alike. It was that important factor which influenced our amendment which in Clause 57 seeks to reduce that period from nine months to six months.

I should point out first, in case it has escaped noble Lords' notice, that the figure in subsection (6) of Clause 57 refers back to Clause 56, which in turn covers:


    "operations outside the United Kingdom for the protection of life or property; or ... anywhere in the world for the alleviation of distress or the preservation of life or property in time of disaster".
In short they are largely humanitarian operations. It does not cover warlike operations, which come under Clause 54, let alone those under Clause 52, which deal with situations of more immediate urgency, of imminent national danger and a possible attack on this country. Those have their own conditions. We are talking about conditions far short of general war.

I submit that, under those circumstances, however badly the reinforcements are needed by the overstretched regulars and however convenient it may be for the staff to have them for a longer rather than shorter period, it is utterly unrealistic and unreasonable to expect them to leave their jobs for more than six months. That would equally apply to employers releasing them for longer than that period. Even six months is a big sacrifice and a large slice out of a career. Even with regular troops, unaccompanied tours linked to six months are fairly stringently enforced. As a former commanding officer, I know that a sea-change occurs after that time.

So to ask more of both parties would, I believe, lead to fewer people volunteering or more opting out, which could jeopardise the whole scheme. Moreover, I suggest that six months should be perfectly adequate. These are not the types of operation which would require much, if any, preliminary specialist training. I stress again that I am not talking about operations under NATO control. The reservists or volunteers would already be trained in the basic skills. There would be a certain amount of on-the-job training. Indeed, as that letter showed, skills obtained in civilian life might prove an extra bonus. So they should have no difficulty in fitting in with the six-month tours of the regulars. They can always--the machinery exists--volunteer to serve for longer, should they so wish or should the urgency be very obvious.

So, on all counts I urge the Government to accept the six-months cut-off period in this clause. I and many of those in the TA with whom I come in contact also believe--although, I stress, not the widely

27 Feb 1996 : Column 1384

representative TAVRA council, which I know does not agree with me on this point--that it may make all the difference between enthusiastic and lukewarm acceptance of this important and urgent Bill and therefore between its success and failure. This is an important amendment. I beg to move.


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